by Dan Johnson
Downtown can’t afford an oil spill.
Think of clean up costs and the dickering over said clean up costs in the City Council Chambers. Think of unending traffic jams consuming Uber after Uber, each honking endlessly until they slip beneath that oily sludge. Think of well meaning college students and Christian aid groups from across the country flocking to Downtown to scrub crude particulate off of the homeless. Think of all those basement bars staying open despite a flood tide of midnight black offal from the Miocene and Pleistocene because the flow of Jameson, like the postal service, cares not for extenuating circumstances. Think of Eric Garcetti locked in his office atop City Hall, pacing a rut into the carpet, working hand over hand in an endless rumination on the covalence of his political aspirations and the success of the 2024 Olympics. Will he be a Lincoln or a Cruz Bustamante?
Here in oil country, we do well to ponder the worse case scenario.
Yes, I said oil country. I know it’s not Houston or Saudi Arabia or Wyoming, but the mineral features lurking subterranean beneath our fine city once rivaled any field in the world.
Long before Silicon Beach and idiot tourism and aerospace and Hollywood, Los Angeles had oil. Not just any oil, but sweet oil. Giving black deposits lurking just beneath the surface in places like Long Beach, Venice, Beverly Hills, La Brea, but none so much as that delicious crescent running between Western Ave. and northern Chinatown.
After decades of slapdickery in the way of well-drilling, early Daniel Plainview tap man Edward Doheny dropped a sharpened Eucalyptus log a few hundred meters beneath the surface at Colton and Patton (near Glendale Blvd.) in 1892. His first derrick began sucking the proverbial milkshake to the tune of seven barrels a day.
Soon the city had hundreds of creaking wells, each extracting wealth round the clock in an incredibly lucrative way that incentivized others to hop in the game with no apparent regard for any of the ecological consequences with which future generations would have to contend.
Echo Lake burned for three days back in 1907 after an oil spill leaked into the water and caught fire. There was a huge methane explosion at a Ross Dress For Less on Fairfax Ave. (hearty-har-har, you tools, laugh it up) in 1985. Here in Downtown, an oil spill closed S. Olive Blvd. and forced the prolonged evacuation of the Iris Hotel as recently as 2006.
We’re not even done pumping. Sure, most of the wells have been plugged and built over. The nation’s moving away from oil towards renewables. You’ve given up your car for a Metro Bike and a Tap Card and an overwhelming sense of moral superiority. Yet, the pumping continues.
I doff my cap to Nasco Petroleum, LLC. Down at 14th Pl. between Broadway and Hill St., they’re tending no less than twelve active and ten idle wells. Drive by sometime—you can’t miss it. It’s the oil facility in the middle of the fashion district.
I’d piss and moan and write someone and circulate a petition, but 2016 has exhausted me in the fight against moneyed interests who have yet to tangibly poison me and mine in anything more than a negligible, daily way.
Instead, I hypothesize that the best way to keep Nasco Petroleum’s little honey pot in order is to keep their roughnecks well fed.
Nasco, I’ve scoured the adjoining area. For my money (no more than eight dollars and seventy-two cents), the best meal is down at the corner of Venice Blvd. and Olive St. where the Right A Way Café plumbs the depths of basic urban cuisine.
Breakfast! Lunch! Dinner? No! They’re a 7 am to 5 pm operation, Monday through Friday and 8am to 2pm on Saturday. Sundays find them in a “go to Subway” stance.
I was over the moon ecstatic when I wandered into their self proclaimed “patio restaurant” yesterday morning to grab a bite.
It’s a bare bones, utilitarian location—something I’m sure veterans of the oil fields can relate to. Right A Way doesn’t screw around. The counter is clearly a relic of some long ago forgotten Quizno’s. The utensils come pre-packaged in plastic. The fly net does not function.
Of special note, the grill space is insufficient to provide quick and tasty breakfast, so they improvise. My $5.99 pancake combo with two flapjacks, two eggs and a choice of bacon, sausage or ham comes with tater tots rather than hash browns. Why? Because the deep fryer handles the tots, leaving valuable griddle surface area for wide areolas of heated batter.
I could have opted for chilaquiles or French toast or adjourned to return in a few hours for a host of sandwiches, but the pancakes seemed apropos given their affiliation with the “lumberjack breakfast.” If it’s good enough for the men who exploit nature in the north woods, it’s good enough for the men tending the vampiric extraction of dead dinosaurs from Los Angeles proper.
Everything was in good order on my plate. I passed on the meat option (because I haven’t had the urge to eat slaughtered animals since eating at Richie’s Café Grill) and opted for an extra egg. The pancakes coquettishly hinted toward a fluffy sweetness. The tater tots tasted almost onion-ringy, likely due to recycled fry grease from the night before. The eggs were as good as the fried yoke of any bird’s cracked offspring ever will be.
I left reassured that the men and women who tend Downtown’s sole remaining oil production facility have someplace nearby where they can pop in for a good meal or use as an agreed upon rally point in the case of a massive conflagration. As a sweetener, Right A Way Café is mere feet away from California Medical Center.
I award Right A Way Café a “1” on the binary. I have also dropped a pin there should the NSA like to forward that information to NASA. You know, in case they need a few good Affleck/Buscemi type drill jockeys to fly into space and plant a nuke in the core of a massive comet that could, at this very moment, be hurtling towards collision with earth to end the species as we know it, thus creating a layer of human-petroleum for the next ruinous go at intelligent life to use to satisfy their own imperial imperatives in twenty million years.