In December, 1974, Dick Clark called me. I knew Dick Clark from his Philly days on American Bandstand and the fact that my dad had bought his house in Wallingford, PA., where Jim and I had been married. Jim had also played a couple of shows on American Bandstand.
And (posthumously, he was one of the few that would help me in my lawsuits…But that’s another story!)
This was the very first year of the American Music Awards, and Jim Croce had been selected for the category of “Best Male Vocalist”. I was so proud of Jim. I went to the show and shyly accepted the award.
Then in February of 74’, a friend and colleague of Jim’s, Corb Donahue, head of A&R at ABC Dunhill called me and invited us to join him, his wife, and their 3-year-old daughter on a road trip to Costa Rica. Before Jim died, he had made a plan to take a surfing trip together with our families. Fortunately, Jim’s insurance money had just come in and I decided that taking the journey Jim had planned for us would fulfill his dream.
It was a great escape, and on the way, we enjoyed fresh-caught tuna and barbecued shrimp on homemade tortillas with guacamole, quesadillas, Chile Rellenos, and refried beans. We devoured carne asada tacos and corn polenta with salsas and moles of every kind. A.J. and I caravanned in our International Travelall south from San Diego and ended up in Quepos, on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica.
We fell in love with the small ocean town and A.J. and I stayed there until it was time for A.J. to start school.
For our meals, I was able to gather fresh fruit and vegetables from the trees on the land where we stayed. There was an abundance of crustaceans and fresh fish from the sea at the edge of our property, pork and beef from the farmers across the road, all within a mile around us.
This was the boldest food I’d ever sourced, and the flavors were more vibrant than anything I’d ever tasted. I made lobster and avocado quesadillas with papaya-mint salsa, polenta with blackened tomato sauce, chorizo, and cilantro. We dined on Green Chile Mac and Cheese and mango pie with coconut cookie crust. I’d never enjoyed cooking more than I did when we were in Costa Rica, but I was still years away from realizing my profession as a chef or restaurateur.
When we returned from Costa Rica, I received a check for $5,000, more money than we had ever received from royalties. After all his years of hard work and traveling, Jim had died with just his work shirt on his back and with no bank account.
I was angry that he had not been able to realize his financial success. It would have meant so much to him.