Went looking for the elusive but famous Budweiser parrots today. They’ve been thought for years to be nesting along the railroad tracks adjacent to the beer plant, refugees from Busch Gardens of yore. Didn’t see the birds but found nests of urban refugees being rousted from their perch along the 405 by the police. A woman in yellow pants staggered out of a flooded and trash-strewn gully, pushed her way through a gap in a chain-link fence as casually as if she were emerging from a beaded curtain to her kitchen and asked me for a smoke and if my name was James. She seemed unaware of the official rousting going on just above her, in the shadows of the overpass. My civic loyalties a bit divided, I helpfully told her the cops were about. She pinwheeled in a disoriented circle, then continued walking alongside me as we, suddenly a couple, were observed by the LAPD.
Well, this will be interesting.How am I going to explain this?
We walked side by side, sort of, as I contemplated a plausible alibi for my impromptu assignation here in the hidden backside of the Valley. I, conspicuous white man, was just looking for the parrots, officer.
A second man, perhaps whose name was James, emerged from a gap in another fence and she skipped ahead toward him eagerly. Without preamble, they marched with purpose away from the tracks and disappeared into the shrubwork. Her clothes looked slept in but she had a pretty decent weave going. No policemen followed them.
Busch Gardens in its heyday. Seventeen acres of lagoons and exotic birds served by monorail and boat. Lots of wildlife tours for the kids and free beer for the adults at any one of five ‘hospitality houses’, like the Michelob Terrace. Remarkably, this nearly perfectly designed childcare arrangement fell out of fashion in the 70’s and the park closed after a mere fourteen years.
The first was slapped together with glue and staples in a downtown sweatshop, designed to evoke feelings of opulence in middle class consumers spending beyond their means. Cheap fabric and composite wood veneers doom it to the landfill for which it was destined. For now it serves as a club chair for a quartet of homeless men who have created a condominium out of plastic detritus and shopping carts behind Smart and Final.
The second was erected by craftsmen whose work will outlive us all. The plumb lines are true.
Great location, right off the 170, plenty of parking….lots of dead stores. 180,ooo people live within a two mile radius of Laurel Canyon and Victory. Most are homeowners. Many of these homes are near the half-million dollar range. But they drive to Burbank instead.
There were plans as recently as 2011 to redevelop as a mixed-used residential lifestyle mall along the lines of Americana at Brand. Those have gone to the same civic graveyard as the one to redevelop the Montgomery Ward site in Panorama City. Neither developer was from the Valley. That’s the problem with being a colony. Absentee owners have no social disincentive not to sit on their holdings. Blight today will be worth more tomorrow, so let it be blighted. The City and the CRA will cut a fatter deal next time around.
Then this girl appeared out on nowhere and asked if she could use my phone. She ‘needed a ride’.
So I lent her the phone and she proceeded to talk for ten minutes about how Julio needed to come over right now and ‘smoke her out’. Cause she wasn’t gonna take Araceli’s b******* anymore. She was tired of it. She was done with that, so done with that, you have no idea how loco and she needed to get high and she was tired of everybody’s stupid b******* and no one listened to her anyway.
She got down into a squat and rotated away from my gaze, murmuring and gesticulating. Finally I walked around into her field of vision, and she turned away from me, annoyed to have her privacy intruded upon.
‘I’m just going to be a minute. Okay? Jeez.’
She took another five.
She handed the phone back without thanks and started throwing rocks at a metal pole.
I see two lessons here. Always take the railroad tracks instead of the street. Don’t lend your phone to strangers.
Three photos, one intersection, 20 seconds apart. Thursday afternoon, 5:53 pm, while crossing Sepulveda on my bike.
Degradation, honor and hustling for dollars co-exist within one hundred feet of each other. The welfare state vs. the family. The working class surrounded by the products which will kill them early. A mid-Valley triptych.
It would be hard to miss this guy, don’t you think? Nineteen days after gunning down two men outside the 7-11 at Roscoe and Sepulveda, one-eyed, face-tatted, heat-packing, quick-on-the-trigger Angel Santana was apprehended at the Palm Tree Inn…a block from the crime scene. The motel was also the ‘residence’ of DeShawn Miles, one of the victims.
To quote Capt. Todd Chamberlain of the LAPD: “There’s something more to it than race, whether it’s gang, whether it’s some other activity.” Hmmm, I’m stumped. What other sort of activity could this be?
Somehow -for 19 days- this guy was at large in the neighborhood, despite having his face on TV. I don’t think that speaks well of a lot of people. As it happened, I walked through North Hills twice in that period, with camera and dog, and was confronted at one point by a tattooed sh**head straddling his bike and warily eyeballing passerby on Sepulveda. He wanted to know how long ‘I’d been working with the police’. I chalked it up to random street hassle at the time. Now I wonder if there wasn’t more to it.