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”.
In the beginning there were human sign twirlers, otherwise known as directionals, out-of-work actors dancing on street corners with cardboard arrows pointing traffic toward badly situated pizza parlors and Cash for Gold clip joints. Then came the wavy inflatable balloon men: air dancers, doing the freak in front of used car lots. Now we have robotic wavers, hot skinny mannequin bitches in suggestive clothing grinding a sign like a pom-pom, a kind of zombie-Sisyphean performance art for the road trade, dawn til dusk. At $19/day, they come cheaper than actors. We call that progress.
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.
On my way home from Runyon Canyon today, I happened upon this remarkable bit of retail whimsy on Vineland. There’s ten thousand storefronts like this in the Valley; dated, a little rundown, probably with old wiring and ventilation, most nearly invisible behind metal bars and garish window signage. Look what they did here with just a few gallons of paint, stucco, repurposed building materials and creativity.