I met a grifter on Sepulveda this afternoon, handing out prayer cards. She was blonde and pretty and dressed all in white and had two young daughters with her, dressed in gold lame stretch pants and white halter tops. The card offered conversations with God, through her, by which I could obtain success in life and win. Superimposed over the bleeding heart of Jesus was a photo of a fat guy in an afro sitting on some kind of throne beckoning with his fingers. From the picture, he appeared to be the father of the twin girls. The card had a long list of things they could summon forth for me: health, divine guidance and miracles.
On the other side was a picture of her which looked as though it were lifted from a back page advertisement for outcall massage. Call me anytime! God bless you!
After dinner, I went to the gym. On the way home, I stopped to take a picture of the creche in front of St. Catherine of Siena church. As a teenager Catherine cut her hair to ward off potential suitors her mother arranged for her to marry. They intruded upon her pre-existing mystical marriage to Jesus. “Build a cell inside your mind, from which you can never flee,” she advised. She is known as the patron saint of sexual temptation. Also, those who are mocked for their piety.
As I was laying on the sidewalk finding the best angle, a young couple stopped to talk to me. His name was Danny. Her name was Mary. She cradled a sleeping chihuahua-yorkie puppy. They got him for Valentine’s.
Danny said he wrote wrestling scenarios for the WWE. I couldn’t help but think of Barton Fink. He had a Coen Brothers-ish sense of humor. He wore a crucifix. I asked him if he was Catholic. He said he believed in a higher power. A blind watchmaker.
I suggested the first question is: why something, instead of nothing?
It was Friday the 13th. In another hour it would be Valentine’s Day.
Reseda resists public affection. Of all the old neighborhoods of the Valley, it has the least curb appeal. Or to put it another way, it’s the last shopping district in LA without a Starbucks. Or a Pinkberry, or Chipotle or anything of that nature. A mixed blessing, perhaps. Driving down Sherman Way one sees all the blight of Van Nuys and Panorama City, but without the abundant street life, colorful murals, food trucks, swap meet stalls and teeming commerce of more populated areas. Reseda is the place grandma refused to leave, and the kids hate to visit. It’s where the Old White Valley and the New Valley of the Asian/Latino working class coexist in uncomfortable equipoise amid a parade of empty storefronts. Or, to put it another way, Detroit. Earlier this year, I posted a rather snarky photo array of Reseda on a Sunday afternoon which was, in retrospect, a little unfair. Last week, driving home in the late afternoon, I stopped for another look around:
Okay, maybe this isn’t helping. A lot of Reseda is like this. There’s no avoiding it. But then there are still thriving old school establishments like this:
And of course this, which I wrote of last week, the reason I stopped the car in the first place:
Maybe its the rosy light of an early evening in Autumn. Maybe it’s the fact they are still toughing it out with Target and Home Depot just up the road, or just the spirit of the holiday season, but I am resolved to be more respectful of Reseda. I leave it here:
Fittingly, the Love Thyself Barbershop. ‘”All are Welcome”.
Same location, same business all these years. Old school, like out of a movie. The durability of trade. Think how much Valley history has passed through these doors. Think how few businesses like this have survived the encroach of franchisement, of strip mall big box stores and el Nino cycles of recession, and lived to tell about it.