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2003-09-24

Hi again! If you hadn't noticed, I am traveling around the US and writing about it. I am looking for nice, fun people who can put me up for a few nights and feed me and pay my way (since I am broke) and show me a good time (since I like good times). If you think it might be fun to host me for a day or two or three, email me at justingrace AT mac DOT com with your info and address and phone number. I am especially looking for places to stay in the southern USA. I will be traveling all over, but here are the places I will be in the next few weeks that I am still looking for a place to stay at:

Texas: Between Las Cruces, NM and Austin TX
Texas: Between Austin, TX and Louisiana
Mississippi
Alabama
Tennessee
North/South Carolina

Thanks in advance for your help! And now...


US Tour Day 8: Meet the King


Oh, I get it. It's funny because it says ASS SERVICE, right?

Today I spent the day with Emmett, which turned out to be just what I needed. We had both recently broken up with our girlfriends (or been broken up with by our girlfriends in my case) and was therapeutic to compare notes and learn from one another's words. I found that more than once during the day Emmett described some way he felt using some elegant, simple combination of words—and it perfectly described what I was going through as well. I would not have been able to quantify many of my emotions if it were not for him clarifying his own thoughts and presenting them to me during our hours together. That's what friends are for.


We saw the usual LA sights. Here we see some LA cops doing what they do best, probably arresting some non–white person for a crime that a white person wouldn't be arrested for.

We didn't just sit around and talk, though. We did stuff. We drove up and down Sunset Blvd. about a billion times, visiting stores, doing chores, and seeing the sights.


First we went to the LA County Coroner. Tim Walker had mentioned many times that the coroner's office was a must see. No, I wouldn't get to see any dead people or get to anally probe corpses or anything kick–ass like that. But, they did have a gift shop, and how cool is it to go to a coroner's office and get to buy cool coroner–themed paraphernalia? Now, it turned out that I was pretty broke, being without an income or a job or anything. But, I somehow justified buying an official LA County Coroner towel. I felt like it was a necessity, as many of the houses I had visited on the trip so far didn't have an extra towel for me. And, according to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, one should not travel without a towel. The more I thought about it, I was being fantastically unwise by not owning a towel, more specifically this towel.


Us and the girl who worked at the LA County Coroner Gift Shop.

Emmett brought me to his new apartment to show me where he would be living. He and his now ex–girlfriend Beth were moving apart, and he would be leaving his place in Santa Monica for an abode in Los Angeles proper. The new place was huge, white, and smelled like fresh paint. The electricity had not yet been turned on, but the huge windows let the grey daylight from outside pour in a bathe the room in the uniquely Los Angeles murky daylight glow.

The best part of the apartment was the gas fireplace. Simply turning the black timer knob on the wall begins the flow of a gas flame from between two fake logs. He called it instant romance. I can just imagine him having his parents over one night and then maybe his mom turns the knob out of curiosity and then the flames start and all of a sudden the instant romance would just take over the entire scene and the smooth jazz would start playing and soon the hills would be alive with the sound of fucking, parents and children and even the neighbors would join in. Personally, I would be scared to have that kind of romantic power left out in the open in my house.


Before: boring.


After: instant romance.

Next we went to some crazy observatory on top of a mountain. From there we would be able to see the entire LA area. That is, except that LA was completely shrouded by a horrible, foggy murk. I thought this was so ironically stereotypical and I derived great pleasure in standing at this high lookout point and snapping picture after picture of that blank grayness that took the place of where the buildings and mountains and sky might be, in theory.




All that looking at the syrupy gray that clogged the lungs and strangled the health of Los Angeles made me think about how good it would be to eat a doughnut or two. So, we got back onto Sunset Blvd. in search of some deep–fried sugary treats. But, instead of doughnuts we found something else much more interesting. See, we pulled into a strip mall where Emmett knew I could pick up a fritter or two or nineteen but I got distracted by this sign that said Mami King.


It made me think of how when I used to work at the San Jose Flea Market I would sometimes hear Mexican men lewdly calling out to a woman, "Hey mami! Heeeeyyyyyy mami!" And, I thought, this little storefront tucked away in Hollywood could potentially be the home to the actual royalty of mami. I wasn't sure what that would mean, but Emmett agreed that we had to check it out.


Once inside we found that mami referred to a specific type of Philipino food. My mother married a Philipino man when I was one year old, so I was raised in a Philipino household my entire life. Each day my mother cooked two dinners, one American meal for her and I and one Philipino meal for my stepfather.


Now, let me explain something about Philipino "food". First of all, the quotes around the word food only begin to describe its extremely dodgy nature. I wish I could say something clever about how bad it is, but it's badness is really quite simple and inelegant. It's just plain disgusting—weird slop–stews made from vegetables with names like bitter melon. Any food item that has the word bitter right in the name is sign that the people who eat it like to have their mouths raped with terror and are not good judges of what one ought to eat. My mouth runs from anything which is bitter, as I prefer things which are savory, tasty, yummy, wonderful, good, and so on. They also are fond of curdled blood. Don't get me wrong, curdled blood is totally awesome as a party favor or something to throw or squish between your toes or use as lube when you throw a quick jerk. But, I don't think it is meant to be eaten.


The point is that I was a little sketched out to be in the same room as that "food". But, there was something exciting about it at the same time, a reckless, perverse flirtation with culinary danger. Maybe the LA smog was causing us to make poor decisions, or maybe we were simply mis–choosing, but Emmett and I decided that maybe we should go out on a limb and try some crazy things from their menu. I couldn't bring myself to eat most of the things displayed on their huge picture menus, but they had some very Chinese looking pork buns and steamed dumplings which seemed fairly benign.

They turned out to be far better than just benign, they were excellent. And, they were huge—they made their Chinese counterparts seem weak, victims of attrition by comparison. Whoever made these treats was definitely a king of sorts, mami be damned. We left satisfied and surprised. We weren't sure what mami was or how one gets to be the king of it, but we were glad we took a chance and tried something new—even against our best judgment.


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