Vanderpumping the Valley

A new season of Vanderpump Rules is upon us, with a new twist. The cast members (who make $25K per episode) have decamped from their apartments in West Hollywood and purchased homes near each other in…Valley Village and Sherman Oaks and Valley Glen.  Mrs. UpintheValley is in ecstasy.  Practically neighbors.

If you’re a reality star in your eighth season, what do you buy?  What does $2 million get you?   Farmhouse modern, glossy white with black trim, newly constructed.   One of the houses, I noticed, actually abuts a major Valley boulevard. Who would pay seven figures to live next to traffic?  Bravo stars, that’s who.    It’s also possible they chose houses with a generic facade/motif to discourage fans from identifying their location and pestering them with vegan housewarming gifts.

This strikes me as a seachange in how the Valley will be viewed in pop culture terms, going forward. This is not Calabasas. This is the flatlands, north of the 101.  Adam Carolla-ville. Almost Van Nuys adjacent. This is us, albeit on a grander scale.  It’s the inevitable consequence of too much money chasing too few houses.   The little ones go down, and bigger ones take their place, to the limit of the setback.

Then there’s Cleveland, which has been rebranding for two generations in the hope bargain hunters from Californians and New Yorkers will head there in search of a price point too good to refuse.

After my last post, alert reader James noted an earlier Plain Dealer branding campaign from the 80s:  New York may be the Big Apple, but Cleveland’s a Plum.  

This sort of civic boosterism inevitably gets trumped by crowdsourced public branding. Healthy cynicism, like cream, rises to the top.   Shame can be a social glue, if not a left-handed expression of pride. It offers consolation without changing facts on the ground.  But in the end, King James will leave you, not once but twice.

In America’s great divergence between the boutique cities on the coasts and Everywhere Else, the New Urbanists keep waiting for people to respond to economic signals. Logic says move to the Rust Belt: big house, tiny price tag, short commute. Be a big fish in a smaller pond.  Locate your start-up here, cut your burn rate in half. California responds by saying, meh, I’d rather just move to my own personal Cleveland called the Valley, and turn that into West Hollywood.

Yes, please. Keep pumping.

The Agony and Ecstasy of Surge Pricing

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A word to the wise partygoer: if you’re standing in front of The Abbey at quarter to two in the morning with your phone out, waiting for an Uber home, you do not have a strong hand to play. It’s a tough get on an average Saturday night.  On New Years Eve?  Well, as they back East,  fughetaboutit…

The delicate mechanics of rider and car finding each other at the corner of Santa Monica and Robertson can be challenging.  This is where, at a certain point the evening, the normal order of cars-on-the-street, pedestrians-on-the-sidewalk gives to way to a state of nature.  All pretense of traffic signals, loading zones, crosswalks and waiting ones turn is in the wind.

The conversation runs something like:  “We’re across the street from the fire truck. See us?”

Beyond the sea of faces jaywalking past my windshield, in the middle distance, I can make out the blinking orange lights of a fire truck. Anything beyond that might as well be in Orange County.

“Just pull in behind the fire truck. We’ll find you.”

“I’m not turning onto Robertson. We’ll never get out of there. Meet me at the corner.”

The Corner: Dozens of cell phones twinkling,  each surrounded by a cluster of hopeful riders.  Some are utilizing the flashlight function, as though waving a bright light into the windshield of an approaching Uber will expedite matters.  It doesn’t.

No sooner do I pull to the curb than the door is yanked open and a theatrical couple take possession of the back seat.

“Oh thank God you’re here.  We’ve been waiting for-ever.”

I ask for the name on the account. Of course it doesn’t correspond to my rider.  Regrettably, I’m here for someone else, I explain.

“But we’ve been waiting so loooong…”

After several long minutes in front of Lisa Vanderpump’s restaurant, fending off pirate boarders, the correct riders find me.

Four people, one passed out drunk next to me in the shotgun seat, another passed out in the back.  Lucky Couple Number Two rounding third base necking, all the way home.  I didn’t mind. Getting people safely where they want to be in whatever state they are in at the moment, is at the core of Uber service.

When we reached Calabasas it was 31 degrees. Nobody could find the keys to the house.  Make Out Girl was hopping about in bare feet, holding her heels in one hand, and patting down pockets of her slumbering friends. Eventually the keys were located and Make Out Guy fireman-carried the slumberers across the threshold. My evening was done.

Three hundred and twenty bucks. That’s one hell of a hangover.