by Dan Johnson
Raise your hand if you came to Downtown with some misguided notion that your life would bear a resemblance, be it stylistic or spiritual, to Blade Runner.
There’s no shame in it. Go ahead. Let’s see those hands.
Grungy dystopia with abundant multi-cultural cuisine and neon-lit ambient apocalypse throwing shadows across new-style PI and damsel in distress archetypes lifted straight off of film noir. What’s not to like?
The great conceit of Ridley Scott’s ominous Phillip K. Dick adaptation was that Rick Deckard had no clue who he was and only the vaguest clue of what immediate courses of action were in his best interests. He was fucked, plain and simple.
Yet, he kept going. Possibly because he was perpetually bathed in perfectly soft light, confronted with pleasure model robots gaming him with sex appeal and all the other trappings of the deadly serious navel-gazing existential crises that make being a narcissist so engaging. Not to mention he had a delightful wardrobe, cushy job and a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
This is the unspoken stylistic touchstone behind the Downtown aesthetic revival. More than poverty voyeurism or Steve Aoki concerts or rooftop pools, it’s this fantasy of a Vangelis-soundtracked sleaze synth life strewn in decadence, imminent demise and desire.
Also, the rain.
Against all logic, every shot in that film is hosed to the gills in cloud breaks, showers and all out deluges. Historically, Los Angeles has seen some mighty wet days. There’s a reason why the Los Angeles River got paved over. It used to channel ungodly quantities of runoff to a point that it was known to wildly change course over a matter of days.
Self-representations of LA love to indulge in fantasies of a rain-soaked City of Angels. I’m looking at you Singin’ In the Rain with your jackass choreography and fake precipitation machines rigged with milk instead of water because dairy plays better on celluloid.
The reality of our current city and the great future our industrial ancestors have built for us is not so much hazy thunderstorms and cold cyber melodramas as it is shit-hot, dry, desperate, vicious and unforgiving.
It’s the old Downtown bait and switch. You asked for Blade Runner and you got Repo Man.
Despite all wishful thinking and downward-gazing delusions projected onto the city from the top of the Wilshire Grand, our city center is a stifling hot aggregate of shitty bosses, worse jobs, clumsy spray paint, savage punks, mean drunks and possible alien sub-plots. Deal with it.
Those interested in following Otto’s footsteps while riding on a concrete slab down a river of a useless land should proceed immediately to 4th St just east of Los Angeles St where a new monolith of white wall broken by already-tagged roll downs hides Sunday Café.
It’s not for ordinary fuckin’ people who hum 7up jingles at work. It’s for people who prefer to ride the bus and those who mysteriously survive otherwise lethal liquor store robberies.
Not that you need to satisfy any of these prerequisites to order from the alley abiding outdoor grill. Mostly you just need cash and a willingness to order from a clip-binder menu that looks strikingly like an 8th grade book report.
After perusing the menu, you too can choose from a variety of fast cuisine drawn from multiple cultures. From generic ham sandwiches to quick ramen and a bevy of Mexican choices beyond, you will select a sub-eight-dollar selection and revel in its glory.
The tacos dorado four pack ($7.50) is not what I would call “excellent” by, say, ten dollar standards. It is an unremarkable mishmash of iceberg lettuce, parmesan cheese, sour crème and mediocre hard shell corn masking a corned beef style carne asada treasure deep within.
It’s not the quality of the food nor the perceived sensory ecstasy it produces as it commingles with your taste buds—it’s how shitty you feel afterwards. Especially on a day that finds the grillmaster moaning out the mercury reading as great rivulets of sweat trickle down her face at 11am (How’s that for rain, Ridley?).
I was terrified at the prospect of depositing that much dairy and street beef into my gullet before heading to Sierra Madre Villa for an afternoon of triple digit heat. Yet, the day went on without a hitch (despite having to deal with yet another Sean Hannity loving dipshit convinced of his own moral superiority despite all outward indicators to the contrary). I didn’t pass out, shit myself, wheeze, lumber toward narcolepsy or even lash out irrationally.
I did my job and was rewarded one day later with a pristine bowel movement, for which I’ll thank my robust fiber regimen and the high-test cookmanship at Sunday Café. That’s the Repo Man difference—a utilitarian reliability not staked on abundant water.
In this Downtown day and age, asking for aesthetic excellence and introspective complexity is a bit much. Just be happy that you haven’t had a lobotomy or a chance encounter with a neutron bomb. Have some cheap food while you’re at it.
I award Sunday Café a “1” on the binary and encourage all of you to avoid the Rodriguez Brothers at all costs.