Verisimilitude

There are no streetlights in Baywood.  No sidewalks. The only public light sources are the Alehouse, the Merrimaker and the laundromat.  Locals hear the surf crashing on the sand spit a mile away across the estuary and complain, the way one might complain about the freeway noise back in Los Angeles, where the over/under starts at $100,000 year.

Baywood is where you retreat when LA doesn’t work for you anymore but you want to stay in California. It’s where the life you wanted to have in Van Nuys or Echo Park is re-booted.

L.A. 2.0, on wheels...

L.A. 2.0, now on wheels…

It is where you park your RV in your friends driveway and figure out your next move.  And where you go when you close your bike shop, once named Best in the City by the LA Weekly, after 11 years.

Where you break out the wrenches and drill set, and turn the RV into a mobile bike base camp and solar-powered graphic design suite.   Where you simplify things by designing your own escape pod.

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LA being LA, the bike shop lives on as the filming location for a Netflix escapist fantasy called Flaked.  The show is set in Venice and centered on a guy named Chip who owns a store hawking hand crafted three legged stools of his own design, but has no apparent customers yet manages to stay afloat.  Chip also lives rent-free by the beach and dates women half his age, and spends much of the first season perambulating around Venice on his bicycle, unencumbered by adult responsibilities like a monthly nut, or a business plan.  Flaked, by objective measurement, is not a quality show. The verisimilitude problems are impossible to get beyond. But I binged on it as a secret vice, the way Mrs. U watches the housewife shows. Punching a clock in the Valley, who wouldn’t want to live the life of Chip?

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The world is smaller than we think it is.  Fate not long ago placed one of the Flaked co-stars not named Will Arnett in the backseat of my Uber and he would spend the ride home trying without success to court, Chip-like,  a much younger female passenger. After she exited the car without yielding a number,  he laughed about it with me.  He agreed with my assessment of the show.  The lie it was telling about Los Angeles was his livelihood. He couldn’t have been nicer or more gracious.

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The real life Chip is more more athletic and better looking.   Also un-entitled and self-effacing and responsible. As he packed up his store he found letters to his workers he never sent, some dated five years ago, listing all the reasons he could no longer keep it going. Owning a business is not like a regular job. You cant just flake. He employed 15 people and spent years working with the city to open up bike lanes and paths. Now he loads up on packets at the hamburger stand to take back to the RV as he waits to hear from unemployment. Ask him if he’s bitter and he says no.  He’s put in his time in LA. The only thing he misses about it is being faster than every car on the road when riding his bike.

The trail forward looks like this

The trail out of LA looks like this

 

Urban Renewal, the Venice Way

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Step one, find a lot with a shack on it. Step two, knock it down. Leave the framing of two walls standing. You’re not building anything new, remember. You’re merely renovating.

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Step three, install steel girders, go vertical. Three floors if you can afford it.

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Step four, add floor to ceiling windows, so people from the Valley can peer directly into your bamboo floor Designista great room and fully contemplate the sin of envy. Discreetly draw the curtains at dinnertime so no one on the walk sees you eating takeout while surrounded by Miele kitchenware.

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Step five, spend $1000 installing a garden box in the parkway that produces $30 of vegetables a season which you donate to the local food bank.

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Step six, be sure to remind everyone of the virtue of being virtuous.

Made in Mexico*

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Nothing gets done in this city without a Mexican, people are fond of saying by way of explanation Why Things Are.  By people, I mean those who who are on the vertical side of the capital/labor equation.

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People who live here, for example.   Why should they have to bend over and pick up their socks in the morning?   There are Mexicans* for that.  They’re everywhere. Abundant and cheap.

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They don white aprons and fetch things for us.  Who knows where they live?  We summon them, and they appear. Why shouldn’t it be this way? Wasn’t it always like this?

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Don’t they have houses in the Valley, or something?

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Or apartments, of some kind?  Seriously, I don’t see the issue. Americans don’t want to do these jobs.

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No, I don’t know what happened to the people who use to live in those apartments…I don’t know where they went.

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They probably went back to Oklahoma, or something.  It’s the natural order of things.

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Hey, have you been to the new Whole Foods 365 in Silver Lake?  Talk about abundance.  Unfortunately, there are really long lines…

Van Nuys or Venice, 1948

The Choice, in 1948

Pick your scenery, in 1948

What is more remarkable here, that Van Nuys was once priced higher than Venice? Or realtors once offered “clothes poles” as an amenity?

Or Venice was a choice at all?

In case you were wondering, $9350 in inflation adjusted dollars would be $91,921 today.

You could own a house, freshly constructed, near the ocean in California for $368.95 a month at todays wages.

As you may have already observed, the fates of Venice and Van Nuys, as neighborhoods, have diverged.  In Piketty-ish terms, the family which chose the smaller lot by the beach, as opposed to the larger one in the suburbs would have realized an exponential rise in capital over labor.

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Here’s 6817 Matilija today, courtesy of Google Streetview.      Houses on this block are listed at $500,000.  And they’re selling!  Madness, right?  Until you consider the alternative.

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Here’s a house in Venice on the same block of Greenwood as the ad, listed on Zillow at $1.2 million. Two bedrooms, one bath.

Almost makes one nostalgic for clothes drying on a line in the sun.

#BikeLivesMatter

They love Bernie in Venice

They love Bernie in Venice

In Seattle, not so much

In Seattle, not so much

Actually, that’s not exactly true. Bernie drew a big crowd, and then, in a remarkable act of self-abasement, relinquished the microphone to two women who stormed the podium. They demanded four and half minutes of silence and proceeded to lecture everyone, including the candidate, for their “white supremacist liberalism” and insufficient fealty to the Black Lives Matter agenda.

“Don’t ask questions!  We’re shutting it down! Let her speak NOW!”

As political performance art goes, it was a thing of beauty. Vermont folded its hand in under a minute.

After the rioting in Ferguson and Baltimore, the #BLM movement has alienated much of the country save two groups of people: the media, and a particular species of upper-middle class liberal who is as separated from inner city life as is culturally,  economically and geographically obtainable. In short, Bernie Sanders voters.   After this weekend, I’m not sure where this leaves them, in this the seventh year of the Obama presidency.

I have a pretty good idea where the media is leading the rest of us.

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All this was on my mind at the Culver-to-Venice CicLAVia today, which was lovely and pleasant as always…but kind of, dare I say it,  lacking in local color.

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I didn’t see a lot of bikes like this one, from the Valley CicLAVia in March.   Nor many riders of the type who make bikes like this.

The Yeti Bike, winner of the UpintheValley Most Creative award

The Yeti Bike, winner of the UpintheValley Most Creative award

The crowd was rather….er, Bernie Sanders-ish.  White, prosperous and polite. If voting habits and campaign donations are fair proxy, blissfully indifferent to the political arson they’ve set in motion around the country.

A Walkable City

Between the bungalows

For a million five, you can walk home on this path…

...this could be your neighbor's dooryard

…and this could be your neighbor’s dooryard.

The once and future bungalow

Behold the once and future Venice bungalow

Ponder the class struggle

Ponder the class struggle

The abandoned churchyard

Consider the riddle of the abandoned churchyard…

The value of modernist sculpture

..and the wit of modernist sculpture…

$650 lawn chairs made from scrap lumber

….and the spectacle of $650 lawn chairs made from scrap lumber.

The mystery of cross neighborhood political theater

Indulge in obscure cross-neighborhood political resentment

“Is Santa Monica a parasite to Venice? Every minute southbound planes leaving Santa Monica Airport, turn left over our blocks. Northbound ones turn right over the ocean so as not to disturb the rich white people north of Montana.  Santa Monica benefits at our expense with preferential parking, dog park use, only citing non-SM bike riders.”

For $1.5 million, you can bitch about the truly advantaged folks next door in Santa Monica, living at your expense.

Or you can get back in your car after a wonderful afternoon under a darkling sky and return to Van Nuys, where tagging is tagging, alleys are for dumpsters, and nobody walks anywhere.

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