There’s a baker in New York who laces his donut glaze with fresh petals from red roses. There’s a stand in L.A. cranking out plain glazeds and, with 47 others, it never closes. It’s tucked in a strip mall right around the bend where Sunset meets Silverlake. Any time of the day or night you can find writers there, waiting for a break.
There are 9,753 cops in L.A. Business is good. I passed a few as I picked up a hot maple log after carnitas at La Luz. I thought of telling one, who was making his way through a sugared jelly, that I thought there was some evil going down a few blocks, ’round the back. But I had no proof, yet, no facts. So, with the sinking feeling that it was my time to take a stand, I swallowed that last bit of sweet warm goo and stepped into a dark, dark land.
I’d walked these blocks of Sunset before, many times, I’d drunk their storied lore. I’d tasted fried courgettes and bajees and tamales hot and sweet. It was always a party street. But tonight, the magic veil was gone and every bit of sad and lost that hid in the cracks and the alleys appeared and slammed me to my knees.
It was like some neon Dante’s inferno: the homeless, the junkies, the helpless, the forgotten, hoping I wasn’t a hack. And the angels that hovered in the mist above the light had wings that were singed and black.
I turned up Michletorenia dropped down Effie and came up behind Domingos front door. I was sure, I was half hoping, that the joint would be closed as it was every other time I’d tried before. But then, as I leaned into the door, it sighed and opened with a rusty shove and I stepped into a room that’s never felt any light from above… or maybe that was just my expectation. There was a bar at the end, two scruffers playing pool and a doughy woman behind the bar serving no one. I spotted a door in the side then I sidled on up to the bar, my sneakered footsteps echoing like funeral drum. I asked for a Corona, she slid me a Coke that was warm and flat. When I asked for some ice she gave me a look that said, “Get out” and I answered, “Yeah, I got that.” Her eyes sent a chill up my spine, but mostly for the pain deep behind. So I took a seat and looked around these sallowed halls. Then I noticed the darkness here was more than age or vibe: a black haze clung to the walls. Nowhere to hide. So I drunk that funky coke, slammed a five on the bar, got up and made straight for that side door. “Hey!” she spat; too late, I shoved it open and stepped into.. a kitchen, old but clean and clearly, once somebody’s pride. There was no little girl, no child’s doll, no candy, no ribbons, no hate. Still, in one corner of the room, I saw that the haze had seeped though a coat of new yellow paint. And there was another door, the one that led to the alley outside where, if you looked up you could see my view. Madame Doughy was right behind me, hissing “Not an exit.” Yeah, I got that too.
As I left through the front door, just to make sure, I ran my hand down a blackened post. Outside, I looked at the soot on my fingers and thought of my sweet, pushy ghost… “They are all our sisters.”
Comfort food? There’s not enough in the world. But as I bite into the glaze that’s settled in the cracks of a still warm buttermilk log, I can remember childhood. There’s where I had my luck.
Hope it holds.