Van Nuys, Then and Now

Van Nuys 1970
Van Nuys 1970
Van Nuys 2014
Van Nuys Polleria, 2014

Since I posted about Busch Gardens last week, I’ve heard from a few of the elders, longtime Valley residents, who remember most fondly the ‘live bird shows’, including one in which a parrot pedaled across the stage on a tricycle.  Also remembered was the unrestrained quaffing of beer in the ‘pavilions’ by the adults, followed inevitably by fender bending mayhem in the parking lot afterward.   This was a different time, before Mothers Against Drunk Driving, air bags and shoulder seat belts, among many other institutional cautions of our modern world.  Before nut allergies and predator databases.  In the 1970’s, prudence meant filters on your Pall Malls.   Now prudence requires filters on the mobile phone to prevent XXX-rated content from streaming into the palm of your pre-teen’s hand.

Come see the parrots
Come see the parrots
Birds, killed fresh on site. Rabbits, too.
Come see the birds killed fresh on site. Rabbits, too.

Our sense of wonder was different then, and so too was our sense of caution.  The parameters of risk have shifted.  We thought nothing, as kids, of playing outside unattended for hours on end without a drop of sunscreen.   Now we slather on the SPF 50 and never let the kids leave the yard.  We know more than ever about the requirements of nutrition and exercise, yet are enormously fat.  We cling to gadgets only a short time ago were luxuries to the wealthiest among us, and yet are already hypnotically bored by them. We have no understanding of the technological magic behind the screen which makes it all go, but we take it for granted the next version will be better, faster, cheaper.

In the absence of wonder we are drawn to simplicity of the old country. Bring us that bird. I’ll take that one, there. Chop, chop. There’s dinner, kids.  Like our grandparents did it.

Hooked

Ironic mural in the shadow of the Budweiser plant
Ironic mural in the shadow of the Budweiser plant
Unironic hookup just around the corner
Unironic hookup just around the corner

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_van_nuys_179

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.

Busch_Gardens_papers