A walk with L.A.


CHEAP EATS For a while there I was running the airport shuttle and it was like the old days when I drove a van. One day I picked up my North Carolina sister L.A. and her husband, and the next, for example, I was dropping off Crawdad's whole family. This was at an ungodly hour, like 6 a.m.

Knowing that L.A., an early bird to begin with, would be lagging some serious jet, I called her cell phone. They were sleeping at my nephew's flat, their son's flat, South of Market. It was 6:15, Saturday.

"Come on by," L.A. said, not the faintest trace of sleep in her voice. So I did. I came by and picked her up, and we left the boys a-snoring and drove around and about and up and down and across, just generally drawing a big X over 2009 in San Francisco, and wondering about breakfast.

The thing about this particular sister is that she doesn't seem to necessarily need to be always exactly eating. In other ways, though, we are a lot alike. For example, we have the same mom and dad. For another, our hair and noses are somewhat sorta similar.

L.A. is my favorite kind of vegetarian: the kind who eats bacon. But you have to talk her into it. All in all, she would rather go for a walk. I personally need some coffee at least, if not a full-on breakfast, before I can move about in any kind of consistently vertical fashion. My sister not only doesn't need coffee, she doesn't drink it. In short, I didn't know what to do with her.

So I pointed us toward Glen Park, where we would walk, but drove real slow, hoping hard that a restaurant would open before we got there. Or a coffee house.

I wasn't thinking about donuts ...

And then there they were. There it was, on 24th Street between Hampshire and York, and miraculously the clock struck 7 a.m.. I had forgotten all about Dynamo. Alice Shaw the Person told me about it months or maybe years ago. And here it was, the home of bacon maple apple donuts, flipping on the lights, so to speak, exactly as we were driving almost aimlessly by.

I pulled over abruptly into one of 7,000 available parking spots, and then backed up into another one.

"Bacon donuts," I explained.

"What?" said my vegetarianish caffeine-free sister. Did I mention she doesn't eat sugar?

"Coffee," I said. "Do you want to wait in the car?"

She didn't. We went up to the sidewalk window and I ordered a coffee and a donut. A bacon donut, of course. Know how much it costs?

Three dollars. That's just for the donut. With coffee, it was something like $5, which is more than most full-on meals cost where my sister lives.

She ordered a cup of hot water.

There's one row of tables inside the place, and the tables have flowers on them. It's a donut shop. There are flowers on the tables. My sister, who is older than me by three years, sat with her back to the wall, watching the bakers work the dough across the counter. They were young and cheerful and listening to good music.

I could almost actually see every single thing in my big sister's brain shifting, resettling, jiggling into whole new places. It seemed like a good time to ask: "Do you want a bite?"

She didn't say no, or yes. She sat there, her mouth a little bit open. Sugar gives her yeast infections. She had already told me this.

I sunk my teeth into my $3 bacon-grease-sautéed apple donut, glazed with maple and stuck with crumbled bacon. It's not a big breakfast. It was already half-gone, but I love my sister, so I held the remaining half-donut to her, and she took it. And she took a bite.

And you could see that she was in immediate heaven, her eyebrows joining her hairline, and her hand reaching for her purse.

"Let's get another one," she said.

And we did. And Glen Park was beautiful. *


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