Vanderpumping the Valley

A new season of Vanderpump Rules is upon us, with a new twist. The cast members (who make $25K per episode) have decamped from their apartments in West Hollywood and purchased homes near each other in…Valley Village and Sherman Oaks and Valley Glen.  Mrs. UpintheValley is in ecstasy.  Practically neighbors.

If you’re a reality star in your eighth season, what do you buy?  What does $2 million get you?   Farmhouse modern, glossy white with black trim, newly constructed.   One of the houses, I noticed, actually abuts a major Valley boulevard. Who would pay seven figures to live next to traffic?  Bravo stars, that’s who.    It’s also possible they chose houses with a generic facade/motif to discourage fans from identifying their location and pestering them with vegan housewarming gifts.

This strikes me as a seachange in how the Valley will be viewed in pop culture terms, going forward. This is not Calabasas. This is the flatlands, north of the 101.  Adam Carolla-ville. Almost Van Nuys adjacent. This is us, albeit on a grander scale.  It’s the inevitable consequence of too much money chasing too few houses.   The little ones go down, and bigger ones take their place, to the limit of the setback.

Then there’s Cleveland, which has been rebranding for two generations in the hope bargain hunters from Californians and New Yorkers will head there in search of a price point too good to refuse.

After my last post, alert reader James noted an earlier Plain Dealer branding campaign from the 80s:  New York may be the Big Apple, but Cleveland’s a Plum.  

This sort of civic boosterism inevitably gets trumped by crowdsourced public branding. Healthy cynicism, like cream, rises to the top.   Shame can be a social glue, if not a left-handed expression of pride. It offers consolation without changing facts on the ground.  But in the end, King James will leave you, not once but twice.

In America’s great divergence between the boutique cities on the coasts and Everywhere Else, the New Urbanists keep waiting for people to respond to economic signals. Logic says move to the Rust Belt: big house, tiny price tag, short commute. Be a big fish in a smaller pond.  Locate your start-up here, cut your burn rate in half. California responds by saying, meh, I’d rather just move to my own personal Cleveland called the Valley, and turn that into West Hollywood.

Yes, please. Keep pumping.

Van Nuys, Rebranded

The city of Cleveland, which has lost half its population since 1970, once known as “the mistake by the lake” and the famed location of Ten Cent Beer Night has hired branding experts to promote its virtues to the outside world, New Urbanist style. The sales pitch they arrived at was World-class experiences without the world-class ego”.   

Well, hell. We could do that right here. If any place could use a re-brand, it is our lovely working-class Brigadoon in The Nuys. It makes for a good drinking game.

The first slogan which came to mind was: Van Nuys, not a damn thing wrong with it! which had the irascible defensiveness of a man defending his love for a forgotten brand of cheap beer.
Alternately, there is always the appeal to Low Expectations:
Van Nuys: Affordable, not cheap.
You know what you’re getting.
Van Nuys: Good enough!
Or passive-aggressive aspiration:
You’ll feel prettier here.

Half the house, half the commute.

Do more with less. 
Ironic:
Who said Hollywood doesn’t have a stepsister?
Futurist:
Back to the streetcar.
Bitter:
Skid Row without the juice bars.
Sardonic:
Millennial prices without the gentrification.
Obscure:
Free yourself of memory sickness. (Mrs. U didn’t get it either)
Misdirection:
Fifty food trucks can’t be wrong.
Convenience:
Here, be comfortable with yourself.
Bold:
The next Highland Park! 
(I stand by this, btw)
Alliterative:
Dollar stores and Dialysis, Payday Lending and Palm Trees
Comparative:
Cleveland, without the weather.

A call to action:
Look beyond the hedge.
Simplicity:
That’s right. Van Nuys, motherf@$#%*r.

That was fun.

E Pluribus Valley


2020: Rushing headlong now are we toward a conclusion half of us will dread.  A snap trap four years in the making.   There can be no happy ending, though there may be a divorce.   Too many of us have made friendships contingent upon the outcome.  We tolerate each other just so long as we consider the current ugliness to be transitory.  November will correct/affirm the wisdom/insanity of our neighbors.  I knew it all along! They really are that bad/sensible. That settles it. Let the celebration/vilification begin.

I suspect the underlying facts will prove secondary.  Dow 30,000, full employment, USMCA, handshakes at the DMZ, the Supreme Court, the public option, Iran, a looming recession, all background noise.

This is about who we are.  You can believe in the nation-state or you can believe in a borderless world.   Either the people are sovereign or corporations are.   Either we are sovereign or the media is. Either your vote counts or it is nullified by the administrative state.

America is closely divided, horrifyingly so, on matters only a short time ago not under question.

We’ve reached a point in Los Angeles where we are no longer telling the truth about ourselves to ourselves, so we unfriend our neighbors instead.  We threaten to turn each other into memes.

Politics until recently was played between the 40-yard lines.  Claims of catastrophe if the other side prevailed were generally bullshit.  Beneath the hyperbole on cable news, an undertow of bipartisan consensus held: on Wall Street rescue packages, trade with China, techno-utopianism,  deficit spending, the forever war in Afghanistan.  Not this time.  The competing claims are too irreconcilable.

So how to share space with each other after the shock of discovery?   We can start by practicing good manners now. That begins with listening well.