Michael Strickland's blog on all things travel: news, deals, destinations, dreams and more.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Side order of crazy

For my final dinner in Los Angeles last night, a friend recommended I try a little Mexican food joint between Santa Monica and Venice Beach. It was on the way to my hotel by LAX, so I gave it a try. La Playita was more of a "shack" than a restaurant, but that's just the way I like them. Some of the best Mexican food I've ever tasted have been Baja street tacos, and sometimes it seems the bigger and more fancy the Mexican restaurant, the crappier the food.

I got a carne asada burrito, and according to my friend's recommendation (and what I would have done anyway), I squirted some of the homemade hot sauce on every bite. The burrito was decent, but the sauce was awesome: plenty of kick, but not so much that you're panting half an hour later. It was definitely worth the stop.

What my friend didn't tell me was that the burrito came with a side order of crazy. The shack didn't have any outside seating, so I ate standing up at the front counter. As I took my first bite, a woman came riding up on a bicycle. Our eyes met for just a moment, but that's all the time I needed to recognize that half-wild, off-kilter look that you only see in the demented or drugged-out. She'd hardly dismounted before asking me if I had a relationship with Jesus Christ.

I groaned inwardly, knowing what was coming. I glanced around: I could eat my burrito at the counter, at a bench next to the shack, or in my car. I wasn't about to let some Jesus-crazed beach bum ruin my meal, so I defiantly glared at her and kept eating. She placed her order, and then turned to me and launched into a tirade about how damned people like me were, how Armageddon was coming, California was going to fall into the ocean, and on like that.

Deciding to try to nip this one in the bud, I turned to her and told her to shut up. In retrospect, I'm not sure why I thought that would actually shut her up; it had the opposite effect. She proceeded to describe how hot Hell was going to be when I got there, that she wished she'd brought a tape recorder to record my heresy, and God knows what else (pun intended).

I wolfed down the rest of my burrito, but not before her rants devolved into diatribes against the White Man and how the U.S. had been stolen from the native peoples. As I got in my car and drove away, it occurred to me that I got what I'd come for: some authentic local flavor.

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