How Sad Is My Tree?

This sad...
This sad…
Looking like January 2nd, already...
Looking like January 2nd, already…

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Yes, it’s in water. We even added Purcell’s Tree Preservative.  Oh, Christmas tree, stop dropping your needles.  Ten days we’ve had you.

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You’re not sad enough to be endearing, like the Charlie Brown tree which was green, at least. You’re just irritating. Ugly and overpriced. A harbinger of bad tidings. Up the chimney with you! Come grinch, help us put things aright.

Riding with Tha King

AC

I picked up Tha King in front of the Sofitel in West Hollywood.  He was headed to Bare Elegance, down by LAX, with $4000 cash, ready to make it rain.

But first we had to wait for his pool rider.

He was wearing a hoodie, and had a voice like Tone Loc from away back in the 90’s, gravely and debauched. He reeked of weed.  As an icebreaker, I asked him if the ladies liked his voice that way.  All conversation flowed from this point. He was surprised I didn’t recognize him, cause he made beats for Future. Also, Young Thug. That’s why he wore a hoodie.  He couldn’t take it off in LA, cause the ladies were all up on him as soon as they saw his distinctive array of tats.  He also wanted me to know, for a second time, he had $4000 cash in his pocket for the club.

It occurred to me to ask why he didn’t just take his shirt off and save himself the money, but that wouldn’t be in the spirit of our conversation and I didn’t want to step on his flow.

Tha King was flowing. His beats were the bomb. The shit be blowing up because the world wants it. They were so good, everyone wanted to work with him and he couldn’t go back to Texas cause people were looking to shoot him, which was too bad because he had a purple Bentley in his garage.  But he was tearing it up in LA. He owned this motherfucker. Besides, the Cowboys were having a terrible year, and he was ready to be a Rams fan.

Did I know The Illuminati chose hiphop as the musical force for taking over the world?  Oh, yeah.  They got that shit locked down. Also, they cloned Tupac, then they killed the clone to deceive everyone. The real Tupac was still alive and kicking it in tunnels somewhere, waiting for his instructions to return.  All the name rappers out there couldn’t carry the message because they had made deals with Satan.  The proof of this was while they said God, none of them could say the words Jesus Christ.

Listen to that shit, none of them say Gee-zus cries.

In any case, Jesus had already returned in the form of Tupac, and was chilling in the tunnels.

When I got home I couldn’t help myself, I searched for Tha King on YouTube.  There he was, flashing his tats and spitting the hard shit. His video had been up for a year and had enjoyed a total of….437 views.  There were two fan comments from a girl who claimed to be his daughter, and by her picture looked to be about ten years old:

hi there its arie love you daddy

and,

come to winsconsen dad love you daddy love you love you

For some reason, it made me think of this:

The Over/Under

Who cleans the floors?

“The Over/Under in Monterey is $150,000”, announces Reese Witherspoon in Big Little Lies, while driving from her beachfront house to a school cleansed of non-white children. By Monterey, she means Carmel.

Nobody works in Big Little Lies, except for Laura Dern, who does something in finance. Axiomatically she is the villain.  People manage to live without exertion in a world of wall-sized refrigerators, walk in closets with backlit three-tiered shoe racks, and terraced lots descending to the sand.  Because, $150,000.

He designs websites, she does community theater
He designs websites, or something

No, seriously. This is the number HBO inserted into the script for American consumption: see, this is how we live in California. P.S., everyone here is white.   (Except for Zoe Kravitz, who is there to provide Otter Bay elementary with a single mixed race child and a deus ex machina plot device)  Apparently Reese’s husband manages to support the immense architecture of her life doing digital piecework, part time, in the living room, I kid you not.

Being Poor, HBO-style
The Poor, HBO-style

There is no class struggle on HBO.   There is a single mother character, Jane, who is seen, briefly, soliciting bookkeeping work for a local coffee house (again, piecework) but we never discover whether she gets the gig. She’s altogether indifferent to money because she’s contending with issues from her past, which trumps any need to pay bills. We know she’s “poor” because she’s consigned to live in a Craftsman bungalow without landscaping.

Her parlous state does not prove inhibitive to friendships with women who could park her entire house inside their family room, and elicits not the slightest glimmer of envy of her part, (nor condescension on theirs) when she enters their lives.

So if no one is working, how does anything get done?

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Hattie McDaniel, really?  Oh c’mon, that’s not the world we’re living in any more.   Too far. 

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No? Okay, how about her?  This make you feel more comfortable?

Coastal California runs on Third World labor, full stop. For every canyon-tucked, cliffside household a small army of floor scrubbers, hedge-trimmers, diaper-changers, maintenance people and tradesmen emerge from their dingbat apartments, climb into their beater cars and make the long schlep from distant communities to Brentwood and Carmel.  Miraculously, they leave no carbon footprint on anyone’s ledger, least of all Mamacita’s.

Not a single Latino appears in Big Little Lies, which is set in Monterey County, which is 55% Latino.

Look to any Bette Davis-era drawing room drama, and you see thankless Mammy/servant roles filling in the background, mute, but for demeaning dialogue, but nevertheless present in the frame.    Old Hollywood in its most propagandistic depictions of American life was not so far gone it dared deny the existence of working class people and their place in the structure of things.

When you do a Google search for “maids, Monterey” you get images like this:

Maid woman with cleaning tools.

And this:

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None dare call them servants.  Our liberal self-conception precludes it. We’d rather think of them as animated pictograms or portrayed by white models than glimpse a truthful mirror which suggests California is moving closer to Jackson, Mississippi, 1964…

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…but with none of the noblesse oblige of that earlier time.

Reciprocal obligations in millennial California take comical forms. Reese Witherspoon’s teenage daughter threatens to auction her virginity on the internet to raise money for exploited women around the world. Her parents counsel against this, but commend her for her social consciousness.

They don’t tell her to clean her room.

A Team Without A City

First place team, in No. 2 market in America
First place team, in the No. 2 market in America

“I’m having difficulty staying a fan this year,” said Steeler Guy at Thanksgiving Dinner. “I can’t get past the CTE.   It’s a gladiator sport.  These guys are going to be putting guns in their mouths in 20 years time.”

He admitted it didn’t stop him from walking up to Hollywood Blvd at 10 am last week to catch the early game at a bar. He too, had tremendous difficulty finding a bar willing to put the volume on, even when there were less than a dozen customers in the room.  He ended up at Hooters, of all places, where the Pittsburgh fans had taken over.

We agreed we were fortunate not to have sons to agonize over come time for the AYSO/Pop Warner family discussion.  Our imaginary parenting could be flawless while we watched someone else’s son go helmet to chest plate at top speed.

2020
2020 is foresight wishful thinking

The mockups for the new Rams stadium in Inglewood depict three tiers of luxury boxes and every seat filled to capacity in 2020.  We’re not moving in that direction.   At $2.6 billion, it will be the most expensive sports stadium ever constructed. Personal Seat Licenses will range from $175,000-$225,000 for club seats.  That’s what you pay Stan Kroenke, billionaire, to obtain the rights to pay him another $350-400 per ticket to see the game live.

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Here was the tailgate scene before the Texans game.  Based on this tableau, I would say the median Rams fan is 45 years old, drinks beer, and works in the construction trade.   Hard to see six figure PSL’s coming out of anyone’s wallet here.   Somewhere in Los Angeles, the thinking goes, lurk 70,000 rich people who aren’t going to the games now when the Rams are both a prodigal returned and winning, but will nevertheless appear deus ex machina in three years time, checkbooks open.  Rich people in LA will not allow their kids to play football.  What makes anyone think they’ll pay a fortune to subsidize a game of which they disapprove?

The people who will keep the game alive in LA are the three guys from Arizona we ran into at Dick’s Sporting Goods who drove all night from Phoenix just to see them once.  And oddballs in the Valley who are determined to have a slice of sports fan ecstasy and civic harmony after 20 years of no team.

To quote RB Todd Gurley:  “Please come to our games”.

Rail Killer, Me

Eastbound and downtown, one hour before Rams game
Eastbound and downtown, one hour before Rams game

Here’s a bittersweet factoid: halfway through a massive buildout of the rail system,  Metro ridership is down 16% in the past three years. Transit ridership is down nationally, but nowhere more so than Los Angeles, which alone accounts for nearly a quarter of all rider losses in America, even as we’ve connected the San Gabriel Valley to the beach through the addition of the Gold and Expo Lines.  Anyone want to guess how many riders ended up in the back of my car?

This is a forbidden topic of conversation in policy circles, where 30-year plans continue apace, as though rideshare never happened.

On the gentrification corridor
A Hopper-esque tableau, along the gentrification corridor

On paper, transit oriented housing has much to offer.  If we build snazzy new apartment complexes adjacent to train stations, the thinking goes, we can whisk people to and from work without anyone having to get into their car. It’ll be clean and fast, and people can sip their coffee and look down on the gridlock below with bemusement and relief. Throw in a little music, and….here, why don’t I just let Cameron Crowe perform the honors:

If we gave them great coffee! And great music!   Such was the pre-Jobsian America before the iPhone, and the Cambrian explosion of apps.

Overlooked in the optimism is an inherent contradiction in transit-oriented development.  It ain’t cheap. The very people who pay $2400 for a very modern, desirable one-bedroom apartment, fully stocked with amenities, are the least likely to utilize public transportation.  The train ushers in the housing, the housing sets gentrification in motion, the transit-oriented demographic gets pushed further away from transit lines, where people can afford to live.   If they can swing it, they take UberPool home for maybe a buck or three more.

I drive a lot of people home from work.   As rideshare spreads, this is more and more of my clientele.  In 2014, Uber lowered the per mile rate in Los Angeles to 90 cents, an act greatly decried by the drivers. The Uber argument was: the cheaper the rate, the more the demand, and greater revenue overall for drivers.  Uber runs on metadata, and the data was correct. My hourly has risen significantly each reach year I’ve driven.

Los Angeles does not run on metadata, it runs on politics.  Metadata says you match shift workers with employment zones. Which is to say, you start the rail system in Van Nuys, and East LA and Torrance, and you work your way toward downtown.  Politics says you do the reverse.  You build trains in the whitest, wealthiestliberal precincts of the city, where there is 98% approval for public transportation…for other people.  Because, climate change.

Last Sunday, we rode the Expo Line from the Rams game to Bergamot. We whisked silently along the treetops,  peering down into pedestrian-free neighborhoods brightly jeweled with succulents.  Near the stations, giant excavations were being dug for parking garages atop which fresh Bento Box transit-oriented apartments would soon sit. It was the most civilized public transportation experience I have enjoyed since crossing Puget Sound in a ferry, way back in the ’90s.

I had two thoughts. First, if we cannibalized our not insignificant equity at Chez UpintheValley, a princely sum in the red states, if I could obtain every dollar of paper profit today, fat stacks of cash in my eager hands, there was nothing we could buy here, as far as the eye could see.  Secondly, where we build trains, the whiter it gets. The whiter it gets, the more money I make driving.