And now for something completely different.
This is breakfast. We’ve got two coffees with half and half and a two second pour (each) of sugar. A ham, egg and cheese croissant, lightly toasted, with a side of jalapeño peppers. And a plain cake donut.
Notice how OCD Jennie was about arranging the napkins to be perfectly parallel to the paper. Was this necessary? This is the kind of image-crafting that goes against what we’re trying to do here.
But no one cares what I think.
Outside of appreciating the abstract quality of the circles and rectangles, the point of sharing this photo is to provide a glimpse into what we value. Jennie and I talk a lot of shit about showing versus telling, so the least we can do is try to live by it.
The total price of this breakfast comes out to $8.45. The donuts and croissants are made from scratch every morning before the shop opens at 4 am. The owners are a Cambodian husband and wife in their early forties. They took over the shop from their aunt, who built up a loyal following among the early morning working Hispanic crowd: construction workers, gardeners, cleaners and nannies who make their living taking care of the privileged classes (hence the shop’s hours, the jalapeno peppers and low prices). When the couple isn’t taking turns pulling sixteen hour days, they’re raising their son, who drops by every now and then for chocolate milk on his way to elementary school.
The place isn’t much to look at. Shabby even - located in a small Mexican strip mall with limited parking. I imagine it doesn’t look much different from when it first opened nearly three decades ago. But as a staple in the local community, it’s managed to attract a diverse clientele: young and old, families from all racial and economic backgrounds.
I mean, who doesn’t love a fresh donut?
Whenever we set foot through its doors and take our seats in one of the four orange booths staring out at an LA intersection, we get the distinct feeling that this is real life. No one’s pretending to be anything they’re not. Human beings who aren’t worried about growing their fucking brand, expanding their social media presence or maximizing their overall return on capital.
I’m not trying to romanticize this place. It’s not perfect, but you live with those imperfections. The consistency of their coffee varies from day to day. When the wife makes the coffee, it’s dark and strong; when the husband does it, it’s weak and watery.
But all things considered, this might be the only place we’ll miss when we sell our things and go abroad. Although we don’t know this for a fact, we’re not expecting it to still be around the next time we come back. Our neighborhood of Mar Vista is one of the last in Westside LA to gentrify. Earlier this year, a restaurant called The Mar Vista opened a couple of blocks down the street. On their website under “Our Passion,” it reads:
The Mar Vista is a chef-driven, food-first experience with farm-to-table ingredients, rare-label wines and an eclectic lineup of live music.
That kind of place. One of those establishments where you walk in and as a minority, you feel immediately uncomfortable, regardless of what income bracket you’re in.
Look, we’re not the types to be all up in arms over progress. Saying that you’re anti-globalization is as stupid as being anti-gravity. I just wish that the majority of “progress” wasn’t so fake and empty - clean and pretty without ever really standing for anything.
As an outsider, I have no illusions about America. Jennie and I choose not to write about politics because it really doesn’t matter. Not Trump. Not Obama (Google his record on deportations). Not Republicans or Democrats. Both sides are so preoccupied with telling us what they think we want to hear, when the real solutions are almost always unpleasant, uncomfortable, and worst of all, unpopular with everyone.
Maybe I’m reading too much into things. Maybe breakfast is just breakfast and I should get a life and stop whining about things that don’t affect me - just be thankful for all the privileges I've been blessed with.
Maybe I have no point to make. If that’s the case, I should end this post here.
Years from now, when Jennie and I are traipsing through some remote part of the world, a stranger might ask us (for some strange reason) what our favorite donut shop in the world is. If that time ever comes, one of us will say:
“There was this place called Donuts USA.”