Valentine’s Day: Tiny Love Stories in California

ImagePeople enjoyed the last sunset of the year on the pier in Manhattan Beach on Dec. 31, 2019.
Credit…Agustin Paullier/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

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A little while ago, we asked you to send us your tiny California love stories — your meet-cutes, your reunions, your heartbreaks, all told in 100 words or fewer.

We got responses from readers young and older from around the state. And as it’s Valentine’s Day, we thought today would be the perfect day to share some of our favorites.

Credit…AJ Stone Jonathan

First, here’s a story about a bond between a reader and their aunt:

I’m alone. She’s stuck in LAX traffic. I get in her car, see her face for the first time — an aunt I’ve never met, who I barely knew existed until my parents passed away. She calls her husband and uses my pronouns. I visit again. I move to Los Angeles. She makes me dinner. She loves me at Christmas. I love her at Thanksgiving. We grow together, and she loves me for me, and I love her for her dog. Together we get to build our family.

— AJ Stone Jonathan, 23, Los Angeles

Credit…Julie Almquist

And a story of a reunion decades in the making:

When my beloved husband of 41 years died of a heart attack in 2018, he took the life I had. He also opened the door for a new life — and the gift to reconnect after 60 years with a childhood crush. First through tentative texts and cautious phone conversations (Where are you? Who are you?), then a first date hiking in Marin, to romantic weekends back to Carmel where we grew up among the cypress and pines, strolling along that incredible white-sand beach, our love blossomed. Now we have to buy a House Divided Stanford/Cal flag for Big Game!

— Julie Almquist, 69, Felton

Credit…Arlene Martinez

A quintessential Central Coast love story:

I thought he was homeless when I met him, which wouldn’t have been unusual in the coastal town where we lived. He’d show up disheveled at gatherings we frequented, sometimes smelling like he needed a shower. Our first date was Thai, our second at Bart’s Books, an outdoor bookstore in beautiful Ojai. Turns out, he lived in an Airstream in the hills of Ventura County. A little over two years later, expecting our second, we eloped in Las Vegas. We live in 700 square feet now, and we can walk to the beach. He is my perfect California mountain man.

— Arlene Martinez, 43, Ventura (P.S. Arlene writes the In California newsletter for USA Today, which we recommend checking out if you, like us, can’t get enough Golden State coverage.)

Credit…Michael Gold

And a story about making your home a new home, together:

After we moved from Hong Kong, his home, to San Francisco, my home, Daniel drifts uneasily. The buildings aren’t tall enough; the Muni isn’t fast enough; the Chinese food isn’t Chinese enough. “There’s better char siu here than in any other Western city,” I object, as he blanches at my restaurant suggestions. Acceptance builds slowly: first at a hole-in-the-wall in Chinatown, followed by a space-warp into Kowloon at a Cantonese cafe in Sunset. “This place is really authentic,” he beams over satay beef macaroni soup and French toast. Even the rain outside feels like an authentic Pearl River Delta deluge.

— Michael Gold, 35, San Francisco

Credit…Claire Modie

A tale about meeting a stranger at the happiest place on earth:

Andrew and I met at a Disneyland Annual Passholders’ Meet-up, outside the Jungle Cruise. Neither of us were looking to date anyone, just to make friends. We were lined up by chance to sit side-by-side on Space Mountain that day. Our lives have been exciting ever since. We’ve weathered excellent days and health hardships over our many years together now, and we love each other more than ever. Although we don’t have Disneyland Annual Passes anymore, Disneyland will always hold a special place in our hearts, because it brought two unlikely strangers together, first as friends, then into love.

— Claire Modie, 49, Manhattan Beach

Credit…Jea-Hyoun Kim

And finally, a love story, told from both sides, about reconnecting in an unexpected place:

I met Jea as a freshman at Stanford. I thought she was cute, but lacked the moxie to ask her out. Then she started dating some other guy. A decade later, we were doctors-in-training at U.C. Davis. I was at the clinic when I randomly bumped into her. She was there as a patient, nervous that she might have thyroid cancer. We made awkward small talk before the nurse ushered her away. My moxie consisted of messaging her on Facebook. Fortunately, she returned my message. Even more fortunately, the thyroid ultrasound was negative. We’ve been married for four years.

— Charles Feng, 37, Sunnyvale

In a clinic at U.C. Davis in Sacramento, I thought I would be diagnosed with thyroid cancer. He was there signing paperwork for his patient. He immediately recognized me, saying, “Remember me from Stanford?” I couldn’t recall what classes we might have taken together 10 years earlier. I don’t remember my response — perhaps just an icy stare? Turns out, I did not have cancer. Before I could write an email apologizing for my curtness, a message on Facebook asked me to dinner. Two years later, we were married at Stanford, and we’re forever grateful to Mark Zuckerberg.

— Jea-Hyoun Kim, 37, Sunnyvale


We often link to sites that limit access for nonsubscribers. We appreciate your reading Times coverage, but we also encourage you to support local news if you can.

  • An estimated 600 million people live directly on the world’s coastlines, some of the most hazardous places to be as sea levels rise. This project explores how Manila, left, and San Francisco, right, offer two very different glimpses of the future. [The New York Times]

  • Wuhan evacuees who have been quarantined on military bases in three states, including in California, are asking why, under a more recently adopted protocol, they weren’t actually tested for the coronavirus. [The New York Times]

Also: Riverside County spent $1.3 million to quarantine almost 200 people while they were evaluated for signs of the virus. A local congressman wants the money back. [The Desert Sun]

  • McFarland is set to hold another hearing about a plan by a private prison company to expand immigrant detention capacity. [The Bakersfield Californian]

  • The members of the group Moms 4 Housing who were arrested as they were removed from a vacant Oakland house won’t face charges. [The Mercury News]

Also: Read an excerpt from my colleague Conor Dougherty’s book about the roots of the housing crisis. [The New York Times]

  • Oracle’s founder, Larry Ellison, is set to host a high-dollar fund-raiser for President Trump at his estate in the Coachella Valley. Some Oracle employees are not pleased. [Recode]

  • If you missed it, here’s how a shuttered Kmart across from the Grove in Los Angeles became a Britney Spears-themed pop-up museum. People were there to work — well, you know the rest. [The New York Times]

  • He invented the phrase “oldies but goodies.” And after almost 80 years, the king of on-air dedications, the silken-voiced radio legend Art Laboe could probably be described the same way. [The Press Enterprise]

And a programming note: We’ll be off for Presidents’ Day on Monday. We hope you have a great weekend.


California Today goes live at 6:30 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: CAtoday@nytimes.com. Were you forwarded this email? Sign up for California Today here.

Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, graduated from U.C. Berkeley and has reported all over the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles — but she always wants to see more. Follow along here or on Twitter, @jillcowan.

California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.

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