The Water Gauntlet

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There is a time in life when all you need to entertain yourself is an inclined plane, a concrete obstacle, some Red Bull and a bit of free range parenting. Add a few buckets of water and you’ve invented the next X-Games event.

This the way boys used to grow up in the Valley, and can do so again, if the world lets them.

Eduardo, fearless

Eduardo, fearless, wet and happy

Cult of Personality

The divinization of Nury has begun

The divinization of Nury has begun

Flattery of politicians through muraling is the hallmark of Third World governance.   Why are we doing it in Los Angeles?

Why are we allowing politicians to put their faces on public service billboards, campaign style, paid for with our tax dollars?

Why are we allowing Councilman Jose Huizar to use the marquee of the historic Los Angeles theater on Broadway as his personal bulletin board?

Why are we allowing Kevin De Leon to throw a party for himself at Disney Hall, complete with mariachi bands and banquet tables, to “celebrate” his selection to the revolving post of Senate Pro Tempore?

Just asking.

The exploded favela

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Cabrito Street having been vacated post-murder, then gated off at the east end, the tribes have dispersed around the neighborhood, hunkering down in new locales amid the shrubbery.

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As inexorably as the mimetic polyalloy particles of the shapeshifting T-1000 in Terminator 2, the favela has begun to reconstitute itself.

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Little wagon trains of shopping carts are cropping up anew.

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They perch on the embankment and bide their time. They got all day.  I give it a month before it fully reassembles. Nature abhors a vacuum.

Wither gravity?

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Is this really happening?

He’s boorish and says distasteful things about women and says them reflexively. He writes checks with his mouth America will not be able to cash, like announcing the Iranians will turn over all hostages before he assume the Oval Office.  Or the Mexican government will pay to build a wall between us. He, who never served, mocked John McCain for being a POW. He dismissed Ben Carson, pediatric neurosurgeon of renown as “an okay doctor, who hired maybe one nurse, but not great”. He dismissed Hugh Hewitt, with 25,000 interviews to his credit, as a “third-rate talk show host”, when Hugh innocently revealed through questions Trump could not distinguish between Quds and Kurds.

And yet! There he is, making the weather, defying all political laws. A Sun King, in waiting.  To quote pollster Stu Rothenberg:

 “I have been arguing that once Iowa Republicans start to see the caucuses as an opportunity to select the next president, rather than an opportunity to express their frustration and anger, they will turn away from Trump and toward politically experienced, mainstream contenders. After combing through the most recent surveys from the Iowa caucuses and talking with veteran Republican strategists, I can no longer say that with any certainty…”

My father, a George McGovern/Bernie Sanders liberal to the bone, loves Trump.

Over beers at Macleod last night, three of us confessed were the election held today, in a matchup between Hillary and Trump we would all vote for Mr. Bombastic, despite his baggage.  None of us wanted to. But given the choice….

Secretly we wished he would say or do something so terrible it would derail his candidacy once and for all, so we wouldn’t have to choose.  But hasn’t he done that five times already?

If nothing else, Trump is right about one thing: illegal immigration and how deeply it is resented in this country. What is resented even more is the institutionalized deceit with which it is protected by the political media.  I say this as someone who resides happily in a neighborhood of first generation Latino and Asian immigrants, strivers all. My beloved working-class brigadoon of Van Nuys.

Sometimes all it takes is one fundamental truth to ride to power. When the distance between what one is publicly permitted to say and what is privately felt becomes unsustainable, there’s a fissure, and the geyser erupts. After that, all bets are off.

What then, though? Suppose he wins? Having taken the prize, we are left with the man, and all his frailties.

Not Joan of Arc

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Nor Our Lady of Cannabis, patron saint of pot shops, either. Though she’s been mistaken for both.

It’s Miss American Green Cross, forgotten saint of reforestation, icon of the eponymous Californian environmental organization no longer with us, but which left a statue behind in Brand Park in 1928.

What do you mean you’ve never heard of her?

Neither did we, until we happened upon her quite by accident today, after journeying to the delightful Kenneth Village neighborhood of Glendale, another Labor Day discovery, for vegan yogurt.

The American Green Cross is so defunct it doesn’t even muster a Wikipedia entry.

The statue was originally unveiled at Glendale High School.  At some point in the the Depression, she was spirited away and dumped in the foothills above Brand Park, where she moldered in obscurity for decades, vandalized and forgotten. In the early eighties she was hauled down the hill to the city maintenance yard where she languished for over a decade.  The Glendale Historical Society restored her, and now she stands with pride of place at the foot of the loop trail.

People mistook her for Joan of Arc due to the pile of firewood stacked at her feet.

Fifteen feet from the 405

*An unfinished version of this post was published accidentally an hour ago. I apologize if it ended up in your inbox.

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The first time I met White Eagle he was emerging from an abandoned warehouse with a shopping cart heaped with electrical wires.  He was wearing leather pants and earrings, and looked like he played guitar in a glam rock band. For a guy living on the street, which he claimed to be doing for 13 years, and down to his last five teeth, he was oddly, unexpectedly attractive.  He was on his way to the recycling center with his plunder, and his rapid-fire tweaker talk was so animated it arced across the space between us and I felt like I just did a bump myself.

From time to time I would see him while I was out walking the dogs,  and there were these little nods of recognition, bum and homeowner.  Usually he was coming or going from Raymer Street, bearing his loads of scrap and offered short, effervescent bursts of conversation which I politely nodded along with but could make no sense of a minute later as I replayed them in my head.

Once I found him in a reflective mood.  I asked how he was doing. He professed loneliness.

“I’m homeless veteran and I’m gay. I’m a one-man leper colony out here.”

Four Mexicans had recently tried to beat him up, he said. For being a faggot.  Even after he did them a solid by pointing pursuing police in the wrong direction.  He put a stop to that quick.  He wasn’t in the Navy Seals for 12 years for nothing.  Or was it the Green Berets? His story evolved with different tellings.  Sometimes he was on the street for 12 years, sometimes in the military. Sometimes both.

Earlier in the summer he was staying in The Narrows,  a concrete channel behind Target.  It was going to be dry down there for awhile, and they were going to make the most of it. They had tarp shade overhead and lights and a cookstove and a generator. The police told them they could stay as long as they didn’t make too much noise or bother the neighbors.  Or so he said.

After the murder in the favela last week, I went looking for White Eagle, to see what I could learn. When I went to the Narrows, they professed no knowledge of him. When I went to the favela, they told he lived up at the 405.

“He never comes down here.  That’s where he belongs.”

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I went to the 405.   Everyone was gone.

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I mean everybody. Normally dozens of people live here.  It was like the Rapture had come.

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Next time you exit the 405 in the Valley and you wonder what’s going on down in the shrubbery, this is it.  Urban hobbits have built a shire.  Where they’ve gone now, and for how long, I don’t know.  Maybe when I see White Eagle again, he’ll tell me.