For that price, it better be Instagram about to happen. And it is. The long-vacant Panorama Tower has, after 25 years, adaptively re-purposed and will open for leasing next week, Blade Runner views in all directions.
Infrastructure is minimal, in keeping with the live/work loft fiction. At 600 sqft, units are generously sized for a studio, but there is no getting around the one room problem. Two people who aren’t sleeping with each other are going to have trouble sharing it.
Clearly the developer wants white people to move here though I anticipate few will arrive with children. The Era of the Vertical Valley has begun.
Living in Van Nuys for a decade one can nearly expire of a particular cultural malady called If only….
If Only there was X, like they have in Echo Park…
If Only there was Y, like they have in Eagle Rock.
If Only Z would happen like it happened in NoHo then Van Nuys wouldn’t be quite so….dreary.
If Only gives way to Why Can’t We? Why Have We Not? Fee, Fie and Woe is us! Unfair, we say! Behold the self-pity of the geographically disadvantaged urban hipster, wandering his Sinai, kvetching.
We can’t be alone in thinking this. There must be others, kindred spirits stranded in our midst, leaving the neighborhood as we do to spend our money. Lord, hear our cries.
Then MacLeod begins…as a t-shirt. A rumor of a t-shirt, really, seen at the gym.
There’s a brewery in Van Nuys now? If only…
You mean they’re not actually brewing beer yet? It’s an auto repair shop? That figures. It’ll probably never happen. At least the t-shirt was cool.
They’re doing it on Calvert Street? Are they crazy? No one will ever find the place. I give it a month. Too bad. They seem like such nice people.
Then MacLeod opened its doors and beer lovers in-gathered from the neighborhoods, in singles and pairs, to find we were part of a lost tribe. We had been passing each other at the gas station for years, sharing a tertiary overlap in the Venn diagram of Los Angeles. And now we were met.
Macleod poured the ale, and it was Good. And the place had a sleek modern retro look, as though different decades had been telescoped into a single frame. Sort of like the woman in the picture above.
A month came and went and MacLeod didn’t close its doors. Then another, followed by another, and Macleod kept pouring, and patronizing local artists. Somehow people kept finding the place. The Venn diagram expanded.
Now a year has gone by. It’s hard to believe, because it seems much longer. So embedded it is in the shifting fates of the neighborhood the timeline of Van Nuys history now has a new point of demarcation: Before and After MacLeod.
The one-year anniversary is Sunday. Cask and Ye Shall Receive. You can buy tickets here: https://www.facebook.com/events/820734644669933/
There will be a caskapalooza of thirteen different local breweries, music by the Brilliant Gypsies and beer poetry by the talented Sam Wagner. Our working-class Brigadoon has one up over everyone else. I am Van Nuys, hear me kvell. Thank you Jennifer and thank you Alastair for all you have done.
My dear friend Andy Hurvitz, of the indispensable HereinVanNuys blog, has been writing beautifully this past year about his mother’s twilight surrender to cancer, her denial of her illness, and their relationship to each other as he cared for her. The Dark Wit, he called her. Louise passed away last week. They had a wake for her yesterday at his brother’s house in Marina Del Rey. I had never been to a wake, so my sense of what to expect was informed by films, and in this case I was misled. No one was shrouded head-to-toe in black. No murmuring organ. No flasks hidden inside of jacket pockets. No receiving line of weeping well-wishers kissing the hand of the bereaved. There were tears, but they were of the authentic, cathartic kind.
It was more of an in-gathering of celebration. There was a surfeit of delicious food, and no shortage of good wine, and bittersweet joy was the prevailing mood. Look closely and you will see a teen-aged Andy with Louise on the screen in the left hand corner, his Andy-ness already evident in protozoa form.
First her sons spoke. Then her friends. Two women who were her sorority sisters at Delta Phi Epsilon, University of Illinois, sixty years ago spoke. I don’t even follow my college friends on Facebook. I can’t imagine a friendship of sixty-four years, but apparently she had several. Two brothers who hadn’t spoken in years were there, and they sat together and ended up talking to one another. I learned she was a feminist before there was a word for it. That she ran an office in an era when female college graduates worked the steno pool. That she once sold airplanes. That she worked for CBS news during the Nixon-Kennedy debates. That she read the New York Times cover to cover then hoarded all her back issues. That she enjoyed making prank phone calls. That she loved denying that which displeased her to the point of arguing to a judge the woman in the red-light camera photograph was not herself.
She had three sons, a long marriage, and a front row seat to American history, spanning WW II to Barack Obama. The people she loved also have people in their lives in turn, for whom they care and who get drawn into the circle of memory, and so after eighty-plus years, you have quite an eclectic group of people sharing the pathos under a rubber tree on a postcard beachside afternoon. Exit ghost.
The redesigned Ralph’s on Hazeltine debuted last month, cool, bright and modernist. Gone is the asphalt parking lot, banished from view below stairs. The front doors are pushed right up the sidewalk, the better to scoop up the foot traffic in a manner befitting….West Hollywood. Will it? The jury is still out. Despite a take-out cafe and on-site Starbucks and a cluster of shaded tables and benches out front which all but announce: hang out here, oh ye walkers of the neighborhood, oh yecool people of Sherman Oaks, no one appeared to be taking the store up on its offer. Begging the question, do the yentas walk in Sherman Oaks?Do the grandkids? Does anyone? Is it that kind of neighborhood?
For the past ten days the eastern San Fernando Valley became, overnight, a swing county in Ohio in a presidential election. Which is to say, we were under the full siege of the Cindy-Nury political telenovela: door knockers, door hangers, mailers, phone calls, yard signs, tweets and texts. Amidst this cacophony of the democratic process I received a knock on the door from my neighbor Walter, a Montanez volunteer. Would I like to meet Cindy? ‘She’s gonna be in the neighborhood’ today. Of course I would. He promised to bring her by ‘sometime after 4pm.’ We put some wine in the fridge to chill, cracked open the hummus, and called my friend Andy Hurvitz, of the HereinVanNuys blog. ‘Cindy Montanez is dropping by. You want to meet her?’ Certainly. At 4pm, there the three of us were, glasses of rose in hand, snack bowls on the credenza, cameras and questions at the ready….
4:30 rolls around, no Cindy. I check in with Walter. ‘It’ll be another hour or so. She’s still at the office.’ The hour goes by, the bottle of wine empties out. We begin to fool around with cameras. I fire up the grill. I call a second time for an ETA. ‘Andy is here’, I offer as an inducement, ‘and he’s ready to blog.’ ‘Let me get back to you.’ Ten minutes later he calls back with regrets. ‘Cindy won’t be able to make it tonight.’ We wander out into the evening air and take snaps along the Metrolink tracks. We happened upon this lovely couple on the Bridge of Sighs, who were happy to pose:
Three days later, returning from yoga, I get another message from Walter. Please call. Cindy will be back in the neighborhood tonight. I’ll bring her by. When? Six to seven-ish. Andy returns. A bottle of gewürztraminer and garlic crackers are laid out. More hummus. Seven o’clock, no Cindy. Eight o’clock, no Cindy. Now, the drill here is pretty simple. The candidate knocks. We exchange pleasantries. She declines the wine, but takes a cracker. Looks us in the eye and lies to us about how she’s going to clean up Sepulveda Blvd. Everyone shakes hands and she goes on her way. Five minutes and it’s done. She gets a promotional photo from Andy and maybe some good copy. Of course we both have fever dreams of beautification schemes we want to pitch, and maybe after a long day, the gewürztraminer might bribe some additional face time with the candidate…..but only if the candidate shows up. On the her hand, if she chooses not to come, for a second time…..by 8:30, we’re in the car, heading to Angel City Brewery for a flight of IPA and then to Wurstkuche for some exotic sausage. Downtown east of Alameda, an area not long ago as run-down as the east Valley is today, was positively en fuego with nightlife, cuisine, commerce. Joyful young and not-so young people out and about, enjoying t-shirt weather after midnight. Quite another city, yet entirely within my own. Up in the valley, we’re still working on the basics, like awnings for bus stops and getting the police to arrest hookers plying the trade in broad daylight in front of schoolchildren:
Driving home to our colonial outpost in the Valley, I was in a bad humor. Mrs. Upinthevalley took a more generous view. It’s the middle of an election. Walter was simply over-promising. Perhaps. But he wasn’t inventing. Cindy knew who we were and she knew we were waiting, and she….made other priorities. An avalanche of mailers and five more canvassers would hit our house in the final days, including three on Tuesday afternoon, in a scrambling panic as the poll watchers reported the grim news: people weren’t showing up to vote. Her margin of defeat would turn out to be smaller than the combined traffic of our two blogs. Enough said.
Cindy spent in excess of $100 a vote. Her signs and foot soldiers were ubiquitous in Van Nuys. Cindy herself was a no-show. Nury Martinez walked Sun Valley and Arleta door-to-door, in person. As Woody Allen put it: ‘90% of life is showing up’. In politics apparently, there’s no substitute for shaking someone’s hand and bullshitting them.