by Dan Johnson
I intended to write about Glatt Kosher on 9th St between Broadway and Main St, but a quick perusal of their menu revealed an unbecoming selection of unaffordable items. Go figure.
Instead, I popped into Anson’s Eatery next door. It’s the small glass front bistro with the multi-colored “OPEN” sign. The polychromatic letters are possibly the most exciting aspect of the Anson’s experience.
I’m not even disappointed. I’m content.
Of the absurd menagerie of addictions afflicting addled 21st century Americans, I rank entertainment next to outrage and sex as the most pernicious.
Our collective national identity is hitched to a notion of exceptionalism. We’re special. A special people deserve special things. Now more than ever, we’re so accustomed to having our minds blown that we actually use “acceptable” or “sufficient” in the pejorative.
This is a mindset that we tend to associate with the fast-living of city life. It is by no means a recent phenomenon. The 1920 census was the first American survey in which more people inhabited cities than the countryside. Shit went wrong long before that, but strictly speaking, this is the beginning of an important historical continuum, the ass end of which we inhabit.
Why? It’s complex, but Michael Lesy did a pretty swell job of nailing that hide to the wall in the conclusion to his epic of American neurosis, The Wisconsin Death Trip:
“The people who left the land came to the cities not to get jobs but to be free from them, not to get work but to be entertained, not to be masters but to be charges. They followed yellow brick roads to emerald cities presided over by imaginary wizards who would permit them to live in happy adolescence for the rest of their lives. By leaving the land, they disavowed a certain kind of adulthood whose mature rewards they understood to be confusion and bereavement. By going to the emerald cities, they chose a certain kind of adolescence forever free from frailty, responsibility, and death. It is this adolescent city culture, created out of the desperate needs and fantasies of people fleeing from the traps and tragedies of late nineteenth-century country life, that still inspires…”
Boy, that sounds familiar. Especially in the context of Guy Debord’s Society of the Spectacle, where every relationship is defined by the excitement it generates and the worst fate is to become unenviable.
I’ve been swishing this idea around my mind a lot lately given the rapidly degenerating quality of our national discourse and the abundant attacks on the scattered remnants of the middle class and the internet.
Here in the cities, we took it for granted that the terms of our entertainment were not subject to modification. This is the height, after all, of every possible human ambition. Look at our technological savvy and inspired morality. Sweep the crazy beneath the carpet and hush hush the questions about the suicide epidemic. Never mind the horrors—look at all our cool shit!
It’s time for a most welcome gut check: what if this $7.95 diet burrito bowl from Anson’s were all I have to look forward to from here on out? What if I woke up tomorrow morning and all the pleasant fuckery of Facebook and the happy hour beers and abundant media were gone and in their place was a circular medley of steamed vegetables, brown rice, salsa and some avocado?
I would probably survive.
The zeal of living in Downtown would certainly change, but that’s already happened for me. The “gee, wow, you wouldn’t believe” letters home to Ma and Pa are long departed. I’m beginning to doubt their authenticity in the first place. I’ve replaced this sentimentalism with a calculated Libra impression by which I try to weigh good against evil without tipping over or confusing the two.
Cue BB King’s “The Thrill Is Gone.” Now the name of the game is a less-than-enchanted search for all-too-elusive nutrition, metaphorical and literal.
To borrow from once and former Downtown bard Timothy Turner, it’s like someone turned off the sunshine. Once you move past the lust for fame and fortune, the true dimensions of Los Angeles reveal themselves. The palm trees fade and the models exit stage left. This city’s soul feels like an endless night sometimes. So many lost people wandering about in darkness, destined never to find their way. The acknowledgement of that Los Angeles will change you fundamentally.
Here I am. My life is this meal. It is cheap, wrapped in plastic and pretty hearty, actually. I’ve got some spinach and zucchini and broccoli and sprouts. The avocado is meager, but it’s well sliced so that none of the fleshy brown rot remains.
It’s enough. It feels like a relief to say that. It’s enough.
It’s not the feast you imagined yourself digging into as a child, but fuck your childhood self (not literally…hate that I have to qualify that statement in this day and age especially with the prospects for lunatic owned time machines increasing every day between Moore’s Law and tax breaks for the wealthy).
Most of us don’t even fathom how unrealistic our expectations are. Americans grow up living in a world where reality is just an inconvenient obstacle to the things sitcoms and magazines and movie told us we could achieve in America if only we have the gumption to make the right friends and fuck over the right people.
As a nation that acts out on its every picayune desire, however immature, because we deserve it because grandpa shot a Nazi and Coca Cola and jazz, we’re widely out of step with the trajectory of the world and possibly doomed because of our ignorance to that fact.
My big worry is not that we’ll wake up one day with nothing but $7.95 diet burrito bowls for our enjoyment, but that we will spend every day of our lives afterwards trying to get back to a place where we can almost, just about, not quite grip the things we think we deserve.
I award Anson’s Eatery a “1” on the binary and encourage you to stop by and enjoy their pastoral landscape design flourishes while applying some culinary balm to the crucifixion marks on your ego.