At the Galpin Auto Show

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…the torch is passed to the next generation.

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…they argue the value of an original Shelby Cobra.  Which was apparently an argument over what criteria one should employ before deeming it an ‘original Shelby’.   These two were a million dollars apart in their estimations. The owner kept pointing to the sign on the windshield: “Yes, it’s real”. It was 105 degrees in the parking lot…what better venue to settle the issue?

Cholo Heaven

Cholo Heaven

Old white guys wiping the finish

…old white guys wipe the finish

The Scooby van, always a big hit with the ladies

…the Scooby van is always a big hit with the ladies

Funny car-inspired re-enactment

….and funny cars inspire re-enactments

Night Soliloquy

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Do not forsake this woman, whatever you do.

Forget cheating on her.

If you do, do not fall asleep with pruning shears in the house.

Don’t tell her she needs to lose weight.

When asked for the truth, tell her what she wants to hear.

If you’re becoming bored, feign delight.

Cause there is no way you are breaking up with her.

She will have something to say about that.

Like she did the last guy.

Rounding out a life with grace

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My dear friend Andy Hurvitz, of the indispensable HereinVanNuys blog, has been writing beautifully this past year about his mother’s twilight surrender to cancer, her denial of her illness, and their relationship to each other as he cared for her.   The Dark Wit, he called her.   Louise passed away last week. They had a wake for her yesterday at his brother’s house in Marina Del Rey.    I had never been to a wake, so my sense of what to expect was informed by films, and in this case I was misled.  No one was shrouded head-to-toe in black.  No murmuring organ. No flasks hidden inside of jacket pockets.   No receiving line of weeping well-wishers kissing the hand of the bereaved.  There were tears, but they were of the authentic, cathartic kind.

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It was more of an in-gathering of celebration.  There was a surfeit of delicious food, and no shortage of good wine, and bittersweet joy was the prevailing mood.   Look closely and you will see a teen-aged Andy with Louise on the screen in the left hand corner, his Andy-ness already evident in protozoa form.

Rick and Andy

Rick and Andy

First her sons spoke.  Then her friends.   Two women who were her sorority sisters at Delta Phi Epsilon, University of Illinois, sixty years ago spoke. I don’t even follow my college friends on Facebook. I can’t imagine a friendship of sixty-four years, but apparently she had several. Two brothers who hadn’t spoken in years were there, and they sat together and ended up talking to one another.    I learned she was a feminist before there was a word for it.  That she ran an office in an era when female college graduates worked the steno pool.  That she once sold airplanes.  That she worked for CBS news during the Nixon-Kennedy debates. That she read the New York Times cover to cover then hoarded all her back issues. That she enjoyed making prank phone calls. That she loved denying that which displeased her to the point of arguing to a judge the woman in the red-light camera photograph was not herself.

She had three sons, a long marriage, and a front row seat to American history, spanning WW II to Barack Obama. The people she loved also have people in their lives in turn, for whom they care and who get drawn into the circle of memory, and so after eighty-plus years, you have quite an eclectic group of people sharing the pathos under a rubber tree on a postcard beachside afternoon.   Exit ghost.

A lull in the conversation

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They say a marriage can withstand anything except contempt.

There are several ways of looking at this picture.  One, she’s pissed at him. Really pissed. Alternatively, he’s weary of her, and she’s just coming to that realization.  Mrs. Upinthevalley has decided not to get in the middle of it, and immersed herself deeply in the broccoli slaw.

Another interpretation might be they have just made an unspoken decision to ditch their relatives and go back to the motel room for frolic.

Another might be they can’t quite figure out what to say about this spicy vegan cooking which has been forced upon them, and have decided for reasons of familial peace to say nothing at all.

Or, none of the above.

They’re not actually married, just a young couple from Albuquerque, off on their first road trip, and they’re head over heels. There was no motel. They slept in the guest room.  Everybody had a lovely time:

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These two photos were taken about two minutes apart.  Light and shadow and facial movements captured in a 1/60th second window of time can distort as much as they reveal.

Man, my lawn is dying.

Verisimilitude

MARRIED -- Pictured: Nat Faxon as Russ. CR. Matthias Clamer/FX

There’s a new show on FX called Married.  It’s set in the San Fernando Valley, and I must admit, rather entertaining.  Look honey, I said the first time I saw a preview, that’s us! The mordant relationship humor, the quiet sexual desperation, the abundant use of familiar locales, a male lead who dresses like he looted my closet, it’s all a bit close to home, but in a well-written way.  Just to set the record straight, Mrs. Upinthevalley is hotter than Judy Greer.  I want to make that clear.

After watching Nat Faxon, the husband, wander through the first few episodes in cargo shorts and hoodies, I assumed he was unemployed.  But no,  oh no no, he’s a ‘freelance graphic designer’.  She’s a stay at home mom.  I know this because the plot lines of  recent episodes have turned on this point.   And they, a family of five, manage to live in a lovely house in what appears to be …Studio City or Valley Village…on his earnings from digital piecework.  There’s another word for ‘freelance graphic designer’:  barista.  Or stockboy at Trader Joes.  Actually that’s not true.  There are a great many freelancers in this city who would trade it in for a steady job at Trader Joes in a heartbeat.  Apparently this is how TV writers, many of whom live in the Valley, think people in the Valley live.

Don't we all live like this?

Don’t we all live like this, without working?

Normally this wouldn’t be a deal breaker for me. Television shows frequently depict families living beyond what is feasible in the real world.  Usually, however, the characters are at least portrayed as having a job.  Maybe because Married is set in the Valley and maybe because we have frequented the locales used in the show (Oaks Tavern, Starlight Lounge) there’s a verisimilitude issue for me.  No one lives south of Burbank Blvd by freelancing, part-time.  Mrs. Upinthevalley and I live in Van Nuys.  And by live, I mean we bought a tiny s**tbox with 1948 infrastructure we spent years fixing up. Our mortgage payment is $2500/month.  That’s thirty grand a year, right off the top.   Well, not exactly.  First the government takes about twenty grand, money we never see.  Then Wells Fargo takes its piece. Then we face the bills.  We’ve never taken a vacation. We still use flip-phones.  We have dial-up internet. We have one car.  We use coupons. We have no savings.   We’re extraordinarily fortunate to have survived the Great Foreclosure Flood of 2009.  Barely.  To not have to rely on roommates.   There are ten people sharing a three bedroom house to the left of us. Six adults,  all legal residents of the US,  working in the service economy.  Collectively, they can pay the mortgage, and make car payments and that’s pretty much it.  There are seven people living in the house to the right of us. Three generations under one roof.  That’s how it’s done. Unless you’ve lived here for twenty years, or inherited property or have a six figure income, this is the only way it is done.

We  grind it out and grind it out, all of us, month after month, and hope the edifice of cantilevered credit by which we keep it all going does not collapse upon our heads.   And that we don’t drive each other crazy.

We say a little prayer each evening and are grateful. Even as we slum it in that vast terra incognita north of Burbank. We, the invisible people.