The three weeks in December when the Valley impersonates New England are when I am most grateful to be here…as though I arrived by wisdom rather than necessity.
Then there are the oranges, our unique backyard superpower most unlike Vermont. A week ago they were too tart, in another month they will slip into sweetness. For now they are just right but we can only eat six a day before our bellies distend like Bilbo Baggins so we drop them off at the neighbor’s house by the bagful. We are profligate. We are having it both ways. A Mediterranean clime while God paints the leaves.
I discovered this digital Polaroid during an encampment cleanup off Sepulveda, put it in my pocket and forgot all about it, then re-found it in the laundry.
For most of us, Van Nuys means an affordable ranch house. But for others, Van Nuys means my weekend at the bail bondsman or my frustrating encounter with the Building Department. Then there are women for whom Van Nuys means my summer sweating for Leon at the Travel Inn.
You might presume (as I did) someone was awfully eager to pose them on the bed like chattel. How we feel about the picture depends on who we think the photographer is. We assume a male. Polaroids are keepsakes. But what if one of the women took the picture and it was meant for each other, the pose taken ironically, an artifact of their sisterhood in the fleshy trenches?
How did the picture make the journey from the motel room to the Favela? Through whose hands did it pass? Maybe no ones. Maybe one of these women is living in a tent next to the 405 right now. It would be the simplest explanation, but doesn’t feel like the right movie to me.
O’Melveny, six weeks after the wildfire: Nature’s Civil War battlefield. Light rain falling and no one about, like we were the last two people on earth, navigating an apocryphal chapter of the Old Testament.
Come spring, the flowers will return in abundance. We know this before we put our first boot print in the afternoon mud, which makes it fun rather than depressing. We take comfort playing tourist in nature’s cycle of wrath and renewal.
Here, on the charcoal side of the Urban-Wildlife Interface, one realizes the only thing between the former and the latter is the forty feet of asphalt on Sesnon St. Then you remember the Santa Rosa fire of 2017, which jumped a six-lane freeway. Then you think of the Hollywood Hills, of Brentwood, of canopies of trees overhanging narrow streets, nearly shaking hands, and winds whistling up the canyons.
If we think we can live in this tension indefinitely, houses pushing in, nature clawing back, what happens when people begin squatting in the unclaimed spaces, cooking over open flames? How does that change our calculus?
Unlike nature, Shantytown, Inc. has no opposing force. Camping in the underbrush is incentivized. There’s no one at City Hall arguing for prudence, only subsidy. More service providers dispensing free stuff. The rest of us carry on arguments in the privacy of our heads.
How long will this parallel world build up along the unclaimed spaces, along the freeways and rivers and storefronts before wrath enters the picture?
What form will the rain flower take?