A weekly cheap food and forgotten culture review highlighting lovely hovels and horrid culinary hell holes in Downtown Los Angeles. I'm searching for unlikely stories, buried treasures and palatable meals under eight dollars and seventy two cents. 8.72 is presented by Get Down Town Magazine with our new print compilation courtesy of our sponsors at Wolf & Crane, The Escondite, and Herb.
8.72 Print Edition
Our "best of" print edition is available for pick up at our sponsors The Escondite and Wolf & Crane. Hit us up online at www.getdowntown.la to secure a copy yourself.
June 28, 2017: Sunday Cafe
"It’s the old Downtown bait and switch. You asked for Blade Runner and you got Repo Man."
"Even if the aliens made first contact with mankind at the Venice location where they instructed the snap-button staff in the esoteric art of lactating Aventinus Eisbock from their nipples and squeezing gourmet Austin Blues pork links from their bleached sphincters, Wurstküche purists would still decry the Lincoln Boulevard store as second fiddle to the original ‘Küche."
"The overall effect is the same as going to your high school reunion and meeting a vivacious and attractive woman who seems familiar in a way you can’t quite place. Then it suddenly dawns on you that despite all the airs of effortless cool, this is the same person who shit themselves during the Presidential Physical Test and has subsequently invested tens of thousands of dollars on plastic surgery to escape the stigma of that bowel movement."
"We used to call this sort of thing “compromise.” It’s a term referring to a process where one party abandons a lofty perch of pride to bridge a chasm separating reality from idealism. We used to do a lot of it here in America, but less so these days."
"Cut to ninety seconds later when I was outside jamming a Chinese sloppy joe in my face from a makeshift placemat I’d fashioned out of a hastily ripped paper bag flattened on a bird shit covered newspaper box. Verdict: pretty great!"
"Upside: I can now buy a ten dollar all black ice cream cone that will earn the envy of sugar hounds across the internet.
"Downside: I can’t feel safe walking in my own neighborhood because the savvy Downtowners that used to hang out at now evicted markets and restaurants have gone the way of the do-do while boneheaded policies, inept or absent policing, non-existent mental health checks and a Mayor who has given every indication that the problem is above and beyond his capability to administer a city on Instagram has opened the door to new dimensions of dystopia."
"I’m not alone in savoring this facet of my Angeleno identity: in a raucous metropolitan area of fourteen million, we delight in trapping ourselves in steel and glass coffins that afford an amount of tightly controlled personal space unavailable via mass transit."
"Look, if I listened to all the insults others threw at me (or a quarter of the awful, soul-scathing shit I toss at myself in the darker hours of the day), I’d be a wreck. That’s no sort of way to live life. If I’m being completely honest, it’s that sometimes I’m too lazy to ponder the byzantine web of costs that unite chefs with food providers with distribution services with big ag farms and farm supply companies and water right negotiators. That’s that."
"Fourth of July practically reeks of cheap signaling. We love our country so much, we wear red, white and blue and listen to John Fogarty all day. How impressive. Wow. Surely, someone out there is looking in at our national celebration of self-congratulation and is instinctively filled with hate for our freedom."
The fine folks over at LA Weekly have seen fit to publish some of my cultural musings ranging from a guided tour of sleazy Downtown Punk, a eulogy for a now gone blues bar in Exposition Park, experiential reflections on filming in Downtown Los Angeles and the story of the time someone saw fit to hire me on as a Santa Claus
S.C. Mero--Alchemist and Downtown Street Artist
"Mero is keenly aware of the medium in which she works. A sign over her door reads 'Alchemist at Work.' Like her medieval predecessors, she deals in transformation. Materially, she renders unlikely items into things of value. Philosophically, S.C. Mero is intimately involved with the transmutation of the unwanted into vessels for creativity."
It's Not Too Hot for a Thrifting Trip to Tulare, California's Irrigation Riviera
"The skeptical reader may be harboring an idea that places like Tulare are mere outposts in the cultural backwater primed for exploitation. I dare you to spend a weekend there and still defend that notion.
"Tulare is not some sideshow. It’s a scene in the main act of 21st-century American life where a vast network of contradictory social phenomena, histories and resource battles collide in a web of complexity. Thrift opportunities aside, the true attraction in Tulare is a city struggling to reconcile itself to dynamic realities."
A Trip to Idyllwild Will Make You Want to Give Up City Life ... Almost
"We are pickers: the miners of the New West, the hearty few who escape the cities to explore the worked-over terrain and half-hidden ghost towns where the true treasure of today’s West manifests itself in the form of bolo ties, belt buckles, snap-button shirts and pre-worn boots. Like the ’49ers of old, we are interested in discovering and extracting hidden seams of wealth — odd as they may be.
"There are veins of discarded couture to be found just beneath the surface of small towns all across the West. Like so many walls of silver-bearing quartz, thrift shops in places like Livingston, Montana, and Durango, Colorado, invigorate the passions of pickers and feed the demands of retro-loving fashion plates in cities all over this green Earth."
Online culture magazine PopMatters very generously hosts a series of my essays examining the history and culture of Virginia via contemporary pop songs.
The first essay, Clipse and the Virginia Schism, looks at the Hampton Roads based hip hop duo's song "Virginia," the rhetoric of the crack trade and its unacknowledged roots in the ideologies of early Tidewater slavemasters.
Every now and then, I come up with something extra poignant to say about the "Livable City" I live in. Mostly, the writing here focuses on recontextualizing old civic issues with new ideas that broaden or challenge popular myths about Downtown Los Angeles.
Pass Proposition HHH, but don't think money alone will fix Skid Row
I've worked as the Listings Editor at the LA Downtown News since July 2011. My beat is local events, culture, music and BARS.
Essays from FYF Fest: The Morning After
"To live in L.A. is to be engulfed by creative interpretations of what it means to be human. Despite the hierarchies of class and power that undergird the Los Angeles experience, there is still a feeling as if all possibilities have their own place in a horizontal metropolis where personal expression is an essential facet of life."
Supported by generous matching grants from the Vera Campbell Foundation and the Huntington-USC Institute on California and the West, the Skid Row Reader is a textbook project geared towards creating relevant literacy materials for adult reading students on Los Angeles' Skid Row.
Contributors include David Shields, Patricia Nelson Limerick, Michael Lesy, D. Randall Blythe, Gerard DeGroot, Terry Stevenson and many others.
The Skid Row Reader Call For Contributions
Our mantra is context and our methods many. The ultimate aim is to reframe possibility, acknowledgement and wisdom from an urban zone that is viewed by many as the low point in American spiritual geography. There is much potential and hope to be found where anyone would invest time in literacy. We would like to reward those efforts by providing a fine and honest study of Western society laced with philosophy, history, literature, poetry, political and natural science.
"Books alone are liberal and free; they give to all who ask; they emancipate all who serve them faithfully."
-Richard de Bury, Philobiblon
(etched above the Fifth Street entrance to the Los Angeles Public Library)
The Gordian Knot
Built around the weekly Raw Materials Art Store sponsored Friday Night Life Drawing Class at Downtown LA's Grand Central Market, Modern Outlaws became a monthly series of twelve poses executed over two and a half hours. In that time, the life story of Modern Outlaws from Ted David Koresh to Che Guevara unfolded in an eminently draw-able collection of performance art
Theodore Kaczynski, July and August 2015
From Vernon to David: The Koresh Experience
September and October 2015
Gallagher, January 2016. Drawing by JW Pippen.
Che Does Capitalism
Che Guevara, December 2015
My Civil War: Re-enacting in the Days of 9/11
"Pubes. That’s what they called me. Pubes because of my thick curly hair — a feature that despite my utter lack of Semitic heritage gave a number of my co-workers carte blanche to casually call me a few choice slurs. A mere week before and I had been a buck-toothed, pudgy 14-year-old on family vacation wandering around a Jelly Belly factory in Northern California. Now I was sitting in a double room at the Best Inn off of Route 81 in Staunton, Virginia, surrounded by men in sweat-soaked Confederate uniforms.
"A janky TV blared with a marathon of VH1’s “Best 100 Videos of All Time.” Through the walls above the bed headboards came a steady, rhythmic pounding from the adjacent room where a sinewy, shifty-eyed chain smoker from North Carolina was marathon fucking his wife. When they found his body beside a gas station less than a year later, no one who knew him would be surprised. Muffled jeers erupted from the other adjacent room every time the next video on the countdown wasn’t “Take On Me.”
"Every guest at the Best Inn (except that prostitute who plied her trade in the pool that one afternoon) had two things in common: we were all Civil War re-enactors and we were all temporarily on the dole of Turner pictures.
"I had been in Staunton for 48 hours. I already had a bad case of swamp ass and a mean sunburn. It was going to be a fun two weeks."