90% of life is showing up


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….

Giles and Andy, being patient
Giles and Andy, being patient

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.

The future of CD 6?
The future of CD 6?

Notice anything different at the Ridge Motel?


No?  Here’s a refresher:






All reference to the Ridge Motel as an endorser of Cindy Montanez has been scrubbed from her website.  Not that anyone’s hiding anything. Like blood money taken from trafficked women.

Cindy Montanez and the Ridge Motel


The Ridge Motel…under abatement for operating as a de facto house of prostitution on Sepulveda Blvd…proud supporter and endorser of the Montanez campaign. Apparently the affection is mutual.

06/03/13 Hsiu R. Young  (Owner, The Ridge Motel)  Chatsworth, CA 91311  Cindy Montanez Council Member – District 6
1358024 – Cindy Montanez For City Council 2013-General
A – Monetary Contribution Received     (IND – Individual)
[Period: 01/01/13 to 06/08/13]

[Election: 07/23/13]
06/08/13 Hsiu R. Young  (Owner, The Ridge Motel) Chatsworth, CA 91311  Cindy Montanez Council Member – District 6
1358024 – Cindy Montanez For City Council 2013-General
A – Monetary Contribution Received     (IND – Individual)
[Period: 01/01/13 to 06/08/13]

[Election: 07/23/13]

See how happy I am?


If you looked like this, would you choose Sepulveda Blvd?  No? Why not?  How long do you suppose this would be tolerated on Ventura?  If she were a white girl from Palmdale who met her pimp on Facebook would the City be quite so….accepting?  If your name is Cindy Montanez or Nury Martinez what would you say to her?  What do you intend to do about the motel owners, the absentee landlords who take their cut of the trade?

Paging Travis Bickle


‘Can I get in?’


‘Don’t you want a date?’

‘I’m not looking for sex’

‘I really have to get some money. Can you help me with that?’

‘Not with that.’

‘Don’t you like me?’

‘I like you just fine. But no thanks.’

‘Can I just sit in your car for a little while? I’m tired. We don’t have to do anything. I just kinda need a break.’

This conversation took place in the parking lot of a grocery store. In daylight hours. In a middle class neighborhood. She was the fifth one I saw on my way home, but I didn’t have it in me to photograph her face.  In the moment, she was my sister in Christ.

Women ply the trade off of Craigslist or escort services every day with varying degrees of autonomy, but women in the street are…chattel. They are owned. Their owners lurk nearby, without fear of consequence. As long as they stay north of Burbank Blvd, rich, liberal Los Angeles is content to allow African-Americans to live in the year 1861. With mobile phones.



Plying the street trade on a sunny afternoon.  Immediately outside this frame is a middle-class neighborhood of nice ranch houses, with tidy yards.  Four years ago, these women were not here.  Section 8 housing vouchers, SSI, EBT cards…plus vacant apartments = ghetto, in miniature, with all its trappings.  The people who own the apartment buildings and cheap motels along Sepulveda extract a nice profit in government remittances, but don’t live in the neighborhood they are despoiling.  The police, who are very well remunerated and don’t live in the neighborhood, either, do not push the women off the corners during the daytime hours.  The Chief of Police, Charlie Beck, lives in Simi Valley, and has a personal driver whisk him to town each day.  For how long, do you think, would a hooker stroll be tolerated on the streets of Simi Valley?  How about Brentwood? Sherman Oaks?