(In this piece, Alhambra is a suburb of Los Angeles, not the city in Spain with its Moors and mosques)
The first time I was in Alhambra was in 1992. One cloudy evening my then girlfriend needed a ride to her new therapist's office. I dropped her off and then drove to downtown Alhambra where I killed time in a disappointing bookstore loaded with signs that discouraged browsing. When the hour was up, I went back and picked her up. In retrospect I have no idea why she didn't drive herself from Highland Park to Alhambra... why I came from many miles away to pick her up. She had her own car. It was named Misty. Maybe she wanted me there because that was her first time going to therapy and she didn't want to be alone. Anyway, I never set foot in Alhambra again until...
The second time I was in Alhambra was in 2003. One dark night my then wife and I drove to South Pasadena to meet Monica and Jason... the four of us then drove to Alhambra to see Elf. We parked near the top of a large city-owned parking structure. We walked down some steps and around the block to the theater. We bought tickets but needed to kill some time because we were early. We watched the movie. I enjoyed its touching downbeat irony, sprinkled with a few funny moments. I didn't really identify with Will Ferrell's character. Then we drove home. I can't remember which car we took - my black Camry? Laurel's champagne Camry? Jason's truck? No - it couldn't seat 4. Monica's Tercel? No - it was too small. But I remember being in that little white deathtrap once... maybe it was that night.
The third, fourth, fifth, and six times I was in Alhambra were in 2004, 2005, and 2006. More movies. More double dates.
The seventh time I was in Alhambra was also in 2006. Jason, Mike, and I went to eat at old-fashioned diner. The ambience was kitschy and decidedly un-L.A. The food was horrible, as in this-is-the-worst-food I've ever tasted horrible. Mike liked it for some reason. Later that night, at a party in Altadena, I asked out a woman who had recently been dating Mike. She said yes. We kept the date and the three that followed a secret from Mike. Eventually, we told him and he laughed. We all laughed. Today, the woman doesn't speak to Mike or me.
The eighth time I was in Alhambra was on President's Day 2008. Alex took photographs for a class at Monster Park while I squinted in the sun. Some of the photos included me. The park isn't in Alhambra but we passed through Alhambra on the drive to and from Pasadena.
The ninth time I was in Alhambra was a few weeks ago. Nothing of note happened.
The tenth time I was in Alhambra was this afternoon. I was there to do some banking. While listening to Vampire Weekend in the CRV, I checked my email from my phone and was glad to read that, while I may have a crabby/angry visage at times, I'm still remembered.