I’ve eaten a lot of Zankou Chicken. Zankou Chicken is a chain of restaurants in Los Angeles that serve amazing Armenian fast food. I’d be more than content to have a chicken Tarna plate with their signature garlic paste for my last meal on Earth. If you can’t eat there anytime soon, you can listen to Beck’s brilliant soul epic, “Debra,” in which it’s featured. No one who’s eaten at Zankou is surprised that Beck felt the need to immortalize the restaurant in a song. It’s that good.
Several years after Beck wrote and released “Debra,” Zankou Chicken’s cancer-riddled owner, Mardiros Iskenderian, shot and killed his sister, his mother, and then himself, because he allegedly didn’t trust his closest relatives to run the Zankou Empire after he died.
I had eaten at the Hollywood Zankou chicken the night before.
Eight years later, Zankou Chicken has nine locations around Los Angeles and is running strong. A few months ago I went to the West LA Zankou, since it happened to be located between a couple of meetings I had. I hadn’t been in a long time, so I was excited. Their proprietary blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, and garlic is as satisfying as a mid-grade sexual experience. It is genuinely exciting to eat their food; it’s like your mouth is learning something as it chews.
I ordered a chicken Tarna plate and a medium Pepsi. They gave me a number and I found a table next to a window. As I sat down I knocked over my Pepsi and its cap came off. The entire contents of the cup poured out onto my crotch. Twenty-four ounces of Pepsi soaked my jeans, its landfall centering on my penis and wreaking havoc outward.
The other Zankou patrons were happy. You can’t blame them— it’s fun to see someone spill things on himself, especially when the result is a wetness pattern that resembles nothing other than urine. A pretty Asian woman in an expensive business outfit handed me some napkins. I wasn’t embarrassed. I was more fascinated by the spill’s majesty, its perfection. It was a great spill, centered as it was on my crotch, and I did not have time to go home and change my pants before my next meeting, nor did I know where I could buy a new pair of pants in time. I was preparing to go to a meeting with visibly wet pants and “see what happened.”
I wasn’t going to let soaking wet pants prevent me from eating my chicken Tarna, however, so I dug in and vacuumed up those succulent chicken chunks and mentally rehearsed for my meeting, saying things like “This? Oh, it’s just urine,” or “I like to take away any negotiating advantage you may have by pissing myself in advance. Now let’s do this.”
When I was done with my chicken and replacement Pepsi, I walked the two or three blocks back to my car, which was parked on the side of Sepulveda Boulevard. I noticed a commotion gathered near it. People were clustered in groups and half of them were looking up toward the top of a four-story parking garage across the street. When I reached my car I saw that they were surveying a brand new hole in the side of the building’s top story. I then followed the gaze of the other half of the crowd down to the Mercedes SUV lying upside down in the middle of the intersection now filling with emergency personnel. The top of the car had been totally crushed. Instead of being about six feet tall, it was now only around three and a half feet tall.
A guy said to me: “An old lady drove through the wall. She’s dead.”
I didn’t want to stick around while they pulled her out, so I got in my car and drove toward my meeting. I rolled down all my windows, opened my sunroof, and turned the air on full blast in an effort to dry my pants. It worked reasonably well. Only an astute observer would have noticed the faded brown rim that traced from the middle of one calf, up around my crotch, and back down to the other calf. No one said anything if they did notice.
I haven’t been back to Zankou and I might never go again. I don’t want any more people to have to die.
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