I spent the morning at Exposition Park and headed west at lunchtime. It was a hot day so I had the windows down as I cruised Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Suddenly, I was compelled to look left as a wildly colorful and sign-speckled storefront rolled by. What’s a “Mom’s Mushland?” What’s a “Nature’s Hotline?” Well, I was hungry and the Soul Fries sounded promising so I made a quick U-turn and ventured in.
I was a little disappointed by the spartan to-go counter behind the security bars, but when I asked if they had tables I was led to a dark back room with heavy rugs, African statues, and zebra cloth—and then beyond that to a deeper sepulcher with murals of Egyptian pyramids and neighborhood kids, all set up like a classroom facing a bearded, dreadlocked gentleman dressed in an orange dashiki bedecked with pyramids and a golden Ankh hat. Wow. Did I belong here? Did I walk into a religious service where I was the only congregant?
Chef Ken suggested the turkey meatloaf and the holy man, my new best friend Jacinto Rhines Jr., started reciting his latest poem, this one about Michael Jackson. ”What happens to a Music Man when a Music fan loves a Music man more than a Music man loves himself?” Chef Ken quickly returned with collard greens, turnip greens, spinach, meatloaf, cornbread and a delicious yam and mango side that I wanted to bottle up and share with everyone I know.
While I was alone with Jacinto, listening to his stories about community activism and reading one of his beatnik poetry books, the head of a local construction company came in with his big smile and his regular check to keep the non-profit organic café stocked for another month. Maybe it was the megadose of cayenne pepper in the lemonade, or maybe it was singing “Nature Boy” out on MLK with Jacinto, but I felt strangely euphoric for hours afterward.
1st Marathon Mom’s Mushland
1444-1446 Martin Luther King Jr., Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA