Trumpland, Thirty Years After

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Who would live in Koreatown thirty years ago, but Korean peasants, fresh off the boat, hot racking it in the back room over a corner store, putting in 12-hour days, eager to one day become Korean merchants?  Certainly not middle class white people.

To put it differently, who wouldn’t rather live in a crime-free Valley with a lawn and a breezeway and a carport for the boat, and pay for it with one income?

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Today, if you want to eat, you go to Koreatown. You want to buy a pair of shoes, you want to bowl, you want to have a craft cocktail, you want to see pretty people, or to aspire to prettiness yourself, you want to dance, you want to walk down crime-free immaculately manicured streets, if you want to practice your golf swing….

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…you come here. You stand on a platform five storeys over Wilshire, surrounded by construction cranes, and a machine lifts the ball out of a hole in the floor, and tees it up for you. Perfectly, over and over again. Ten cents a ball.

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You stand over the rooftops like a god, for $18. When it’s over you get in a time machine and crawl over the pass, to the lost world of Fast Times at Ridgemont High.  You are home, yet somehow your heart is elsewhere.

How Dreck Is Made

Does this look plumb to you?

Does this wall look plumb to you?

Lets take a closer look...

Lets take a closer look…hmmm

How is the poured concrete attached to the blocks?

Let us connect concrete walls using the cake batter technique

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Construction has stopped on the new USA Fitness gym in Panorama for reasons not aesthetic.  Like an abandoned ark, this hodgepodge of listing, peeling concrete forms and blocks has loomed for months, half-completed, over Van Nuys Blvd.  Shut down by the Building Department, presumably.

The trouble would appear to have originated in the failed mating of two distinct structural techniques, poured concrete and reinforced blocks.  The blocks went up first. They must have thought they could use the exoskeleton as an anchor for setting forms for the pour, but they gave way.   Those who skimp on aesthetics will skimp on engineering. They will do the minimum.  Cheap on cheap equals cheap.

T’wasn’t always so. Los Angeles is thick with sublime and timeless commercial structures, built by craftsmen, forgotten or hidden over the years behind quick paint jobs and dreadful get it done by Wednesday facades.

Even in Panorama.

Panorama, 1964

Ohrbach’s, 1964

Valley Swap Meet, 2017

Valley Swap Meet, 2017

The Vertical Valley

Out: The Abandoned Church In: The Multi-Unit Apartment Complex

Out: The Abandoned Church
In: The Multi-Storey Apartment Whatever

Out: Hot Sheets Motel In: Mega-Apartments, with ground floor retail

Out: The Hot Sheets Motel
In: The Lifestyle Complex, and ground floor retail

Out: The Mini-Mall In: The Mixed Use Tower

Out: The Mini-Mall
In: The Glass Box 

Out: Abandoned Office Building In: Live-work spaces

Out: The long-abandoned Panorama Tower
In: “Live-work spaces”

Out: Green Arrow nurseries, after 50 years

Out: Green Arrow nurseries, after 50 years

In: Developer Renderings

In: Developer Renderings

God ain’t making any more of it. We got nowhere to go but up.

The post-war, asphalt parking lot, low density Valley prototype we’ve always known, beloved and dreckish, is going the way of the VW beetle.  It won’t be K-town exactly, but in five years Sepulveda Blvd is going to look a whole lot different.

Jesus, R.I.P.

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Jesus was driving on Willis Avenue Sunday night, when he was cut off by another car. At the stoplight on Roscoe Blvd., he exited his vehicle and approached the offending driver, intending to confront him.    In response, five shots were fired through the window, and the car sped away. Jesus died in the street. His family watched the craziness unfold from inside their car.

A father of two, reduced to a sidewalk shrine of novena candles in 30 seconds.

No words were exchanged.

Rage, rooted in the French Latin: rabies.

We speak of rage as something we fall into, or are thrown into,  like a pit. Perhaps it is somewhat different. Perhaps it is the moment the Holy Spirit leaves our body.  A wrinkle not only in time but an interruption in the flow of consciousness.  On any given day we might be triggered in some way, expend our rage in a Reichian moment, then come back to ourselves.  But on this day Jesus Alejandro Benitez Jaimez encountered someone more rage-filled and intemperate than himself, putting his soul at hazard. He threw caution into the void and from the void the Devil extracted his due.

There are those who disagree with a spiritual interpretation. Rage is purely chemical, they feel.  A chain reaction out of the hypothalamus. As random as weather.

Imagine a blue fin tuna swimming off the coast of Japan, ending up on a sushi plate.  Why that particular fish, out of all the fish in the world?  How did it wind up in that particular net, hoisted into a certain boat, sold at auction X, to distributor Y,  and put on a pallet to Long Beach, and not to Singapore? Was it destined for my belly, and no other?

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We may feel, and indeed be, very small on a planetary scale. But we retain moral agency over the forces of light and darkness within us. When a garden variety traffic annoyance triggers a fight-or-flight response, something else is going on. I submit the Spirit has been abandoned.

Goodbye, Eucalyptus

First, we get rid of the trees

First, we get rid of the trees

It had to happen eventually. The carcass of Montgomery Ward on Roscoe Blvd, empty for fifteen years, our weed-sprouted, broken asphalt slice of Detroit-on-the-Pacific,  is about to be transformed into Icon at Panorama, a discount version of The Grove.  Or something with chain stores, anyway.  Sometime in 2019.

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Why it should take so long is a mystery.  For now, the trees, ghostly sentinels from a lost episode of The Walking Dead, have met the chainsaw.

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Trunk-burnt,  twisting from the asphalt toward a merciless sun, defying the death to which they had been consigned by the abandoned schemes of commerce.  A foreshadow of life after people.