by Dan Johnson
Believe it or not, I don’t get a large amount of fan mail.
That’s not necessarily an invitation. I appreciate it when people reach out to say they enjoy something I wrote, but one of my deepest, darkest secrets is that I can’t take a compliment.
Really, my favorite kind of feedback is hate mail. I savor hatred. The world truly needs villains. Assuming one’s villainy is rooted not in exploitation or greed, but the truest form of contradiction—defacing deeply entrenched assumptions of self-superiority rooted in complacency—we can treat earned hatred as productive and healthy.
I got a couple of especially nice pieces of ill-conceived hate mail last year that I found really invigorating. One in particular took the line that I am an ugly person trying to be funny so I can find someone who will fuck me. That’s a hell of a thing for one ugly person to tell another.
I would have loved to respond, but he blocked me on Zuckerberg’s magic dreambox. So I’ll have to save my well worded letter about the misuse of projection and the attendant impulse to load others with one’s own psychological baggage.
Up until January 16, his was the favorite letter I ever received regarding 8.72.
Then Heather Whittaker, communication intern at National Alliance of Safe Pest Control, rocked my world.
In a compact, but cogent communique that concluded with a call to action admonishing me to “share this information with your audience at Get Downtown,” Heather filled me in on the roach epidemic currently blooming across the US.
Bad news guys, apparently LA is amongst the top ten most infested places in the country. This should come as no surprise. The climate is warm, the streets are cracked. Besides, this is a place for survivors.
Once you peel back the myths of health and happiness beneath the warm Southern California sun and disabuse yourself of the notion that the Southland is a honeypot just waiting to shower you with oodles of riches, I think you’ll appreciate the fact that the common cockroach is the perfect emblem for Angelenos.
Most of us may not be changing the world, but damn it, we’re still here. In this day and age, that’s something.
I can’t speak to a roach’s inner-most desires, but I can’t help but think that they’re mostly in line with our collective hopes and aspirations. They clearly like to reproduce and nest. They make due and, damn it, they like to eat. Sounds pretty human to me. We’re less apt to survive a nuclear holocaust, but trim away the niceties and we’re downright roachist in many ways.
We tend to get in trouble when we assume our presumptions of natural superiority are accurate. The corollary in this trap of cognitive dissonance is that we think we are special and thus deserve special things.
Think roachy, friends. It’s not about what we deserve or even want. It’s about what we need.
A little honesty is nice from time to time. I’ve seen a lot of renderings of “future, awesome Downtown” recently. Happy (predominantly white people, incidentally) saunter through well-landscaped retail space in between their well-furnished homes and whatever bombastic food location stakes their claim on the ground floor.
How exciting! Won’t that be neat? In the meantime, if you’re looking for an emblem of Blattodea reality hinting at the actual quality of life in Downtown Los Angeles circa Anno Domini 2018, check out Fix Café.
Downtown has two locations now. One on 7th St between Hill St and Olive St and another at 7th St and Broadway. With a name that winks at the fact that we’re caught in a perpetual opioid epidemic, Fix Café sells what you need and only what you need.
I’m in no way suggesting it’s roach infested, but the Fix Café I experienced gave every indication that it supports a bare bones lifestyle. Everything inside is priced between one dollar and $2.50. There are nuts and generic pastries and some of those yogurt parfaits.
The whole thing feels like a realistic compromise between the late-in-the-month, check-to-check skim of desperation and the libertarian future where everything is pay-to-play. It embraces our ever-evolving inhumanity and serves it dutifully.
Fix Café proves that the old swan-dive into dystopian oblivion can yield some practical adaptations. To wit: cheap sandwiches that are not at all filling, but contain enough nutrition to keep you alive and at your job for another eight hours.
The clerk wanted me to know that everything was made fresh that day. I have no reason to doubt him. My turkey sandwich had crisp lettuce and firm tomatoes as well as some sliced olives that had yet to stain the bread. The turkey didn’t have that waxy shine that usually precedes an “oh fuck” moment when you sink your teeth in and realize you’re eating nearly-rancid poultry.
It was pretty decent. It tasted like an actual sandwich. It was cheap as hell. I spent maybe two minutes tops in Fix Café.
It’s fast food, really. Especially fast food because there isn’t much of it. The turkey ration is one slice. It goes down quick.
Forget your humanoid presumptions of what constitutes a proper meal. We’re living in roachtime here—small bites taken at intervals of necessity throughout the day.
It’s nice to think that we’ve earned some truly revolutionary fast food options that will confirm our own civic apotheosis. It’s a whole other thing to reconcile that line of thinking with the reality of life in an imperfect city filled with people who are dimly aware that life is short and by no means a fairy tale.
I celebrate Fix Café with a “1” on the binary and a hearty welcome to 7th St’s “Restaurant Row.”