Is The Worm Turning?

This is overdue.  Dodger Stadium is at only 25% of capacity. Imagine the sound of a full house.   Louder, please. Everywhere we go.

God bless Vancouver.  Californians were once like this.  Now they’re in Texas.  Not all of them, praise the lord.  Some of us are still around.  We keep the memory of liberty with us like a beloved and well-worn pair of work boots we can’t throw away. Rise and shine now, from our stony sleep.

Gaslighting of America

This was NoHo, two months ago

How long did they think a free people were going to accept this?  Now that warm weather is here again and we are approaching herd immunity, oh, how the little Commissars of Public Good, the unaccountable issuers of edicts desire this belle epoque of Maximum Karen to continue.

We will have a vaccine before the end of 2020, said the President Who Shall Not Be Named. Nonsense, declaimed the doctors of Twitter medicine on cable news. The week after the election it was announced we had two.  Everyone will be vaccinated by April, said President W.S.N.B.N. Oh please, said the blue checkmarked Experts. Not a chance. Fact check! This week Biden announced 90% of Americans will have a vaccine available by April 19th, within five miles of where they live.

There is a preference cascade about to happen. People are on the verge of de-masking themselves.  Without permission. With the edifice of Soviet-level disinformation crumbling, what is Karen, Inc. to do?  Hmmm…oh I know, new strains! Mutations, from dark and distant continents. Not scary enough? Try this. The vaccine may not work after six months, a year…some point in the future.  If everything just re-opens, how will we incentivize people to do what we say?

A passport.  Yes, a vaccine passport, for safety. To enter all places of business. To travel. To attend school or have dinner. To partake of America, first display your checkmark of good citizenship.

The architecture is already in place, on your phone. So convenient!  Now the vaccine is no longer tied to health, it is tied to freedom. Take it away, Naomi Wolf:

“…it’s not about virus, it’s the data. The vaccine is an excuse, a Trojan Horse, to get you to agree to a platform that is ALREADY 360 degree surveillance, geolocation, turns society off and on.
“Once this platform is ‘mandated’ you can no longer opt in or out of out as you do when you sign ‘I agree’ to terms and conditions on a website. You’ll be FORCED to ‘agree’ in order to work, socialize, travel. Then any functionality – social credit system that turns PayPal off..”

Naomi is a lefty. I can’t tell you how refreshing this is.  One of the unexpected oddities of 2020 was the exodus of dissent liberals from woke media to the Substack platform: Glenn Greenwald, Matt Taibbi, Andrew Sullivan and Bari Weiss…to make a fearless witness against the perfidy of woke cancel culture.

Remember, we off-gas data from our phones perpetually. Think of your digital ghost as a form of opposition research against yourself. The virtual You is in the hands of five corporations with a clear political agenda and a willingness to act on it.  They have already assembled a social credit score for you in all but name. They have used it to make money off you for years, now they will use it against you to implement restraints on behalf of government bureaucrats. Restraints which the government is prohibited from enacting.

This is the passport, ladies and gentlemen. When they ask, show them this.

Now take your mask off.  You’re being gaslighted.

Prisoners

A Zoom neighborhood, at rush hour

We have reached the one year anniversary of 15 Days to Flatten the Curve.    Which, let’s be honest, has been a nationwide exercise in poor people delivering pleasures to the wealthy and privileged. Indefinitely.

A year of “journalists” berating the little people on behalf of billionaires and government workers and the professional classes.

A year of dhimmitude and mask theater and gaslighting.

A year of Karen screaming at people going about their business, outdoors, bothering no one.

Having surrendered sovereignty to unaccountable and hypocritical actors, how does one bloom in the new Post-Constitutional America™?

I think about this when I encounter trees growing in confined spaces.  Some species do better than others. They reach deeper into the soil. They break the concrete around them. Consider this liberty in action. Reach deeper. Don’t ask permission.

The alternative looks like this.

Be anti-fragile.  Bloom from the weephole in the scorching concrete.  Don’t ask permission.  Stop submitting.  Don’t be a prisoner.  Reach for the light. Take your mask off.

Like this guy.

Rust Never Sleeps

What is it about vintage cars that we can’t let go?  We scour junkyards. We burnish the metal with our bare hands as lovingly as we would polish a fertility goddess for luck.

Observe…a Mid-Century moment of Zen in the form of a 1957 Chevy Bel-Air Townsman. A gas guzzler before we had a phrase for it.  Futuristic, yet simultaneously maternal. Like driving a sofa.  When City Hall planned the post-war Valley street grid it had the Townsman in mind. Fins and chrome and low rise development as far as the eye can see.  As she made a left on Sepulveda seventy years of suburban landscape condensed to a single frame and very briefly fell into a rare decadal alignment.

I drive a Toyota hybrid, a nearly silent machine of flawless efficiency and lightweight, plyable materials, perfectly suited to its time and purpose. The day the battery system ceases to work it will get compacted and placed on a barge to China and I won’t miss it. There’s no chance I’ll be looking for a used one in 2050 to occupy me in retirement.

And then there’s this…nest of 1970s Pontiacs stashed in Granada Hills. A fire swept through in 2018, scorching the cars beyond restoration, yet the carci remain like a murder of crows, waiting to be summoned to life by Stephen King or a landscape installation by Christo or a post-America where nomadic clans roam the Hobbesian landscape chaining the bodies of their defeated enemies to the hood like a 12-point buck.  The owner isn’t calling the scrapyard. Why would he? Form, not function, is the obsession.

Looking down from Google Earth one finds hoarder yards with fifty cars stashed behind the fence, the remnant of a custom car culture of which the Valley was once the apotheosis: George Barris, Don Beebe and The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine Flake Streamline Baby.   The cars won’t be moved until the owner dies and his quarreling heirs build an ADU.  Unless…

In 2016 a man in Illinois named Chris Carter saw this picture on Facebook and recognized the van from its appearance in the 1979 drive-in classic Van Nuys Blvd., a film released a year before he was born.  For a year he sleuthed online, crowdsourcing its location.

“I just couldn’t get it out of my mind. To see that van abandoned with a tree on it, and to know its former glory, how nice that it looked, how it was in a movie … I knew I had to do something.”

Since 1992 it had been parked by an access road on a bluff outside Lancaster. Carter drove to California with a flatbed trailer, hooked it up, returned to his body shop in Illinois, lovingly restored it, then drove it back to California for a celebratory cruise down Van Nuys Blvd., only to be charged with auto theft.

The “owner” of the Wild Cherry van, a woman named Laura Godin, had once cruised, traveled, camped and lived in the van as a young bride in the early 80s.  Though she not registered it in nearly three decades and abandoned it on rural property she rarely visited, and had no plans to restore it, she couldn’t let it go, either.

What followed is what happens when the restoration impulse and the hoarder impulse lay irreconcilable claims to the same assemblage of metal.

Carter could have created a replica from parts of other 1975 Chevy Vans, but didn’t. Like Indiana Jones, he had to find the relic and bring it to the museum. Twice.

There was a time when we built muscle cars in Van Nuys at one end of the boulevard, sold them at the other end, and in between had an unregulated cruising culture.  Now we have road diets and traffic calming measures and preposterously long red lights designed to make driving so unpalatable we will sell our cars and ride trolley lines that won’t be built for five years.

We won’t recreate Valley 1.0 but we can cling to the artifacts of memory.

Breaking Apples


Two years ago, UTLA went out on strike for a 6% pay increase and Vista Middle School was selected as one of the sites for a picket line. As a neighbor and husband of a teacher, I walked up there in an act of skeptical solidarity, to see how the shakedown of Los Angeles taxpayers was progressing.

What struck me at the time was the amount of honking support they received from passing cars in working-class Latino Van Nuys.

The outcome was preordained. The union banged the spoon and L.A. surrendered everything it wanted.   Plus seconds. And dessert. What followed was Soviet-era astroturfed propaganda from UTLA bathing in the adulation of a grateful public, paid for by…the same public, who had no say in the matter.

Fast forward to 2020, and to the Wuhan virus.  In a time of shared sacrifice and difficulty, guess who didn’t want to report to work and had the power not to do so and to be paid anyway?

Only 36% of students in L.A. Unified regularly engaged in distance learning, i.e. turned in homework and completed tests, i.e., received an education.  This is desertion in the face of the enemy.  It would be bad to do this to kids for a semester. For three semesters in a row, across two academic years?

Suffice to say, this is not what schools are doing in China. Or Korea. Or Europe. Or Texas.  This is not what is happening at the prep school where Mrs. UpintheValley teaches.

Getty Images

What if Wuhan isn’t killing people so much as breaking America as we once understood it? What if the pandemic is a political toxin in medical drag?

To judge it by its works, if you were told a year ago that one-third of small businesses would be put to death by government policy, would you have believed me?  What if I said the richest men in America would see their fortunes expand by 50%, also due to government policy? That the educational divide between public and private schools would become unbridgeable? That the tectonic plates between those who could telecommute and the service class who delivered their comforts would shift to the point they no longer touched? That the chief beneficiary of these changes would be China itself, which would exercise a veto over the discussion of pandemic origins by dangling the carrot of access to its markets? That the infrastructure of think tanks and academic departments which might serve as a bulwark of market critique would be revealed to be funded by China? That Zoom would become indispensable to our work life and TikTok embedded in our play and both would be Chinese owned? That teenagers in Wuhan would be throwing Lollapalooza-sized pool parties while Americans cowered in masks in the outdoors, fearing a scold of Karens. That bureaucrats would presume extra-constitutional powers. That the first amendment would become fully fungible to corporate diktats. That every cable network would maintain a death clock that magically disappeared with the departure of Trump, the first president to renegotiate trade agreements with China in terms more favorable to American workers, if only slightly.

A more fearless America, during the 1969 Swine flu

That’s a lot of damage for 12 months. We can’t do much about geopolitical arrangements, but we can do something about Vista Middle School.  We know a few things we didn’t know a year ago. Children are not at risk and are low vectors of transmission. Teachers are not retail workers.  They can temp check every child who enters the building. They can demand plexiglass barriers and daily disinfection of classrooms. They can also accept the reciprocal obligations of public service to the working-class Van Nuysians who supported them when they were banging the spoon for more money.

The Glamping Solution

Traditional Mongolian Yurt
Ali Al Salem Air Base, Kuwait City
The Sibley Glamping Tent. Price: $1169. Note the wood platform.

With regard to homeless encampments, the City of Los Angeles pretends to be constrained by the Boise decision, and specifically its local variant, the Jones agreement,  from enforcing laws against sleeping on the street.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that as long as the homeless population exceeds the number of shelter beds available in a city, the ordinance cannot be enforced during sleeping hours.

But….what you are not told by the people and corporations feeding off Shantytown, Inc., Boise was limited in scope, and only applied to the night hours, specifically to sleeping.  It did not create a right to camp on the sidewalk and was very opaque about shelter.

In other words, if the City created enough shelter spaces, it could put an end to the encampments inside of a week.

What does Los Angeles have in abundance?  Space. Empty lots. Unused, undesirable slivers of ground, off the well-trod paths, under freeways, in the brownfields.   It also has ample funding, through Props H and HHH, for yurts, tents, geodesic domes, fifth-wheel trailers, and tiny houses on wheels.  The crucial elements being temporary and mobile.

We have soldiers and airmen billeted across the globe in these very spartan arrangements for months at a time. Years.  If it’s good enough for the military, it’s damn well good enough for crackheads. (hat tip, JayDee)

As long as there is running water on-site, access to sanitary facilities, both of which can be trucked in and out, it qualifies.  Small mobile solar panels can provide reading light and phone charging.

What isn’t required? Air conditioning. WiFi. Concrete footings. Sewer lines.

When we landed in Van Nuys our house had NO air-conditioning.
No attic ventilation.
No insulation.
No shade.
Single pane clear glass windows from the 1970s.
After we closed escrow, we had no money to do anything about it.
Not for the first summer.

We would take refuge at the mall, come home at 9 pm, open the door and step into a sauna. We actually camped in the yard during a prolonged heatwave.

Sort of like glamping, but in your own house.

Shantytown, Inc.

There is nothing quite so permanent as a temporary solution, to quote a friend of mine.

Ad hoc structures sprout like fungi across the cityscape, cobbled together by the People of the Favela from found materials. Kiewit/Shea and the Army Corps of Engineers have nothing on the 77th MethHead Mobile Assembly Brigade.  They get it done overnight.

These domiciles cost the public nothing except sanitation, aesthetics, fire safety, petty crime, our collective dignity and quality of life, i.e., property values.

So what would we pay to rid ourselves of eyesores?

Sarah Reingewirtz, Los Angeles Daily News

How would you feel about $8,600? That’s the price of a two-person Pallet house in a Tiny Home Village. Considering the alternative: $700,000 “transitional housing” apartments with granite countertops and a ten-year horizon line, this a bargain.  Sounds good to me.

Fonda Rosing/Hope of the Valley

On Monday the first Tiny House hamlet in L.A. opened on Chandler Blvd in NoHo.  Forty 8×8 cabins, each with its own A/C unit and WiFi. Communal showers and support services for 75 people.  A second Village is due to open this spring, adjacent to the 170 freeway near Valley Plaza.

There are numerous publically-owned slivers of ground like this, many tucked in enticingly out of the way locations across the county.  The Pallet houses can be trucked in and carted away as needed, allowing for flexibility and, crucially, impermanence. Call it Ad Hoc Plus.

But…
You knew this was coming, right?
You’re living in Mayor Garbageciti’s City.
Where the public trough has no bottom.
Where Shantyown, Inc. is King.

The true price of these Pallet houses, to the taxpayer: $130,000.

Scratching your head on this one?  Let the Times summarize for us:

A breakdown provided by the Los Angeles Bureau of Engineering shows that the contract provides $1.5 million just to prepare the site.

It also includes $122,000 for underground utilities, $253,000 for concrete pads (one for each shelter), $312,000 for an administrative office and staff restroom, $1.1 million for mechanical, electrical and fire alarms and $280,000 for permits and fees.

Additionally, the city has budgeted $651,000 to connect to the street sewer line and $546,000 in design, project management and inspection costs.

The key phrase is concrete pad. The houses were designed to be dropped off on pallets, or any manner of wooden support, and relocated when circumstances desired, much like a job site Porta-Potty. Impermanence is their nature.   Anchoring it to concrete is making a temporary solution an ever-lasting one.

I have the calculator out, running the numbers, and coming up with $73,446 per unit.  Into whose pocket is the other $56,554 going?  The Times is incurious on this point.

The City of Riverside erected an identical village in December, same manufacturer, for $21,ooo a house.  In Washington and Oregon, they’re getting them up for $12,000.

The journey from $12K to $130K is the distance between necessity and avarice, between a city that works and one that doesn’t.

Landlord, Miser, Tease

Enter, winter. Come, darling. How we have missed you.

Wash us down, we are parched.  A little Seattle goes a long way here.  Settle in. Make sport of us. We will roll on our back for you.  We will be your grateful rescue dog. Write a poem on our familiar streets.

Wait…is that sunlight in the distance?  But it’s only Day Two…

Enjoy it while we can.

And there it is. Spring bloom in January.  Our bittersweet three-day Los Angeles winter.

Bloodlands and Memory

Readers were wondering who the people were in this mural in an alley off Van Nuys Blvd.

Well…I have met the muralist, Arutyun Gozukuchikyan. The woman to the right is Kim Kardashian. The man to the left is Monte Melkonian, born in Fresno, martyr of the first war of Nagorno-Karabakh in 1993.  The work was commissioned by the owner of the No Limit Auto Body shop.  Their clasping of hands is intended to illustrate the unity of the Armenian people across time and space.

Melkonian traveled far from the raisin fields.  First to Berkeley, then Beirut via Oxford and Tehran, where he spent the 1980’s in Armenian liberation politics.  He was imprisoned in France for the attempted assassination of a Turkish diplomat, a biographical detail the muralist omitted. As the Soviet Union disintegrated, he made his way to the Shahumyan province of Azerbaijan to join the battle to liberate Artsakh, a tribal feud that re-erupted this summer and is unlikely to resolve in our lifetimes.

There’s a whole lot of Los Angeles in that story.  Here’s two more:

The North Koreans put you in an execution line, the bullet passes through you, missing your heart. You wake up in the snow, stagger back to your village and find your mother praying in a church. You come to L.A, open a deli. By the time you’re finished, you have three. You bequeath them to your Americanized daughters who have no interest in the family business and spend your emeritus years doing missionary work.

You get in a fender-bender in El Salvador and the other driver executes you on the spot because he’s a member of MS-13 and you’re nobody…so why not?  Your siblings flee to Van Nuys and start cleaning floors, marry, have kids, then discover their brother’s killer is here, in town, less than ten miles away, also living a new life in America, schlepping to work with a name tag. The extended family huddles. What to do? Hire a hitman?  They vote to leave it behind them, in the old country.

I know both of these families. The receding tide of the bloody conflict of the world lurks in nail salon windows, washes up in corner markets and repair shops all over the Valley.

But what happens when America stops being America? Not a refuge of the dispossessed, but a bloodland unto itself, with its own irreconcilable claims on memory?

One week ago Parler was the #1 most downloaded app in the world.  It was intended to be a safe space for dissident thinking. Apple and Google (through its PlayStore) suspended all downloads and any developer access to the site on Saturday.  On Sunday, Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest man, terminated Parler’s access to Amazon’s Web Services.

By Monday morning, Parler was gone.  Three days.

Let’s go back to say, 1969. Suppose J. Paul Getty and Howard Hughes conspired to cut the NY Times off from all access to newsprint and ink in retaliation for its coverage of the Vietnam War.

Would you feel the fundamental premises of the nation had been called into question? What would you do about it? What sacrifice would you be willing to make to set that right?

Getty and Hughes were pipsqueaks compared to the monopolists we are dealing with now.

The cake is pretty well baked here.  A handful of billionaires control the information flow in the United States and they have revealed a shared agenda, leftist and monopolist at the same time. Effectively we now have a social credit system in place.  Instant China, if you will.

Americans are not Chinese.   They keep and bear arms.

O, Little Town of Van Nuys

Our precarious present, where we invite people to light campfires under power poles.

Our near future, lifting her skirt.

We are an unfinished mural.

We are poised between decaying mid-century cool and someone else’s postponed development scheme.  We reveal unintentional beauty on a gust of wind.

But mostly we are too much of this.  For we are a ragged outpost of City Hall and Sacramento and Brentwood, mute, dependable and too disorganized to complain.

She won’t save us.   We can put the comic books down and save ourselves.  Merry Christmas, one and all.