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tough guy poetry and manly stories of loneliness
all contents copyright Jon Rolston 2004, 2005, 2006

July 20, 2008

donuts

Here is the gist of my donut movie. I read this narrative over footage from late night donut shops. My pal Fisher, who is editing it, says the last part about city planners is kinda weak and that maybe the Dunkin’ Donuts part could be cut. So here is your chance to chime in friends, about donuts. What could be better before we record?

*******

Most Americans can remember a Sunday morning trip to the donut shop to pick up a warm dozen with Mom or Dad. With the pretty pink frosting, the rainbow sprinkles, the glistening honey dipped, it seemed like the happiest place in the world, that little donut shop. But come 12 hours later and a kid’ll see a whole different world. At night a donut shop is a warm place for a homeless women to wait out the dark hours. It’s a place for a guy on a bad trip to sit and come back down. Old guys with nothing left in life shuffle in just to be near humans. The working poor come here when they get off the second shift because they can’t afford much beyond an old fashioned and a coffee for a buck and a half.
San Francisco’s a rich city. You’ve got the biotech industry and Silicon Valley money here. One of the highest property values in the country. Part of a healthy capitalist economy is plenty of cheap labor. In other words, poor people. A city needs poor people to mop floors, take out the garbage, and do the laundry. And make the donuts. But no one ever stops to think about what service these simple little places provide.

Just about every donut story in San Francisco is another chapter in the American dream. The vast majority of them are owned and operated by Cambodian immigrants. People from one of the poorest nations in the world, fresh out of occupation and genocide.

Whole families are put to work, and who isn’t working is home sleeping. Then they switch. It only takes flour, sugar and hot grease to make one. People point at the donut they want, so you don’t have to know English to work the counter. All’s it takes is the ability to make change in a new currency. To not get ripped off.

I’ve hung around a lot of late night donut shops here in S.F. Seen people selling prescription pills, stolen sunglasses, and make big talk about other hustles. I’ve seen guys passed out in the corner for hours. No other business model allows for patrons to spend eighty cents and hang around as long as they want. Back in New England your only choice is Dunkin’ Donuts. A huge franchise. There’s no room for a mom and pop place. Dunk’s has it locked down. There’s a dunkin donuts inside the dunkin’ donuts. That’s the American nightmare – corporatization.

Out here in the west it’s still up for grabs – but for how long? The owners are immigrants and haven’t caught on to the American ideal of quick turnover. Of standardization. Of throwing the weird guy out. Maybe these small time business owners have some compassion for the down and outs, since they themselves are scraping their way along the bottom as well. You gotta drop a lotta donuts in grease before you get rich.

But donut shops aren’t on the mind of urban developers. City planners don’t make space for the poor. City leaders don’t give awards out to the folks who work 19 hour shifts to make a low class pastry. The rich eat cakes and go to bakeries. City planners are concerned about tax revenue. City leaders court voters, not transients, illegals, zoned out druggies. There’s a dark side to donuts, kids. There in the city. Maybe someday when you get old enough you’ll understand how important it is for some dark places to remain.

32 Comments

  1. i agree. your account of dunkin donuts and city planners weaken the rest of the story. you don’t draw any new and interesting conclusions. it’s real vague.
    i like the end about the dark side to donuts, though. nice!

    Comment by dastard — July 20, 2008 @ 5:49 pm

  2. You lost me at “Most Americans…”

    It’s basically a socio-cultural rant, which misses many opportunities for donut metaphors and donut related anecdotes. OR are the dark places you are referring to the holes in the middle of the donut? I can’t tell.

    It’s a good effort in the “This American Life” tradition, but without the crystal clear moralizing, and a little too chatty. What’s your audience?

    “I’ve hung around a lot of late night donut shops here in S.F.”

    That’s the only time you use the first person and it isn’t needed. Teach me about culture through donuts, not the other way around. What is your view on donuts?

    Late last night I was just finishing a maple covered French Cruller and washing it down with some whole milk. It was damn good and I wanted another one. But they also make me sick, so there was that to consider. In walks a guy I’ve never seen in my life.
    “That your bicycle outside?”
    “Yes.”
    “It’s gonna get stolen.”
    “Well, it won’t be the first time that’s happened.”
    “You from New Hampshire?”
    ???
    We’re in Los Angeles. He somehow guessed New Hampshire. I’m not even wearing my Red Sox hat. I say yes. Another guy who looks like Brian-Doyle Murray says he’s from Laconia. I say that I’m looking at mobile homes in Alton Bay, near Weirs Beach. He doesn’t seem surprised.
    “This guy’s psychic,” he says.
    “Oh, yeah? What donut did I just eat?” I ask.
    The place sells about 40 kinds of donuts and croissants and muffins. The Thai baker walks out to stretch.
    “Five to eight in morning, I work,” he says to no one in particular. “Sleep to three in afternoon. Come back at five. Six day a week.”
    He’s probably 48 years old and looks 90.
    “It’s a good life,” says Murray.
    “A good life? No. No, it isn’t.”
    The psychic thinks.
    “Maple covered French Cruller.”
    “That’s pretty good. Am I gonna eat another?”
    “I don’t know. My ex-wife could see the future. I can only see the past.”

    Comment by Oggy — July 21, 2008 @ 1:10 am

  3. Bill Easler skates on ice

    Comment by mr, pooperlooper — July 21, 2008 @ 1:30 am

  4. Maybe your right pooper, I should just talk about Bill. But I’d like to try one more time to nail the donut thing. So I’ll go back and rewrite it, but remember, I only have two minutes talk time, which isn’t much to get all that said. Actually, I think it took two and a half minutes to read what I had.
    Thanks for the feedback, and in a few days I’ll post the rewrite. I have to build a fake fireplace by Wednesday morning so I’m gonna be busy.

    Comment by Rolston — July 21, 2008 @ 7:42 am

  5. Poops, you mean like figure-skating? I wouldn’t be totally surprised. Bill is a goofy cat.

    Comment by Lyle_s — July 21, 2008 @ 10:11 am

  6. exactly, he competes and teaches, his skate date use to be hot, she is older now, last time I heard about Noey, he was in the carribean doing the 1st pirates o the car……… did he drown????saw chris haskins at the farmers market, he was in from Philly, he was gonna meet with Nate Roy, speakin of donuts, deerskin use to pull em out the dumsta around 3am i memba he got yelled at by the empoyees. poopies

    Comment by hooperlooper — July 21, 2008 @ 12:35 pm

  7. I don’t know who the fuck this ice skating fag is, but this Oggy dude is some kinda twat. Let him write the way he thinks and you write the way you think. Simple.
    The only thing I hate more than rich cunt scumbags, is some short dick idiot trying to cover up his lack of intelligence by “intellectualizing”.
    Fuck that guy, fuck all college educated assholes.
    Write what you want to and fuck all those cunts.

    Comment by Poll — July 21, 2008 @ 8:26 pm

  8. Poll! You kill me. I appreciate you having my back. That being said, I did ask for feedback and suggestions. Sometimes sitting in my room things sound great, but out in public I realize they fall flat. Oggy and the other folks are all people I know, and they know me, so they probably let loose with a bit more criticism than with someone they don’t know. “I need a little help from my friends” type of thing. I can take it.
    But it’s good to know you have faith in me brother!

    Comment by Rolston — July 21, 2008 @ 9:14 pm

  9. and poopa, is Bill still living in the barn with his lady?

    Comment by Rolston — July 21, 2008 @ 9:16 pm

  10. Okay, okay…..I get riled up sometimes.
    Age maybe ?
    Irish Catholic childhood ?
    Prison ?
    Can’t blame cancer – I was like this before.

    Comment by Poll — July 22, 2008 @ 8:47 am

  11. College? i’m no dummy i went to highscho0l for 7 yrs you trick ass bitch,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,I will run over your face with my 71 Honda scrambler that’lle learn ya,

    I’ll meet you behind bowla rama if you want ……………..fuckin trick

    no deerskin, iu havent, i will be in touch, My WORKIN ASS got fined by the OSHA 2000.00 Went to the hearing today in my fuckin WORK BOOTS int the federal building in concord, fuckin loser

    Comment by mr, pooperlooper — July 22, 2008 @ 5:02 pm

  12. Mmmmm…..?
    Not sure if I know where the Bowlarama is.
    Bummer ’bout the fine.

    Comment by Poll — July 22, 2008 @ 8:41 pm

  13. did you get a fine for wearing work boots to court?

    Comment by Rolston — July 22, 2008 @ 11:54 pm

  14. How the hell is OSHA fining you? Are you having trouble finding illegal workers or something?

    Next time I’m in town, I’m going to Bowl-o-rama. I haven’t rolled candlepin style since Celebration Graduation 1991, if I recall correctly.

    Comment by Lyle_s — July 23, 2008 @ 9:49 am

  15. supposedly congress made it so painters were exempt from osha regulations, but i had hathaway on a fork truck, taking down a tarp from the 8′ high awning, “anything hire than 4′ the pallet and the person on it ,needs to be tethered, aside from it’s bearing weight. I am contesting the whole shmidtenhieden. Can’t bring cell phones in the united states dept of labor building, ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,Wondertwin powers activate, shape of a beaner,,,,,,,,from of good worker………………..

    Comment by mr, pooperlooper — July 23, 2008 @ 12:12 pm

  16. I remember getting free tickets to bowl a round at the bowl-a-rama. Donny, jon, lyle, pooper I think even joined in the mayhem. We tried to chuck those cannon balls as far as we could.I think the game was to see how many you could knock over on one bounce. I think I had like 200 of those little tickets.

    Comment by al — July 23, 2008 @ 1:37 pm

  17. I dunno this word “shmidtenhieden”, nor exactly what it means but I believe I’m gonna steal it.

    Comment by Poll — July 23, 2008 @ 1:51 pm

  18. ya know i think donny laundry hit the promotional letters half way down the alley 12′ in the air, on celebrity gradutation, Dave Kitt kicked him out. Saw Dave the other day, he just got out of jail for rapin a girl in the 80’s he’s a bag of scum and skin, he got the disaster gastric bypass,,,,,,,,yuck

    Comment by mr, pooperlooper — July 23, 2008 @ 1:54 pm

  19. you think rolling 300 is impressive, one afternoon, i chucked that little ball sidearm, sent it in and out of the gutter like a halfpipe and hammered the sign over the pins on the next lane.
    i think neal c. peed in his pants a little.
    thanks for the trip down memory lane.

    as for donuts, i think the dunkin part is ok, if it’s part of what you want to talk about, maybe shorten it and put it near the end with the other negative shit.

    i remember mister donut with the weird logo and decrepit juniper bushes outside. and at my dad’s in ct. they have bess eaton with the christian slogans on the cups. are they still around?

    Comment by donny laundry — July 23, 2008 @ 6:47 pm

  20. and Poll, you got nice after jon slapped you. what happened? not so tuff, creampuff?

    Comment by donny laundry — July 23, 2008 @ 6:55 pm

  21. Didn’t Dave Kitt manage a food service shack at Water Country? Did he rape a girl back in the 1980’s or was the girl he raped in her 80’s? Neither would floor me.

    Comment by Lyle_s — July 23, 2008 @ 7:36 pm

  22. Well Donny, I think Poll just showed respect, that’s all. Now you want to go pushing people’s buttons…You two will have to meet at Serra Bowl, in the parking lot, after school, and figure this out.

    Comment by Rolston — July 23, 2008 @ 9:19 pm

  23. Or did Dave have a watery cunt after he got raped by a guy in the food service industry?

    Comment by Rolston — July 23, 2008 @ 9:21 pm

  24. donny save me wise ass comment, I’m comin to california. only I am purchasing an open ticket, so i can not join a carnival this time, and i can watch your kids grow up from the seat of your couch, I am going to teach them to smoke butts behind the tool shed.

    Comment by mr, pooperlooper — July 24, 2008 @ 2:06 am

  25. actually hold off on reservations out here, until I get my osha garbage settled, I may hang at the donut shop and panhandle my way through the dept of labor.

    Comment by mr, pooperlooper — July 24, 2008 @ 2:14 am

  26. I used to be able to throw a candlepin ball over a mountain…
    As for the prose, I enjoy your writing when you observe — you have a keen eye and a distinctive voice.
    When you start proselytizing, I get turned off.
    There is some of each in here… let me smell more donuts.

    Comment by Neal C — July 24, 2008 @ 3:23 pm

  27. as for donuts, that place in RW on el camino really used to rock, especially at like 4 am and watching the tweekers roll in to see if any one can score for them.

    Comment by al — July 24, 2008 @ 4:06 pm

  28. Is this a record comment string?

    Poo, I still don’t understand how you got busted for this. Was OSHA spying on you or did Hathaway complain to the government?

    Comment by Lyle_s — July 24, 2008 @ 5:09 pm

  29. Yes.

    Comment by Rolston — July 24, 2008 @ 5:44 pm

  30. it’s

    Comment by Rolston — July 24, 2008 @ 5:44 pm

  31. a

    Comment by Rolston — July 24, 2008 @ 5:45 pm

  32. record.

    let’s move up to donut redux (july 24th) and start fresh.

    Comment by Rolston — July 24, 2008 @ 5:45 pm

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