This Is Us

We can have big piles of Tater Tot-Chos, atop piles of ground beef, atop baked potatoes, drizzled with cheese and sour cream.   We can eat our food with pitchforks.   Dig in!

Lotsa weed, too.  Now with the Time Inc., seal of approval.

We’ll have easy chairs for our easy well-decorated lives in the backyard.  We are obsessed! with comfort. Gorgeous comfort. Easy gorgeous flaccid plumping fun comfort.  Seriously. Right now.

But we’ll beat diabetes by eating pizza.

Don’t forget to grab a soda energy drink at the register.  Otherwise, you may pass out from exhaustion in the parking lot.

Leaving the 405 Behind

Mario, heading south

You live in Northridge. Do you vary your commute, or are you a creature of habit?  Sometimes I take Sepulveda on the way home.  It’s longer, but more contemplative. Sometimes the moon is out and you can enjoy it. I love the grandeur of the lights twinkling.

Music in the car, or quiet? Music. I’ll listen to the same piece of music for about a week then change it up.   I ponder where I am in my life, but try not to think about it too much.  I am inclined toward depression, but I don’t take medications. I don’t believe in that.  I jog instead.

Religion? I was raised Buddhist.

Is there a caste system in LA?  Yes, but you can break through it.  Socially, women don’t like to hear you’re from the Valley. There’s a stigma. But I don’t lie about it.

Do you find driving over the hill to wait on wealthy people uncomfortable?  Not really.

You live with your parents, is there any tension over that?  No pressure from my parents. They don’t have a timetable for me.  They understand the cost of housing in LA. I put the pressure on myself.

You’re a jazz musician. I’ve been playing saxophone since I was a kid.  I also really like grappling.  I train at the Gracie Barra gym in Northridge.

What’s your favorite virtue?  Awareness.

What’s you idea of happiness?  I’m still trying to find my own happiness, so I don’t know how to answer that question.

What’s your idea of misery? Misery would be not fulfilling your life’s mission.

To that end, you’re leaving the store. What will you be doing? I’m going to be training a lot more.  In a couple months I’m going to go to Brazil, but I’m not going to fly. I’m going to take the bus through Central America.  I’m going to find my way there.

That’s a very long way from the 405.  That’s as far as you can get, and not get lost.

Taste and Tastelessness

Vulgar is as vulgar does
When 2500 square feet isn’t enough

Sherwood Forest is a hidden enclave of elegant one-story ranch houses on sprawling lots with deep setbacks. Four bedroom, three bath, 1950’s Connecticut.  The kind of house Mr. Sheldrake took the 6:15 train home to in Billy Wilder’s The Apartment.  If you had the money to buy one, tear it down, and replace it with something twice as big, would you build this? Would you go full New Yerevan Brutalist? Would you pave over the front yard and add the tallest fence in the neighborhood?

The Sheldrake
The Sheldrake

The Rubicon

Across the street from CSUN
Across the street from CSUN…seven takers and counting

For the adventurous who go to the website to fill out the on-line application, there’s a box you can check:

YES! I am available to meet with your Company in Los Angeles, to become a PORNSTAR (sex with men, on camera), LATER TODAY.

Later Today!  No sleeping on it. No consulting with Facebook friends.

I guess this means they send men to your dorm room who carry you off on a litter like Cleopatra. Subject to terms and conditions, of course.

Is it winter yet?

Inquiring minds wish to know
Inquiring minds wish to know
Autumn intimations in Sherwood Forest
Autumn intimations in Sherwood Forest

Rainfall may be 50% of normal for the second year running in Los Angeles, but today we got our first joyful, gloomy autumnal day in the Valley.  I actually wore pants.

Yay! Fall, leaves, fall!

Yellow now, ye sweetgums and Chinese elms.  Blush crimson and drop your veil.  Flutter and flail and land where you must. Find your savasana on the rooftops and leaflet the storm drains. If we can’t have raindrops, may we at least have you.

No more sipping pumpkin spice latte with a sweat damp forehead.

Atlas shrugged, Here


Here, a short walk from the orchard that is now the Northridge mall, Ayn Rand wrote much of her magnum opus Atlas Shrugged.  There she is on the upper right,  Alisa Zinov’eyvna Rosenbaum of St. Petersburg, Russia, with her signature bobbed hair, holding court behind a moat designed by Richard Neutra.  That’s Tampa Blvd. in the background, lined with eucalyptus trees, the farmer’s windbreak of yore.

Rand came to the Valley as a screenwriter for hire and an intellectual curiosity piece. She left with the manuscript of perhaps the most influential book of the 20th century, if reader’s polls are to be believed.   Among the eucalyptus and the koi and the orange trees and occasionally Barbara Stanwyck on horseback, Rand composed the epic of John Galt, and the philosophy of Objectivism, aided by dexedrine and a thousand packs of cigarettes.


Serious People smoked then.  Without a cigarette, you were naked.  You lacked the baton with which to conduct the orchestra of your obsessions.

Rand returned to New York.  Following publication, people came to sit at her feet and touch the hem of her garment.  A chosen few were invited beneath the folds for further study.  She was the closest thing to an intellectual rock star you could be in this country -as a woman, that is- and she behaved accordingly.


The house, built in 1935 for the film director Joseph Von Sternberg, was a modernist showcase of steel, concrete and glass…water-cooled by the moat. It was razed in 1971 to make room for, well, you can guess.

Full moon over Fresh and Easy

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In the warm, warm evening air, just before midnight, gentle zephyrs kiss the back of your neck as you cross the parking lot to pick up some nosh on the way home from the gym after a long day in which almost nothing went right.  Quiet.  So quiet you can hear your sneakers on the asphalt.  A measure of calm in the chaos of the world.   Up and down the moon-dappled streets all around you, people tucked in bed.  Even the freeways are in dormition.  Unexpected tranquility. One of those moments when the Valley is the absolute right place to be.

Life’s Better Real/Live For Now


Two versions of Life at Hayvenhurst and Balboa, courtesy of PepsiCo.  Headless newlyweds in lemon and lime colored sneakers hawk ‘natural mist’ (from the Sierras!) made with 100% real sugar, if by real we mean made from genetically modified sugar beets.  In the background Beyoncé, a married woman in a go-go outfit, shimmies in service to high fructose corn syrup.  No one is holding the product they are pitching. Is this because people who drink these beverages can’t squeeze into short-shorts?  What does a headless marriage indicate, exactly? If based in ‘natural flavors’ squeezed from non-existent lemons and limes, will it stand the test of time? If not, will a little booty-grinding to 41 grams of corn syrup set matters aright?  It would at the least be a diet, of sorts, from the 100% Real  ‘Mist’ which clocks in at 62 grams of sugar per serving. Either way we are being told, indirectly, to eat our vegetables.

The object of all this persuasion is out of frame on the other side of the street: the steady stream of cars entering In-and-Out Burger, which once sold Pepsi, and now is under exclusive contract to Coca-Cola.  The beachhead has been established: our product line has nothing to do with fast food, or people who refuse to get out of their cars to eat.  You should be dancing. You should be getting married in whimsically colorful sneakers. Come join us!

Oh, it’s on. And you thought this was just another boring Valley intersection.

Friday night in Northridge


Dodgers lost to the Giants 2-1, on a walk-off homer by Buster Posey.  At the Yard House, they took it as well as could be expected.  There were compensations, like women in short dresses crossing the parking lot on the first really warm weekend evening of spring. The inconsolable could always bury their sorrows at Iron Man 3 next door.