Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Who Gives a Truck?

One of the striking aspects of painful childhood memories is the fact that they often concern relatively trivial matters rather than the real tragedies of life. For example, I still feel a pang in my heart when I remember the circus marionette that broke off when I dangled it out the car window and how it was dashed to pieces in freeway traffic. And I still feel guilty about not giving a prized crossword puzzle book to the girl in the next hospital bed because I rationalized that her brain tumor would prevent her from solving the puzzles on its pages. And I still feel a profound feeling of alienation and abandonment when I think about ice cream trucks and their unpredictable courses.

I grew up in the hills over Pasadena miles away from local commerce, parks, and clusters of residential kids. Most of our neighbors when I was growing up were retired couples or middle-aged gay Republicans, and so ice cream trucks never ventured up the windy roads to come to our street. One day, however, a single disoriented truck did accidentally show up in our neighborhood. I was so excited to see this symbol of suburban normalcy that I begged the driver to stay parked while I ran to get money. By the time I came back, the truck was gone. I spent hours chasing the sound of what I thought was the echo of the truck's tinkling tune in search of it.

Last week, while walking in my neighborhood, I came upon an equally amazing truck. It was a truck for Calbi BBQ, a company that specializes in combining two of my favorite Los Angeles cuisines: Korean food and Mexican food. Customers can enjoy tacos, burritos, and quesadillas made with Korean-style beef, kimchi, and tofu. Again, by the time that I returned with my wallet, the magical truck was gone. It turned out, however, that the truck had a website, where Calbi BBQ enthusiasts could find out where the GPS coordinates of the truck could be tracked on an interactive Google map or one could look for information on the company's blog or Twitter feed.

It turns out that the Calbi truck actually has an older, more famous mobile cousin: the Kogi Truck, which according to an NPR story, "Tweeting Food Truck Draws L.A.'s Hungry Crowds," also uses ubiquitous computing technologies. In addition to the Kogi tribute on YouTube above, you can also check out their Flickr stream and Twitter feed.

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