Looking for cans in Cratchit-ville


Hey neighbor!  Good to see you!

She was yelling at me from across the McDonalds parking lot.  She was pushing her cart, as she does most afternoons, on the prowl for cans and bottles to take to the recycling center. She lives in a Cratchit trailer behind another trailer behind the house at the end of my block.

Sometimes we hear her yelling profanities at no one in particular as she walks past our yard.  She doesn’t mean anything by it. It’s just her way. She’s actually quite sweet.

Her landlady passed away, as did the landlady’s husband.  Now the landlady’s mentally challenged adult son has title to the house. He works as a janitor at Wal-Mart. He comes home and plays Call of Duty with the volume turned up to the distortion level and the sound of machine gun fire emanates from the open doorway, tumbling down the block in gusts of mayhem. Three times a day the son rides a handicapped scooter to one of the local fast food outlets for his meal and carts it home in a basket. He lets rooms both inside and outside the house to an assortment of people, including this woman’s ex-husband. The house and its many surrounding structures are a rabbit warren for the dispossessed. There’s a man who’s rented there for 26 years. There’s another who shuffles up and down the block, stooped over at the waist from illness or injury, frequently leading a small boy by the hand, occasionally carrying him on his shoulders.  Sometimes they are dressed for church.

Together they make up a sort of misfit family of convenience.

Signposts in North Hills


I wasn’t sure what to make of this lady, whispering to herself while blowing kisses and making peek-a-boo faces at passing cars.   It was Sepulveda Blvd, but then one shouldn’t judge by appearances.  She was the first person Giles and I encountered on our walk tonight.  Sort of like a Wal-Mart greeter for the neighborhood.

The extra Z is for better sleep
The extra Z is for better sleep


Turning east from Sepulveda, I encountered a street I never heard of with the Salinger-esque name of Memory Park. It was one block long and appeared to be the last bastion of white holdouts from the old days.  I saw two Clint Eastwood in Gran Turino-type guys tinkering in immaculately well-organized garages, one with an American flag hanging un-ironically off the front porch.


The other house hosted ‘Fun Daycare’,  with a frolicking babysitter-in-a-miniskirt graphic.  I don’t know what to make of this.  Daycare shouldn’t be jail, but should it be this frivolous?  Is it a pitch subtly geared toward sleazy fathers dropping off kids?  It seems like a sly visual joke for a slasher movie. But then again it could just as possibly be entirely innocent, and probably is.


Then there were these signs,  scattered up and down the boulevard.    This is the info it provides:

How To Pick-Up Girls And Have Them Call You You Will Never Have To Call Girls Again

There are only general rules, you need details becasue every situation is different.

1. Stop spending money in taking girls out to dinner, quit buying flowers and other things. Instead, use that money to pay her to help you wash your car, clean your house, etc.

2. You must pay her by the hour. You clock her in when she starts, and clock her out when she is ready to go home; pay her in cash before she leaves: that is the reason why she will call you again. Never take advantage of her by having her around you for free becasue she will not call you back.

3. The only proble is that they get lazy after the 3rd day and want to relax and have a good time on the clock, but since you are a ‘nice guy’ you will let her (on the clock)


1. Send a money order for the amount of minutes you want to buy for consultation $2.00 per minute, $20.00 minimum (10 Minutes)

2. Don’t forget to give us your phone number and name. ( We file by phone numbers)

3. Use text til we call you. We’ll call you once we receive your money order (no checks) then, we’ll schedule a time for a phone meeting that is convenient for you.

Send Money Order Made Out To:

Mark Barton

1317 North San Fernando Blvd., Burbank, CA 91504

According to Google Maps, the address is a mail drop.

Portrait of working mothers on Sepulveda


The Classy Lady was a valley institution for decades.  It would be difficult to imagine a sadder strip club.  There was no cover, which should tell you something right there.  There was no VIP room. You could buy a pitcher of Coors Light for $8.  Cheapskates would hang out by the pool table in the back, pretending to play while taking in the view free of charge.  Management didn’t seem to mind. The ladies would wander by with a tin cup and ask for money for the jukebox, and by money I mean coins.  They would clomp the two steps up to the pole and grind it out for a couple singles on the tip rail, or frequently nothing at all.    There were women working with fresh C-section scars and moonscapes of acne on their derriere.  The place was annexed to a gas station and a store which sold rims.  I can’t believe it’s actually a strip club, was the instinctive reaction.   Sort of like wandering in to your own private David Lynch film.  For the women it was not even a waystation on the road to perdition, but perdition itself, in which one panhandles naked without remuneration.

It shames me to say this, but a couple years ago, after regaling dinner guests with a description of The Classy Lady, they demanded to ‘see the ugly strippers’ for themselves.  Off we went. Only now the strippers were of an entirely different quality. They were thin. They were tone.  They had skills.   There was still no cover, and no one was putting money on the tip rail.  In the depth of the recession.

But you do what you have to do, when you’re a working mother.

Classing up the place
Classy no more

That’s all done with now. Sort of.  Classy has been gutted, expanded and replaced with Synn.  In keeping with Nury Martinez’s self-promoting ’45 day ban’ on adult business, all the strip clubs on the boulevard have renovated and enlarged, like the cup sizes no doubt, in the new, improved Synn Gentlemen’s Club.

Snapshots of Sepulveda and Roscoe

Three photos,  one intersection, 20 seconds apart.  Thursday afternoon, 5:53 pm, while crossing Sepulveda on my bike.

Napping outside Fatburger,
Catatonic on the sidewalk outside Fatburger
Fatherhood. Why don't more men do this?
Fatherhood. Why don’t more men do this?
Flores, para su esposa
Flores, para su esposa

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.