As I maneuvered out of the packed cars he tagged alone next to my window. Turning the steering wheel to squeeze by another car I blurted “Cypress 8-2021”, my real number.
Back then phone numbers were simple with no area code. The first two digits
were letters of, AXminster, CHerry or CYpress. The first number was limited to
6 for Axminister, either 2 or 8 for Cherry and the 4 even numbers for Cypress. With the word and its designated number you only
had to remember the last four digits. The word and first digit also revealed a
phones general location. CYpress 8 meant East San Jose, a poor girl.
The next day, summoned to the phone by Mom when he called, I rued having
given my number. His pleasant voice and clever words, however, kept me on the
line even though I had to keep my end of the conversation low and ambiguous
with family present.
Gary asked a strange question.
"You ever go to Alviso?"
I knew Dad gambled there at a place called Val's because once he came home
proclaiming he broke the bank at Val's and for a while we ate well. Gary wanted
me to walk with him on Alviso's train track to see salt ponds, a weird request,
something never heard of.
Instead of answering I turned away from Mom and whispered.
“Do you know of a place in Alviso called Val’s?”
“Sure, everyone knows Val’s. It’s a restaurant, an Alviso landmark.
Supposed to be good but I’ve never ate there.”
"Take me there Monday after school and I'll see your salt ponds."
"Deal! How about 4 o'clock?"
"How do I get there?"
"Take The Alameda to Santa Clara, turn right on Lafayette Street, drive
all the way to Alviso and turn left on Taylor Street, You can't miss it."