Friday, February 12, 2010

#5 The Jukebox at Cafe 101

#30 Hollywood Walk of Fame
#29 Yamashiro
#28 Hollywood Billiards
#27 Genghis Cohen
#26 Piano Bar
#25 Shmutzville
# 24 Loteria
# 23 The Griddle
# 22 Proximity
# 21 Hollywood Freeway
#20 Kitchen 24
# 19 The People
# 18 Sushi Eyaki
#17 Raymond Chandler
# 16 Jumbo's Clown Room
#15 Skooby's
#14 The Arclight
# 13 The Well
#12 Runyon Canyon
# 11 Canter's
#10 Hotel Café
#9 Body Factory
#8 The Troubadour
#7 Barney's Beanery (The Real One)
#6 Thai Food

#5 The Jukebox at Café 101

This isn't really fair. It's not just the jukebox I will miss. I will miss the whole place. Everything about Café 101 other than the food. The food at Café 101 is about a step above Denny's and a marathon below Fred 62. It's not inedible, it's just not good, and I won't be missing it in the least bit. I will however be missing going into Café 101 late night and playing that juke box.

For those who are either not from LA or just LA stupid, Café 101 is a coffee house on Franklin just east of the 101. It is most famous for being the coffee shop in Swingers that they eat at four times. It's in a million other movies and TV shows, but it's Swingers that made it legendary. It's built inside of an old-timey Hollywood hotel. It's extremely close to my house, and outside of the food, it's perfect.

On the eastern exterior wall of the place, there is a giant mural with a cup of foamy coffee. The copy reads "Last cappuccino before the 101," as if the 101 represents the end of humanity and cappuccino represents a universal need before passing. Inside, the décor has changed a bit since Swingers but I think it's perfect. Combining googie elements with modern Hollywood, there are very few places in the city that say "welcome to Hollywood" the way this does. The walls are large rocks, the countertop is old-school kitsch, the servers are just cute enough to be in Hollywood, but still normal enough to be servers at a coffee shop. The booths have that tattered coffee shop feeling that makes you feel like you're sitting talking to George and Elaine, and the crowd is self-aware enough to make Swingers references without overdoing it and drunk enough to be up for some hijinks. Then, in the corner, is what has to be the best jukebox in LA.

The jukebox rotates, and this is not a music blog, so before I start naming all of my favorites on the jukebox, let me just say that there is enough on there for me to put in a fiver, and from the moment we sit down, to the moment we get up, the soundtrack is perfect. From old Pearl Jam, to James Brown, Funkadelic, and The Flaming Lips, the jukebox represents everything that is right about Hollywood. Let me try to explain this in better, snobbier, more cynical terms.

I have a theory that my generation is unique because while college attendance—and hence the amount of educated people—is at an all time high, we are in one of the worst job markets in the history of this country. So there is a surplus of over-educated, underpaid, kind of lost 26-33 year olds running around bartending, collecting useless graduate degrees, playing in bands, giving acting a really long shot, and refusing to grow up in the traditional sense. We don’t have real jobs, we can't afford families, so there's no reason to latch onto societies norms and start playing along. This is comforting to me because recession or no recession, I'm not working a bullshit job, so this just means more people for me. I have argued that this phenomenon is responsible for the popularity of seemingly inaccessible intellectual type music that has been a little too popular for traditional American music in the last several years. There's no reason that bands like the Arcade Fire, the Shins, Wilco, or the Flaming Lips should be as popular as they are now. Evidence to this is the fact that Wilco and the Flaming Lips put out their best stuff fifteen years ago, and no one noticed. Only now, with a surplus of neo-bohemians does this music work.

And to bring this back to Café 101; the reason that a jukebox, serving young, drunk, Hollywood-types is able to be so good, is because we're the ones eating the gross French dips and tuna melts. We're the jerk-offs coming in, being loud, acting like teenagers. And for us to be happy, we need some good 90s shit, some classic 70s shit, and some cool new shit to distract us from the rubbery eggs we're eating. Go hop over to Swingers in Santa Monica, tell me how many neo-bohemians you see there. The answer will be none. But in this corner of the city, we are the majority; actors, writers, bassists, and other assholes without real jobs, need real music to get us through shitty drunk meals. And so yes, I will miss all of Café 101, but it's the jukebox that represents everything I will miss about Hollywood.

The jukebox at Café 101, to me, is a big fuck you to the young professional set. I know you think I'm reading way too into the meaning of a jukebox, and perhaps in several years I will look back at this entry from my desk in some office with a boss looging over my shoulder, and I will laugh about this, but as a self-proclaimed native anthropologist, I insist that the jukebox at Café 101 is our New York Armory show (look it up), and that we, like the young professionals, need a place to eat late at night. Even if the food is garbage. So, in closing, yes, I will miss Café 101, a lot. Ok, fine I'll ask, excuse me, do you know where the high school girls hang out? Oh, I'm the asshole…right…I'm the asshole, you know I would never eat here anyways.

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