It would be a ridiculous attempt to explain about Los Angeles in a few hundred words. With such texture and depth, it’s a fabulously subjective part of our country. So instead, I will give you a story through my lens about the two days I spent on the Eastside.
It starts with sweaty, sleepless night. The queen-sized mattress felt foreign to begin with and the fact that it was propped in the loft area of this tiny house we rented made the sleeping experience upsetting. And there were only four total pillows. Who sleeps with that few pillows?
After a night like this, a man has a few options. He can block off several hours of the day to enjoy a meal, like a deep dish pizza with a whole bowl of baked minestrone – nothing too drastic. Or, he can shoot 500mg of caffeine into his veins to exercise for several hours to forget the fatigue.
With not much consideration, I silently pledged to do both. But each would have to wait for a while. Charlie was getting up, and I had to be a decent husband.
My recent trip to Sav-Mor Thrift had served me well for this trip. Coming from the land of sameness, I was welcomed by the fact that wearing thrift shop clothes was not frowned upon in this part of the country. Standing in line for brunch, an Asian man who strikes me to be in his 40’s is proudly wearing a violet t-shirt with ripped holes on the left side. The collar has been stretched so wide you could throw bobcat through it. His Levi’s have been around a while and he hasn’t washed them frequently. His feet are protected by a pair scuffed up Jordan 4’s—the laces look like they’ve been soaked in mud. The right sneaker is magic-marked with “one-love.”
We sat on the street-side table next to a locked up Shimano road bike. The parking meter that stood above the bike lock had a sticker slapped on it that said, “Power Shitter.” I looked at that for a while and wondered who put it there. And then I realized the superior fascination, “Who made that sticker?”
This aimless daydreaming was interrupted by the delivery of our cactus flower pancakes. Charlie sipped a latte while I drank a protein shake alongside brunch. Protein is important.
I couldn’t help but fall into the conversation I didn’t understand from the two ladies behind us. This childish desire rose up within me to call our waiter over and speak too loudly so they could hear me say, “De l’eau s’il vous plait.”
When they finished eating, these ladies walked past us to fetch an Uber. Holding up to the fashion capital of the world, these Parisians were effortlessly cool. One of them was sporting an oversized Army jumpsuit one-piece with a messy bun augmented with gold jewelry on her extremities. The other was more simplistic, but no less in-vogue—high rise denim, a vintage white t-shirt.
The dense, red-faced man in front of us sat with his arms crossed over his belly with black ray-bans across his nose. It’s been said that the belly is the most vulnerable part of an animal’s body in nature, so therefore they do everything they can to protect. His protective posture is cracked wide open when his roasted lamb sandwich arrives.
Brunch was good. But then again, the standard has been set so high that good food in this part of the country is excellent in many others.
Brunch is only better with a walk to nowhere afterward. So that’s what we did. Our steps down N. Virgil Avenue spilled us into a neighborhood that had a lot of mini-markets, laundromats, and multi-family units. The steady roar of motor vehicles provided a white noise. We walked by a man pushing a shopping cart who stopped frequently to have great conversation with someone we couldn’t see. He had a full liter of Squirt that he drank with great endurance too.
A hard right on Santa Monica Blvd dumped us onto Sunset Blvd. Not after more than a quarter mile on this road, we stumble on the Silver Lake Farmer’s market.
Suddenly, our senses were exposed to the great invention of satisfying human pleasure. There’s Dave’s authentic Korean food stand. Dave is a white man with a peppered beard. To my right, a Ki energy booth is taking place. The Japanese man is pushing violent breaths from his tight mouth while waving his hands around his client’s chest who happens to be a large, shirtless black man. A quintessential millennial couple walk by both holding what looks to be massive amounts of hot falafel covered with tzatziki. The lady is wearing high waisted denim with a tucked Bernie Sanders t-shirt and the man is wearing jet black jeans with a scooped neck, oversized gray shirt with a fedora and a long-hanging chain that’s weighed down by a cross.
There were far too many clothing booths for me to look at. One of them did catch my attention. A loud, happy black women was running it. Clothing was her main offering but she had crystals and stones on a table. I’m not sure if they were for sale or just conversation starters. I heard her say to a browser, “I love jackets, overcoats, and scarves. I think that one will look great on you.” Without hearing that it would have been nearly impossible to gauge her interest for outerwear given the fact that her top was distractingly low. Around the corner I was greeted with “Happy Saturday sir, can I give you a sample?” A middle eastern man offered an impressive selection of dips, sauces, and hummus. Pita bread was the medium for all of them.
Charlie and I had separated to explore on our own. After rounding the small but substantial farmers market, we met paths again. She picked up a darling necklace that only assisted her beauty. I didn’t buy anything, but I did leave with a thought.
On Thursday night, we hesitated making the trip to Los Angeles for the weekend. Our newsfeeds had flooded our screens portraying that major cities were filled with herds of spiritually in tune, but emotionally moronic people. The Media was a having a field day with the post-election frenzy.
But I think we decided to go because we both wanted to see what was really going on. And it turned out that nothing revelatory happened over our two days in Eastside L.A. It was quite normal actually. People of different size, race, age and gender were doing life. Together. It was a far cry from what we were told to believe.
We headed back to our hot little apartment. We changed quickly into workout clothes. I slammed three slugs of caffeine and yelped the closest gym I could find. The Bodybuilder’s Gym on Hyperion Ave was the place. I overtrained on purpose. I probably did like a total of 600 reps. Charlie recognized an actress from the 90’s whose name she couldn’t quite remember on the elliptical.
We finish working out and park ourselves on the curb to wait for our ride. Our Uber driver rolls up with the hazard light flashing. We both jump in the back seat and he says, “How are you two?”
“Good. Thanks. How about you?”
“Better now. I just spent several hours trying to get out of downtown. The protestors are everywhere and they’ve closed off a lot of roads.”
And then I realized a great paradox of our time: The complex nature of love and hope is that cultivating each of them requires both of them.
I am hesitant to tell you where we went for dinner because it will only increase the already long wait time. But, I feel like it’s my civil duty to share this establishment with you – especially if you appreciate a good pie. Masa of Echo Park makes a deep dish pizza that makes you want to take your shoes off while you eat it. Don’t be absurd and order a large for yourself, though. Scale it back and have a small. Enjoy it with a salad and a bowl of baked minestrone for good measure.
Photo: Getty Images