Jeff Spicoli Lived Here

Fast Times at Ridgemont High was on TV the other day…I was drawn in by nostalgia but stayed for the spectacle of teenagers working after school.   I couldn’t get past it.

Every character in the movie had a job, including Phoebe Cates, the Megan Fox of her time, dutifully served the public while draped in a corporate issue smock so unflattering it would never make it past the wardrobe assistant today.

First, the oddity: when do we see this anymore?  Then the deep memory: we all did this when were young.  Then the recognition: how completely we’ve restructured things.  White teenagers working at the Galleria? That’s what an open border is for.

A job used to be the first step to adulthood and freedom from parental constraints, the children of professionals just as likely to be slinging pizza as those of an auto mechanic.  Almost everyone today not explicitly rich claims membership in the middle class.  It’s the conceit at the heart of the 1%/99% formulation. But in 1982 it was mostly true if you viewed it aspirationally rather than by income quintile.

1982 was faux wood paneling, Formica countertops, cheap linoleum, tchotchkes, and self-maintained yards.  This could be Sherman Oaks as easily as Arleta.  All rather downmarket by modern Dwell standards, but perfectly in keeping with the aesthetics of the time.

Anyone whose house looks like this today is, well, probably “poor” or elderly.  Escaping…this… prison of dreck is the great motivator of contemporary LA.

The first commandment of Valley 2.1: all ranch houses shall be gutted and made Zillow-ready.  Better yet, they shall be replaced with more units. Which brings me to the condemned house in the first picture, in the shadow of an IMT apartment block on Sepulveda. I have it on good authority Jeff Spicoli lived there. Now it’s going to be six McMansions.   If they have kids, they won’t be working after school.   They will intern.  Peasants from Chiapas will man the espresso machine and pull the weeds.

The global south is on the move. The Red State high achievers are on the move. Both are coming here. Ambition leaves Cleveland as quickly as honorable men flee Chapo’s brigades in Sinaloa.

Chinese yuan is in search of a safe harbor. The Federal Reserve is printing money and handing it out at no interest to banks: start funding things, anything, spin the dials of consumption. Come pension fund apparatchiks, say the banks, come ye Central Asian strongmen, ye Israeli billionaires and Gulf sheiks looking to elude the virtue police, build an apartment block in Van Nuys, start collecting rent and citizenship is yours. Hedge your bets here, in the former land of hedges.

Stacy and Brad, Damone and Spicoli, Linda and Ratner, they had no idea what was coming.

12 thoughts on “Jeff Spicoli Lived Here”

  1. “Ambition leaves Cleveland as quickly as honorable men flee Chapo’s brigades in Sinaloa.”

    If you’re ambitious you can stay in Cleveland, be the best in your game, and live in a $400K mansion.

    1. Just one question…….what’s a white teenager? (LAUSD is @ 9% Non-Hispanic white).

      There’s about half a dozen themes you touched on here, every one of them deserving of a full chapter or more. You’ve outlined one outstanding summary of the way things are as we close the second decade of the 21st Century…..amazing, sad, incredible, and disturbing.

      The Ridgemont crew would have been in the 7th or 8th grade about the time I was getting out of high school……and yeah….I sure didn’t see it coming. Of course at that age you just think it’s going to be Dazed and Confused forever. =)

      1. Here’s another question. Who among the characters stayed in The Valley all these years? I think it’s Damone. I think Stacy had kids, got divorced and moved away, but her eldest daughter still lives in the house and has beers at MacLeod on Wednesdays.

        1. Been a while since I’ve seen Fast Times, so I’d need a program to tell the players. How many are still even in the LA area I wonder? As for me….ex- of Oxnard, now in OC, sister is comfortably well-pensioned in Northern Virginia. My cousins from La Mirada (Dad’s younger brother), of which there were 7……two still in OC, two in Utah, one in Corona, one is the Pride of Cucamonga =) and one didn’t make it this far, but then he was a colossal F up even at 14. Probably a typical scorecard for any 9 random SoCal kids born from about 1958 to 1970.

          The Valley doesn’t really have THAT long of history, if you take the long view. Virtually unpopulated in 1900, then fifty or so years of orange groves and chicken ranches. After the war it took only about 25 years to fill it wall-to-wall with what we see now. Kuntsler maintains we will eventually cut the suburbs off as they will become too expensive to maintain, and perhaps he’s right, but The Valley stopped being a suburb in the traditional sense long ago. I don’t see tumbleweeds rolling down Roscoe in the future. Probably just the same, only moreso, eventually reaching Manila- and Mexico City-level congestion.

          1. Jay- something I neglected to include in the post but thought of while composing was 1982 represented exactly the halfway point, timewise, between orange groves and Bing Crosby and the high density Valley 2.0 we are shifting toward today.

  2. I’ll take your math for it (but yeah….you’re right…1944. BTW – it’s a good thing you have a well-read audience who knows the reference w/o resorting to The Google……LOL).

    Here’s an interesting short vid of San Fernando Road taken at night from a passenger train on the adjacent SP tracks around that time, with Bing’s version of “S. F. Valley” providing the audio track. Note the haphazard “stassendorf” development pattern typical of the era (I was a Geography and Bus. Econ double-major in college.) I probably haven’t used that term since the final…..but some things just stick….=)

    1. Last observation….=) At around 1:30 I noticed the big telephone poles painted with visibility striping….that lasts for 15-20 seconds. What the….?????

      ——They are passing under one of the flight paths to Burbank (then Lockheed) airport.

  3. The exception to the rule: In and Out Burger. Just ate there, with well groomed and polite kids working like mad. Much harder than I did as a college kid in the 80’s

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