Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Don't Park There. Not There Either.

I had had this date circled on my calendar for months. Not a fun circle. A bad, bad circle- one which indicated that it would be just fine with me if this day accidentally didn’t happen. As the white hot days of summer mellowed into the closest LA comes to “autumnal,” I had a date with destiny. In this case, “Destiny” was the City of Los Angeles Parking Ticket Adjudication Center. The “Date” was a parking ticket hearing.

You know all of those worst care scenarios people have for urban life? Crushing lines at the DMV, miles of red tape to get anything done, and miles of traffic to get to the red tape? I am convinced that these images were born in Los Angeles. There’s something about the Dragnet sprawl of it-the impression that it is more of a planet than a city.

True, to fly down an LA freeway at night is to be but one glowing red blood cell in a million. And the only wait rivaled by that of the line inside the DMV is the line to PARK at the DMV. But the worst, worst, worst part of Los Angeles is by far the abusive nature of parking citations. You will get tickets for things you resent. You will get tickets for things that don’t make sense. You will get mean, spiteful tickets that pull your hair and make you cry. You will get tickets for things you only wished you had done. You will get tickets for things you merely thought about doing. You will get tickets for things your ancestors did.

Judgement day was ironically sunny, a refreshing breeze in from the north-one of those days where the whether mocks you openly, and you have no choice but to take it. Cuz it’s WEATHER. I pulled up to the Van Nuys Parking Adjudication Center to a self-fulfilling prophecy: street parking. Of course. I checked every sign obsessively, paralleled perfectly as an act of unwitnessed defiance, and walked in with head held high in the knowledge that no matter what that dude you’ve given a badge and an obnoxious white car to says-I WILL win this one.

When I walked back out an embarrassing 12 minutes later, having been dispatched with no real answer and a courtesy survey card to fill out, I was at a loss. I had laid my soul bare in front of a kind woman who listened sweetly and made obligatory notations. I had questioned the integrity of the bureau with which she so coldly aligned herself. I had masterfully rolled a good-cop bad-cop approach together, and sprinkled the whole thing with a little “Who do you think you are?!” I had blamed the one armed man, claimed to be Sybil, and denied speaking English. And the whole thing only took 12 minutes. Good thing I blocked off the whole day for what was sure to be an hours-long interrogation which would end with Bill Clinton negotiating for my release.

Back out in the light of day post-release, I had a Brooks-like crisis. What to do with my life, now that I had been turned loose. Day, I mean. What to do with my day, really. Having experienced the worst worst worst of Los Angeles, I decided to treat myself to the best best best the city has to offer. The universe had positioned the Komodo truck on my way home, and I took it as a sign. A sign of good things to come? A sign of a positive traffic hearing verdict? Nope. A sign of tacos, my friend.

I had been tracking this truck for a while, but it had cleverly eluded me for months. I slipped into line unnoticed and ordered the Post-Parking Ticket Adjudication Package: one Komodo skirt steak taco with roasted corn, and one spicy Blazin’ Shrimp taco with sour cream salad. (This “package” is self-created, so if you order it they won’t know what you’re talking about. I said it very quietly, and inside my head, so really there’s no way for them to know.) I really wanted an order of the meatballs with romesco sauce too, but having carb-loaded for my big day in court, I passed on those for another day.

 In Paris, one might grab a baguette and some cheese and wander around an immaculately pruned garden. In New York, lunch on the go might be a street-vendor hot dog consumed in the asymmetrical hustle and bustle of Times Square. I realized upon reviewing this picture that apparently in Los Angeles, you get tacos from a truck, cozy up to the Spanish-language newspaper box that shall be your table, and eat while looking out across a gas station and no less than 2 freeway on-ramps. People, I give you: Dining Al Fresco.

The tacos were the perfect salve to my wound. Corn is so good on its own, and when roasted with knowledge and affection, there’s nothing better. Crunchy sweet corny goodness. The perfect topping to the expertly cooked skirt steak taco, or the “Komodo,” as its called. I’m still not sure what the sour cream salad really was, because in all honesty it was gone too fast. Delicious, creamy, exactly the right thing to cool down the super-spicy shrimp. They’re not kidding around with that.

So I had my Al Fresco Dining experience, and went on my way-knowing with all my heart that two things had been served today: Scrumptious gourmet tacos, and JUSTICE.

NOTE: 2 days after this was written I received a letter from the adjudication bureau. I lost.

NOTE 2: I realize that the above picture makes me look a little like Jack Nicholson. I'll take it.

1 comment:

  1. The one armed man? Nice 1960s reference, Francie! Love the article......