El Rincon


Google, El Rincon, LA, December 2019.


“El Rincon” means the corner. A quick and easy stop-by for those craving crispy tostadas or juicy maduros. There are perhaps more than two dozen diners by that name just in LA. But this one, wedged between South Central and West Adams (the newly in-demand neighborhood abutting Culver City and El Segundo, LA's Silicon valley), is hard to miss. The cobalt blue façade—hand-painted, of course—jumps to wandering eyes. The jukebox at the door, either ruminating or somnolent, intermittently bursts into singing. It starts in the middle, always, in defiance of beginning to end. The owners propped the door open with a folded corner of the doormat to let in the last bit of daylight. The golden light creeping over the threshold warms the ankles. 

It’s the happy magic color that lured hundreds of thousands of stagecoaches into the desert. No sewage, no water, no house, but not a worry as long as I can get a little taste of gold. Westward went the hopeful crowd, the desperate crowd, the savvy crowd, and the naive crowd. The jukebox is humming an upbeat song. The guitarron and vihuela end on a bright metallic tone that pricks like cacti needles. Breathing in the familiar odor of deep fryer tank, I glide into the semi-circular booth nestled in the corner. Damion will be here any minute now. I open up the menu, indulging in the dense list—all 47 dishes on the first half spread. I marvel at the economy of printing and start perusing like it was today's papers.

There's a myriad of voices that flows into my semi-private booth. Toddlers scream with joy. The older sibling or perhaps their aunt distracts them with soft drinks. Another voice, taut, travels from overhead.  On TV, hung near the ceiling, a woman is in tears, on the verge of a breakdown. Entrapped in a windowless beige room, the woman throws words at her counterpart who remains adamantly off-screen: it's a classic trope of female hysteria. The waitress approaches the table as I, absorbed in the rapid-fire monologue and locks of chestnut hair undulating on the screen, fail to address her presence.  





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