Six On A Bed

I discovered this digital Polaroid during an encampment cleanup off Sepulveda, put it in my pocket and forgot all about it, then re-found it in the laundry.

For most of us, Van Nuys means an affordable ranch house. But for others, Van Nuys means my weekend at the bail bondsman or my frustrating encounter with the Building Department. Then there are women for whom Van Nuys means my summer sweating for Leon at the Travel Inn.

You might presume (as I did) someone was awfully eager to pose them on the bed like chattel. How we feel about the picture depends on who we think the photographer is. We assume a male. Polaroids are keepsakes. But what if one of the women took the picture and it was meant for each other, the pose taken ironically, an artifact of their sisterhood in the fleshy trenches?

How did the picture make the journey from the motel room to the Favela?  Through whose hands did it pass?  Maybe no ones. Maybe one of these women is living in a tent next to the 405 right now. It would be the simplest explanation, but doesn’t feel like the right movie to me.

Jeff Spicoli Lived Here

Fast Times at Ridgemont High was on TV the other day…I was drawn in by nostalgia but stayed for the spectacle of teenagers working after school.   I couldn’t get past it.

Every character in the movie had a job, including Phoebe Cates, the Megan Fox of her time, dutifully served the public while draped in a corporate issue smock so unflattering it would never make it past the wardrobe assistant today.

First, the oddity: when do we see this anymore?  Then the deep memory: we all did this when were young.  Then the recognition: how completely we’ve restructured things.  White teenagers working at the Galleria? That’s what an open border is for.

A job used to be the first step to adulthood and freedom from parental constraints, the children of professionals just as likely to be slinging pizza as those of an auto mechanic.  Almost everyone today not explicitly rich claims membership in the middle class.  It’s the conceit at the heart of the 1%/99% formulation. But in 1982 it was mostly true if you viewed it aspirationally rather than by income quintile.

1982 was faux wood paneling, Formica countertops, cheap linoleum, tchotchkes, and self-maintained yards.  This could be Sherman Oaks as easily as Arleta.  All rather downmarket by modern Dwell standards, but perfectly in keeping with the aesthetics of the time.

Anyone whose house looks like this today is, well, probably “poor” or elderly.  Escaping…this… prison of dreck is the great motivator of contemporary LA.

The first commandment of Valley 2.1: all ranch houses shall be gutted and made Zillow-ready.  Better yet, they shall be replaced with more units. Which brings me to the condemned house in the first picture, in the shadow of an IMT apartment block on Sepulveda. I have it on good authority Jeff Spicoli lived there. Now it’s going to be six McMansions.   If they have kids, they won’t be working after school.   They will intern.  Peasants from Chiapas will man the espresso machine and pull the weeds.

The global south is on the move. The Red State high achievers are on the move. Both are coming here. Ambition leaves Cleveland as quickly as honorable men flee Chapo’s brigades in Sinaloa.

Chinese yuan is in search of a safe harbor. The Federal Reserve is printing money and handing it out at no interest to banks: start funding things, anything, spin the dials of consumption. Come pension fund apparatchiks, say the banks, come ye Central Asian strongmen, ye Israeli billionaires and Gulf sheiks looking to elude the virtue police, build an apartment block in Van Nuys, start collecting rent and citizenship is yours. Hedge your bets here, in the former land of hedges.

Stacy and Brad, Damone and Spicoli, Linda and Ratner, they had no idea what was coming.

The Craigslist Escape Chute

Why do so many dingbat apartments look like minimum security facilities?

What do you do in your confinement but lay on your stained mattress in your airless sweatbox at the Casa Royale and wishcast on Craigslist a whole other life for yourself?

You scroll listings you can’t afford, like young Lucas, my protege at Lord Bezos Farm.  You fantasize a rent-controlled studio for $900, three blocks from the beach, with no need for air conditioning. No commute over the hill to work.  You, and thousands of others living off the 405, sharing an opium dream of fog slipping through the open window while you sleep.

In a mockery of desire, the very life-changing rental you seek crops up…. and just to really make you feel extra bad, it’s $300 less than you’re paying in Van Nuys, and one block from the Promenade. You drag yourself the open house to buy your lottery ticket, but only because you can’t talk yourself out of it. You send unhappy texts to Mr. UpintheValley, anticipating defeat.

Dude, the line for that apartment is huge.
Nowhere to park. Think I may bounce.
Me: Stay and fill out the paperwork, at least.
There’s going to be hundreds of applicants.
God hates me. I won’t get it.
Me: God loves you. Fill out the paperwork.

So Lucas stayed for the paperwork and paid the $60 application fee for the Apartment No One Gets, and went home to the Casa Royale feeling like a sucker.  Two days later he gets a text. He, out of the audition line of supplicants has obtained the apartment.  Suddenly he is Charlie Bucket, holding the gold foiled Wonka bar.

Which left the small matter of the mattress, and its sweaty, unhappy residual memories,  better left in the Valley.  Lucas decided to dump recycle it at the Narrows, at the crossroads of three homeless encampments.  Over my objections, ladies and gentleman of the jury, as a homeowner and Mayor-Without-Portfolio of northern Van Nuys.

Dude, it’s going to be gone in an hour. Someone will sleep comfortable tonight.

Later that evening,  I walked the dogs up to the Narrows to reassure myself the mattress was …recycled.  It had.  In its place…amidst the festival of plastic garbage, I found the repository of another man’s history.  Someone’s else’s life in LA which closed out in D minor on Raymer Street. A moment of urban symmetry.

Three days later, on my way to the gym, I saw a mattress which looked suspiciously like his on Roscoe Blvd., over by the airport, two miles from where he left it.  I sent an accusing text.

“That’s not her.  My lady didn’t have those handles….”

And I thought of the dirty futons of my youth and wondered what became of them. I thought of the bed I chopped to pieces and set on fire in an act of marital cleansing and renewal, many years ago.   All the escape chutes I wished for that never came to fruition.  Suffering has brought me a different kind of happiness.

A Kind of Hush

At twilight last night on Sepulveda the LAPD set up traffic cones, parting the cars like the Red Sea…and into the breach walked the parishioners of St. Genevieve parish, murmuring the Lord’s Prayer.

I don’t think any of the delayed drivers were expecting this.  I was out walking the dogs, and I didn’t expect it either.  A quiet vigil was met with respectful silence from the inconvenienced.

America is decidedly more pro-life than when I was younger.  But quietly so. Simultaneously, it is also loudly pro-gay marriage.  These are thought of as being in opposition. In a narrow political context, perhaps yes.  But they are more complementary than one would credit.  The politician willing to straddle the contradictions within us has an ungrateful nation waiting to tear him asunder.

I say come to Van Nuys. We ground zero for understanding.

Proclamation


This woman crossed Sepulveda Blvd…with great ceremony she removed a piece of paper from her purse…and began reading aloud….to the passing cars.  She could have been reciting poetry, she could have been reading a suicide note. I couldn’t hear a word over the traffic and neither could anyone else.

Van Nuys, always more interesting than you think.

Double Tap on Sepulveda

hitrun

There are no bike lanes in Van Nuys, from Woodman to Woodley. There are no bike lanes in North Hills. None in Panorama.  Put these three neighborhoods together and you have 265,000 people, nearly the population of Orlando, Florida. Orlando has bike lanes.  So does the city of Irvine, Pop. 266,000. But not us. We’re a colony.

Wait, a minute, what about the Orange Line? Ain’t that in Van Nuys?
Before the indigenous peoples south of Oxnard declared themselves to be Sherman Oaks, it used to be.  Now it’s an orphan.

The historic heart of the San Fernando Valley constitutes a medium-sized American city unto itself, but lacking the normal amenities found in such cities. Like say, Pittsburgh.
Then we have the nomadic tribes of the Favela, wandering their Sinai of dysfunction and dispossession from the 405 to the Wash, always on bikes.   Hundreds of them.

That’s a lot of people sharing lanes.   There are choke points, Sepulveda at Stagg being one of them.   It’s a great place to get clipped, pedaling against traffic.  At night.
Then again, it’s a great place to get clipped in broad daylight moving with the traffic flow, keeping yourself three feet from the parked cars, wearing a helmet and reflective clothing.

You don’t want to get hit twice.    Cause the first driver might not kill you. If he takes off, leaving you in the street, a second car might run over you like a speed bump, dragging your body up the block. She, too, might make a getaway, trailing sparks.   In the case of Stacy Adams, 55, neither driver rendered aid, though one of them managed to dispose of her bicycle in a spirited attempt to break the chain of evidence.

Erik Larson, the first driver, was arrested at his residence the next day.  The woman, Jenevieve Hegedus, was arrested a week later.

Cops like hit and runs.  They work them hard, they close ’em fast.  -Michael Clayton

IMG_E9942

The victim, one of 50 bicycle-vehicle fatalities in SoCal in 2017, has a ghost bike to mark where her body was crushed. It’ll be there for a year, and then it will be removed.

In a year’s time, Metro may raze Aetna and Bessemer street to build a maintenance yard for a light rail conversion of the Orange Line no one asked for.  I have a wee suspicion there still won’t be a bike lane on Sepulveda. There’s no money in that.  Maybe I could write a letter to the colonial bureau.