Monday, June 24th, 2013
There was a restaurant I used to go to as a kid called The Cotton Patch. It was in Point Loma on Midway, cattycorner to the main Post Office, for those in the know — next door to the Aaron Brothers that has been there since I can remember.
As a family, we must have visited The Cotton Patch at least once or twice a week from 1979 to somewhere in the mid-eighties. The restaurant was essentially a steak house, known for their prime rib, but also their frog legs (for some reason). It was nice, though I wouldn’t say fancy. While they had cloth napkins and (I think) tablecloths, they also had complimentary cornbread shaped like actual corn and plastic bears filled with honey on every table, to my chubby 7 or 8-year-old delight.
I spent a lot of time hanging out at the hostess stand. Much like I am now, I made friends pretty easily. I have always been able to talk to anyone and been wise beyond my years (some might have said precocious), and spent a great deal of my childhood as an only child surrounded by adults. So, it was pretty easy to make friends with the middle-aged, but very, very nice blonde hostess we saw there often. I can’t remember her name anymore — I want to say Sheila, maybe? — though I seem to recall something going sour between her and my father sometime after my mom died. I’d rather not speculate too much on that.
I spent most of my time at The Cotton Patch, when I wasn’t stuffing corn-shaped cornbread in my face, playing the tabletop Miss Pac-Man machine they had in the lobby. I got pretty good at it and it kept me occupied and out of my parents’ hair. My dad would get me a roll over quarters and I’d play for hours while they sat in the lounge, sipping Benedictine and listening to the jazz pianist by the stone fireplace.
Sometimes my dad would get up and sing “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”. If I ran out of quarters, he would let me give the piano player a generous tip in the giant tip snifter set at the end of the piano. Often, Dad would ask me to request “My Funny Valentine”… my mom and dad’s song. The pianist would even sometimes let me sit next to him while he played standards I strangely knew the words to and I would sing along quietly, so as not to bother the adults. Adults, I might add, who thought it was charming and not at all that odd for an eight-year-old to be in a bar, let alone know all the words to “Autumn Leaves”.
We stopped going to The Cotton Patch in the mid-to-late-eighties, if I recall correctly, after my mom died. My last memory of being in there was when the piano bar guy played “My Funny Valentine” and my dad gave me some money, asking me to tell him to never play that again.
I’m not totally sure what happened to The Cotton Patch. I heard it caught on fire, but I can’t find any information about that. It’s a De ja Vu Showgirls strip club now, which kind of makes me laugh, a little sadly, whenever I drive past the now-hot pink stucco building. Though whenever I do, I still can’t help but think of my parents and of corn-shaped cornbread, frog legs and “My Funny Valentine”.