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February 1st, 2011

Disappointment on a Stick

This weekend, Paul, Louie, David, Adam and I went to the Food Truck Festival at Santa Anita Racetrack. Food trucks, a craze that’s sweeping the nation, rarely make many stops in my neck of the woods. Any time you’re looking for late-night mobile Korean barbecue, you have to drive out to West Hollywood (no thanks) or regular Hollywood (AKA Barfsville) or some other lousy place. It sends the message that the San Gabriel Valley is chopped liver. Now, suddenly, all the trucks would be here, just for us SGV folk! Even though it was hot and quite sunny, the idea of a few dozen of these trucks, parked in the middle of the race track, all serving quirky food (Bacon maple ice cream? Asian tacos? Wow!) seemed like a grand way to spend a Saturday.

We got out of the car, after a battling a little traffic on the way in, and flung ourselves toward the entrance, where we were immediately greeted by the most enormous cluster frick of a “line” I have ever seen. It was like one of those mob scenes you see in old black and white films where there’s like one loaf of rustic crusty bread left in the whole town and about 800 starving immigrants are trying to get at it.

Cluster Eff – Then

Cluster Eff 2

Cluster Eff- Now

Families with babies in strollers, a lot of be-zitted teenagers in Invader Zim t-shirts, and quite a few people with no spatial awareness, all trying to muscle their way through a handful of turnstiles. Because we had bought our tickets online months in advance, our group decided that there was no way we had to wait in this line. So we set about trying to find out how to really get in.

But we weren’t rewarded for our early purchase at all. In fact, we were punished. Rather than filtering into the event through the ticket counter, like the at-the-door purchasers, we were sent to a group of four lines (which were extremely hard to tell apart, since the ropes separating them only extended about three feet from the registers) to exchange our receipts for actual tickets. THEN we were sent to the line with the turnstiles. So, heat, crowds, disorganization. Right off the bat, I wasn’t having a great time.

Upon entering the park, we were greeted with further disenchantment when it became clear that there had not been a cap on how many tickets to the festival had been made available. Lines as far as the eye could see. Every truck had a line. A LONG line. It looked like if you took all of the most popular rides at Disneyland (i.e. everything except the Tea Cups) and smashed their lines into one football field. Plus, everyone was sweating. Get Dante on the phone. I want to double check that this was indeed the Third Circle of Hell.

I had left my sunscreen in the car, and Louis and I were starting to worry about our skin. He shoved his souvenir festival brochure into the back of his hat to create shade for his neck. All I could do was face away from the sun and try to cover up as much of my neck and arms with my hair as possible. Louis bought us waters, which I immediately put on my face. “Fuuuuuuuuuuuck,” I said, happy for some relief. One nice gentleman with a giant band-aid on his face, aware of my heat- and hunger-induced rage, turned to me, snorted with discontent and dropped this nice little bomb: “My daughter waited in line for over an hour to order a hamburger. That was an hour ago. She still doesn’t have her food.” It was at that point that we decided we’d just find the shortest line, see if we could get at least ONE thing, and then go to the mall for actual guaranteed food. Because, I like quirky food served from a vehicle as much as the next guy. But I don’t like it enough to get sunburned.

Fortunately, it was early in the day and the gluttonous masses weren’t yet ready for dessert (they still had to wait for their burgers), so the sweets-centric establishments had much more manageable lines. We stopped at Coolhaus, a delightful cookie ice cream sandwich situation. (Digression: I ordered the chocolate chip cookie with Earl Gray ice cream- WINNER.) Pleased to have been able to eat something, we scarfed our sandwiches in a tiny patch of shade. As we ate, Paul went to guest services to complain. He’s always been a social activist. I like that about him.

Cranky, roasted, and starving, we wound up at a California Pizza Kitchen, and enjoyed being seated in an airconditioned room. No trucks, no lines. Just free bread and a lot of pizza. But my craving for truckfood was left unsatisfied. I’m definitely NOT going to the next mass gathering, so I guess my only other option to cruise down to Barfsville some Saturday night and pretend not to notice how much I hate my surroundings.

I tell ya. The things I’ll do for a taco…

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