Month: January 2017
Spring Street, 2 A.M.
In Case You Didn’t Know…
The Return of Mid Century Cool?
Don’t laugh, Van Nuys may already be happening. If Glassell Park can be totally a thing….
…lets explore the process in depth with this graphic analysis:
The prerequisites are already in place:
1) the last neighborhood of pre-war buildings ideal for adaptive re-use
2) along the Sepulveda corridor, lots of car-oriented low-rise dreck rapidly being replaced with higher density, with ground floor retail
3) Quiet streets with a full canopy of trees
4) The Orange Line
6) MacLeod Ale
7) Historical reference points embedded in our collective pop culture
Surcharges and Grace
Karl Strauss, a mid-major brewery out of San Diego, has a new branch pub in DTLA. Interesting beer, if not quite as fresh, or as sublimely complex as at MacLeod. Good happy hour pricing. Nice appetizer plates. Terrific service. Also, as Mrs. U and I were to discover, surcharges. Related to labor. Which are optional. Confused?
Lemme back up. We knew about the surcharges in advance because they were referenced in the Yelp reviews. Those who referenced them were outraged. As in: “You should not pay it or even go here. I have never seen this kind of unethical business practice before and you should NOT visit here. -Bo L.” As in: “there is a 2 dollar charge on our tab for some sort of minimum wage increase bs story our server told us about which we highly disagreed with so we took it out of the tip, that’s not cool. -Erik D.”
Over our beer flight, we talked about it with our server who explained it was due to the Los Angeles minimum wage going up Jan. 1. Instead of raising prices on food and beer (and purchasing new menus), and to keep the prices uniform across the other seven pubs in SoCal, they were adding a 3% surcharge. But, she assured us, we could talk to the manager if we wanted it removed. Hello?
No, we said. If it’s going to wages, we’re happy to pay it. Who would refuse to pay this?
As the Yelp reviews suggested, she let us know some customers were deducting the surcharge from servers tips. On her behalf, we left $30 on $24.63.
Later, driving, I thought about it some more. The surcharge wasn’t going to her. It was going to the kitchen people. Servers feed off tips. The back of the house runs on wages. Since the opening in November Karl Strauss has used four different terms: “GovMandatesSurcharge”, “EmployerSurcharge”, “KARLcharge” and now, simply: “Surcharge”, with the caveat you can opt of paying it altogether.
This raises more questions than it answers. If the 3% add-on exists to satisfy the minimum wage mandate, then it shouldn’t be optional. Raise prices and be done with it. Optional makes it seem like only some of the money is going to Carlos at the fry bin for making the garlic truffle fries just right, the rest is fattening profit margins. The skinny girl in the black t-shirt behind the bar was implying it was going to her. Naturally, we overtipped (modestly) to compensate for those she implied were punishing her in retaliation.
Who, exactly, is electing to cross this unspoken line of shame and demand the manager to recuse them from the 3%? As someone who works in Brentwood and drives Uber at night, I think I have a pretty good idea. The mannerless wealthy, that’s who.
Lemme paint a picture here. There is a certain type of person who returns from a weekend ski trip to Utah, walks pass the cab stand at the airport into a waiting Uber, leaving three enormous suitcases on the sidewalk to be loaded into the back. As you enter the onramp to the 105 they demand to know, in a particularly anguished tone of voice, “why are you going this way?” Because the 105 to the 110 to the 5 to the 2 is the most direct route, you reply. By about eight miles. You point helpfully to the Uber app mounted on the dashboard, which displays the correct route on a map, clearly visible from the back seat. In response, they passive-aggressively open up their own navigation app, turn up the volume on their phone, and you spend the next half hour taking orders from a disembodied voice with a British accent: “in one quarter mile, merge right….” Orders which duplicate, turn by turn, the exact route you are already taking.
When you arrive in La Canada, a maid scampers out to take the bags as you unload them. They disappear into their five bedroom house, unburdened. You’ve just saved them about $30. They tip you…..nothing. And why not? Travis Kalanick told them the tip was already included. Everybody knows you tip for service, even when not explicitly told to. But when you tell people it’s optional…
That’s the problem with financing wage increases through semi-voluntary surcharges. A certain type of person will feel entitled to opt out, and it won’t be the guy who delivered pizzas in college. Anyone who worked in service or owned a business serving the public knows better.
Which makes me wonder why Karl Strauss is doing it this way.
Fail Sons, Rising
Every month or so, a pantomime plays out at our neighbor’s house. Their estranged adult son, in his late 30’s, marches up to the front door and knocks, or in certain cases demands, to be let in. His parents refuse him entry. He persists. They ask him to leave. He loiters, arguing with them through the screen door. Following an established pattern, they call 911. “He’s drinking again,” they say. Dispatch sends the EMT’s, though there is no pressing emergency. A firetruck and an ambulance arrive, lights flashing, but sirens off. After a brief conclave in the front yard the EMT’s strap the failed son to a gurney, wheel him into an ambulance, drive him to a local hospital where he is pronounced sane and healthy and then released back into the wilds of the San Fernando Valley. Meaning, a motel on Sepulveda where he lives week to week at taxpayer expense. It’s not a police matter because he is neither breaking and entering, nor making threats.
I have no idea how much this costs the city per episode, but it ain’t cheap, and it has gone on, cyclically, for years. They no longer want him in the house. He either needs their attention or enjoys the drama of confrontation. “I’ll just be back tomorrow,” is his frequent line.
Sometimes when I’m walking the dogs, I encounter him sitting by himself in a parked car, staring balefully at passerby, a pile of beer cans on the sidewalk just below the window. I’m never quite at ease as I offer an obligatory nod of recognition.
A single Failed Son, unemployed and aimless, by mid-life can rack up a considerable bill for a family, and then the city. The People of the Favela, with their improvised tarp housing, panhandling and salvage work are strivers by comparison.
In the battle between indolence and virtue, the baleful tooth of indolence wins in a first-round TKO.
Boys are like border collies. They need purpose. They need the call of chivalry. Without meaning there is crisis.
We have reached a civilizational tipping point in which both our needs and wants are met by the labor of a fraction of the population. What then, will become of the millions who are nonessential to the economy? A monthly stipend will buy but a limited peace.
Sooner or later, the Failed Sons will find their purpose.
Sleeping With Bears
Rain, Baby, Rain
The Suburban Forest
Not tree-d, but windowed. Just out of view below, two feral cats waited for his grip to loosen. He made it safely back to the tree by jumping past them when their attention flagged. Now he’s greedily eating all my oranges and feeling invincible. Maybe if I didn’t live with a crazy cat lady, the ferals would be a little hungrier and we’d have a few more oranges on our tree.