At the Apple Pan, the guy waiting in line next to me says, “I started coming here in 1947, when I was eight years old. My family came here once a week. Always had the steakburger. Across the street, where the Westside Pavilion is now, there was an empty lot. Once a year the Clyde Beatty circus would come—they had everything, lions and tigers and elephants. My brother and I would get jobs pitching hay for the animals. You don’t know Clyde Beatty? He was a famous lion-tamer, and he was big! He was in movies and on the radio and eventually on TV.”
What’s new at the newsstand? I ask the guy there, a new immigrant. He points to Vanity Fair, and says “Everybody is buying.” The cover is glamour shot of Meryl Street 30 years ago, her head thrown back and eyes closed in what might be ecstasy. He asks me, sincerely: “Who is it?”
Dusk on Pico—you can see inside the shops. Inside the Subway, three big guys in flannel shirts are playing cards. At the karate studio next door, the teacher tells one of the adults in the class to attack him with a knife (it’s made of wood). The guy lunges at him, the teacher grabs his arm, flips him around and onto the floor, and “stabs” the “attacker” with his own knife.
Across the street the door to Pico Teriyaki House is open–for the first time in more than a decade! I walk in—it’s full of men at tables of four, grilling meat on hibachis. A guy at the first table says, “Can I help you?”
I say “I’ve never seen this place open before.”
He says “we’re not open.” Long pause.
I say “private party?”
He says “yes.” Long pause.
I say “Okay, thanks!” and leave.
Next door the guy who runs the music shop is locking up. I ask him what he knows about his neighbor. “They were open for lunch about 15 years ago,” he said. “I went once. They had the greatest teriyaki I’ve ever eaten. Ever since then they’ve been closed. But the guy is in there every day. And every year his cars get fancier. Something is going on there – but I don’t know what it is.”
Jon Wiener lives south of Pico, near the Pep Boys at Manning Ave. Read the previous installment of the “Pico Diary.”