Feel Free…

To take your dog's poop home with you

…to take your dog’s poop home with you

To smoke heroin at the car wash

Or to smoke heroin at the car wash…

To waste away before an indifferent public

…and waste away before an indifferent public.

Our parallel worlds:  Civility in the neighborhood, enforced by gentle pleas and social shaming; feral disorder on the boulevard.

A state of nature and an oasis of calm separated by a distance as short as a frisbee toss.

The blessings of freedom may be enshrined in the Constitution but are enjoyed differently, depending on how you feel about personal responsibility and whether you act on it.

Would a billboard which read: “Feel free to smoke crack elsewhere” have a salutary effect? How about “Smoke faster, get it over with”?  Or “God loves you and wants you to be sober”?

Mark Zuckerberg has called for a universal basic income, welfare for all, offered unconditionally.  The rise of artificial intelligence and robotics will, as a matter of technological determinism, eliminate many jobs currently held by Americans.  A UBI would preserve the Social Contract. “So that we may have roles we find meaningful…and that everyone may have a cushion to try new ideas.”

Would it?  If you were told you didnt need to go to work tomorrow because you were being replaced by a seven-armed anthropomorphic device wirelessly operated from a server farm,  but not to worry,  your paychecks will keep coming courtesy of the US government,  unto death, what would you do with your time?

“I’d go surfing every day,” said my coworker, when I put the question to him. “I’d surf and I’d bake and I’d take pictures.”  And why shouldn’t he? It would be free.

But for how long could this immunity from labor be sustained?  Binge watching Netflix might not feel like freedom after awhile.  One might begin to miss the leash. The UBI people may begin to envy the clock punchers.  Jobs might be hoarded like property, to be passed on to heirs like a family estate.  Because we’ll all be compelled to remove moral judgements about idleness (robotics!) anger will be misdirected everywhere.

We might drive up Sepulveda looking at the guys smoking heroin at the car wash and think….those aren’t derelicts, they’re Early Adopters.

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

Goodbye, Freasy

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Well, this is a blow. Fresh and Easy is closing all 97 stores in California this week.  Liquidation of inventory has begun. Mrs. UpintheValley took advantage of the markdowns to clear out the bulk items at the Sepulveda store, which was always so conveniently situated right on the way home.

Soon it will be another empty husk in a strip mall. Maybe the Dollar King next door will expand into it like an invading ant army.  Maybe it will sit empty for half a year, while the landlord sits on the property, watching its value increase by the minute. In Los Angeles, the real estate casino always wins.

I suppose a sudden arrival of Trader Joes would be too much to hope for.

Not sure why the Freasy didn’t do better.  While it didn’t offer the vast inventory of Costco, or priced as cheap as SuperKing or the Mexican markets, it had an interesting product mix; plenty of vegan and gluten-free options, pre-packaged semi-gourmet meals for singles, ample parking, easy self-checkout.  Also, it was the only place in the Valley open 24 hours, which made for a welcome 3 am pit stop after a long night Ubering.  Andrew at HereinVanNuys described it as like grocery shopping at Ikea, which was not an inaccurate assessment.   It was a store that made perfect sense on paper, but never got the trade to come through the doors.

Seeing the going out of business signs made me think of a different strip mall, at Selma and Cahuenga.  A decade ago it was just another shitty corner in a tacky, at times crime-addled, part of Hollywood.  There was the inevitable liquor store/laundromat combo, the impossibly tight parking spaces, insufficient in number. Crackheads and winos, puttering about. Trash.  Garish signage. A forgettable eyesore.

Today there are three, count them, three, gastropubs, a Pinkberry, and a couple boutiques.  In one strip mall.

The corner of Sepulveda and Vanowen a decade ago had a Ralphs, a Baskin Robbins, high traffic and good visibility.  It was surrounded by quiet leafy neighborhoods of mid-century homes populated by middle class people with jobs.  Dated, certainly, but a solid business investment, one would think.  Apparently one would be wrong.

The divergent fates of these two corners say a lot about what’s happening to this City.

Morning, Ho

Working the commuter trade

Sepulveda, 8 AM

Seeing a gaggle of booty-shorted women working a corner in the harsh, unforgiving morning light, one thinks: who does this?  Who pulls over in the middle of the commute, in full view of the yoga moms and clock punchers and school buses and negotiates a curbside transaction for full release? 

Men do.  Otherwise these ladies wouldn’t be here.

The Daily News profiled an undercover operation not long ago, in which the first john nabbed was suddenly surrounded by his wife, mother and kids, all yelling at the police demanding to know why he was being arrested. It turned out he was procuring his…date…down the block from his house. In daylight.

Men. We stupid sometimes.

A Proclamation on Behalf of The Pimp

US Supreme Court

Amidst the anticipation of this week’s Supreme Court decisions regarding gay marriage and Obamacare, yesterday with quiet fanfare the great edifice of law put scales to the question of Sepulveda Blvd motels.

Our motels! Our hooker strip!  Us!  Right here in the Valley!

In Los Angeles v. Patel, the Court struck down municipal code § 41.49, which allowed the police to inspect motel records without a warrant, specifically to identify patrons paying cash and staying less than 12 hours.  Meaning, hookers and johns.

The decision was argued on fourth amendment grounds, with much discursive argument as to what constituted a private record and whether motels met the definition of a ‘closely regulated’ business, and what exactly was an undue burden on owners.

Short version: The vice squad now needs to go before a judge to make a garden variety motel bust.

Shorter version:  That’s never going to happen.

Subtext:  A tacit admission by the motel owners association (Patel) that street prostitution represents a significant percentage of their bottom line.  Enough so, they were willing to go to the Supreme Court to hang on to it.

The winners are…well, you can guess.

The Court did not hear the testimony of Kat Stacks, former prostitute, turned hip-hop groupie and now as-told-to-author:

“I got turned out by a nigga when I was 14 and he was almost 10 years older than me and he my baby daddy. He gave me my new name and my tattoo…I was wit him for five years, and I was faithful, I did whatever he wanted and I worked seven days a week…I seen girls working on crutches cause they Daddy broke they leg…He put me out on the track in New York. Once I went through that horrible experience he put me in white places where I won’t get hurt at, but he first had to put me in a place where I could go through all this shit and learn not to be a weak bitch.”

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All three women justices voted in favor of the motel owners.  Make of it what you will.