Dina and Me, a Relationship in Spanglish

me and Dina, on our way to Catalina Island

She read Kierkegaard and Proust while I read People magazine. I realize opposites attract, but we really weren’t all that opposite … although she was definitely more sophisticated than me. Dina Mendosa, who I have now known for 25 years, is from a third world country, Mexico. I am not.

Here is where our relationship started. I received a thousand dollars as a gift from my ex-husband’s rich aunt and was instructed to use it for “help” after giving birth to my second child. I made it last a very long time and ended up moving Dina in to live with us for a few years, but I’m getting ahead of the story.

When I interviewed people for the live-in nanny/housekeeper job, she was not the one I hired first. Dina was far too beautiful and it appeared that there might even be a hickey on her neck. So, I nixed her and hired another person. That person was a no-show and so I called Hickey Girl back and told her the truth. We hired someone else, they flaked — do you still want the job? She did. She came that very day. Good sign. Good start. And the “hickey” turned out to be a birthmark. She wasn’t the slut that I had judged her to be. Not in the least.

We hit it off and very quickly we were leaving the ex-husband home with the kids and going out to movies and restaurants together in the evening. We laughed like the new best friends we had become until very late into the night. We had much in common — both terribly neurotic and shared many of the same neuroses. Eventually she would go into Freudian analysis. I watched the kids while my babysitter saw her shrink. She was and is hilarious – full of self-deprecating humor, my favorite. We traveled everywhere together, and without the husband. People probably thought we were a nice lesbian couple … that I had found someone younger, exotic and hot.

Two years into our friendship, she would leave me high and dry to further her education in Mexico. She wanted to go to graduate school. She also married an interesting semi-well-known artist named Julio. They would have kids and visit me from time to time. Now they are divorced, both living in Mexico. Last year at Thanksgiving one of her daughters showed up on my doorstep with a suitcase. I thought maybe I could take her hostage and turn her into my new best friend, but she stayed only a few days. I love my lifelong friendship with Dina and here is a story I like to tell about us.

One night, when we were living in Hermosa Beach in a house my dad rented us for the summer, I thought Dina and I should drive into Santa Monica and go to the Ivy, an expensive, caters- to-celebrities restaurant that I really loved. The restaurant was in its heyday. This was 1988. I had very little cash on me because I usually gave all my money to Dina. So, I asked first, Do you have any cash? She said “Yes, fifty dollars.” During each week, I usually borrowed all my own money back from Dina, then at the end of the week, I would pay her and start over again. At the time, fifty was all we needed because we were just going for the appetizers and The Ivy’s great brown bread. I never really ordered a full meal there.

So, we have the amazing crab cakes and keep reordering the free bread and now I ask for the check. Check comes and I look at Dina and ask for that fifty. She looks confused … then in her Spanish accent says, “No, I say fifteen.” I had heard fifty. Now what do we do? We are stuck at The Ivy, laughing over the fact that we will have to wash dishes to pay for dinner. I didn’t have a credit card at the time. No cell phones then either. So, I walk up to the hostess and ask to use the phone. I will call my father and he’ll give them his credit card number over the phone. My dad isn’t home. I walk back to the table and now I’m thinking seriously, what can we do? My dad’s big compliment to me–and he said it often–is that I’m a good road manager. He didn’t actually mean a roadie but that I can figure things out quickly; how to go places, navigate my way around. And in that spirit, I was thinking on my feet when I said to Dina, “Stay put, I’m going to look around the restaurant and see if I know anyone eating here.” The minute I step towards the deeper part of the restaurant, the person walking towards me is someone I do know — Rosemary Clooney. I’m not kidding when I say she was holding a fifty dollar bill in her hand and I immediately say, “Rosie, I’m stuck here with my girlfriend, we don’t have enough money. Can I please borrow fifty dollars?” and up comes her hand with the fifty. Magical. Only me. I promise Rosie I will pay her back in a few weeks when I return from living at the beach. She looks at me like that’s just crazy and says, “No worries, keep it.” But I can’t borrow a dollar without it weighing heavily on me, so I knew I would be returning it.

On a hot September day after we returned from the beach, I got a call from my ex-boyfriend Mark who wanted to know if I would like to join him and his kid with my kids and swim in Lee Gershwin’s pool. Lee, the widow of lyricist Ira Gershwin, was like a godmother to Mark so he was always free to use her pool. A pool invitation? If you’re reading my blog, you know I can’t resist. Pool ho that I am, I was there instantly. Not sure you have ever been on one of those Hollywood celebrity tours, but the Gershwin home is (was) right next door to Rosemary Clooney’s on North Roxbury Drive. So, I brought my fifty dollars along with me. As I was swimming happily in the Gershwin pool, I overheard people in the yard next door. It was Rosie talking to her boyfriend Dante. So I yelled across, “Hey Rosie, it’s Fredde, I’ve got the money I owe you!” I wrapped a towel around myself, walked next door and returned the borrowed cash.

The Ivy at the Shore is where we ate and I think it’s still a great brunch spot on weekends or lunch during the week. The Ivy in town on Robertson is still so charming and you can talk for hours while you keep reordering the great bread and some nice tea with fresh mint. However, it isn’t my absolute favorite restaurant and recently when my good friend Stacey was visiting and we met there for dinner, she noticed a lot of tourists and wasn’t that happy there. I said, lets leave, I know a much better place and we went around the corner to Madeo Restaurant on Beverly Blvd. A truly great restaurant that has eclipsed the popularity of The Ivy, in my opinion. One of the best things at either Ivy are the great desserts. My favorite, and I pick them up ALL the time, are the chocolate chip cookies. They have macadamia nuts and are some of the best not home made chocolate chip cookies you will have. Key lime pie is great too!

me with Dina and my kids, Augie and Oliver in Santa Barbara

Dina visiting us a year or so ago

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

14 Responses to “Dina and Me, a Relationship in Spanglish”

  1. Julie tolman phales says:

    This just be my favorite blog of yours to date. Great story, thanks for sharing. Very well written and entertaining as always.

  2. Augie Duke says:

    Mom and mom number 2 DIna, she is one of my favorite people in the world, pure soul in every direction, how i miss my Dina…. I love this one, took me down memory lane… Love you mommy…

  3. pauli moss says:

    What a wonderful boss you were…and probably still are. Loved the drama of that moment when she said “FIFTEEN”. Could be an episode
    on Modern Family.

  4. Kim says:

    Great Fredde! Dina was wonderful, I remember her so well.

  5. gabri ferrer says:

    love that story…

    could use that fifty now, too, rosie.



  6. Barbara Dudley says:

    Love this Fredde…I am especially impressed w/ making 1K last for “years” in moving Dina in…Great story…

  7. jeff says:

    Great Blog – funny reading. Madeo is my Number 1 restaurant when I’m alone – I go there, sit at the bar – get a pasta Botarga and a glass of wine. Could be worse.


  8. jennifer arbaugh says:

    fred, another tour de force. u must be getting fatigued with my literary compliments! AH, magnificent nannys… before dudley and erin were born ed hired a swedish young woman who arrived on labor day weekend in chappaqua. eleanor was with us for a bbq and when AGNETTA arrived el turned to me “DO NOT SAY A WORD AND KEEP COOL.” Agnetta was 6ft of Ursulla Andress with a poodle named Fluffy. Not to worry, she was wonderful and kept a knife under her pillow in fear of Ed intruding into the downstairs bedroom. Ne frette pas, Ed was not a fan of the dog…. xxxx jenn

  9. You are such a terrific story teller! I can always count on you for a laugh. I just wish you wrote every day.

  10. Thanks for stopping by my Red Door Freddy and leaving me a comment. Have a great day!

  11. Hoov says:

    Cool. My best bud god father to James had a expression about borirowing i i i was his care taker of his six boys when in grad school. His fam started the largest bank in Colorado. Never loan money unless you have money to loose. I know I borrow many 50 bills during my many years of friendship. :::) Hoov

  12. Carol Ward Dudley says:

    How did I miss this one – what fun – Love this story. Much love

  13. Danna Colman says:

    Another good story, but I love them all.

  14. m maggie bittan says:

    F, who was your ex-boyfriend Mark? A close girlfriend is a Gershwin niece.who spent so much time at the Roxbury house. I’d love to share this with her. Melinda

Leave a Reply