The LAPD has a message for all of us: In the event of robbery, surrender your valuables. “If you are being robbed, do not resist the robbery suspects; cooperate and comply with their demands. Be a good witness.”
This is not exactly helpful. What would you tell the police when they arrive? He was wearing a hoodie, officer…
The Hoodie Posse is running California right now. You have to admire the brazenness of walking into Home Depot en masse to steal hammers and crowbars…then moving on to the mall for the next robbery.
Thieves drive late model cars to the site of their crimes, double park in the street. Why wouldn’t you? George Gascon is not sending anyone to jail. He would rather police your language. Don’t call them looters. Too much racial baggage.
There is a clear societal consensus against stealing, yet robbery is not enforced.
There is no consensus on vaccine mandates but they are enforced ruthlessly. Welcome to clown world.
“If you criticize me, you’re criticizing science,” declares Anthony Fauci, more than once. “Senators who ask questions are liars.”
Gavin Newsom has extended his ’emergency powers’ until March, making for two years of rule by administrative decree, unchallenged by the California legacy media or the legislature.
Everyone must get a booster, declared King Gavin, who rolled up his sleeve for the Moderna jab, then disappeared off the face of the earth for a week, failing to attend Cop26. He resurfaced at the Ivy Getty wedding.
If you want to understand California in one frame, here it is.
The perpetrator was wearing a car salesman grin and a lot of hair product, officer. He was accompanied by the Speaker of the House. The billionaires granddaughter was quite smashing. The gala was a paid for by fossil fuel wealth, passing down to the fourth generation. All the guests were given a tax cut from Nancy. No, seriously.
I’m making my witness. Am I cooperating enough?
The “vaccines” neither prevent transmission nor infection and lose efficacy after six months. They no longer correlate with hospitalization or death rates. Why do we continue to refer to the jab as a vaccine?
Why do we yearn for the leash? Why are so many of us acting like a conquered people?
We are living out a society-wide version of Flowers for Algernon, losing our collective intelligence, cognizant our maxims of prudence are slipping away, yet at the same time incapable of course correction. So far.
Writing about diners surrendering their valuables table side without resistance and ending up writing about vaccine efficacy is very on brand for 2021.
It’s really about the loss of civic guardrails that maintain trust. To ask these questions is my way of being a good witness.
The writing is on the wall, say the people who have left L.A., people now safely ensconced in the bluest dot available in a red state, the people to whom I listen on podcasts while walking the dogs in the early darkness that comes at 5pm now.
My Valley is haunted by the ghosts of those who have left but also those who have retreated indoors where a certain kind of life can be cultivated through the meticulous curation of deferred dreams and a supporting cast of delivery people.
But outside…the city we know and love is going away, piece by piece. First the reciprocal bonds of citizenship, then guardrails of safety, now tolerance and civility.
I step around people like this man multiple times a day, and no longer marvel at how much money swirls the drain, how many six figure salaries are paid out in Los Angeles to service ghosts.
Instead I wonder what ghosts dream of when they reach for the sidewalk. What have they discarded in their crawl to perdition?
People used to arrive in the Valley with ambitions as basic as an affordable apartment or as grandiose as YouTube stardom. Now they come to colonize public spaces in a medicated permanent twilight.
This is not the worst urban malady, only the most visible one. De-policing, vax mandate-related layoffs and the institutionalized hypocrisy of the elites will inflict greater long-term harm.
Who with influence over public policy practices the inclusivity he preaches? I shouldn’t use the categorical, but yeah, basically no one.
And yet…while all this is unfolding, construction continues apace. The pre-2020 fever dreams of an urbanized, vertical Valley remain in a state of forward momentum. For now. Like a freighter coasting to port on a dead propeller.
As these urban villages go online, what happens if there are few takers for the new units? I can think of two recently completed buildings in Van Nuys at around 25% capacity, going by all the unlit windows. With hundreds more units completing in the next six months we’ll learn just how viable Los Angeles remains.
We’re poised between two fates. Boarded up storefronts and lifestyle emporiums on the same block. We cling to the memory of 2019 in the expectation a course correction is due any day, because…because it has to, right? Things are not as bad as 1992, not yet, and we came back from that, right?
America of 1992 had very different demographics, a shared narrative, and wasn’t living in a state of permanent gaslighting. It didn’t have depraved billionaires funding political street violence and installing prosecutors who refuse to enforce laws.
The recall of D.A. George Gascon, an easy sell ten years ago, failed twice to gather enough signatures. Los Angeles 3.0 will have to find a way to transcend our historic political paradigm if its going to work.
For now I am obliged to place my faith (and hard won equity) in working-class Latinos, Armenian and Korean merchants to practice a California version of Irish Democracy. I hope for a golden mean between the chaos unleashed by the Clerisy and the self-interest of honest people who don’t have Laptop Jobs and the luxury of partaking in the urban exodus, people who will fight, if not for the city as a whole, then at least for the block they live on.
That’s the ghost I cling to. Sometimes I am, to paraphrase a dear friend, my own worst enemy.
There’s a guy on our street who likes to open the trunk of his car, roll down the windows, turn the bass up to 11, then go into the house to drink beer with his sound system parked in the driveway, rattling windows to the end of the block. On a Tuesday morning. He does this frequently. The house is a rental, paid for by the government. The owner lives in the Hollywood Hills. Somebody had enough and called the police with a noise complaint.
“We’ll send a patrol car over,” said the LAPD.
Two hours later, no police. Okay, perhaps not the most pressing issue the LAPD has on its hands. Then again, it’s a weekday morning in the Valley. How much action can there be?
Have we crossed the rubicon beyond which quality of life issues are no longer enforced? Or do we have a supply chain problem in public safety?
Fewer people are willing to be cops anymore. Urban cops. During the summer of George Floyd, young men delighted in going nose to nose with police lines for the benefit of cameras:
Punk ass bitch.
Make a move, Opie.
Where you gun, 5-0?
Whatcha gonna do, bitch?
The cop is required to be unflappable, at parade rest, in a mimicry of boredom while aerosolized spittle pocks his face. Cell phones record his every twitch, waiting on the slightest crack in composure. Black cops? Even worse. Uncle Tom. Why you cooning?
Raise the cost on enforcing laws enough and below a certain level they won’t be enforced anymore. This is the squeal point.
The Biden administration, because it is totally, absolutely not authoritarian and only here to restore our democratic norms, is telling every company in America to fire vax-resisting workers six weeks before Christmas. Blue state governors and local officials, eager to play along, have similar mandates.
Because Americans are a free people, essential workers are pushing back. Nurses. Truckers. Railroad engineers. Cops and firemen. Sheriff Alex Villaneuva isn’t enforcing the mandate, so now the county has to fire 25% of its uniformed personnel. Only it hasn’t done so yet. They supervisors keep delaying. In New York, the fire department has 18 fire houses unmanned this week, the squads on unpaid leave. Garbage is piling up in the street after Mayor DeBlasio laid off 20% of the Sanitation workers.
Two weeks ago the pilots of Southwest Airlines staged a sick-out, resulting in the cancellation of 2000 flights. The CEO blamed it on anything but the the vax mandate, before quietly dropping vaccination requirements. Then over Halloween weekend American Airlines cancelled 1,500 flights due to “high wind gusts” and…staffing shortages.
Union Pacific just dropped its vax mandate when 44% of railroad workers refused to comply.
The squeal point works in two directions.
Today America is the snail on the edge of a straight razor with edicts being handed down, then ignored. Then threatened again, and postponed once more.
There’s a financial economy and then there’s the real economy and logistics is the field on which they meet.
Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets is forgoing a $35 million salary and a chance at a championship ring on a super team that was built for him.
“To him, this is about a grander fight than the one on the court and Irving is challenging a perceived control of society and people’s livelihood, according to sources with knowledge of Irving’s mindset.”
“Kyrie wants to be a voice for the voiceless,” a source told The Athletic.
The smart money says Kyrie will fold. When the Nets begin to make a run, and he’s on the couch getting fat, and all of the Big Apple is blaming him for denying the city its first NBA title since 1973, he won’t be able to hold out.
It’s only been three weeks, but so far Kyrie is sticking to principle. He’s losing more money per day than most of us will make in a year.
Today the L.A. vaccine mandate goes into effect and today is the day I stop spending money in my beloved Los Angeles. My impact won’t be Kyrie-like in scale, but it will be felt, in the aggregate.
We should each of us think seriously what our squeal point might be, and why, and then try to hold out a little longer. If the state prevails on this, there will be no limiting principle to freedom of movement, of association, or commerce.
After that, its going to be Irish democracy, the refuge of a conquered people.
Bossy McBossypants, your moment is now. Remember July? You were against the ropes. Your year of telling everyone what to do was at an ebb. You were being shooed away like a covey of annoying birds. A scold of Karens, ignored.
Now we will be made to listen, won’t we?
The City Council is set to pass an ordinance this week requiring patrons to show proof of full vaccination at indoor areas including restaurants, bars, gyms, movie theaters, convention centers, card rooms, museums, malls, play areas, spas and salons in the city beginning Nov. 4.
A passport in all but name, as a condition of enjoying the fruits of the city.
“No one is forcing anyone to get vaccinated,” Nury Martinez said. “But if you don’t, there are certain things you will not be able to do without showing proof of vaccination.”
“Venues can be issued a citation for not implementing the requirement, and may be fined $1,000 for a second violation, and even more for subsequent violations, according to the city’s ordinance.”
Say hello to the little commissars eagerly bursting forth, like the Lorax from the tree stump.
Perhaps this would be a good time to consider:
Los Angeles County is 77% vaccinated. Among those aged 50+ the rate is 85%. Add another ten percent for people who have recovered from infection and we have achieved the herd immunity threshold, historically. But, as with all things Wuhan, the normal rules are suspended.
If you are vaccinated, the un-vaxxed pose little threat to you. As in, a 0.004 percent chance of hospitalization.
Children are not at risk, full stop.
All the vaccines have a problematic safety record among younger vaxees. The danger of the jab, while statistically remote, exceeds the danger of the virus itself in, say, a healthy 25 year old.
Natural immunity has proved stronger, and less leaky, than the vax. Requiring America’s most immune people be injected with an unproven drug for which one is obliged to sign a waiver exempting the manufacturer from a lengthy list of side effects including myocarditis, has no sound basis in science and places Los Angeles in direct conflict with the Nuremberg Code.
The question we might ask ourselves is: why now? This is the finish line. Caveat: yes, there are people refusing to vax, who, given their health profile would be wiser to do so and may pay with their lives. This is their right in a free society. Despite what we are told they have not overwhelmed the healthcare system. The Delta wave is receding after two months, the typical timeline for a viral wave in every locale on Earth. It is the nature of infection. Each subsequent wave will be smaller. Wuhan will be endemic but manageable. There will be never be zero cases.
Unless of course the vaccines prove useless against subsequent mutations, in which case why are they mandated at all?
Why the biomedical police state?
Some people just love, love, love the new dispensation, safety being but a pretense for the really fun part: standing atop the parapet wearing the epaulets of emergency powers. Kathy Hochul, the placeholder Governor of New York, has given herself the authority to fire 100,000 un-vaxxed health workers and replace them with the National Guard. In the middle of a nursing shortage.
Why would 100,000 nurses, of all people, refuse the vaccine? It’s worth considering.
For now, the mandates are pandemic-based. This won’t last. Once the architecture is loaded on your phone, the passport will extend to other things entirely. So get ready for perpetual crisis theater. The clerisy has learned it can do whatever it desires when America Is In Crisis™. Who would stop them? Not the Times or CNN.
If gun control can be rebranded as a public health issue, then so has ‘racism’ and ‘transphobia’, however the nanny state chooses to define those terms. If the CDC can bar landlords from evicting non-payers of rent, then healthandsafety has no limiting principle.
A Chinese social credit system begins here, in exactly this newly claimed space. Anything our betters don’t care for will be loaded into it. Participation in society will be contingent on affirming things we may not believe.
If that sounds a bit hyperbolic please consider all the things in recent memory that were never, ever going to happen, except, well, maaaybe a decade from now, only to come true in under a year. Tell it to all the people de-platformed from Twitter and YouTube. De-monetized. Banned from banking services.
No one’s “being forced”, remember, only being denied entry to as many things as possible in Los Angeles, America’s best governed city.
Which is why, as a fully vaxxed person, I will not partake of the mandate nor carry the passport, and won’t do so even when conveniently embedded on my phone. Convenience is the road to perdition.
Last week I passed an opportunity to see James McAvoy in the National Theater adaptation of Cyrano. That hurt. It means I’m not seeing going to see Tannhauser and Aida at the LA Opera. It means, if the council resolution passes, I will be quitting my membership at LA Fitness after 20 years.
So where will my discretionary spending go? To Hermosa. To Santa Monica. To Culver. To Playa. To any city that will have my consumer dollars, the only means I have at present to assert my foundational liberties.
How will that help Los Angeles? It won’t. Those cities will prosper from our foolishness in the same way they have for decades. It’s worth noting the one element they have in common: populations under 100,000. Elected officials have to answer the phone in Hermosa, unlike here. Freedom doesn’t begin in Utah, it can be found just across the city limits.
It’s why Amazon Studios are in Culver and Disney and Yahoo are in Burbank and Skechers is based in Manhattan Beach. Why Mattel and Rocketdyne are in El Segundo. Why 99 Cents Only is based in Commerce and Avery-Dennison is in Glendale. The satellite communities of L.A. aren’t run by ignorant grasping hacks.
Meanwhile, in another America, getting further and further away from us by the day:
America’s primal yawp sounds like Metallica. It doesn’t wear a mask, nor require a passport and is rather altogether joyful. This is us, in sixty seconds. This has been us all along. Yes, even in Los Angeles.
Lyle Lanley stopped by. He has a monorail to offer us.
It’s official. Two consortiums have been hired to submit plans to LA Metro for the decades-in-discussion Sepulveda Pass Project. Numinous configurations have been proposed over the years but the finalists are:
1) A $6 billion monorail above ground from the Expo Line in West LA to the Van Nuys Amtrak station, splitting the 405, or:
2) A $10 billion heavy rail line (think NYC) running underground from UCLA to Sherman Oaks, coming up for air just south of Valley Vista, then becoming an aerial over Sepulveda Blvd.
Stranded in traffic, we are to weep in envy as it zips over our heads.
Both plans terminate at the yet-to-break ground East Valley Metro line on Van Nuys Blvd. Both hang a hard right at Raymer Street and claim to reach the Bundy Expo Line station in 20 minutes.
All that infrastructure headed right for Mr. UpintheValley’s backyard. Who knew? I would feel like a rather cunning real estate buyer if I didn’t know how long this will take.
It would be the biggest public works project in California since…High-Speed Rail from Bakersfield to Modesto. The 405 in the Sepulveda Pass is the most congested stretch of freeway in the United States. In a reasonable and rational world we would have built this instead, built it 20 years ago, or at least during the four years we spent widening the roadway, but here we are.
The Raymer Street angle fascinates me, having walked through this low rise industrial neighborhood for years: granite yards, supply houses and weed shops. The Favela sprouting at the edges. The two rail lines need to intersect somewhere and the Amtrak/Metrolink station would make it a 3-for-1. But there is no getting around the fact the train would be going to a location which for now lacks housing.
To make it pencil out, the area will have to be rezoned mixed-use residential. What am I saying? Nothing has to pencil out. We are in the uncanny valley of architectural renderings and near-futurism. Wait till the Sherman Oaks and Bel Air Homeowners associations get into the mix.
We were already an unhealthy people in March 2020. Fat, sedentary, drug taking and prone to melancholy. In 18 months we have become significantly unhealthier on direct instructions from the government. Stay home. Wear a face diaper. Live in isolation. Here’s some money, order in. Be alone. Pestilence is all about. You are the vector of pestilence. Hide your murder breath. Don’t gather in one place like the idiots of MAGA country. Are you unhappy? Here’s a pill. Live in your underwear. Keep a pair of door pants at the ready for delivery people. Don’t go to school. See your sad reflection in a Zoom grid. Stare at your face for hours every day while pretending to learn. Here’s another six months of checks. Hit the app. Have the little people bring you things. Give Silicon Valley control of your headspace. Stream everything. Pay people to talk to you to fight the sad.
93,331 overdose deaths in 2020. Three more on the floor in Venice this weekend, plus the wonderful Michael K. Williams in New York.
Since the pestilence from the Wuhan Institute of Virology reached our city, Los Angeles has handed down edicts in the name of our collective safety like a factotum from a Terry Gilliam movie. Masks. Social distancing. Disinfecting surfaces. The utility of these measures in preventing infection are marginal. Airborne coronaviruses find a way. They burn through the population in a given area in a two-month conflagration then wither for want of new hosts. New variants come along later and we repeat the process. Sweden is the best real-time experiment we have lockdowns may not significantly alter the ultimate outcome.
What would have helped us? Hardening one’s immune system. Dropping to a healthy weight. Improved lung function. Cardio. Vitamin D. Among people under 65, obesity is the greatest co-morbidity, 78% of hospitalizations.
Two words: Runyon Canyon. Get on the trail. Clear your head. Enjoy the eye candy. Stand on the ridge top like a philosopher king and contemplate the city of your youth. Turn and face the Valley of your now. Be anti-fragile. De-mask yourself and smile at your passing brethren. Give them your face so they may give you theirs and you both may carry each other home and know you are not alone.
What a headf**k it is to discover this week L.A. is doing all it can -still!- to restrain the public from walking there. Is it closed? Not exactly. The parking lot is closed. Most of the street parking on Mulholland has been taken away. The main gates are closed. There are two doors, one at the top, the other on Vista, that are left unlocked. So it’s not like you literally can’t enter but the City sure makes you feel its disapproval.
What free people would stand for this? Where did this deference to grasping bureaucrats come from?
Everyone from Fauci to power-tripping LA County Health Director and fake MD Barbara Ferrer should have been pushing vigorous immune health from the beginning. How much would that have cost? Bupkis. For lack of profit it is a solution that dare not speak its name. What would be the downside risk? There isn’t any. One can still become sick, of course, but the ability of the virus to overwhelm you is greatly diminished. You can still push vaccines. But first, build the foundation. Much can be accomplished in 18 months through incremental persistent changes in diet and exercise.
Here’s a data point for you all. Since Wuhan began, I have had over 2000 people in my car in various states of masking: correctly, incorrectly, hanging below the nose, under the chin, discarded altogether, talking, coughing, burping and laughing. I lower my mask to sip water. I chew gum. I talk to people. The odds I have not come into contact with aerosolized Wuhan particles, that my lungs have not been breached, are remote. Negligible I would argue.
I have not had so much as a sore throat. I am neither superhuman, nor exceptionally lucky. What I am is healthy (also vaxed, as of May). I spent much of the past year working outside, hiking and biking and on occasion, running. This was a choice any of us can make. I’ve been the overweight guy, prone to melancholy. That didn’t work for me.
Our solution is not a pill. Nor is it the defenestration of the CEO of Sweetgreen for daring to say the hospitalization rate of Wuhan was driven by the “underlying problem” of obesity, then abase himself in a forced apology. Nor is it wishing Joe Rogan an early death for stating on his podcast he overcame the Delta variant in three days using Ivermectin and monoclonal antibodies.
Coronaviruses are endemic. They are with us now and will be for the rest of the lives. We have flu strains floating around dating back to 1918. The real questions before us are not viral ones. They are matters of social control.
How much liberty are we going to yield to those who would prefer us fat, sedentary and compliant? America was not designed to be a bio-medical security state, but we are building one now.
What are we going to do about it? You will be put to the question, like it or not. It will find you, even when you are out riding your bike.
If we build it, they will come. If we fund it, they will stay. If we tell them there shall be no rules about flammables, there will be five encampment fires a day.
We are four decades into abatement schemes and the more money we throw at the favela, the greater the number of tents we have, the larger the encampments. We have multi-story structures now, cobbled out of scrap wood and plastic, kitted out with big screen TVs and slash pools, generators and barbecue grills. We spend a billion dollars a year now in LA County, not including police and fire, to service the unhoused. Let’s call it what it is: a business, an industry, farming people like a crop.
Ugly metaphor? Perhaps. Inaccurate? You tell me.
Here is the Raymer Street pedestrian bridge, an ADA compliant right-0f-way for students atttending Fulton Middle School. This is what 11-year-olds have to walk through twice a day. At either end people smoke crack openly, within grabbing distance of passerby. This state of nature has been in place, uninterrupted, for over a year.
Would you let you kid walk here? Probably not. This is known as adverse possession. A public conveyance now belongs to the favela, managed by Homeless, Inc., the key participants whom feed off the giant tit known as the City of Los Angeles, then go home to sleep in the neat orderly satellite cities like Glendale, where no one is allowed to camp or park overnight.
Don’t look now, but change might be brewing in Los Angeles. In July the City Council quietly altered Municipal Code 41.18 as follows:
“The ordinance prohibits sitting, sleeping, and keeping belongings within ten feet of a driveway or loading dock, within two feet of a fire hydrant, or in a way that obstruct sidewalks or right-of-ways. It also gives council members the ability to flag encampments near sensitive sites in their districts—daycares, schools, parks, libraries, freeway underpasses and on ramps—without establishing a blanket ban on camping in those places. Enforcement in those locations can’t take place until the City Council has reviewed the location and voted to approve action being taken.”
Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, who authored the ordinance, says it gives he and his counterparts the freedom to “take action as deemed appropriate” when a problematic encampment has been identified in a sensitive area.
Yay, fiefdoms! Mr. UpintheValley approves.
There are two interpretations of 41.18: it’s either A) Kabuki theater, unenforceable by design. What is the criteria for “obstruction”? If its statutory, why should each eviction require a vote? I see opportunity for the Council to masquerade as responding to public outrage while pretending their hands are tied by others.
Or B) Leverage. 41.18 has usable teeth and each council member will now have the ability to establish how much chaos will be tolerated in his/her district, and act accordingly. Nury Martinez, in theory, could turn Van Nuys into the Glendale of LA by enforcing anti-camping laws within her district. Mike Bonin can continue to hand over the beaches and parks to temporary™ housing solutions and answer to his voters. Performance discrepancies between districts will no longer be off-loaded to “systemic complexities” of the issue.
Self-responsibility is not a burden I see the council taking on willingly. So I suspect the answer was going to be A. Or would have until recently.
Now there is a wrinkle. A big one. The recall elections in District 4 and 11. Don’t know about Nithya Raman, but Bonin might be toast. I work his district every weekend and hear the loud talk of people determined to speak freely and to cast ballots in anger.
There are lots of angry homeowners in the Valley as well, but we are too busy subdividing amongst ourselves over Trump or BLM or personal grievances to organize. Besides, who would listen to us? Venice eats up all the good press.
Tellingly, the last non-machine candidate elected to the City Council was also from Venice, Ruth Galanter in 1987. Since then, the uniparty has gone approximately 120-0 in local races. With dominance comes disregard. The recalls might alter that calculus.
About thirty years ago a revolution took place in urban policing, beginning in New York. Precinct captains were required to stand in full dress before their peers and answer for the crime stats in the neighborhoods under their watch. No longer could one shrug: don’t blame me. It’s Snake Plissken country out there.
It’s time for each Councilmember to be made the sheriff of his district.
The most impactful structural changes come in under the radar. Has anything done more to increase housing supply within the zoning footprint of LA without distorting residential neighborhoods than the ADU law? It has added to the tax base, put additional equity onto homeowners balance sheets and didn’t cost the taxpayers a dime.
If successful, the Recalls + 41.18 might, might, set in motion an era of accountability. What a delicious irony it would be if the first blow against the machine occurred as an expression of tribal solidarity by upscale white liberals.
*Historical photos courtesy of LA Herald-Examiner Collection
The only thing better than owning a fabulous home in the countryside, to paraphrase Wise Johnny, is being friends with someone with a fabulous house in the country. Or in my case, friends of friends, or friend of Johnny, who generously wrangled an invitation for us to live as 1%-ers for a week, in the mountains above Santa Cruz.
If one wanted to obtain a sense of being in the world but not of it, a Berchtesgaden between Silicon Valley and the Pacific was the place do it, taking morning coffee on a veranda overlooking treetops stair-stepping to the ocean, fog dissipating under your gaze.
The Fall of Kabul and the Great ReMaskening were very far from our concerns this week. It’s an easy state of consciousness to ease into here. A feature, not a bug, of hot tubbing under the stars.
Heading north is always a little bittersweet, balancing the kindness of how I am treated by wealthier friends while knowing I can no longer afford to live in the stomping grounds of my youth, the accessibility I once took for granted.
My parents took to nature in 1973, bearing not oodles of cash, but tomes. Walden. Summerhill. The Foxfire Manual. The Whole Earth Catalog. Rural California, even the most desirable precincts, was abundant and cheap. $18000 for 80 acres of rolling meadowlands and timber, with views. Split three ways. Settled over a handshake and a joint. They were unemployed and living on food stamps, I kid not. A swimming pool was not part of the equation. Nor was electricity, or a running motor vehicle.
One need not have been rich to own a glorious sliver of coastal California then, just two nickels to rub together and the moxie to leave Wisconsin.
Preserving generational advantage has defined the 1973 People ever since. Slow growth legislation. No growth. CEQA. Nimby, thy name is Boomer.
Rural property is now very expensive and the province of people blessed with liquid grace. Tech people principally, happy to re-create Palo Alto in the woods, a weekend retreat/Zoom castle with luxury amenities to wait out the pandemic or Antifa/BLM riots, or simply make a top drawer income without the friction of proximity to others. If everything really goes to hell, there is plenty of room to lay in provisions for a siege, and who can blame wealthy Gen-Xers who paid serious money to obtain this?
It’s also –sssh- rather White up here. Living in L.A. for twenty years one forgets just how demographically different the host region of the people really running the show in California is from the rest of the state.
Driving home, basking in the afterglow of generosity extended to me by a blameless couple I never met, my dark literary nature reasserted itself: how beautiful America is, yet how despairing, how far from the requirements of a functioning country. Enforceable borders. A sound currency. A common language. Foundational protections of speech, assembly, redress. Means of production over consumer goods. An elite that believes in America’s creedal ethos and founding documents. Incorruptible or at least high-functioning institutions. A willingness to reproduce among the native-born.
All of these things are in question at present. I’m not sure how we can come back from the declination we have set in motion. In the meantime we backslide into a tribalism that is nominally about identity but will be enforced ruthlessly by wealth. Prediction: white areas, including the most remote and undesirable, will become unaffordable in the coming chaos. Rare is the person who practices the inclusivity he preaches.
Would John Steinbeck recognize California today? Much of the Salinas Valley would be unchanged, food producing, poor people bent over at the waist in the sun. Different people now, half of them from other countries, with the new element of vineyards, which he would appreciate. Americans being paid by the government to stay idle at home while replacements were bussed across the border would confound him. As would the wealth effect around Monterey Bay. Few of his characters, including the prosperous ones, could live today where he placed them in his books. Los Gatos, where he had his summer house, would be a foreign land. The vast de-personing apparatus erected by graduates of Stanford might put him in a revolutionary frame of mind.
He might retreat to the reassurance of the redwoods and take solace in the knowledge the forest will outlast our foolishness. The trees are playing the long game, while we enjoy the shade.
So I arrived for my appointment at Firestone in downtown Van Nuys yesterday for a pair of replacement tires, and was told: “We’re running a little behind. We can get to it in two hours.” Of nine service bays, only two were operational. They were short on manpower, a downstream consequence of America paying people to stay home and not work on the 493rd day of 15 Days to Slow The Spread.
I adjourned to MacLeod to enjoy a pint while I waited. On Erwin St. I encountered this remarkable example of bespoke mobile architecture. Clean, uncluttered, and minimalist. A privacy compartment of salvaged doors rolling on a stolen Home Depot cart, topped by a bunkbed. If Marie Kondo took to the streets she might come up with something like this.
A sheet flapped in the breeze like a sail, sheltering the shirtless, tattooed man sleeping inside. It made me think of sailors stacked in bunks and the domestic rituals of prison space. A glorious workaround to the territorial disputes among People of the Favela. In the event of flammables, one merely needs to roll around the corner.
Across the street a new five-story, 45 unit building is about to open its apartments to the rental market. After the five low-income units are filled, the number of people sleeping on the sidewalk of Erwin St. will not change. Behold the Vertical Valley, in a single frame.
For we are living in an era of lawless improvisation.
After 17 months of paying the poor and the working class to remain idle, the occupant of the White House has decreed through the office of the CDC paying rent is now optional. Biden has about as much Constitutional predicate for this as I do to shit on the sidewalk, but who in my beloved Los Angeles is gonna stop me?
In case there was confusion the Supreme Court issued a friendly reminder, called a ruling, stating he has no authority to do this. Biden is doing it anyway. Who’s gonna stop him, the NY Times? The Republicans? Heh.
Rent will not be “cancelled”. It will be paid by the federal government printing money like a khat gobbling Zimbabwean warlord and giving it to those landlords willing to accept 80 cents on the dollar after extensive paperwork. We are doing this while jobs go unfilled everywhere. Like at Firestone, where after two hours no one could be found to crank a wrench for $60 labor cost per tire.
This morning I went to trusty Ivan, Peruvian immigrant, who got it done in an hour for a little over half the price. He has a lease on a stall and he’s got rent to pay.
Verbatim: ASIAN WOMAN: That was seriously the most impactful hour of television I’ve ever seen. The thing that bothers me is I don’t know if a white man wrote it. I don’t think it would be appropriate for a white man to write about a black character or two women that way. If I knew that that was the case I couldn’t really accept what I was seeing. WHITE MAN: It bothers me this whole journey we’ve been taking this past year and there’s still people who don’t get it. ASIAN WOMAN: Like what’s wrong you? At this point I’m in contempt for white people who don’t want to do the work to complete this journey. WHITE MAN: Well I’ve learned in bystander intervention training you have to take people to the next step, you can’t take them all the way to the goal at once. You have to link arms with them to get where they need to go. You have to show them. ASIAN WOMAN: That makes me uncomfortable because it feels like people are allowed to get away with stuff they shouldn’t be allowed to. People should already know things. We’re enabling them by helping them. There just should be societal discipline. There should be an ejection button you can push and make people stop.
People speak freely in Uber. They speak of love and longing, of desire for comfort food and pajamas. Of the merits of a Soho House membership. But also of ejection buttons and struggle sessions.
This conversation might explain why Austin is not cheap anymore. But also why Austin will clearly not be be far enough to escape the Maoist brigades. They have lessons to teach us. They will take us to the goal. We have a journey to complete.