Southland Tales: Fear & Loathing Under The Golden Arches


Photo by: Erik Essington

Back in 2007, my wife, son and I moved into an old two-bedroom house in Valley Glen, just outside of Sherman Oaks, CA.  I think it was built back in the 1920’s or so.  The floors were all wood or marble, and the ceiling and doorways were all rounded.  Where we were located we were closer to the crappy neighborhoods than we were the fancy shops in Sherman Oaks.  So, to make things easier on my self I would go into the heart of Van Nuys to do my errands.

Every Saturday and Sunday for as long as I can remember my son and I have had breakfast together at McDonald’s.  And once we moved to Valley Glen we went every weekend to the McDonald’s on Victory and Kester.  The neighborhood is fair, and we’re usually one of the only two people speaking English.

So why would I keep going back to this McDonald’s?  Several reasons.  First the staff is always great to us, they remember us and they remember our order without us having to say it.  And the primary reason is the personality of the place.

Let me explain.  Every time I walk into the place there is an older Asian man with long gray hair, which should’ve been cut six months back, and dirty clothes, who just sits with his coffee and stares.  Sometimes at the wide-screen TV on the wall, sometimes at me.  But in his, almost, comatose state, I don’t think he knows that he’s staring.  He has became a fixture, a given just like the furniture.

For the last year and a half there has also been an older white man, I never caught his name, but he has snow white hair cut like Moe of the three stooges, and a flattened nose, like an ex-boxer.  My son doesn’t like him because he always threatens to take his toys.  And God forbid you walk in with a woman.  The old man will rush over and start telling jokes, then launch into a tap-dancing routine.  Anything to win the her over.  Unfortunately this old guy has been M.I.A. for the last month, hopefully he hasn’t passed.

Two weeks ago my son and I got our money’s worth.  As I’m walking up, there was a, somewhat, overweight guy standing outside drinking a soda.  As I walk by he says “Hi.”  I do a double take and realize it’s a former employee, Bob or Bruce, who had quit a month or two earlier due to stress.  I didn’t recognize him, I think he had suffered a breakdown, and became homeless.  I stopped and talked to him for a moment, and he just stared through me.  I asked him what he was up to, and he said he needed a job.  I nodded, and said times were hard.  He said he wanted to work in the McDonald’s parking lot as an attorney.  I said what?  He said he could walk around the lot and find things that were potential lawsuits, things that people could slip on, etc.  I look at him for a few seconds, and wished him good luck with that, and he yelled back “Looking for a job!”

When I ordered our food that morning I mentioned to the cashier that I was talking to their former coworker out front, and the cashier just shook his head and said “he’s changed.”  Yeah, he sure did.

Midway through our meal I watched as a Hispanic family walked in, about four or five of them and following up the rear was a little boy wearing a white men’s full length t-shirt.  Probably used as pajamas.  It’s not uncommon to see kids stroll in with their folks on the weekend in the previous evening’s sleepwear.

About twenty minutes later, as I am finishing up my breakfast, I hear a very high-pitched shrieking, almost pained.  I look over and the boy with the white t-shirt is shrieking at the family at the table behind us.  And while shrieking he has his t-shirt hiked-up to his neck revealing that . . . he is wearing nothing under the shirt.  Now, if that isn’t weird enough, I normally would not have looked over, but the screaming startled me.  So, I look over and physically the kid was neither male nor female.  It freaked me out.  I turned away, as if I witnessed a mob hit.

It disturbed me for the rest of the day.  But all in all, this has become our breakfast home.  It has far more personality, than any place in Sherman Oaks would.

In November of 2008 we moved to Lake Balboa, and the Kester McDonald’s is still our weekend spot.  No flashers have interrupted our breakfast before or since, knock on wood.

Michael Essington

About Michael Essington

Michael Essington is an American author and poet, most famous for his Mike Check column. Over the years Essington has done dozens of celebrity interviews, as well as hundreds of music reviews. The weekly Mike Check column, which appears on Strange Reaction, has also been printed in The Los Angeles Beat and the very popular Deep Red Magazine. Essington's column is read weekly by thousands of fans from Los Angeles to Denmark. Essington has been writing since his high school days. He is married to wife, Elizabeth, and has two children, daughter, Breana & son Lucas. And has a dog, Max, that Essington suspects may have a learning disability or a general lack of life goals.
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One Response to Southland Tales: Fear & Loathing Under The Golden Arches

  1. Eddie Cook says:

    Another great piece, looking forward to the next one Mike

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