Super Drainage, in Action

Concrete river channels get a bad rap, but the Army Corps of Engineers knew what they were doing.  An entire El Nino storm can be whisked away in a matter of hours.   Unfortunately, it’s going into the ocean.

The alternative is this.

Valley, Light and Dark

May 5, 1962: “Emcee Bruce Lundy twists to the music of the Moongooners at the Peppermint Stick, a teenage nightclub at 15463 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks.   A Valley chiropractor, Dr. David Rosen of Van Nuys, hopes his club ‘will help combat juvenile delinquency by providing teenagers and young adults with a healthy and entertaining environment.'”

“Shown in Van Nuys police station after their arrest on suspicion of violation of State Narcotics Act are Fred Zinn of North Hollywood and Barbara Gonzales of Los Angeles. One detective was injured when Zinn made a futile escape attempt.”

If you let your daughter do the twist, but surround her with nice boys in ties, she won’t become a beatnik poetess with a drug habit.  She won’t appear in the local paper like a hard Bettie Page aspiring to Patti Smith. A gloomy album cover. A bad example.

That was the idea, anyway.  In 1962, some people thought it might work. Let a little Chubby Checker in, but keep a dress code and the id-driven forces will stop at 3rd base.   Permit just enough of the Devil to rob him of his mystique, then have a highball and hope for the best.

How’d that work out?  Here’s Cherie Currie of The Runaways, in her bedroom in Reseda, 1977.

Photo credit: Valley Times Collection. Brad Elterman.

Hot Fuzz of 1972

TICKLED WITH THE CHOICE–Gaylean Dunn, center, of LAPD’s Van Nuys division, reacting with delight as she is named “Miss Fuzz of 1972” in a beauty contest with 14 other policewomen.

Go-Go boots.
High crotch shorts.
“Miss Fuzz”.
Van Nuys for the trifecta.

The winner was chosen by male members of the Police Commission. No, really.

Lest we judge harshly, this was still two years before Angie Dickinson as Sgt. Pepper Anderson in Police Woman.  In 1972 the LAPD didn’t allow women to serve on street patrol. The department got away with it by establishing a height requirement.

Gaylean appeared on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson as a result of her victory.  There was no “Miss Fuzz of 1973”.

Photo credit: Ben Oleander, LA Times

Our Broken Window

Gene Raymond Townsley — Arrested in Church Theft

“Angry Pacoima Churchmen Nab Suspect – Irate church members armed with baseball bats, garden tools and lead pipes last night captured a former parishioner of the Mary Immaculate Church in Pacoima after the church poor box was robbed of $2.09.”

Two bucks. To the courthouse with the Jonathan Rhys-Meyers doppelganger. Pretty was no panacea.

The 1959 rules were:
Do not steal.
Doubly so from the church.
The poor box? Gimme that shovel.

This is what I saw on the way to Trader Joes yesterday.  Do you think everyone in Northridge decided one day this was going to be the new normal?  But there they are just the same.

When I worked on Lord Bezos’ Farm, in the gourmet department, street people would wander in and calmly load their backpacks with premium wine and liquor and walk out the door with impunity.  They made no attempt to conceal their theft.  If we caught them and the total value was under $950, which it always was (occasionally, daringly, it would kiss up to the prosecutorial red line) the shift manager would turn them loose to return another day.

This is not forgiveness but licentiousness.   No one voted for two sets of books, one for the law abiding and another for the Free State of Jones and its profiteers, but this is the mockery of compassion we now must endure.

If you think this benevolence extends to you, try being $100 in arrears to the city as a commuter and taxpayer.  Count the days before the late penalties turn into bench warrants.

You don’t know my name, said Jean Valjean. I’m a thief.
Of course I do, said the Bishop, your name is Brother.
You forgot your candlesticks. Use this silver to become an honest man.
God has raised you out of darkness, I have saved your soul for God.

The priest’s gesture was effective because he spared Jean from a return to prison for life.   Remove the gendarmerie from the equation and there is no grace, only pointless indulgence.   No redemption, no Marius, no Cosette, no wedding.

I wonder what became of Gene Raymond Townsley?

The Bishop of Digne painting by Darin Ashby

Ginger Drysdale At Home

November 6, 1961: “These are exciting days for the Valley’s Ginger Drysdale, the beautiful 22-year-old wife of the famous Dodger pitcher. Ginger, a photographer’s model who has done many television commercials, recently was summoned to Warner Bros., placed under 90-day option and given a part in ‘Hawaiian Eye.’…Ginger is going to spend this weekend helping Don paint their comfortable, modern three-bedroom home in Van Nuys.” 

I’m trying to get my head around a major league athlete moving to Van Nuys at the peak of his career, let alone a Hall of Famer, even if he grew up here as Don Drysdale did. But then I would be forgetting this was before free agency.

Drysdale won 25 games in 1962, for which he earned…$36,000, together with Sandy Koufax half of the dominant pitching duo of the decade.

They were paid at the pleasure of owner Walter O’Malley who thought of contract negotiation thusly: “Baseball is an old-fashioned game with old-fashioned traditions.” Translation: you are bound to me by a reserve clause, while I enjoy a congressional exemption from anti-trust laws.  

It was not uncommon for players to take second jobs in the winter.  Stars like Drysdale opened businesses.  The Dugout, on Oxnard St., lasted until 1982.  Today it is the location of La Serenita, a Mexican restaurant.

Koufax owned the Tropicana Motel in West Hollywood,  which would prove both lucrative and historic in the 1970s.

America wasn’t winner-take-all then.  There was a lower ceiling but a higher floor (for white folks). Teachers and Dodger wives shared driveways and did their own house painting.

Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw were paid $62 million this year.   There are people on my block who live in converted tool sheds, then commute to work, in keeping with our New Normal.

On the other hand, I have Moroccan tile in my bathroom now, which no one in Van Nuys had in 1962.   I also probably eat better than the Drysdales did, and so can pretty much anyone who takes the time to shop creatively in the cornucopia of LA. Most of us don’t. We eat with our hands from a salty greasy bag without portional restraint. Right now I’m eating Japanese buckwheat noodles and bok choy, watching an ad for Progressive insurance and here’s Stephanie Courtney as Flo,  TV’s top pitchwoman. I think of the few hundred actors below her who book regular commercial work and below them, the Breughel-like masses, the 100,000 actors who book nothing and try to create mystique on YouTube….and there, in the background, are the picket fences of Orion Street,  Van Nuys’ contribution to Americana porn.

All these things are true simultaneously.  Los Angeles is nothing if not polarity.

Ron Shelton wrote a wonderful speech for Bull Durham neatly summarizing the distance between those who make it to the major leagues (and enjoy million dollar contracts) and those who languish in the bus leagues until they give up hope:

“Know what the difference between hitting .250 and .300 is? It’s 25 hits. 25 hits in 500 at bats is 50 points, okay? There’s 6 months in a season, that’s about 25 weeks. That means if you get just one extra flare a week – just one – gorp… you get a groundball, you get a groundball with eyes… you get a dying quail, just one more dying quail a week… and you’re in Yankee Stadium.”

In 1969 Ginger filed for divorce and a restraining order against Don, citing 30 separate incidents of assault. Don passed away in 1993, alone in a hotel room.

Drysdale’s second wife sold his memorabilia for over a $1 million in 2016, twice the sum he earned as a player in his entire career, making his memory more lucrative than his performance.  Ginger got nothing.

Photos courtesy of Valley Times Collection

Valley Gothic

January 19, 1950:  “Frederick Kester, 66, and his wife, Margaret, 56, of 13067 Pierce St., Pacoima, leave Valley Municipal Court after receiving continuance until next Wednesday on complaint of health officers. Charge is that their trailer and lean-to shack do not have proper sanitary facilities. Couple, who claim to be prophets, also have 20 cats, goats, ducks and dogs on property.”

August 10, 1954: “Mildred Taylor, a 24-year-old waitress, is shown entering Van Nuys jail. A large marijuana plant was seized at her home. She was held on suspicion of auto grand theft. Later dope was found in car and home.”

December 1, 1964: “Eugene Gelson, second from left, and supporters of newly formed ‘Family and Community Minded for Decent Literature in Encino’ examine some questionable magazines in Gelson’s Market.”

This is what I got to watch on the way home from the dentist today: fisticuffs between a man and a woman over a plastic bag pile beneath the 101.

Historic photos courtesy of Valley Times Collection

The Twilight of Tolerance?

(Photo credit MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

Behold the good people of K-town,  marching down Wilshire, in protest….
Against climate change? No.
Trump? No.
Kim Jong-Un?
A homeless shelter on Vermont.

This is the point of frustration we have reached in Los Angeles.

Faced with the abnormal being made permanent, the city is in rebellion.

There’s just one catch. With one city councilperson per 300,000 residents, rebellions can be safely ignored.    The Koreatown shelter, mightily resisted in May, is quietly being moved downmarket to working-class linguistically divided Macarthur Park.

What are the odds Latinx Armenian Filipino Thai Middle Eastern White Hipster Van Nuys is going to escape a similar fate?

Lets put it this way, we are unable to get the palm weeds pulled in front of the Valley Government Center.    The weeds don’t pay anybody. They don’t have a lobby. But in The Nuys they own the sidewalk.   One can obtain Bitcoin at an ATM on Oxnard Blvd, then cross the street into a state of nature. Such are the contradictions we enjoy now.

Every time you see one of these guys understand there are people who do not live in your neighborhood making money off them.    Your blight is another person’s meal ticket, shuffling about in rags.  He has a power structure behind him. You do not.

Service providers with a stake in the outcome infiltrate public meetings with shills holding signs and nary a peep of contradiction do we hear from the Times.  The lobbying by interested parties and the coverage of same by local media has become a feedback loop of assumed agreement.

Among the unexamined assumptions are these:
Is there a right to hop a bus to LA, squat on the sidewalk and declare residency?
Are such people entitled to free housing and health care?
Can Angelenos demand sobriety and labor in return for public assistance?
Housing is cheap and abundant across the U.S. Why is LA the solution?

Mr. UpintheValley votes No, No, Yes and Good Question to the above.  My neighbors would as well. Which is why we do not hear the Issue of Issues debated in the city government.  We get warnings instead.  They will educate us about our misconceptions.

Who among us practices the inclusivity he preaches? Very few.  If there is a person in the power structure downtown who has opened his home to a crack addict he has been awfully discreet about it.

Our ability to live Christ’s example is daily impeded by the dark river of social ills policymakers have created.   The current is too strong to cast our nets as fishers of men, even in those off moments when we wish to.   City Hall is breaking the bonds of fellowship between citizens. It has made us all a little harder, something we’re beginning to recognize in ourselves and resent.

Almost everything about Van Nuys has changed dramatically for the better in the past decade.   Except for Shantytown, Inc.

As my friend Wise Andrew put it, we may be looking at the twilight of tolerance.

Her Grace, Duchess Carol

It is the particular folly of Los Angeles to allow itself to be ruled by people who do not live here.

Carol Sobel was counsel in Jones vs. Los Angeles which ushered in the Era of City Wide Street Camping.  Her co-counsel was Ben Wizner of San Francisco, subsequently more famous as Edward Snowden’s lawyer.

The consequential local policy decision of this century was undertaken without a vote of the City Council or public referendum.

Surrendering a winnable case is as much an action as an appeal.  Los Angeles folded in Jones not because it had a bad hand to play, but a strong one. With victory comes the responsibility to act, and who wants that?  Better a log rollers paradise of service provider patronage and self-serving explanations for why people camp on the street and it’s never incentives.

Rocky Delgadillo, Carmen Trutanich, Mike Feuer, and their deputies need to explain themselves.

Since the Jones agreement, Duchess Carol has enriched herself mightily by way of nuisance lawsuits against the city: for confiscating the “possessions” of homeless people, for detaining activists disrupting city-sponsored walking tours of Skid Row, for police sweeps and drug searches.

The cases don’t go to trial. Carol files a claim and the City Attorney cuts her a settlement check.  She has pocketed millions in the past decade while establishing a de facto veto over action undertaken by the city to clean up encampments.

All while living on the swanky side 0f Santa Monica, off Montana, in Larry David-ville.

We must do as she dictates or “open the keys to the reserve fund”, to quote Councilman Mike Bonin.

My question for the people in City Hall underwriting the Duchesses peerage is:  where do you live?  Are you residents of the City of Los Angeles?  Or do you like so many others who profit from our present chaos, slip away at the end of the day to a tidier jurisdiction?  Who in this arrangement is representing my interests?

Mike Bonin doesn’t live in the Valley, but the schoolchildren are told to paint murals of him here.   His visage presides over the hole in the chain link fence next to the Pacoima Wash, welcoming the crackheads to their shanties.

Mr. UpintheValley is feeling a bit woke this week.