Like kudzu, garage houses are going up all over my beloved working-class Brigadoon. Not your grandmothers granny flat. A casita royale. Numero deux. The deuce. YIMBY-ville.
Something with a separate address, and a ghost in the stucco where the door once was.
Yimby, Yimby, Yimby. Literally. Just around back. Through the side gate. C’mon in. A house of one’s own. Yes, right here. Yes yes yes.
The old arrangement: five cars in the driveway and a door within the door of the garage had all the plausible deniability of a 40oz malt liquor in a paper bag. This served, for decades, as the ugly-yet-practical affordable workaround in a city which restricted new housing stock to Instagrammable apartment blocks for sugar babies, well beyond the economic reach of the unsubsidized. A few carbon monoxide deaths a year from space heaters may have been the price to be paid, but as long as there was a single electric meter the City looked the other way.
Very quietly, by allowing garage conversions, Los Angeles has potentially doubled housing stock in certain neighborhoods. The accessory dwelling unit is out of the closet at long last and ready to walk the boulevard in tight pants. Always thirsty for permits and taxes, it’s the City’s unofficial way of expanding horizontally without sprawl. The backyard is the new outer ring suburb.
Californians in this era of the one-party state have been required to accept conditions that our predecessors would never tolerate. Every once in a great while, it can get something right. I think this is going to work, though it will have detractors on aesthetic grounds, as one moves upmarket.
Then again, there’s this. Valley 3.0. Vehicles with extension cords.
I pick up a lot of Uber riders who look like this, or are trying their damnedest to. Not so much in the Valley, that goes without saying. Maybe Studio City on a weekend, coming out of Black Market or Page 71. But more likely emerging from an expensive apartment building in Brentwood, going home, alone, to a modest building in Koreatown.
Frequently the name on the Uber account is male.
She has Expensive Hair, and a $300 pair of 5-inch heels, but she’s not going out to the club with her friends. She announces she needs to finish her cigarette, and you wait for her because women like this know just how deep a line of credit they have with the male species ay any given moment. On the ride, she lowers her window, leans back and watches the city go by, brushing strands of hair from her face like she’s modeling Wistful, by Calvin Klein. You realize she’s using the open window to sneak a second cigarette but you say nothing. She catches you looking and asks where you’re from and you tell her, and she announces she’s from Kentucky. Apropos of nothing, she goes on to tell you, her Uber-confessor, she’s been here eight months and she doesn’t have a job.
In a city few people can afford to live in, on paper, people live here all the same. They arrive in greater numbers each month. How does anyone pay $2400 for rent? If their parents aren’t supporting them, then who?
There is no starker demarcation of class in this city than the Beauty Line.
The Beautiful are waited upon. The Unattractive, The Squat, The Dark, serve them.
Before you start hating, be honest. How many beautiful waitresses do you actually see anymore? Besides in the movies.
The Beautiful Waitress was once a Los Angeles institution. When one could prize a one-bedroom apartment in Los Feliz with an avocado tree outside the window for $650, one could get by waiting tables. Back when one could buy acting classes a la carte, instead of being compelled to enroll in a accredited acting program (for profit, natch) with Ivy League-level tuition, the Beautiful Waitress could be the agent of her own destiny.
Today’s waitress is fat, heavily tattooed, and living rent-free at home with her parents. In the Valley.
Stop hating. Look around you. Who’s bent in half, doing nails? Who’s getting her nails done? Who’s fetching items from the stockroom? Who’s cleaning? Who’s making the caramel macchiato? Who is tapping her fingers impatiently on the counter? Who is working the register at Whole Foods while a parade of underfed fawns in Lululemon clutch the arms of their 45-year-old ‘boyfriends’ and display conspicuous public affection for the benefit of onlookers?
These are observations, not judgements.
I’m not sure what the half-life of a Sugar Baby in Los Angeles is. I know they don’t last long in your mouth. You can suck on them for a while, but then the temptation to bite down into the chewy part overtakes you. It’s an autonomic, id-driven thing. Then you reach into the bag for another.
The Sugar Daddy calls an Uber.
Beauty is a form of Capital, until it isn’t. Then it’s just another form of Labor. The cry ride across town with the window down is the time to assess. Before you end up bent over a rail at 3 am at Charlie Sheen’s house while he prattles in your ear about undetectable viral loads and lambskin condoms.
Maybe at the end of the day, the clock-punching women chained to their meager paychecks end up happier. I don’t know. I’m just the guy who gives the rides, and I know the math in this city doesn’t add up.