Cutting The Loaf

They slice it just like bread

Just like bread

Before I got schooled, I assumed granite arrived from overseas as sheets, and only the fabricating was done here.  But no, it’s quarried and shipped as giant blocks. Loaves, to use the industry term. They slice it up on this giant machine  right here in the Valley.
The things you learn when doing the kitchen.  

After my physical exertions, to anticapte the topping of the cake prized from the earth in such a brute manner gave me pleasure.

Here’s something else you learn.

Sniffing around a granite yard looking for a pattern known as green rose, I was confronted by a lugubrious man with a baroque Mediterranean accent who popped out from between two loaves of granite, like the Lorax.

Man:  May I help you sir!

Me: Aaah!  

Man:  How may I help you?

Me: I’m looking for a green rose pattern.

He marched me into the showroom and pointed to the slab you see here.

Man:  Here is green. 

I looked around like an idiot, thinking he must be pointing elsewhere.

Me:  You’re saying this is green?

Man:  Is green.

Me: This?

Man: IS green.  Look around the room if you don’t believe me.  You tell me which one is green.

I showed him a picture of what I was looking for on my phone.

Man:  You’ll never find that, sir.  No one has that. What I have is as close to what you’re looking for in the entire city, and I know all the inventory. 

And that was the beginning of our quest through the stone yards of the Valley.

Knockdown, Improve, Engulf and Devour

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When I park my car on Westgate, I walk past construction sites like these on my way to the store.  Every single storey house north of Montana is getting knocked down upon change of ownership.   Perpetual construction. Multiple job sites on a single block.

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A couple weeks ago I arrived at work to find I had become a reluctant, though inadvertent, villain.  Whole Foods was in the process of evicting the Brentwood newsstand, a neighborhood institution for 28 years, and I was compelled to walk past a picket line to enter the store.

Marck Sarfati, the owner, put on a full court press in the media, deploying celebrity petitioners, and a Holocaust survivor father, whose “survival” depended on the stand’s income.  About his expensive watch and luxury car, nothing was said.

Before it was a Whole Foods, the Brentwood store was once called Mrs. Gooch’s.   There were seven of them in Los Angeles when they were bought out by John Mackey in 1993.  The parking lot, that most prosaic of LA disputed zones, was shared by the store and the stand, and a perpetual sore point of overlapping demand.  Whole Foods had waited years for the lease to expire, and now they were getting the parking spaces back, and there wasn’t nothing Tommy Chong and Dustin Hoffman could do about it.

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So there the drama percolated for a few days, before we discovered Whole Foods had just been devoured, plank and nail, by Lex Luthor for $14 billion. The flagship of organic food and upper-middle class virtue-signaling consumption was now a subsidiary of the largest retail entity in the world. Amazon stock increased $18 billion in value on news of the merger, which meant Jeff Bezos had purchased 432 stores and 91,000 employees for the price of lifting a pinkie finger and cooing: because it’s my birthday Smeagol, and I wants it. 

Walmart killed Main Street (sort of) and now Amazon is killing Walmart. To avoid being overtaken in ten years by a more nimble start-up yet to rise from a Y Combinator confab, Bezos is buying up the premium real estate of retail.

American wealth is moving, inexorably, like metal shavings in a magnetic force field, toward the coasts. In the coastal areas, it is piling up into the canyons, and closer to the beaches, or to higher floors downtown. A winner take all economy concedes nothing to the middle.

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I don’t think Mr. Sarfati is going to be able to keep his newsstand. On the bright side, I have bitchin new Ikea cabinets, and one curious foundling black kitten.