The MacLeod Incident

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(November 13, 2020) The City of Los Angeles celebrates this week the grand opening of the Valley Riverway, an inter-connected system of landscaped bike and walking paths along the tributaries of the LA River.  The 60-mile network descends from the the Chatsworth reservoir along Browns Creek, from Porter Ranch on the Aliso Canyon Wash, from Granada Hills on Bull Creek, and from Sylmar along the Tujunga and Pacoima washes.  An East-West corridor on the Metrolink right of way connects the northern tier of the Valley, completing what local bicyclists are referring to as “the hyper loop”.

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“It is now possible to pedal continuously from pretty much anywhere to anywhere else in under an hour, without having to stop at a light,” said District 6 Councilperson Andrew Hurvitz, who secured the $100 million project using Measure M funding. “We thought it might be a nice linear park. We didn’t realize the extent to which it would be adopted as an alternative transportation network connecting neighborhoods.”

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Construction of the East Valley light rail line has brought traffic to a standstill during commute hours, adding to the Riverway’s appeal. The troubled addition to the Metro system, originally budgeted at $2.7 billion, is now on its second contractor, with cost overruns expected to reach $4.6 billion when completed in 2024.

“At 2% of the rail budget, the Riverway was considered by the City to be exorbitantly priced. It was an orphan with birth defects.  Until the MacLeod incident, that is,” said Hurvitz, referring to a now infamous cell phone recording of a conversation at a local pub between representatives of Sheila Kuehl’s office and Kiewet/Shea, the first contractor on the rail line: “A hundred million? That’s a rounding error for us. $300 million got misplaced during the Expo Line build no one has been able to find. We know it’s floating around somewhere, but the auditors got bored and stopped looking for it.”

The conversation, punctuated by cackling, went viral on Twitter, inspiring the hashtag campaign #RoundMeUp.   

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In the wake of the MacLeod revelation, the blogger known as UpintheValley staged an insurrection at City Hall “in the spirit of Yukio Mishima”. Taking command of a balcony, he unfurled a banner outlining the Riverway project, and made an impassioned speech to an audience of derelicts and office workers on lunch break, some of whom thought they were watching live theater and left tips for the ‘performer’.   The blogger had repeatedly been ticketed by police for climbing fences into the Pacoima Wash and refused to pay the citations on principle, claiming all of the river watershed as a public right. Liens had been placed against his house by the City, which he also refused to pay, precipitating a personal and legal crisis.

“Let us rise from our stony sleep, brothers and take back the commons!”,  he proclaimed, after a rambling preamble that referenced Beauty, freedom of movement, the Golden Ratio, and the perfidy of hack politicians. Exhortation to occupy the Mayor’s office was met with a bemused reaction from onlookers, who, sensing an absence of irony, returned to their cubicles. 

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He retreated to a hallway and committed a partial hari kari, in which the stomach wall is opened, but not fatally.  He then began a two-day walk back to Van Nuys, holding his gut bag, smearing blood atop each gate denying river access.  

When he reached MacLeod Ale, there are conflicting accounts as to his final words, which were interpreted as either: “the circle is closed”, or “I’ll have that beer, now.”  A special IPA, the Dolorosa, was subsequently brewed in his memory.

The fallout from his martyrdom led to what locals now refer to as the Valley Spring.  Hurvitz wrested control of Nury Martinez’s seat on the City Council in a special election, setting the stage for the Riverway approval. 

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Letter to Sandman

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The White Favela messenger service at work.

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Our civic solution for the people living in the shrubbery along the 405 and panhandling at the Roscoe Blvd offramp is to mis-hear Joni Mitchell, cut down the shrubbery, and put up a chainlink fence.

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So far, so good.

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Chainlink is always the answer.  It means we did something.

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For now, the favela-ians are back on the railroad tracks, and conducting through-the-fence panhandling excursions by handwritten notes. I give it a week.

Don’t you want to meet Sandman?   I wonder how he got his moniker.   I hope it wasn’t this way.

Shots Fired From the Microcosmos

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Fire makes for a good action movie, loud and beautifully terrifying.  People struggling against fire are always heroic. The world as we know it is changed in a matter of hours. Three months after the Wildwood Canyon fire, Trixie and I scampered up the charred hillside…as though crossing a WW I battlefield or post nuclear Japan.  You could still smell the ash everywhere.

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And yet, already, green shoots sprout cheerful from the cinders, unperturbed by the ruckus, seemingly grateful for Nature’s chastisement: Thank you, ma’am, may I have another?

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You want to see nature’s real horror movie?   Consider the Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer, now eating the Sweetgum trees in my neighborhood.

The what?

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This guy. This monster, this Godzilla of the microcosmos, no bigger than a BB pellet, tunnels its way into the trunks of trees, sowing spores. Unlike termites, it doesn’t actually eat the wood, it sows eggs which create larvae, the larvae become a fungus. The fungus devours the tree from the inside. The tree isn’t food. The tree is a host, a womb for the evil grubs to squat in while they make more evil grubs, which apparently have no purpose on this earth but to sow more larvae.  Once inside the trunk, they are immune to pesticides. Apparently there is no stopping them. Parasite rex!

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Half the sweetgums in our neighborhood we lost this year. Half!   A magnificent colonnade rotting from within, branches dropping on cars, tipping like dominos.   They won’t be replaced in three months. It’ll take 30 years.

Try to make an action movie about that.

Chupacabra Sighting

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Ay Caramba! Could it be?

Oh, wait....

Oh, wait….

Not the mythical Latino Bigfoot, blood-drinking terrorizer of livestock and desert migrants, just a day laborer submerged beneath an eight foot high bag of leaves.

One wonders: does he believe in the Chupacabra?  What keeps him awake at night, besides debts and la Migra?

And the owners of the big homes surrounded by such high walls of foliage they require a small army of laborers to tame and haul away the leaves on their backs, lest the house be devoured by its own landscaping, what keeps them up at night?

Could it be the same thing?  If the Trumpacabra has his way, who will pick the socks off the floor, and scrape the poop residue off the porcelain and make the leaves go away?  And do it on the cheap?  And never talk back…

There’s a scary movie.

Double Tap on Sepulveda

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There are no bike lanes in Van Nuys, from Woodman to Woodley. There are no bike lanes in North Hills. None in Panorama.  Put these three neighborhoods together and you have 265,000 people, nearly the population of Orlando, Florida. Orlando has bike lanes.  So does the city of Irvine, Pop. 266,000. But not us. We’re a colony.

Wait, a minute, what about the Orange Line? Ain’t that in Van Nuys?
Before the indigenous peoples south of Oxnard declared themselves to be Sherman Oaks, it used to be.  Now it’s an orphan.

The historic heart of the San Fernando Valley constitutes a medium-sized American city unto itself, but lacking the normal amenities found in such cities. Like say, Pittsburgh.
Then we have the nomadic tribes of the Favela, wandering their Sinai of dysfunction and dispossession from the 405 to the Wash, always on bikes.   Hundreds of them.

That’s a lot of people sharing lanes.   There are choke points, Sepulveda at Stagg being one of them.   It’s a great place to get clipped, pedaling against traffic.  At night.
Then again, it’s a great place to get clipped in broad daylight moving with the traffic flow, keeping yourself three feet from the parked cars, wearing a helmet and reflective clothing.

You don’t want to get hit twice.    Cause the first driver might not kill you. If he takes off, leaving you in the street, a second car might run over you like a speed bump, dragging your body up the block. She, too, might make a getaway, trailing sparks.   In the case of Stacy Adams, 55, neither driver rendered aid, though one of them managed to dispose of her bicycle in a spirited attempt to break the chain of evidence.

Erik Larson, the first driver, was arrested at his residence the next day.  The woman, Jenevieve Hegedus, was arrested a week later.

Cops like hit and runs.  They work them hard, they close ‘em fast.  -Michael Clayton

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The victim, one of 50 bicycle-vehicle fatalities in SoCal in 2017, has a ghost bike to mark where her body was crushed. It’ll be there for a year, and then it will be removed.

In a year’s time, Metro may raze Aetna and Bessemer street to build a maintenance yard for a light rail conversion of the Orange Line no one asked for.  I have a wee suspicion there still won’t be a bike lane on Sepulveda. There’s no money in that.  Maybe I could write a letter to the colonial bureau.