Whack-A-Mole

Marissa and Baby

Marisa told me her foot was infected from a spider bite. Shoeless, she gingerly picked her way through the debris. They had two dogs living with them.

Both sides of the freeway were cleared out only a few weeks ago, everyone pushed off of State of California property and onto the railroad tracks (the county’s problem) or onto a tiny patch of ground next to the Roscoe Blvd offramp, two feet from traffic (the City’s problem).  They’ve slowly trickled back, in pairs. Nature abhors a vacuum.

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In the chaos of moving day, there were lost connections.

Maria, Light and Dark

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I have no arms, therefore I have no opposable thumbs, therefore I am incapable of hooking them into my bottoms and peeling them suggestively off my hips. I am a daughter incapable of sin.  I burn a novena candle for the temptations of this fallen world.

I, on the other hand...

I, on the other hand, will take your $20 now

Squeaky Wheel

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Last week, in the run-up to the city council election, I posted of the ongoing problem of the crackhead encampment blocking the Bear Mural on Roscoe Blvd.

Two days later, the crackheads were gone.

Whisked away, as though by some kind of municipal rapture.  Only tagging and little heaps of discarded clothing remained.

I’m not sure how I feel about this.

To have a cranky blog post turn the gears of the City machinery in a helpful direction is…satisfying on the one hand.  On the other….really? Really? This has been going on for over a year. I tag Nury Martinez’s name on election eve and suddenly somebody who matters picks up the phone and calls Street Services?

Okay, I choose to be grateful.  Full props to whoever made the call, whatever the motivation.

I have keyboard, hear me squeak.

District 6 is a Colony

Civic surrender on Roscoe

Nury surrenders the Bears

Once upon a time, along Roscoe Blvd, civic-minded people saw a concrete wall and imagined a mural.  So a mural was summoned forth.

For years afterward, if one stopped beneath the 405, waiting for traffic to clear, one was treated to a tableau of rusticating California golden bears. Bears rubbing their backs against trees. Bears spearing salmon from waterfalls.  Bears in mustard fields grappling one another in terpsichorean ecstasy. Bears watching enigmatically from their shrinking habitat, preparing for hibernation, while you sat in your car revving up for your day, or taking inventory of the ingredients needed for dinner, depending which direction the car was pointing.

It wasn’t Guernica, but it was an engaging piece of public art. A punctuation to your day, a yogic breath before the left turn to the on-ramp, where you could enter the forest for a moment and walk among the grizzlies.  And then the light would change.

Set beside the civic artwork of the other great cities of the world, the Bear Mural is but a widow’s mite. A Valley-esque exercise in middlebrow taste.

Twasn’t much, but it worked. And until this past year, it was ours.

Then the shopping carts began to appear. Then mattress and sleeping bags.

Then the city, in its ever-expanding need to fatten pensions wisdom, silently declared the mural and all its street frontage to be the responsibility of the state of California. Since it was ‘under the freeway’ it need no longer be policed by Los Angeles.

Nury surrenders Parthenia

Nury surrenders Parthenia

In short order, the carts and mattresses gave way to a fortress city of bagged crap which decanted urine in the middle of the day and bore menacing signs.  In keeping with Wilson’s Law of Broken Windows, all the murals under the 405 are disappearing under heavy tagging.

I can think of a place this wouldn’t be allowed to happen: Sherman Oaks.

I can think of another: the City of San Fernando.

When there are 5,000 people per councilperson, calls get returned. When there are 300,000 people per councilperson, she never has to shake your hand. So she doesn’t.

The City of Los Angeles has more tax revenue this year than last, more last year than the year before that. It’s going somewhere, just not to Van Nuys.

More houses have been renovated in my neighborhood, gut-renovated, from the foundation up, in the past four years than in the past 50 combined.  Move twenty feet off any boulevard and you’re standing in an urban Mayberry, self-sustaining, joyful, polite, and without crime.  An embodiment of our finest virtues: hard work, parsimony, kindness to others, faith and family. Virtues which are shared across the many dialects of our neighborhood.  Friends from other areas of LA doubt me on the crime part, but it’s true. I have no need to lock my house.

Step back on the boulevard and you’re looking at a slum mall with a PayDay lender, a dialysis clinic, and a convenience store feeding off EBT cards.  The man who owns the strip mall doesn’t live here, but he extracts a fat dollar from blight.  The city functionaries who dole out the EBT cards and Section 8 vouchers make a nice living doing so, but they don’t live here either.  People in the public sector are paid twice the salary the citizens they serve, but when I went to Nury Martinez’s office her field deputy didn’t know where Sepulveda Gulch was until I showed her on a map.

Blight is the end result of policy choices.  We’re having an election next week in CD 6, but if you do a little homework,  you’ll notice that 98% of the money spent on mailers and signs is coming from sources outside the district. People with business before the council.  People looking for Mayberry’s money.  Mayberry keeps grinding it out, reliably, and the taxation which sustains the City is nothing if not regressive.

The city budget is $8 billion a year, but good luck persuading Nury to install a few sprinklers to revive dead landscaping on the ugliest stretch of Sepulveda Blvd.   Or pay for a Levi Ponce mural.  What would be the point of that?  We’re a colony, after all.   They can just hand us shovels and tell us to fill in our own potholes.

On Tuesday, a few hundred people are going to spend an obscene sum of Mayberry’s money to persuade a few thousand people to give a 12-year sinecure and million-dollar pension to a woman who couldn’t say, when asked, what the City’s unfunded liability is.

How were 80,000 British soldiers able to maintain dominion over 200 million Hindus? By persuading them to internalize their own inferiority.  Burn all foreign dress, Gandhi advised. Don’t wear the white man’s colonial suit.  Your mind will follow.

Looking for cans in Cratchit-ville

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Hey neighbor!  Good to see you!

She was yelling at me from across the McDonalds parking lot.  She was pushing her cart, as she does most afternoons, on the prowl for cans and bottles to take to the recycling center. She lives in a Cratchit trailer behind another trailer behind the house at the end of my block.

Sometimes we hear her yelling profanities at no one in particular as she walks past our yard.  She doesn’t mean anything by it. It’s just her way. She’s actually quite sweet.

Her landlady passed away, as did the landlady’s husband.  Now the landlady’s mentally challenged adult son has title to the house. He works as a janitor at Wal-Mart. He comes home and plays Call of Duty with the volume turned up to the distortion level and the sound of machine gun fire emanates from the open doorway, tumbling down the block in gusts of mayhem. Three times a day the son rides a handicapped scooter to one of the local fast food outlets for his meal and carts it home in a basket. He lets rooms both inside and outside the house to an assortment of people, including this woman’s ex-husband. The house and its many surrounding structures are a rabbit warren for the dispossessed. There’s a man who’s rented there for 26 years. There’s another who shuffles up and down the block, stooped over at the waist from illness or injury, frequently leading a small boy by the hand, occasionally carrying him on his shoulders.  Sometimes they are dressed for church.

Together they make up a sort of misfit family of convenience.

Signposts in North Hills

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I wasn’t sure what to make of this lady, whispering to herself while blowing kisses and making peek-a-boo faces at passing cars.   It was Sepulveda Blvd, but then one shouldn’t judge by appearances.  She was the first person Giles and I encountered on our walk tonight.  Sort of like a Wal-Mart greeter for the neighborhood.

The extra Z is for better sleep

The extra Z is for better sleep

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Turning east from Sepulveda, I encountered a street I never heard of with the Salinger-esque name of Memory Park. It was one block long and appeared to be the last bastion of white holdouts from the old days.  I saw two Clint Eastwood in Gran Turino-type guys tinkering in immaculately well-organized garages, one with an American flag hanging un-ironically off the front porch.

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The other house hosted ‘Fun Daycare’,  with a frolicking babysitter-in-a-miniskirt graphic.  I don’t know what to make of this.  Daycare shouldn’t be jail, but should it be this frivolous?  Is it a pitch subtly geared toward sleazy fathers dropping off kids?  It seems like a sly visual joke for a slasher movie. But then again it could just as possibly be entirely innocent, and probably is.

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Then there were these signs,  scattered up and down the boulevard.    This is the info it provides:

How To Pick-Up Girls And Have Them Call You You Will Never Have To Call Girls Again

There are only general rules, you need details becasue every situation is different.

1. Stop spending money in taking girls out to dinner, quit buying flowers and other things. Instead, use that money to pay her to help you wash your car, clean your house, etc.

2. You must pay her by the hour. You clock her in when she starts, and clock her out when she is ready to go home; pay her in cash before she leaves: that is the reason why she will call you again. Never take advantage of her by having her around you for free becasue she will not call you back.

3. The only proble is that they get lazy after the 3rd day and want to relax and have a good time on the clock, but since you are a ‘nice guy’ you will let her (on the clock)

Procedure

1. Send a money order for the amount of minutes you want to buy for consultation $2.00 per minute, $20.00 minimum (10 Minutes)

2. Don’t forget to give us your phone number and name. ( We file by phone numbers)

3. Use text til we call you. We’ll call you once we receive your money order (no checks) then, we’ll schedule a time for a phone meeting that is convenient for you.

Send Money Order Made Out To:

Mark Barton

1317 North San Fernando Blvd., Burbank, CA 91504

According to Google Maps, the address is a mail drop.