Karenocracy

Safety theater at Runyon Canyon.

We were already an unhealthy people in March 2020. Fat, sedentary, drug taking and prone to melancholy. In 18 months we have become significantly unhealthier on direct instructions from the government. Stay home. Wear a face diaper. Live in isolation. Here’s some money, order in.  Be alone. Pestilence is all about. You are the vector of pestilence. Hide your murder breath. Don’t gather in one place like the idiots of MAGA country. Are you unhappy? Here’s a pill. Live in your underwear. Keep a pair of door pants at the ready for delivery people.  Don’t go to school.  See your sad reflection in a Zoom grid. Stare at your face for hours every day while pretending to learn. Here’s another six months of checks. Hit the app. Have the little people bring you things. Give Silicon Valley control of your headspace. Stream everything. Pay people to talk to you to fight the sad.

93,331 overdose deaths in 2020.  Three more on the floor in Venice this weekend, plus the wonderful Michael K. Williams in New York.

Since the pestilence from the Wuhan Institute of Virology reached our city, Los Angeles has handed down edicts in the name of our collective safety like a factotum from a Terry Gilliam movie. Masks. Social distancing. Disinfecting surfaces. The utility of these measures in preventing infection are marginal.  Airborne coronaviruses find a way.  They burn through the population in a given area in a two-month conflagration then wither for want of new hosts. New variants come along later and we repeat the process. Sweden is the best real-time experiment we have lockdowns may not significantly alter the ultimate outcome.

What would have helped us? Hardening one’s immune system. Dropping to a healthy weight. Improved lung function. Cardio. Vitamin D.  Among people under 65, obesity is the greatest co-morbidity, 78% of hospitalizations.

Two words:  Runyon Canyon. Get on the trail. Clear your head. Enjoy the eye candy. Stand on the ridge top like a philosopher king and contemplate the city of your youth. Turn and face the Valley of your now. Be anti-fragile. De-mask yourself and smile at your passing brethren.  Give them your face so they may give you theirs and you both may carry each other home and know you are not alone.

What a headf**k  it is to discover this week L.A. is doing all it can -still!- to restrain the public from walking there. Is it closed? Not exactly. The parking lot is closed. Most of the street parking on Mulholland has been taken away.  The main gates are closed. There are two doors, one at the top, the other on Vista, that are left unlocked. So it’s not like you literally can’t enter but the City sure makes you feel its disapproval.

What free people would stand for this? Where did this deference to grasping bureaucrats come from?

Everyone from Fauci to power-tripping LA County Health Director and fake MD Barbara Ferrer should have been pushing vigorous immune health from the beginning. How much would that have cost? Bupkis. For lack of profit it is a solution that dare not speak its name.  What would be the downside risk? There isn’t any. One can still become sick, of course, but the ability of the virus to overwhelm you is greatly diminished.  You can still push vaccines. But first, build the foundation.  Much can be accomplished in 18 months through incremental persistent changes in diet and exercise.

Here’s a data point for you all. Since Wuhan began, I have had over 2000 people in my car in various states of masking: correctly, incorrectly, hanging below the nose, under the chin, discarded altogether, talking, coughing, burping and laughing.  I lower my mask to sip water. I chew gum. I talk to people. The odds I have not come into contact with aerosolized Wuhan particles, that my lungs have not been breached, are remote. Negligible I would argue.

I have not had so much as a sore throat. I am neither superhuman, nor exceptionally lucky.  What I am is healthy (also vaxed, as of May). I spent much of the past year working outside, hiking and biking and on occasion, running.  This was a choice any of us can make. I’ve been the overweight guy, prone to melancholy. That didn’t work for me.

Our solution is not a pill. Nor is it the defenestration of the CEO of Sweetgreen for daring to say the hospitalization rate of Wuhan was driven by the “underlying problem” of obesity, then abase himself in a forced apology. Nor is it wishing Joe Rogan an early death for stating on his podcast he overcame the Delta variant in three days using Ivermectin and monoclonal antibodies.

Coronaviruses are endemic. They are with us now and will be for the rest of the lives. We have flu strains floating around dating back to 1918. The real questions before us are not viral ones. They are matters of social control.

How much liberty are we going to yield to those who would prefer us fat, sedentary and compliant? America was not designed to be a bio-medical security state, but we are building one now.

What are we going to do about it? You will be put to the question, like it or not. It will find you, even when you are out riding your bike.

Melancholia, Slight Return

If I had the gift of clairvoyance, would it manifest as manic depression, as it did for Kirsten Dunst in Melancholia?   

Seeing the row of lollipopped ficus trees in Runyon under a brooding sky evoked memories of the film and its distinct visual motif.

We are headed for some kind of Civil War II for no better reason than half of us desire it so badly.    One path is shorter, the other longer, but they both lead to the same destination.

It is as though another blue planet, previously hiding behind the sun, has quietly appeared, growing a little larger by the day, insensible to prayer.

Liberation of the Commons

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The old Runyon trail, past 2450 Solar Drive, fenced off for the past three years, was emancipated over the holidays.  The chain link and cedar plank gates, always a short term gesture,  were improvisationally knocked off their hinges by persons unknown, to make way for the public, in a civic version of Moses parting the Red Sea.

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‘I paid $2 million for this house. Get your shitty car out of here’

No more Runyon Mellow
No more Runyon Mellow

Giles and I returned to Runyon yesterday, on the Mulholland side.  Got my work done early. Figured mid-afternoon, weekday, light traffic on the trails…since there’s no longer parking at the bottom of the hill, I’ll hike in reverse.  So off we went. My first clue something might have been off was the absence of any available spots around the Runyon gates.  Unusual for the time of day, but it happens.  I ventured into the windy streets below Mulholland where there are always spots.  Always.  Usually not far off. And then I saw this sign.  (Note the shinier exposed steel where the old sign used to be)  Now, for those unfamiliar with Runyon, probably 80% of the users access the park from the bottom of the hill, from Vista or Fuller, and that’s where the parking drama has historically resided.   The upper gate is for the Valley folk and people who live in the hills, and generally has been a low-key affair. Runyon Mellow. The sudden appearance of a new battleground in the War of Rich Douchebags vs. The People of Los Angeles, here, threw me.  Having slept on it, I don’t know why I felt surprised.  I circumnavigated Upper Nichols Canyon chastised by a succession of No Daylight Parking, District 38 Permits Exempt signs in all the old familiar places. I did not see a parking permit tag on any car.   Could it be no one who lives in that neighborhood needs a permit, because…they don’t actually park on the street, because….well, they can just park in their own garage?  I looped around then ended up back on La Cuesta when I noticed a hand-written sign pertaining to parking, pinned to a privacy wall. Intrigued, I pulled to the curb, left the car running, and went to read it.  Immediately, an angry bellowing erupted behind me, and I mean angry.  A man and his Boston terrier were walking straight at me, gesturing and demanding to know what the f*** I thought I was doing and how I had no f***ing business parking there. I started to explain I wasn’t parking, only reading the sign, but he was having none of it.  “Get your shitty car out of here.  I paid $2 million for this house and I don’t have to have people parking their shitty cars in front. You’re trespassing.  This is private property. Now get the f*** out of here. You have five minutes.”  I’d been out of the car all of ten seconds. As much as I would like to report any number of snappy comebacks from yours truly, the truth is they only occurred to me later.  Like all tough guys, he closed the garage door behind him and disappeared into the house. Flushed with renewed affection for my 2002 Honda Civic, I drove to Fryman Canyon, where this week at least there is still parking, sort of.  If you don’t mind hiking a bit, to get to your hike.  Just to be very clear about this, all dialogue is verbatim.  So there we have it: La Cuesta Drive, Nichols Canyon, and by extension, the park itself…all proclaimed private property now, by decree of the wealthy.

This land is your land

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David Simon, the creator-producer of the HBO series The Wire recently gave a speech in which he lamented what he saw as a two-tiered economic system in America, divided between haves and have-nots: “My country is a horror show.” After some rumination on the wisdom of Marx, and a lament on the impact of money in elections, he concluded, without irony, the time might be right for people to “pick up a brick”.  At what or whom the bricks would be hurled was left unsaid.  I thought of this as I was trying to park yesterday at Runyon Canyon.

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Runyon Canyon, the most popular hiking trail in the city of Los Angeles, has no parking lot.  Consider that for a moment.  It also has no bus service.  Unless one has the good fortune ($$$) to live nearby, one is obliged to arrive by car.  Not so long ago one could park anywhere along Vista and Fuller, all the way up to the park gates. Then the folks in the big houses petitioned the city to eliminate all street parking in front of their homes. Not that they were impacted in any way directly vis-a-vis parking. Every house on those blocks has ample garage and driveway space.  No, what the homeowners objected to was the use of their street by their fellow Angelenos,  even though these were the only access points to the park.  The purpose of the parking ban was to inhibit people from using the park at all.  Effectively, to privatize public space.  In practice this didn’t happen. Hikers parked in the available spots south of Franklin and hiked a few extra blocks, past angry signs like this one. We were inconvenienced, but we chalked it up to calories burned and made the best of it.

The Holly Hills West Neighborhood Association welcomes Giles
The Holly Hills Neighborhood Association welcomes Giles

That arrangement is now a memory. The city has eliminated nearly all non-permit parking within range of the Runyon gates.  Parking Enforcement Priuses silently trawl the neighborhood for tickets, assisted by confusing and at times contradictory signage. Which is to say, liberal Democratic Los Angeles has declared war on its people at the behest of the wealthy.  The ticket revenue is now a de facto usage fee for what was formerly a public park. As a point of comparison imagine the residents of the Dakota Apartments cordoning off the crosswalk at 72nd and Central Park West and slapping a surcharge on the exit turnstiles at the subway station to limit visitors to Strawberry Fields.  How long do you think New Yorkers would stand for that?

Clint Eastwood in Detroit: 'Get off my lawn'  Liberals in LA: 'Get out of my park'
Clint Eastwood in Detroit: ‘Get off my lawn’.  Rich douchebags in LA: ‘Don’t come to my park’
Pleading for the right to work on a national holiday
Pleading for the right to work on a national holiday

Is it not enough there is no equivalent to Central Park, or even Golden Gate Park, in Los Angeles?  The City’s investment in recreative public space are a pair of gates, some garbage cans and an unmaintained dirt trail.  It may not have been much, but it offered a grand view and a chance for folks from different tax brackets to admire one another.  Even this widow’s mite is being withdrawn from the public commons bit by bit,  first with the trail grab alongside the Pink Wedding Cake house on Solar Drive and now this….reverse Homestead Act for the Gentry.  Obama signs were recently thick upon the ground here, but now only the stoop labor remains, toiling beneath the palm fronds.  As for the rest of us?  Well…when the Hour of the Brick comes round, I can think of a place to start.

MLK Day at Runyon Canyon

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No shade on the ant trail.

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Mrs. UpintheValley had to take a moment near the top.

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She wasn’t alone.   No clouds+no wind+hot gravel+abundant sunshine=exhaustion.

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On the way down, she recovered sufficiently to stop and compliment this woman on her tattoo.  An abundance of racerback tank tops in evidence Monday.  Is it still January? Oh, yeah. It is.  We have another two months until ‘spring’.