For dinner on Tuesday, we went to Armenia pandemic-style (aka takeout) and it was delicious. We ate at Zankou Chicken, a small family-owned chain that has been in LA since 1983. Beck even gives a shout out to them in his tune “Debra”, and they feature on a Curb Your Enthusiasm episode. It was obviously gonna be good.
When my pal said, “I’ve been craving Zankou Chicken” – a memory fell into my head.
It’s October 2016 – I actually know it was, I checked google maps – and I am so lonely. I am working at Red Hen Press, and I’ve been there a bit more than a month. I’ve just moved back to LA, and I have a few friends who have also returned home, but they are back in the Valley. I’ve taken to going to Vroman’s every single night after work to have tea, write, and attend whatever free event they have on in their space. Someone who just loves to listen and learn. I keep hoping I’ll see another young person, a book lover like me, and we will find our community there. I hope since CalTech was down the road and Pasadena City College and ArtCenter College that there’d be some early twenties-esque people to hang out with.
Nope. Not here at least. Instead, I sit alone. I meet retired people and teachers. I feel like I’m drifting. In St Andrews and Boulder, this worked. I always would meet like-minded, similar aged souls at literary events. Always drinks after, where the real literature took place, and breaking into ancient castle ruins under pale moons! We were a buzzing literary community.. I wonder what’s different about LA knowing that there is nothing different about me.
One night in my loneliness, I decide to go hang out in the Library at Pasadena City College and read. Maybe I’ll meet young people there! I get hungry and go to Zankou Chicken. It is packed. I order my chicken and sit alone at a booth, and dream about going back to the UK, to the place where I belonged, where there were people like me. I wonder what people think of me, a sad solo white girl eating dinner alone on a Tuesday night, the red plastic bench and all that space.
I made it five more months before returning to the UK; rejoined my literary community just as I dreamed sitting lonely literary pixie in Zankou. I miss it dearly, but I am training myself not to open that box. Everything happens the way it is supposed to, I keep telling myself.
Five years later on the same day of the week (Tuesday, my favorite!), I’m back in LA eating Zankou Chicken. The same tender shreds from that spit-roasted chicken, diced tomatoes, purple pickled turnip, the famous garlic sauce. It is COVID and everything is different and even flying back to my other home will not solve the situation.
Wonderfully, this time as I eat dinner, I’m not alone. They also like books!
I remind myself, I chose to come back to LA.
I chose to return home.
I chose to be closer to my family and old friends.
I chose to try again and find a way to build a life in the city I was born in, thankful to have the choice and know deeply that not all do.
I chose the sun and the sea and the mountains.
I chose the crazy dreams of creative visionaries, narcissists, and traumatized children.
I chose the litter, the parking lots, the freeways and fume.
I chose the tent towns minutes from mansions and bubbles never popped as we drive in cars, shielded from the multitude of experiences in this city of Angels.
And I chose to eat Zankou Chicken at their apartment, to make history, not baggage.
A new memory chewed into Zankou Chicken.