Thursday, October 28, 2004
my favourite dining area so far
i've been spending a lot of time in st. vincent medical center, and i am impressed with it, inside and out. when i first found out that my mom was to be admitted there, i was a little wary as i hadn't ever heard of it, and had only passed it by fleetingly on the way downtown. the website isn't flashy, and googling turned up very little. it is the oldest hospital in los angeles. my friend, merry, was born there, but they tore that building down soon after (the two events, she claims, are not related). it isn't the biggest in the metro area, it's quite modest in every respect, and it is well maintained. the most consoling thing--as lilly so wisely pointed out--is that it's probably better that there isn't any news on it. less chance of notoriety.
it's at the edge of downtown, on third and alvarado, near the infamous macarthur park (someone left the cake out in the rain), and the equally infamous original original tommy's™ (you only need to read the nutritional info on the chili burger to understand why it's probably a good idea that it's near a hospital). st. vincent's, though, sits in the middle of a mostly residential, quiet area, away from the heavily travelled boulevards towards the south.
the view towards downtown
i have found most hospitals to be fair but cold and sterile, not just in setting but in attitude. most hospital workers are overworked, and it's just enough that they can be civil to you while doing their job competently. here, though, from the security guards to the doctors, everyone is friendly, polite, and helpful. from the orderly that wheeled her down to surgery to the nurses in post-op, everyone made sure they knew her name and she knew theirs, and they accommodated us, her worried relatives, in every way possible. the rooms are small, but private, and we were allowed to stay in her room while waiting for news, and the nurses were very accommodating about our comings and goings. there are japanese and korean wards where the nurses are fluent in the respective languages and there is a liaison available. they will tailor meals to suit asian diets, along with other standard preferences.
the view from my mom's room--you can see the hollywood sign and griffith park observatory in the distance
anyway, i cannot say enough nice things about it. there is a very old fashioned feel to the way that the patients are treated, and the way that the hospital is laid out. everyone we have encountered seems very compassionate, and happy to be there. weird, i know. it's sort of freakish, but i'm glad for it and i'll take it.
so, my cousin and i have spent a lot of time in the cafeteria outdoor patio (pictured above). it's below street level, on one of the quieter streets, and the only sounds you really hear are from the nearby elementary school and some street traffic. it's never crowded, the trees shield you from the sun, and it seems far, far away from the workings within.
we've eaten a lot of hospital food. i have to say, it's pretty good. i'm sure my judgement is clouded by exhaustion, availability, and the fact that it is plentiful and cheap, cheap, cheap ($1.80 for a full breakfast of eggs, bacon, biscuits and sausage gravy! 50 cents for oatmeal with as many fresh blueberries you can pile on!). there's always a fresh salad bar, a grill for made-to-order items, and, as the hospital has a meals-on-wheels program, most of it is cooked on the premises. my mom even gets a nice cup of sorbet or an italian ice on her tray. however, there is only so much hospital food you can eat, so we've also brought stuff to eat. you are allowed to eat in the rooms with the patient and i've seen big groups of people eating in the waiting rooms, but we just bring our food out to the patio. my favourite is a decidedly california take on bibimbap from la korea in the farmer's market. all the veggies are very fresh and green (there's even romaine lettuce in this one), and the rice is wonderfully sticky but firm. no egg, but the spicy chicken is an interesting and tasty substitution.
on a saturday afternoon, the caf is nearly deserted, and the sunny patio beckons. mom's okay, we're okay, all is right with the world.