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.
Sepulveda Blvd. has a hooker problem. This is not news to people in Van Nuys. But if you are clicking here from another part of the world, take my word for it, there’s been one for some time. From the Voyager and the Hyland motels, from the Ridge and the Palm Tree Inn they promenade forth in pairs in the late afternoon, Molly-rolling through the night. Again under the unforgiving dawn they work the morning commute, a sullen cluster of the living dead in front of Jon’s supermarket. Without fear of interference from the municipal government, pimps wield a dark, alchemical power. Their chattel, formerly citizens of the United States, toil up and down the boulevard alongside backpack-toting middle schoolers. They block shoppers turning into the parking lot at Fresh and Easy. They take up benches at bus stops and threaten all manner of whup-ass at passerby who stare, frown disapproval, or worse, take pictures. All this dreary pageantry playing out within a frisbee toss of the urban Mayberry of tree-lined streets that is the Real Van Nuys. The Van Nuys of the 60-hour workweek. The Van Nuys of Sunday barbacoa, birthday parties and mass.
Until now. Our City Council person, Nury Martinez, has decided to get tough with these guys. Seriously. She’s done with being concerned. She’s taking a stand. She’s going to….
…’target liquor stores and strip clubs’. That’ll do it! No new licenses or permits will be issued for the next….45 days. ‘It seems like the vice activities feed on each other,” Martinez was quoted in the Times, adding: “We don’t want these types of businesses to lure the pimps.” There hasn’t been a new strip club or liquor store on Sepulveda in the past decade I have lived here, and probably a decade longer before that, but the council was undeterred. The measure passed unanimously. Against the accusation of silliness, the proposal was amended to include motels. For the next 45 days…..no more motel permits! This will be sure to strike fear in the last motel builder in Van Nuys, who shed this mortal coil somewhere around the Carter administration.
Just this afternoon, walking Giles, I watched two teen-aged black girls hook a passing car, and direct him into the Travel Inn. ‘Just pull right on in there. We working there.’ In, he pulled. They walked right past the motel office window. There appeared to be brisk activity in the parking lot and on the balconies. Not a cop or politician in sight. They’ve got it figured out, though. No more Travel Inns! No Travel Inn annex! They’ve put their foot down! Nothing more to see here. Just a 15-year-old taking if five times a night from strangers, on prom weekend, a thousand miles from home. Daddy wants his money.