For a number of years my team fought crime in South Central LA on the federal level. Back when Compton had their own Police Department, after the LA riots, and when LA was known as the robbery capital of the world.
That’s why I’m now recalling this story while Covid safe sitting outside, under a pop up tent, at Natalies Peruvian diner with my Bike Bro’s Kevin and Elvis. I nearly laughed out loud at the sight of our server Jessica; who first served us some hot Peruvian bread and a squeeze it ketchup bottle, only instead of ketchup it contained a secret green sauce. Aji verde is what she called it.
When LA started rebuilding South Central following the aftermath of the riots, more than 1,000 buildings were damaged or destroyed — $1 billion worth of property damage. An enterprising Asian built an all you can eat seafood buffet in the vicinity of Gage and just down from Central Avenue. I remember taking my friend Kris and arriving the moment they first opened.
The local Mexican populace was also in line and all went well until we sat down with our heaping plates of food. Almost as if on cue the mother and son seated across from us experienced a major Aji Verde and Wasabi malfunction at the same time.
Picture this: Mom thinking she has added guacamole to a spoonful she is about to enjoy takes a heeping biteful. Instantly she starts moaning (ahhhh dios mio) at the five alarm fire now going off in her mouth. The green condiment she poured on her food is actually wasabi not guacamole – which she is accustomed to.
In case you also don’t know Wasabi is this green paste condiment prepared at traditional Japanese restaurants that contains Japanese horseradish. It is incredibly spicy, but, in a different sort of way.
The boy who is in the midst of squirting this secret green sauce (Aji verde) on his food suddenly panics and lets out a huge squeeze of the plastic ketchup bottle; it squirts the secret sauce bullseye directly in the eye of his aged mother.
Kris and I are now nearly bawling on the floor. Instead of medical aid we can’t stop laughing. Around six months later the place just didn’t seem the same to me. Perhaps it was the lack of Aji verde sauce or wasabi on the counter or buffet line that shut the place down.
Less than two years after the riots, the Northridge earthquake caused an estimated $20 billion in damage to Los Angeles. Ahhhhhh dios mijo. Water mains burst, gas lines exploded, freeways collapsed and 20,000 people were now left homeless. Faced with such physical upheaval, the efforts to rebuild South Central after L.A.’s earthquake could not compete and came to a grinding halt.
My motorcycle said it was 77 degrees, at almost 6 p.m. and the sun seems to be setting soon; it sure feels like fall is in the air. I’m at the usual meet up spot- the Chevron station on Hwy 60 and Haven Street for a ride to eat some street Tacos.
Today is Wednesday – who knew when we first started that we’d be hours away from eating Peruvian food.
LIVE EVERY DAY LIKE ITS A TACO TUESDAY.
Last time we were all together. The Coach, Elvis, Jim, Jack, Javier, Evan, Tiny, and yours truly. Today it was only three of us. The road crews are still hard at resurfacing. Traffic is perfect for motorcycles. The weather is now 71 degrees. Full belly. Life is good.
God bless America and god bless our diversity.
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride! – Hunter S.Thompson