by Dan Johnson
Here’s something you can take to the bank: the greatest single source of cosmic ecstasy is the mundane. If you’ve slaved away your entire life to suit yourself in exotic, trendy fashions and a fleet of luxury cars ferrying you to and from plush resorts in the search for transcendence and meaning, you have wasted your life.
There is no truer outline to the divine wonder of life on this earth than the tiny Thai import enclave in Dogtown, Downtown Los Angeles.
Let’s clear up this bit of confusion: the little sliver of alluvial flood plain, warehouses, park space and housing projects stuck between Lincoln Heights, Cypress Park and Chinatown is the only Dogtown in Los Angeles today.
Sorry to burst your bubble, Venice, but the so-called Dogtown of yesteryear was forfeited when you surrendered your civic identity to become Silicon Beach. If you’d like to argue the point, why don’t you wrestle an “Alva” shirt on your portly, sixty-something, “used to skate, bro” form, hop in your Mercedes, enter the William Mead Homes into Google maps and then see if anyone in the 1940s-built low-income complex would like to challenge your claim to superlative toughness.
Sorry. There’s no need to get confrontational. The trick is learning to enjoy the subtle, unadvertised pleasures of Dogtown. Namely LAX-C, the giant Thai Costco equivalent strung between North Main St and the rail yard to the east.
It is a cavernous installation. Massive retail scaffolding stretches skyward and sprawls deep towards a back wall set impossibly far from the front entrance. Oceanic fresh lobster tanks, a non-consumable merchandise annex and an onslaught of pay-per-pound bargains stagger the imagination.
To find an institution this plentiful in a non-descript, quasi-industrial block is equivalent to finding Knott’s Berry Farm in the Oue Skyspace. It just shouldn’t exist. It confounds and delights. What other treasures are lurking in plain sight?
Well, for one, an absurd glut of inappropriate but not unwelcome murals. The front side of LAX-C features a gigantic painted homage to the noble Plains Indians and their kindred ecological bedfellows, the North American Bison. You too can experience the majesty of a hunt as portrayed on the side of a warehouse. Ancient Zen riddle: is it still cultural appropriation if Thai-Americans do it?
On the flip side of the building is a wall-spanning narrative in mural dedicated to human flight. Intermingle with the copious stray cats that call the quiet parking lot home and suspend disbelief. This one’s a doozy.
If we take the mural at face value, the story of human flight began with a neanderthalic man flapping makeshift wings in emulation of the soaring pterodactyls swooping through the sky above. I’m no scientist, but I’m pretty positive the two species didn’t coexist. Was the fable of Daedalus and Icarus unsuitable for adaptation?
Don’t answer that. Instead focus on the following litany of images: the Wright Flyer above Kittyhawk in 1903 (check), the Space Shuttle Columbia (ouch…that’s the one that blew up in 2003) and the Starship Enterprise careening out of some nebula or another (umm…ok).
All of this speculative and factually dubious conjecture about man’s quest for elevation has worked up quite an appetite. I could go for the in-store cafeteria type deal in LAX-C or the coconut cake/Thai BBQ shack out front. Instead, I journey into the near-anonymous banquet hall known as E-Sea Fresh Noodles Restaurant.
That’s a pun. Get it?
Staggering meta-humor aside, the place is a gem. It is cheap, quick, scantily occupied, well air-conditioned, within eyeshot of both the Chinatown Gold Line station and the Right Field lights at Dodger Stadium, courteously staffed, value rich and exceptionally tasty.
A cool $7.95 gets you a spicy bowl of tofu curry in either the yellow, red or green variety. I signed up for the verde and didn’t regret it for a single moment. The green has a “double chili” rating—there’s a bite to it. The mild sear leaches into the bamboo cuttings, green peppers and tofu logs that haunt the bowl. The extra scoop of jasmine rice puts in solid work as an absorbent vehicle for further delivery of green curry to my face.
The entire experience was so pleasant and unexpected, I half expected to regain consciousness naked and froth-drenched in the middle of the drained Pershing Square fountain next to four roaches of K2 and a squad of LAPD foot patrol officers brandishing Tasers.
Was my experience real? I consulted the true arbiter of all things actual, the Internet, and discovered that yes, in fact, the LAX-C complex and its attendant Thai delights have been observed and verified by others saner than I.
I award E-Sea Fresh Noodles Restaurant a “1” on the binary and instruct you to proceed there immediately between the hours of 9am and 5pm, Tuesday through Sunday. Further adulation to be lumped upon “the caveman who could.” Shoot for the moon, buddy.
Visit E-Sea Fresh Noodles Restaurant at 1100 N Main St.