Last call at Happy Donuts


I am writing this post remote from Happy Donuts, its last day, last 9 hours.

1. This is admittedly a weird place to start even a lyrical essay about the rise and fall of Palo Alto’s Happy Donuts, but I am sitting in Printer’s Cafe, the day after the Last Donut Show — in fact I ran into Barry Harris, who shot the artwork below, looking up at the giant donut fixture, who was here, with his dog, working with the “problem solver group” or “puzzle meet-up”, and I was trying, after days of procrastinating, to figure out how to use the Canon PowerShot A590 digital camera that I was gifted in 2009, used for a while then abandoned. I have been hunched over the two devices, my Mac and my Canon, trying to coach them into group play. Not sure if I accomplished my goal or merely destroyed my content and melted this machine. I may have to bug out to a simpler era, Fred Astaire at Stanford Theatre and popcorn at throwback prices, which is not the same as pelting the screen with Milk Duds, which I swore of years ago. So, here, in prep for this essay, mostly written, on donuts, is a view of Anish Kapoor “Cloud Gate” which some people call the Bean.




Not sure how to react to the news that the Defense Logistics Agency’s subsistence shop is in the market for doughnuts – lots of doughnuts – for the Navy. Never thought a chocolate-frosted, cream-filled confection could properly be labeled a “subsistence” item like it is on the contract solicitation. (This is actually Mark, another Mark, Thompson, in Time Magazine, Jan. 2013, he is a defense writer or DC correspondent, meaning our Capital and not the comic book company. I should probably glaze this doughy mess, I mean italicize the lift, this is plagiarism in the traditional sense, or back in the day when indeed you would want to trade dollars for donuts, or say that.)

Or that the Navy would be buying them, following this recent story in the independent Navy Times newspaper about tubby shipmates: “Almost 13,000 sailors could be just a jelly doughnut away from getting kicked out of the Navy.” Fried puffs of rich cake are not a health-food staple.

Fact is, the Navy wants DLA wants to buy it 678 dozen raspberry-filled donuts, as the government spells it. Not to mention 1,172 dozen glazed, 652 dozen lemon-filled, 686 dozen fudge-glazed, and 746 dozen cream-filled delights. Plus several other varieties, including 516 dozen of the plain version (that’s the smallest quantity being bought, perhaps for all those chiefs trying to pass their fitness tests). Bids are due by 3 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 24, with deliveries slated to begin Feb. 10.

The doughnuts will be delivered by the winning bidder(s) starting Feb. 13 to several Florida locations:


Getty Images

Note the resemblance…

DLA TROOP SUPPORT intends to support the needs of its customers by entering into one (1) Indefinite Delivery Purchase Order (IDPO) per region to supply Fresh Donut Items to the customers stated below. This solicitation contains the estimated donut requirements for customers in Mayport/Jacksonville, Florida: Troop Issue, Naval Station Mayport Oasis Galley, NAS Jacksonville Galley, Florida Air National Guard, Fleet Support (Ships) at Mayport, NOAA Ships, USCG Visiting Cutters, USCG Sector Jacksonville, Florida.

“Fresh Donut Items”?

“Estimated donut requirements”? (This is how the Pentagon is supposed to define “requirements.”)

The contract doesn’t specify who’s actually going to be devouring the donuts. No one’s going to deny them to our in-shape sailors. But could we be footing the bill for civilians’ donuts? We’ve asked the DLA.

“This solicitation is for a one-year Indefinite Delivery Purchase Order (IDPO) for the acquisition of donut items, not to exceed 12 months or $150,000.00, whichever occurs first,” the solicitation says.

Whichever occurs first?

No wonder they’re eating so much – they want to chow down before the money runs out.

Several customers joked or remarked that they wanted to buy “the big donut” which is probably not by Claes Oldenberg but might be by Mohamed Soumah. I also wanted to shout out and here is as good a place as any, to Ricki Frankel and I think “Corry”, Ricki being a Dartmouth contemporary of mine and a life-coach (but not for me), and working at Stanford GSB. Which reminds of of John Willinsky of Ed School and Mayfield the Band playing The Black Keys and Ray Charles with Vanessa Perkiness (auto-speller, I think it is Perkins, but not Cooker Perkins of Michigan State fame), deserves for clarity, whatever that is these days, post-days, I have: Escondido-Lausen Barnum, “White Keys” (sic) Ray Charles medley John Willinsky coming back from sabbatical still time to sign up for his courses (insert photo here). Maybe I am only saying that like a mobius strip a donut goes around and around with no obvious starting point so why be linear here? Why start now? Meanwhile, Jonathan Waldman wrote back to say he, too, laments the demise of HD/PA:

Hey Mark – Nice to hear from you – Yes, of course I remember, it was a very memorable evening.  Funny, I recently came across their business card I picked up that night, when I was cleaning out my desk – though I don’t recall if I threw it out or just threw it back in my desk.  I still get out that way from time to time – last month I was in Newark, CA at the aloft hotel there, and came upon this shopping center that was full of asian shops, like a strip mall chinatown – nice! /Donuts are making a resurgance in Phila, so if you’re ever in Phila, let me know./Thanks for the sharing the sad news about the demise of Happy Donuts – I’ll pass it along to my partner that evening, who I haven’t spoken with in about 7 years (Dan Goettle, I believe it was)./Jonathan I am trying to shape this essay like something designed by Oldenburg and Kapoor, if that makes sense




from Sue Dremman, Palo Alto Weekly, who broke the story:

Doughnut seekers who approached the Barron Park neighborhood establishment were stunned and saddened by the news on Wednesday after reading the signs on the doors that indicated the last cruller or jelly doughnut will be served at 10 p.m.

Owner Soknea Hort said the store lost its contract, but Happy Donuts has a new location at 1062 S. De Anza Blvd., Suite C101 in San Jose. She wants to reopen in Palo Alto and is looking for a space.

 Ironically enough, today is National Free Donut Day. The larger chains are giving it away.


Play your cards right, and you can snag no fewer than six free donuts on Friday, June 6. (but not at Happy Donuts–Ed)

Not that we’re advising you to do any such artery-clogging, time-consuming thing, of course. But you could, technically. And oh, what an epic, Homer Simpson-esque escapade that would be!

Time Magazine art by Sarina Finkelstein symbolizing free donuts

Time Magazine art by Sarina Finkelstein symbolizing free donuts

Krispy Kreme {I deleted the link here; why let them steal our thunder}is the best-known national brand handing out donuts, no strings attached. Guests take their pick of any variety totally for free, no purchase necessary. If you seek only one free handout on National Doughnut Day—the preferred spelling at KK is Doughnut, not Donut—Krispy Kreme is probably the easiest, most convenient, and most rewarding option. (And what’s the deal with indulging in only one free donut? You’re making the rest of us gluttons look bad!)

edit to add, or Part 6 — and from here on out it is me doing the heavy lifting, time to make the donuts, or my sinker is no stinker: at least I met Barry Hayes, a fellow Dartmouth, reading Eric Schlosser and training his service dog — I stopped him because he had, I noticed one table away, taken a snapshot of the famous doughnut fixture here. He agreed, because my Very Stupid Cell Phone is malfunctioning, to zap me his jpeg “no worries”. He noticed my cap and tipped his hand, so to speak — we abstained from the secret handshake. He said he had a lead on a poem written about this specific donut-hole-in-the-wall so maybe he’ll get back to me and I will eat-it-to-add. Incidentally, but it kinda made my morning — with 3 minutes to spare — Barry said that he recalls attending the Negativland show I produced at Cubberley, for Earthwise Productions, in 1998.

The fate of this donut fixture at Palo Alto's former Happy Donuts is up in the air

The fate of this donut fixture at Palo Alto’s former Happy Donuts is up in the air

I posted an update on Sue’s story, live from the scene:

Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Barron Park
0 minutes ago

It’s a party here, for only another 10 hours — close at 10 p.m. forever, as Sue states sadly.

Mark Weiss, reporting on site, savoring a chocolate covered old fashioned and using the wi-fi.
Web Link

Maybe David Packard will take pity on us and show that old Shirley Temple movie with her making the donuts.
Dora’s Dunking Donuts from 1933

and to Barry again:

—– Forwarded Message —–
From: mark weiss <>
To: Barry Hayes <bhayesXXXXXXX>
Sent: Friday, June 6, 2014 12:21 PM
Subject: Re: Ur donut
thanks, barry. nice meeting you, again, (i might have been tearing tickets at that may,2000 negativland show).
they are apparently still chugging along, with various new members. peter conheim i had met with his band menopause which played a show at the cub about five years earlier, with oxbow and eskimo, before he joined negativland.
says they played recently.
mark weiss
earthwise productions
plastic alto blog
a guy sitting in a donut shop pasting copy to a blog few people read
in theory i will edit this or tie it all together somehow or not.
by the way, you might try the bombeleos like a donut filled with creme at Cafe Borrone annex restaurant in Menlo Park
or: Desserts come in the form of bombolone (Italian filled doughnuts), lemon tarts, mascarpone and amarena cherry tarts, chocolate pecan tarts, cream puffs with strawberry rhubarb mousse, from Elena Kadvany of the Weekly, on Borrone MarketBar, Feb. 2014
I don’t actually eat many donuts; they fall on the list of things I pretend not to indulge in, when I pretend that I am disciplined and not totally out of control. But I do sometimes or quite often upgrade my Peet’s Coffee to “whole milk” low fat is now their default, and eat the occasional croissant. And I am not a fan of the buzzy or formerly buzzy chain from the South that was perhaps in some kind of a stock scam but people apparently lined up when it first opened, or camped out, or stood there just watching the construction workers and thinking of donuts. They are too sweet to my taste and not local enough. But there is a local chain based in South Bay — 408 — that gets a lot of local media, like in the Metro and did donate to Eric Finali’s music festival, but I don’t think they could ever open here unless they change their name. But there is a page on their site about franchising:
Want your own Psycho Donuts? That would be crazy! We are currently forming an interest list. While there is no guarantee that Psycho Donuts franchises will become available in the future, we welcome you to share your interest with us. In the event Psycho Donuts franchises do become available, please be aware that there there will be minimum requirements published for prospective franchisees. Simply send us an emailand tell us your name, location, and why you’d make a great Psycho Donuts franchisee!
At 12:40 p.m. I count 10 people sitting, four in line, three front workers and who knows how many in kitchen. I count at least 15 trays of donuts to sell, despite feeling for a mili-second that my choices were limited, an hour or more ago, by not getting in line at the re-opening– wait, its’ a 24-hour place — I overheard someone say that there was a line out the door in the early morning hours. I would say that more than 50 and close to 100 have been served while I am here.
I would bet dollars to donuts that Steinberg’s book of donuts does a better version of what I am trying to do, burn off the donuts by thinking hard about where they fit into the cultural fabric, “the raw and the cooked”, which I must have read from with Kirk Endicott at Dartmouth in Anthro I, but more fun.
Sally Levitt Steinberg is not in the stacks at Palo Alto libraries but I am tempted to check out, literally and figuratively, the kids book , at nearby College Terrace and another extant copy at Childrens Library, Minnie and Moo Solve the Case of the Purloined Jelly Donut.
My fondest memories of Happy Donuts of Palo Alto would be watching the World Cup Finals here in 2012 with the Rothsteins, when Zidane head butted his way out of his reality, an existential act of the highest order. I also recall showing the place off to a duo of corporate lawyers, like Jonathan Waldman from Philadelphia I had somehow befriended and partied with, before that like all things, ended.
At 1:15 I count another 40 or more people in and out here and although the smell of a hamburger is quite tempting, I decide to make like a scramble egg and beat it.
There might be a Part 7, and addendum, based on Terry and I returning for the closing at 9:45 Friday night and buying four glazed donuts, two of which we ate immediately and two we saved for Saturday’s breakfast. We have shots of Terry and I, separately, or shooting each other, under the giant faux-Oldenburg which to me is the MaGuffin: what is going to happen to the unique and artsy store fixture and what does that tell us about the reason that Happy Donuts as we know it is closing, where the giant donut art goes tells us something the papers aren’t reporting and staff aren’t saying. Staff are saying to come visit them in Santa Clara or San Jose — not bloody likely. I woke up this a.m thinking about Corey Harris “Know Your Culture” – which is actually a Marcus Garvey, black pride, back to Africa Reggae thing, but, especially about the mis-heard line up vultures, I used as a sort of anthem about local culture; and also the “Dopeland” or whatever movie about the former Grateful Dead filmographer who made a science fiction parable about Grey Goo: I was thinking “For Palo Alto, It’s Goodbye Culture, Hello Green Goo”, like we are wading ankle deep in this green goo that is the byproduct of how things are changing here, which is slowly rising and will eventually choke us out. We cannot breathe water, unlike our ancestor the crossoptgerian lungfish, and we certainly cannot breathe green goo. (Green metaphorical goo, from grey goo and not to be confused with the creme filled bombalone. Stay tuned. Wear galoshes. Reduce. Reuse. Register. Recycle).
Happy Donut worker or co-owner restocking milk to cold case on her last day here in Palo Alto

Happy Donut worker or co-owner restocking milk to cold case on her last day here in Palo Alto


edit to add: apparently the whole farrago was a fake “going out of business sale”. D’Oh!

I posted thusly:

Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
0 minutes ago

Whether it was willful or due to journalistic ineptitude, the Weekly’s coverage of Happy Donuts closing is…wait for it…an unethical subsidy for the landlord…

See also:

Notice Regarding Bankruptcy: Debtor’s Store Closing or Going-Out-of-Business Sales 11 USC § 101 et seq. – To give notice to the California Attorney General of a motion or other bankruptcy proceeding that seeks authority for a debtor’s store closing or going-out-of-business sales, present service to:

Consumer Law Section, Attn: Bankruptcy Notices
California Attorney General’s Office
455 Golden Gate Avenue, Suite 11000
San Francisco, CA 94102-7004

Molly Stump should look into this and take appropriate action. (Beyond ordering a box of jelly filled to go…)

Also, why don’t you report on the name of the building owner? Apparently the residents circulated this info…

Bad reporter, no donut!!!!

The owners of this property must be in a coffee klatch with the people who run Alma Plaza…

The Maguffin here was the number of people who asked, at the fake closing, what would happen to the giant donut fixture and were told that it would stay with the property….D’oh!!


About markweiss86

Mark Weiss, founder of Plastic Alto blog, is a concert promoter and artist manager in Palo Alto, as Earthwise Productions, with background as journalist, advertising copywriter, book store returns desk, college radio producer, city council and commissions candidate, high school basketball player; he also sang in local choir, and fronts an Allen Ginsberg tribute Beat Hotel Rm 32
This entry was posted in film, filthy lucre, media, music, Plato's Republic and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Last call at Happy Donuts

  1. barry409 says:

    [With permission of poet Lauren Rusk]


    offers as much as you imagine:
    frosted frilled embellished
    plumped and squirting jelly,
    though none so fine

    as the blownup photos
    with milk and berries,
    or that aerial view of glistening
    crullers in diagonal stripes,
    flanking their corporal,
    a bottomless well
    of joe.

    teal, maroon, and gold,
    comes to seem warm
    as you settle in to read.

    When at night fluorescence
    flickers on, the ur-donut looms
    suspended overhead—
    eight feet across, shiny golden brown—
    the mother ship.

    The things I miss—
    when they spring to light,
    abashed awakenings!

    Small mahogany horses cresting together in one wave
    before a donut portrait
    like saboteurs before the big screen,
    dwarfed, but suddenly real.
    Who chose these ornaments? These particular
    dolphins leaping underneath the clock
    as if it were the sun,
    that Eiffel tower straddling the bubble milk tea,
    another brushed against a painted sky—
    a distant post a child could grasp
    and swing around and off
    to land, who knows—
    ollie oxenfree . . .
    Cambodia behind . . .

    Yes, here’s a bamboo silhouette
    of Angkor Wat.

    And two, no, three altars.
    One’s hidden down in a cupboard
    unless you glimpse the teacups
    for the ancestors, clustered
    in the glow of a 10-watt candle.

    On another, a corner shelf
    meant for us to find,
    Buddha’s entertained
    with an apple-green apple
    at one hand, at the other,
    an apple-shaped jar
    of apple juice.

    On the third, Miss Waving Hand
    beckons us to trade, honored
    with incense (but who lit it,
    then blew it out?),
    a bottle of Crystal Geyser,
    and a glazed old-fashioned—
    fire, water, grain . . .

    especially the stuck-together families
    of round-eyed china cats,
    each holding up a paw,
    Welcome! Always Open!

    Lately I’ve learned
    that one family, three brothers,
    keep the donut haven:
    Sam the eldest,
    Cheng, his wife of many tongues,
    and their sprite, Kayli—
    tiny brass bells
    on her ankles almost tell
    where she’s run to—
    Jim, the quiet middle son
    who works nights overflowing
    with students and buffoons,
    Jack who wants to know all about you,
    and Orn, his bride—here at last!
    spring weather in her smile—
    a pig butcher before she threaded
    her way through immigration,
    surrendering love letters
    into their skeptical hands.

    Today, the young father
    makes flute-whistle noises
    through his palms,
    twiddling his fingers for a trill.
    When the child can’t do it too,
    she yodels, crows it out.
    Sam laughs. The anklets clink.
    Kayli chins herself on a pastry case
    and peeks at me through the glass,
    her face curiously round
    among the many circles
    that keep appearing,
    always fresh.

    —Lauren Rusk
    Pictures in the Firestorm, Plain View 2007
    first published in Fire (UK), 2004

  2. markweiss86 says:

    I added Lauren Rusk to the tags…Thanks, Barry and wah-hoo-wah!!

    From Poet’s Quarterly:
    Whether she is writing about a precocious preschool artist, a single swan, or the Happy Donut coffee shop, Lauren Rusk insists on an identification with her subjects that is as universal as it is personal. Often, there is humor in her work.

  3. Angelique P says:

    This has a slam kind of feel to it. Does Lauren write regularly?

  4. Angelique P says:

    And if she does, Creative Flow Open Mic happens every 1st and 3rd Friday at 225 Jackson St in San Jose. *shameless plug*

    • markweiss86 says:

      Hi, Angelique.
      Thanks for writing. Don’t be ashamed to plug. I don’t know Lauren Rusk. Barry who I met at Happy Donuts just that day said he knew of a poem about the store, and tracked it down and also, I think, got permission from Lauren to cut and paste it to me and then here. I presume he knows Lauren.

      We could send her a little note suggesting she come to one of your events. I think I saw that she splits her time between here and England or something, so who knows.

      No my phone has not arrived yet. They sent me a note saying it would come Wednesday.

      I will try to get to an event, and give it the “Plastic Alto” treatment.

      Actually, believe it or not, some of my longer or odder (more odd) writings I sometimes imagine work better if someone — perhaps even me — reads them aloud. Also, I used to have an act where I would read “Howl” while a musician improvises behind me. It takes about 25 minutes and I call it “Beat Hotel Rm 32 Reads Howl”. Maybe you read howl and I will peck away on my bongoes. Like 10 minutes worth. Cold read. Deal? It might be novel (but still a poem) that someone of your generation says “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness” — it was originally about 1957 peeps and haps.

      I had a couple other ideas that I thought might work for you, or I was curious what you might think of them. (Much better than you joining Beat Hotel Rm 32 even for 10 minutes).

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