A Tear in the Lovelock Bridge

Nine years...

Nine years…

Thirty-six years....old school

Thirty-six years….old school

Uh-oh

Uh-oh..wire cutters!

At what point in the whirlpool of a breakup — collecting the clothes, returning books, clearing out the accounts, screaming on the phone– does one remember, “oh hell, the lock on the bridge.  What did you do with the damn key?”

“What do you mean, me?  You were supposed to take care of it.”

For how long does one rummage the detritus of a relationship before one reaches for the wire cutters?  Is it a chore for the offended party alone?  If you’re angry enough to commit the sacrilege of cutting the fence, don’t you still care? What if the the key really isn’t lost, and one party to the breakup is withholding its whereabouts?  How many relationships have come back from the brink during the deeply symbolic search for the key?

Tearing a hole in the fence, that’s Full Bitter.  If I can’t be happy no one else should be, either.  

The living water of the LA River is unperturbed by the operatics on the bridge.  Nature has a way of upstaging all of us.

Oy, gevalt. Double never.

Bystanders, once more

Put a fork in ‘em

Admit it, you were beginning to feel tingles of excitement. This year, your vote was going to count, for the first time ever, perhaps.  Your inbox was filling with solicitations to donate, to volunteer. Snatches of political gossip fluttered about you like the flappings of moths, as you went about your day.

Trump this!  Sanders that! 

Be honest, these are the only two you heard anyone talking about.

California, on the verge of 1968 all over again.  Minus the assassination. (We hope)

All the old rules were in the wind.

Our two districts in the Valley were about to be hotly contested battlegrounds in which twelve precious delegates were to be dispersed, six for each party.  Twelve! Like a jury pool, we waited in attention, preparing for the deluge.  The fate of the country, down to us, on the final day of the primary season. One felt so enfranchised

Yesterday, Other People, ahead of us in line, settled it.   Boo!

Now we’re stuck with two candidates who are the subject of “#never” campaigns as the presumptive nominees.  If you vote for Trump are you voting for or against the Republican party?  It’s unclear. If you vote for Hillary you are voting for Wall Street. But she swears you’re not.  What if you’re a double never, and earlier vowed, rashly, to support neither? What now to do?

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You can put your palms together and come to center and bring a measure of order to the chaos of the world.

When the Freeway Killer came to Van Nuys

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“Creepily and sadly one of my classmates who lived around the corner was lured and killed by the Freeway Killer while walking along the Pacoima wash to the 7/11 on Valerio/Van Nuys Blvd. That was the way we always rode our bikes…”  –Correspondence from a reader in Wellesley, Mass, who was raised on Lull St. in Van Nuys.

“Our neighbor had originally owned and farmed the land there.  Her husband had been “gassed” during WWI but I didn’t learn what that meant for many years. She had sold all but an acre of the original property and tract houses were put up.  She had retained a magnificent orchard–lemons, limes, tangerines, grapefruits, oranges, plums, peaches, pomegranates, and grew her own vegetables.  She let us have the run of her yard and we were too young to realize that it was full of black widow spiders.  Part of her original property was left undeveloped (a virtually empty field we called the dead end) except for a large old, empty house (the haunted house).  That was our playground….”

William Bonin killed 21 teenaged boys in the Los Angeles area between May 1979-June 1980. He accomplished this in the 1970’s fashion: by luring them into his Chevy van.  They were subdued, raped, then strangled, frequently with their own t-shirts.  The bodies were dropped off alongside freeways around Southern California.  Bonin had six prior convictions of sexual assault at the time of his murder spree, and had been deemed an “untreatable offender” by psychiatrists at Atascadero State Hospital.   Yet there he was, the Hurdy-Gurdy Man on parole, free to cruise Van Nuys Blvd when he found Victim #12, Ronald Gatlin.

Empty fields and fruit trees and free range to ride one’s bike unsupervised was the essence of Valley life for kids in the 1970’s. It was why families chose to live here rather than Venice. Van Nuys was thought of the way we think of Valencia now, a far away land, well removed from the chaos of the city.

Three Strikes laws and electronic dragnets have done away with the William Bonins of California. By any statistical measure, Los Angeles is far safer from random crime than it has ever been.    There are more shaded streets, more crosswalks and more speed bumps and safety helmets, but you don’t see kids wandering around, away from the reach of parents.

The Pacoima wash is fenced off now.  Once the playground is violated, it’s done.  Freedom can be a difficult thing to re-learn.

The MILF Hunters

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She was about 28, Latina, packed into a short dress. He was in his late 40’s, balding.  They were going to Manhattan Beach, ‘Milf hunting’, she announced, as they climbed into my Uber.

She had taken on the role of ringmaster for the evening, squirming in his lap as she explained the rules to him.

“Number one, Milfs like to be petted.”

“They do?  How exactly?”

“Two fingers. Stroke her hair.  They like to be touched. But not too hard.”

“Are three fingers too many?”

“Five are too many. That’s aggressive.  Rule Number Two: avoid anyone dressed in red. They’re batshit crazy.”

“What about bright colors?”

“Seriously, no. It’s nature’s way of warning you of danger. Number three, I’ll signal you.  If I go like this: (playing with necklace) that means you have ten minutes to close the deal.  If I go like this: (flips hair) it means yes. If I rub my belly, it means I’m ready to go home.  Basically, the lower I go, the crazier I think she is.”

“Got it.”

On the freeway, her phone rang.  She was not pleased. “Why are you calling?….none of your business….why are you going into my computer?…there’s nothing there for you….nothing….I’ll be there when I get there. Don’t call.”

Turning to her companion, she breathily told him, “he’s really obsessed with you.”

The phone call provided some kind of accelerant to the purpose of their evening. The conversation trailed off into wet, smacking kissing sounds for the remainder of the ride.  Who she was to him and who the caller was to her, and how the Milfs fit into it remained a mystery, but I was entertained.

It also occurred to me my marriage was distressingly stable and predictable.

On Sunday we went to Chibiscus for noodles. Obeying an impulse, I publicly violated the Two-Finger Rule with Mrs. UpintheValley.  Cupping her face in my palm, she responded with something tantalizingly akin to submissive purring.  Perhaps the Milf hunters were on to something.

“Darling, I’m so happy….my ramen is here.”

And on that note, two bowls appeared before us, and we commenced to supper.

Jakarta Twilight

Still life, with PTSD

Still life, with PTSD

I work the closing shift, which means I get to drive over the 405 in the middle of the afternoon, and return to the Valley at 10:30 pm. On a good day, Brentwood to Van Nuys in under 12 minutes, if I hit all the lights. I’m one of the few people in LA who loves his commute.  Like an idiot, I’ve tempted fate by saying this aloud.

Yesterday, I had to go to work early, which means I left early, which means I joined the tail end of the normal commuter flow, with everybody else.  How bad could it be?

Lets put it this way: at seven thirty, I was on Barrington,  four cars away from Sunset Blvd, looking out the window at this beautiful vintage gas station framed in milky twilight, and in a very civil mood. Off early! I could go to the gym!  Perhaps Mrs. UpintheValley was still awake and could be had for the price of a foot rub!  No tired lion, me. All possibilities were on the table.

At eight o’clock, darkness had fallen, and I was still next to the same gas station, on the Sunset side, and I was plotting revenge against everyone who ever wronged me.

The stoplight would cycle through, and nobody would move.  This didn’t dissuade anyone entering from side streets inserting the nose of their car into the scrum.  Unhappy honkings all around…random, pointless, like steer lowing in a slaughterhouse pen.

I thought of Joe Gillis evading the repo men in the opening sequence of Sunset Boulevard, and how comically unrealistic that would play now.  When much of LA was laid out, traffic signals looked like this:

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Gas stations looked like movie palaces and Westwood Village looked like this.

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K-Town looked like this. That’s Oasis Church on the right.  It is now one of the shorter buildings on Wilshire Blvd.  Add three million people to this picture and take away the Pacific Electric Red Car.  That’s where we find ourselves today, scurrying to rebuild the public transportation we once had.    A bus and rail line for the working poor, slumped over in their seats, ear buds on, locked into their own podcasts, dreaming of the day they’ll be able to afford a car of their own.  And a house in Van Nuys.

It took me an hour to reach the freeway. That’s .25 mph.  Point two-five! The full Jakarta…

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When I entered Macleod, they were playing traditional Irish songs and ballads.  iPads were used in place of sheet music,  I couldn’t help noticing. Here, two centuries were working to shared advantage.  I ordered a Better Days ale. Beer has rarely tasted so good.

The Once and Future Bento Box

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There’s a lot of this housing going up all over Los Angeles. Boxy, modular, poured concrete or stucco with some kind of horizontal wood feature set against a tiled entranceway.

This looked sharp and fresh half a dozen years ago but is entirely predictable now.  I’m not saying it doesn’t look good. I’m wondering how it will look 30 years hence. Will we look upon this housing stock the way we look at 70’s kitsch today? As an eyesore?

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Or will it fall into some oddball historical cul-de-sac like the once-modernist work of Richard Neutra, admired by preservationists, but neglected by owners?

Is Craftsman and Mission style architecture the only native California form which will stand the scrutiny of the ages? Which will be both loved and lived in?