Sunday, March 22, 2009

Grills, Chills and Pills

By Pauly
Hollyweird, CA

I squeezed in between an empty chair at the end of the counter in between two people; a 60 year old guy reading the LA Times while eating biscuits and gravy, and young woman with a intricate colored scarf with abundant greens, glowing reds, and charming yellows. She was trying too hard for a Slumdog Millionaire inspired hipster chic. I slowly read the daily specials written on a white board in a green magic marker.
2 eggs & 4 pieces of fried chicken with 1/2 order of apple walnut French toast 2 pcs & coffee --- 10.45
Wow. That special was so un-LA, and something that I'd see somewhere in Virginia. Usually the specials were a healthy version of something like an "avocado-chipolte burger without a bun." That's what I loved about Nick's, an old school greasy spoon diner, well within walking distance of our apartment. Nicky loved to drive to Nick's which was a block and a half away. She recently got a ticket when the meter expired and an overzealous metermaid shook her down. That was a costly breakfast on that morbid day and as expected she was wicked pissed.

"Come on! Fucking L.A. ticketing douchebags!"

I teased her to no end that she got the ticket out of sheer laziness. If we had walked, we never would have acquired said ticket. Then again, that's one of those unique things that made LA what it was, sort of how locals budget in parking tickets to their monthly expenses and the fact that every drove everywhere.

I usually brought something to read when I went to the coffeeshop by myself. Most recently, I edited pages at the counter while I waited for my breakfast. On Saturday morning? I had nothing with me to occupy the time so I watched the TV that hovered above my head. Women's basketball on ESPN. Freakishly tall women, tomboys, and lesbian types ran up and down the court and I zoned out for a few minutes as the a million and one things transpired at the crowded diner.

I heard a clanging sound of a knife falling to the ground. The strong aroma of coffee swirled around the crowded eatery. The busboy rushed to pour three waters into plastic cups. A baby screeched behind me. What the fuck? Was I on JetBlue flight #212 to Long Beach? I had not heard the mind-numbing wailing from a wee one since my last airborne sojourn. I sat still and sent mind-melding messages to the cooks to fire up my order next. As I waited for my breakfast as my stomach growled and howled like a dozen famished stray dogs. A trio of hipsters in ironic t-shirts crammed into the back booth and ordered their meals. I overheard a few key words like... chorizo. Over easy. Turkey bacon. Strawberries.

The busboy brought over a plastic cup with chocolate sauce that collected on the bottom fifth. He poured milk into the cup and the white liquid quickly darkened. He rushed the milk over to the crying kid behind me. The cook at the egg station flicked his wrist and flipped a couple of fried eggs. Sausages and chorizo and piles of finely shredded hashbrowns sizzled on the grill, as he muttered something in Spanish to the cook next to him working on an order of pancakes.

I sipped ice tea and admired the cooks who diligently worked in synchronicity, sort of like the duo of Grateful Dead drummers. They were true artists and the heart and soul of the breakfast rush. If they had an off day? Everything got fucked up. Nothing was worse that waiting for an hour to eat breakfast and then getting a shitty meal. That's no way to start the day. They were the pebbles that rippled through the pond.

I had been up for a couple of hours writing God knows what sort of shitstorm on an empty word doc. My head was weighed down in pharmaceutical hangover. It craved more. It craved less. After the standard binger for the road, I locked up the apartment, shielded my eyes from the California sun, I stumbled down the palm-tree lined street baked to the tits, past the "FOR RENT" signs that peppered every other lawn on my way to the coffeeshop.

The coffeeshop lost a couple of tables after the car smashed through the front last weekend. They still haven't fixed everything and made due with what they had. The show must go on. It's always packed on weekends and six hungry customers stood outside waiting for an open table. Six more people huddled near register. One of the waiters saw me walk in and pointed to the end of the counter. There was one empty seat and it was mine for the taking. No wait for me. Eating solo meant eating faster. And I tipped those guys so much that I was almost guaranteed to get my order bumped to the front of the line.

I didn't even need a menu. He brought over an iced tea and I ordered a breakfast sandwich.

"So easy," he said and gave me a high five.

That's when the old guy fell down behind me. I dunno if he slipped or lost his balance. I heard a thud and one of the waitresses shrieked, "Are you OK?"

I took a deep breath. The first high of the day, wow, you can't beat that. And after a 2 day bender of basketball and bong hits. I had been raging solo all night long peering into my own inanity. Sometimes you don't know how wasted you really were until you went out in public and were in a situation around sober people. Sort of like being in a bar and drinking with other drinkers. You don't know how shitfaced loud annoying drunkard you are until you wander into church or a tile store.

Cottage cheese. Who the fuck eats that with an omelete? The waitress carried a plate with a mound of cottage cheese sitting on one end. An excessive eyesore. In a pageant of grease and artery clogging great American food stuffs, some LA-actress-model-whatever type needed to watch her slender figure.

Where do those people come from? There's a whole lot of them at 9:43am on a Saturday. I probably should have stayed home and gobbled down a bowl of Kashi cereal while I sat in my boxers and blasted Art Blakely. At least Kashi is better than that Grape Nuts gravel and sludge that I used to eat every morning. And nothing beats the love, compassion, and savory outbursts of every single morsel of a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich.

The bagel is the perfect breakfast pastry, and I wished that the surrounding area had a proper bagel place. And we live in a Jewish neighborhood, which is a shame that you can't find a decent bagel. That's a travesty in my mind, and makes me miss NYC more. I don't miss spring snow, but hot damn, the sunshine is infectious.

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