It’s been a tough and alienating year. We have all looked for comfort, familiarity and distraction anywhere we can find them.
For many, that means Netflix and a bottle of wine. For others, it’s a beer and ESPN.
For me, it’s a couple of donuts and a true-crime podcast. In an uncertain world, I find great satisfaction in that mix of sugar, carbohydrates and a tiny spot of decades-old DNA putting a killer away for life.
So imagine the distress that shot through me the other day when I approached my lifelong donut store of choice — Best Donuts at Artesia and PCH on the Hermosa/Manhattan border — and saw the place was boarded up.
At first I thought it might be in preparation for possible post-election unrest, but then I saw that it was the only store in the little commercial strip covered with plywood. I worried one of my worst fears had come true, that the pandemic had forced my beloved donut store to close up shop.
It’s important you know that, in my humble opinion, Best Donuts has always lived up to its name. I am not getting paid to write that. They don’t advertise in this newspaper, and I am not friends with the owners. My opinion is based entirely on more than 40 years of eating their donuts.
When I went to Mira Costa and later to El Camino College, late night runs to Best Donuts got me through a lot of nights pretending to study while I was really watching old gangster movies on TV.
When I got my first job at 16 working at The Ice Box, the ice cream and candy shop that used to be on Goat Hill a few blocks up the road in Manhattan Beach, after closing up I would stop by Best Donuts for a treat. You heard me right. I left a place where I could have eaten all the candy and ice cream I wanted and instead chose Best Donuts.
When I later got my first real job as a reporter for The Beach Reporter, a position that required me to sit through often mind-numbingly long planning commission and city council meetings, I would stop by Best Donuts for a sugar pick-me-up to get me through my deadline.
Now, as I work my non-journalism corporate communications day job from home, I treat myself to Best Donuts at least once a week and often twice. Because home is now also my workplace, I often eat my donuts (one glazed, one sugar) in my car in the parking lot, listening to a podcast.
I then return home with my wife’s order — just two powdered sugar donut holes. “It’s enough of a treat,” she tells me. “You don’t really need to eat two whole donuts, do you?” Standing in front of her, a smile on my face and flecks of glaze across the front of my shirt, I consider this a rhetorical question.
Now you can truly appreciate why my heart skipped a beat when I saw plywood covering my favorite donut store. As I walked up, I was heartened to see the actual door was not boarded up and the place was indeed still open for business.
I asked the young woman working at the counter what had happened and she told me that an elderly woman had mistaken the accelerator for the brake and driven into the store. Thankfully, no one was in the front part of the store at the time and the driver was not hurt. Insurance would be paying to replace the store’s glass frontage.
I breathed a sigh of relief, bought my donuts and settled into my car, parked looking west. As I surveyed the immediate area, it was good to see commerce taking place all around.
Next to Best Donuts, on one side Rabano was doing a brisk take-out business and on the other side workers from Mama D’s were getting their outdoor dining area ready for the evening.
Behind me, folks were streaming in and out of Lazy Acres and in front of me, across PCH, the Spyder Surf shop seemed to also be getting some steady business. While it felt good to see these local businesses surviving the pandemic, I know many other local stores and restaurants have already closed their doors or are on the verge of having to do so.
Now that the weather is turning colder, I have a special worry for all the restaurants that have been able to hang on only by adding outdoor eating areas.
The only way to address these worries — and to battle that fear that came over me when I thought Best Donuts had shut its doors — is with our dollars. Do some of our Christmas shopping in small local shops, order take-out from restaurants, and be as generous as we can be with our tips.
As a nation of hometowns, we have a big economic hole to fill, and eating two little donut holes every now and then isn’t going to fill it, no matter what my more health-conscious wife says.
If that sounds like a rationalization from a man who just wants a good reason to eat two whole donuts more than once a week, so be it.
Emily Dickinson famously wrote, “Hope is the thing with feathers.”
For me, hope is the round thing with glaze and sugar on it.