Tag: los_angeles

Food Trucks Suck

There. I said it.

Food trucks are as supposed to be as much a part of LA culture as hot dog stands are for New York. Well, New York wins this one. My experience with food trucks is that they: 1. are slow, 2. serve tiny portions, and 3. aren’t any better than a walk-in eatery. Also, lately, they 4. are expensive, and 5. have incredibly long lines because every hipster thinks they’re the greatest food in LA.

I suspect a lot of the older food trucks that serve the neighborhoods actually are very good. Certainly they filled an important niche, since they served food in places and at hours that people otherwise couldn’t get food. They were operated by people who were from the areas they served, had native knowledge of great ethnic foods, and rapport with their customers.

But now that food trunks have become trendy, the experience has become diluted with mediocrity. I’m not saying that trendiness, by itself, leads to medocrity. But in this case the thing that became trendy was a bad way to serve food. Food trucks have tiny inefficient kitchens. They aren’t designed to serve a lot of people quickly, and they aren’t designed to serve a wide variety, but that’s exactly what people are trying to use them for.

For now, people are impressed enough by the “experience” to not notice they’ve stood in line for twenty minutes to get a small portion of food that’s not very good at a high price. If the food was actually good or unique, as with the old neighborhood food trucks of yore, maybe it’d be worth it, but these days most aren’t. So how long will this trend really last?

Stupid Ad Placement

The following image shows a portion of my drive to work every day:

This is the ramp from 405 South to 110 West in Los Angeles, and is part of my commute to work so I see this sign nearly every day. And yet I still have no idea where the Colonial City on a Beach is. The bottom of the sign is out of my view for the whole length of the ramp, but that is (evidently) where the name of the mysterious Colonial City on a Beach is found. The whole sign would be visible to people driving on La Cienega Boulevard, but drivers on the heavily traveled 405 can’t see the name of the city.

(I admit to taking a photo while driving, but what is it to risk my own life and the lives of nearby innocent drivers, when I could make a good blog post?)


When you were in grade school, do your remember those two girls who were know-it-all brats? Those two girls who would do things like invent words to insult you with? You’d be standing behind them in line for recess, and they’d turn to you and say, “You’re glooble”. And you’d be like, “What does glooble mean?” And they’d say, “We’re not telling you”, and then they’d giggle to each other. You know those two girls?

Well, in my grade school one of those girls had a mother who was always signing up to assist the class in some way, and you could see where her daughter got her annoying personality. This woman had matured past the point of inventing insults, but had the same know-it-all personality. She was also at every field trip, every class party, every play not matter how small, and oftentimes she was in class doing something for no apparent reason at all, thinking that her presence and wisdom was making the classroom a better place.

About every month she baked cupcakes and sent them to the class. They were probably the worst thing I’ve ever eaten, and not one time did she vary the recipe even slightly. The best way I can describe the cupcakes is a hellspawn offspring of fruitcake and cornbread. The cake was dry and crumby, and it was baked with disgusting, soggy fruit (which tasted like a cross between circus peanuts and prunes). I’m pretty sure it was made with four-year-old whole wheat flour, because it was rancid, and it might have had ground flaxseed mixed in or something. And then, to top it off, she would mix some disgusting candy into the icing, based on the current month’s theme (like on February when it was those Valentine heart things, ick).

I wasn’t allowed to refuse to eat the cupcakes, because that would be “disrespectful”. Some people in the class would lick the icing off and discreetly hide the cake part to throw away later, but the teachers always kept their eyes on me and forced me to eat every single one of those things.

Well, needless to say, ever since I’ve hated cupcakes. And, since this was maybe around the 20th worst experience I had in grade school, I kind of forgot the reason.

Well, it’s not like my hatred of cupcakes was a crippling problem in my life, since adults, and teenagers for that matter, rarely eat cupcakes. So it happened that nearly 25 years after my horrid experience with cupcakes, I was sitting in Swinger’s Diner in Santa Monica, which had delicious-looking cupcakes on display right in front of me. I knew I never ate cupcakes and I couldn’t recall why at the time, but I figured it probably wasn’t a good reason, so I ordered one. Damn that thing was good; it was much, much better than a regular cake. I think the high surface-to-volume ratio has a subtle effect on the cake dough as it’s baking; the heat penetrates it better meaning that you can achieve the optimal doneness over a larger percent of the cake.

I think I also have to add cupcakes to the list of foods endemic to the culture of Los Angeles. There are bakeries in LA devoted just to cupcakes and I’ve never seen that anywere else. The list of foods is:

  • Hamburgers
  • Tacos
  • Cupcakes

(Some people say to add sushi to this list but sushi seems to be a bigger source of civic pride down the road in San Diego.)

Anyway, in the last couple weeks I’ve eaten a few cupcakes and they were all very good, so I am now a true fan of cupcakes. I am also happy to finally be getting over some of the hang-ups I developed in grade school. I better be careful or I might end up liking tomatoes….

Three months in Los Angeles without a car

It can be done.

Today I got my car back after two months in the shop after a month sitting in my garage unused (when I was too busy to attend to it). [1]

But I want to make it clear that good public transit was a big part of my decision where to move to where I live now (Santa Monica), and that my job is fortuitously right across from a bus terminal on the other end of the line. [2] In fact, I had been taking the bus to work for about a month before my car’s transmission started to go. Around the same time I had a big project at work that was nearing a deadline, and so I never got around to taking the car in for service till a month later.

So for that month and the next two, I took buses (and, in a couple cases, a train) everywhere. Granted, I don’t exactly have a vibrant social life, and I have a lot of the stores I need within a few blocks of my apartment. Also, I found that at no point did I have a need to hit anything like a Target [3], which would have been a pain. But the bus was able to get me where I needed to go: doctor’s appointments, destinations here and there, and downtown L.A.

So, the next time someone tells you it’s impossible to live in L.A. without a car, I am proof that it’s definitely possible.

Still, I’m really happy to finally have the car back. In fact, I was so happy I went to the supermarket and filled up a whole cart.


[1] Two months in the shop was for three reasons, 1. I have a Saturn, and my repairs were covered under warranty, but there aren’t any Saturn dealers left near where I live, so I had to take it to a non-Saturn GM dealer, which means they had wait for parts to come in, 2. rather than ordering parts for both repairs I needed at the same time, they ordered the second set of parts after the first repairs, 3. the guy fixing my car took a one-week vacation where nothing was done, and 4. they didn’t call me when it was done so it sat finished for a week.

[2] Or was, rather. You knew that as soon as I found such an arrangement my company was going to find a way to mess it up. Soon after I moved, they moved my desk to a building two miles down the road. But since all my work remains in my old building, I work in that old building in a lab, for now.

[3] At least not until two days before I got the car back.

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