When I approached the Police Academy’s Revolver Café (drenched from the pouring rain), I wondered, “What strange lighting they have…” And by strange, I meant “what very very dark lighting they have.” Disoriented, I wandered into the darkness, as a couple of male voices yelled “Welcome to the party!”
Moments after, the waitress clarified that the power was out. The first significant storm of winter had caused the power outage throughout the area. It took me five more minutes to realize that with the power out, the staff couldn’t cook food. I awkwardly sat down at the counter, fumbling in my attempt to look natural, as in — “Yeah, I’m cool. I always eat at police academy cafes in total darkness.”
It wasn’t total darkness. My eyes adjusted. I could see the cook sitting at the counter. The waitress chatted with a couple of the regulars. Clearly this was a space in which regulars were…well, regular. Staff and patron knew each other by names. Even in the dark. One guy came in and asked me “Is Red here?” I shrugged my shoulders (only later, while looking at my pictures, did I realize the waitress had red hair). This was the last day so a handful of regulars braved the down pour to say their fond farewells. There was an email list so the waitress could keep in touch. I didn’t put my name down. It felt dishonest to feign an intimacy that wasn’t there.
But the waitress was great. I wish we had been friends. Though I was clearly not a regular, everyone made me feel as if I was. I chatted a bit with the waitress who joked (though serious), “This is safest place to eat in Los Angeles.” She told me how this building was moved for the 1932 Olympics and the shooting range was used for Olympic competition. It was touching to hear her reflect on the café’s closing…to hear her say wistfully “There’s a lot of history in these walls.” She didn’t say “on these walls” but that applies here too. I tried to photograph some of the memorabilia, aiming my camera at the walls in the dark. The back room was even darker. I could hear Spanish-speaking voices as I attempted to not bump into any furniture moving around the room.
Back at my seat at the counter, the waitress offered luke-warm coffee and donuts. Donuts weren’t on the menu but she had brought them in for the special occasion — the last day of the Revolver Café. Of course, the handful of people in the room hoped it would only be closed temporarily, to reopen once the construction was done.
After 30 minutes, the power was still off. The waitress began to worry as she was supposed to serve Chief Beck at 9:30am. I’m not sure if Chief Beck ever did arrive to drink coffee in the dark as I had to leave for work.
As I said my goodbye to the handful of folks sitting in the dark. I mentioned that this was my first time at the cafe but that I had been to the Academy for a wedding and some salsa classes. The waitress chimed in about the salsa classes. “Oh those were fun,” she replied. The manager questioned, “They had salsa classes here?” “Oh yes, along with a bunch of other free services…” I walked out as the staff jokingly asked her to show some of her salsa moves.
So my first and last meal at the Revolver Cafe was coffee and a donut. As I think about it, coffee and a donut seems like the appropriate last meal for the Los Angeles Police Academy Cafe. 🙂