Humble Origins

The original Microsoft headquarters, Albuquerque, NM. Annual gross revenues, $16,000.

The first ten employees, plus a pizza delivery boy who stepped into the lower left of the frame by mistake. Any one of them could purchase a small nation today, for cash. Original Intel HQ, Menlo Park. I happened across these pictures on a listicle and it struck me just how…Van Nuys-ian they were: low-rise, utilitarian and anonymous.

Could this mean genius is flowering in my neighborhood, underfoot yet unrevealed? If not genius, then a fresh, paradigm-crushing business model? Is someone quietly assembling the next Death Star just beyond my back yard? Let’s take a walk into the world behind Target and find out.

Empty, but I think they used to make furniture out of recycled wood.

“Deliveries in reap.” This building say go away and says it with unintentional poetry.

Looks empty, but was recently the production offices for Workaholics.

Full to capacity, but in the business of renting space for someone else’s dreams. That’s a very old paradigm.  LA 1.0.

Sketch Paper Design, a post-production facility.  Promising. Plus a pirate flag, which isn’t. Too self-referential.

Somehow I don’t think Document Engineering, Inc. is headed for the NASDAQ. Glover looks like B-roll footage for a crime story on the local news.

I found this logo plastered on a door to a windowless bunker and was instantly intrigued.  What the hell is The Lucky Hand, Inc? What is the significance of the hamsa, the eye in the palm?

Nothing on the exterior hinted at what lay within. The row of well tended roses only enhanced a riddle straight of Thomas Pynchon, like the Trystero society in The Crying of Lot 49.

Look closer, said the palm.  I ward off spirits.  I am known since antiquity as a protector against the Evil Eye.

Well…a little Googling tells us it’s an air freshener company.

Killing evil odors, that’s Van Nuys for you.  Better as a mystery than a product. But then mysteries usually are.  Humble score: 100.

To Be A Knight, 1976

When we think of Star Wars we don’t think of a parking lot near the Van Nuys airport. Such was the state of special effects in 1976. 

Industrial Light and Magic was invented on the fly for the purposes of making the film. It’s remarkable to look back on the mother of all action sequences improvised with rope pulleys and animation cameras mounted on the back of pickup trucks.  In the analog shire that was Van Nuys…

There was so little air circulation inside the warehouse a single kleig light would raise the temperature to 130 degrees, necessitating outdoor filming.

This is how the popcorn was popped, how Luke Skywalker, patron of fatherless boys everywhere, torpedoed the Empire like a womp rat.

Meanwhile, over in Burbank, also in 1976, Lockheed was developing Have Blue,  the prototype for the F-117 Stealth Bomber. This also was an improv of sorts, in response to the rise of Russian surface-to-air missile technology  utilized in Vietnam and the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The Nighthawk would prove a decisive tipping point in the fall of the Soviet Union.

GM was cranking out Camaros, the terrestrial equivalent of a tie fighter. To drop into the bucket seat was to cross into a kind of knighthood,  to aspire to greatness in your own life, however modest it may actually have been.

The Valley was badass, without apology.

A Gentleman Supreme

 

Marcos was on a street corner at 1am in Manhattan Beach when I met him. He’d blown a day’s wages on frou-frou drinks for two women who asked point blank if he knew anyone taller and whiter.

“I get it: I’m short, I’m overweight and I’m Latino.”

They accepted his drinks, and his conversation. Then another round. And then they abandoned him for a pair of taller, whiter men who swarmed in on his action.

He was headed back to the hood, out of cash, via Uber Pool. He’d been  stranded over an hour, getting turned down by Uber drivers who didn’t want to leave the lucrative beach communities on a Friday night. His optimism was undeterred. He had plans for Coachella the following weekend.  He was going to climb Runyon, lose a few more pounds.  He’d gone into hock to rent an RV with some friends. It had an extra sleeping berth for the ladies, the ones who would be tired of camping after the first night in the desert.  Marcos had plans within plans. Meanwhile, it was back to making macchiatos at Starbucks at 5am.

Overcoming rejection is the measure of a man.  It’s the dividing line between permanent adolescence and building a proper life.

In other words, the opposite of aspergic,  dateless, self-pitying, BMW driving Elliot Rodger, level 80 World of Warcraft player and compiler of a lengthy manifesto detailing the equisite agonies of desiring coy American girls.

“It’s been my life struggle to get a beautiful white girl; that guy seemed to get one to hang out with easily, despite having a worse car and being less white than me.  I deserve her more.  She should be in my passenger seat.”

On YouTube he called himself the Supreme Gentleman. In the darker corners of the web his nom de plume was The Purifier.

Women are Animals. They are beasts. They are incapable of reason. They are controlled by their emotions and impulses. They are attracted to the most animalistic,  brutal, and obnoxious men, instead of the ideal Gentleman. 

Ideal, meaning Elliot, or Saint Elliot, as he is known on Reddit today, patron of the involuntarily celibate,  who was fond of selfies in golden light, lips pursed, head tilted to one side like a K-Pop star. One can marinate in the toxic brine of why do douchebags get the girls while I’m alone with my phone only for so long before achieving resentment’s critical mass. For Elliot, this meant driving to the Alpha Phi sorority house with the intention of burning it to the ground Carrie White-style, with the aloof blondes trapped inside. Failing to gain entry after pounding on the door, he shot two random women next door, then drove his BMW into downtown Isla Vista and made like Death Race 2000 along the sidewalks, killing six, and maiming a score.

Why am I writing about this?  Because, the Toronto van guy. The Sweet Prince’s retribution.  Because of the grass eaters I see all around, absent of courage, restlessly desiring purpose.  I fear we will have more Private Minassians, signing up for a rebellion.  Because Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz posted his admiration for Rodger online.

I watched the girls grow up in Van Nuys, then fly into the city at 18 like they were shot out of a cannon.  The young men haven’t left the block.  Nice boys, non-delinquent, gainfully employed, spending their free time smoking weed and playing video games of conquest.

Total estrangement from women among young men is not a normal state of things, but we’re fast normalizing it as a society.  The phones are empowering the women.  On the other hand they induce boys not to go out and do what comes naturally.  The girls are taking turns with the Alpha Chads before being dropped off in Spinsterville. The boys are headed for WizChan.  That’s a recipe for societal collapse, in one generation.

How does this movie end?  Hopefully, not like this:  Don’t laugh at me, Stacy.  I’m warning you.

We need a few more Marcoses in the world.

Windmills of Poo


We give them free phones.

We give them EBT cards.

We give them free health care.  Also the ability to use 911 as a hotel and car service.

We allow them unlimited shoplifting privileges up to $950 per incident. We provide them with pro bono legal representation.

We exempt them from civic laws relating to public safety and sanitation.

We allow them to pitch tents ten feet from people paying $3000 a month in mortgage, and we wonder why they stay.  Cyclically, we tell them to vacate a given location, but never to leave the City. Nor to assume self-responsibility and sobriety. There’s no grant money to be prized from that. What will Do-Gooders do for work?   So, the Favela rotates within neighborhoods like a seasonal crop. From the freeway to the Narrows, to the Wash, to Raymer Street and back again.

It is impermissible in the Los Angeles Times, or City Hall, to speak of human nature. Or moral hazard.  We subsidize the Favela endlessly, while nimbly managing to escape the inclusivity we preach. The people who staff the Caring Organizations, courtesy of the Los Angeles taxpayer, are unusually allergic to living here.   They live in South Pasadena. They live in Sierra Madre. Or Redondo. Or Moorpark, or any of the other small, orderly cities of 100,000 people that surround LA,  cities directly accountable to the voters and consequently intolerant of the Favela metastasizing within their borders.

Los Angeles has spent over a billion dollars in the last 30 years directly “combating” homelessness.   In that time, it has spread from Skid Row to Van Nuys and staked a claim to every weedy mite of ground in between.

Mayor Photo-Op intends to spend $1.87 billion (that’s billion with a B) in the next decade to cut the homeless population by …half.

The beauty of ten years from now accounting is Garcetti will no longer be Mayor when the ledgers are squared.  He intends to be President. The City Council will be termed out as well. The money will be burned in great hay bales in Grand Park. They will throw it on the pyre with pitchforks and dance around it, singing, like the Whos in Whoville. When the smoke clears, half of the 34,189 people on the street at last count will be re-housed.   The Mexican border will remain wide open if the City has anything to say about it, but the tents will diminish be replaced by pod villages in parking lots. Or something which squares personal self-destruction with virtue-signaling photo ops rounded out by civic baby talk. Public policy in LA is nothing if not a cargo cult.

In this most optimistic scenario we pay $109,548 for every Larry we remove from the streets, in addition to all the other freebies we already provide.  That’s a whole lot of kitchen remodeling in South Pas.

Alternately, we could purchase a house somewhere in the U.S. for every blue tarp refugee, then hand them the deed. Like this one, in Marlin, TX. Two bedrooms, $24,000.  Congratulations, you are now homeowners.  Here’s your bus ticket. Your sins have been cleansed from the books.

Too rural?  How about this 4-bedroom storybook traditional in Detroit? I found it in five seconds on Zillow. $37,000.  That’s less than ten grand a head for permanent housing.

One tenth what Garcetti proposes to spend on Guiding Principles™ and Liasons to Committees of Concerned Frowning, with some pods and motel rooms thrown in.

But but but but but….that’s crazy talk, Mr. UpintheValley.   You want to argue moral hazard? Anybody could just show up in LA, pitch a tent in the street and be given the deed to a house.  Where does it end?

To which I reply, what are we doing now?  We are about to spend ten times this amount to not house people, to provide them most of the necessities of life and some of the pleasures, plus a caseworker and a lawyer, but put no lasting roof over their head. We demand nothing in exchange and they return the favor.

Behind this Ikea shelf is a “bedroom” in North Hollywood.   The man who lives here is a Temple graduate. He has two day jobs. He also takes on side gigs in the Industry when opportunities arise.

In June his life upscales for the better, when a roommate shuffle will create a vacancy in one of the bedrooms.   He gets to move out from behind the TV set. This is the guy who pays the $1.87 billion to keep the Mayor in photo-ops and the salaries paid for Homeless Advocacy, Inc.

This is how we live in LA now.

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.

Eviction

Larry got booted from his mattress fort on the Pacoima Wash yesterday. Official personages from the City gave him 24 hours to vacate. I asked him where he was headed next. He said he didn’t know. He didn’t want to go to Raymer Street with the rest of them. He preferred his isolation. He asked me if I worked at Kaiser hospital.  I told him no. He was certain he recognized me from there.

“You look like a doctor I used to know.”

The white favela, I couldn’t help noticing, is becoming less white.

What is the Christian thing to do with someone who walks around with a crack pipe in his hand in the middle of the afternoon but is otherwise harmless and agreeable?

Dominion

King Ziggy moves slowly because he doesn’t have to move for anyone.  He watches and waits, fat and pleased with himself.

In related news, the most commercially successful artist at the Brewery Art Show yesterday may have been Pudge the Cat.

Pudge’s “work.” He sits inside of empty delivery boxes and nibbles them into “sculpture.”   His parents bring the carcasses to the gallery and affix price tags. No joke. They sold this box from West Elm for $1500. Allegedly.

His “leavings”, which they also sell.  Allegedly.  When I saw this I assumed it was all a put on, until two cat ladies entered the studio, greatly excited, and asked very furtively if Pudge was “up”.  He was napping, they were told, and left disappointed.

Ziggy’s work:  ridding the yard of vermin, and bringing the remains into the house as tribute.  We pay him in kibble. In Van Nuys, we call this the chain of nature.

What if we framed his kills in little plexiglass containers? Put them under spotlights atop plinths?   Titled it Rosemary’s Kitty: Cat Work and Intersectionality, (Re) Imagined.  Could we pay the mortgage?  Isn’t that the dream of talentless hacks across the city?

We Almost Live Like This Now

Los Angeles, where you can have a 21 day dry aged Sonoma duck ($55) prepared by a Michelin-starred chef and delivered to your door by a Yemeni war refugee who gets his car serviced at Ochoa’s Mecanica by laborers of indeterminate provenance and murky paperwork. Everybody wins!

Charcoal Venice ages its meats in a glass case at the edge of the dining room and charges $20 for vegetable appetizers. I suspect they’ve yet to recieve their first delivery request to Van Nuys. Which makes me wonder what this billboard is doing up on Roscoe Blvd.

Here are the most ordered foods on GrubHub in 2017: Poke, chicken biranyi, bulgogi bibimbap, avocado toast, chips and queso, acai bowls, cobb salad, corn dogs, soft pretzels and burritos. A sublimely American amalgamation of comfort and pretense.

Maybe thats why Josiah Citrin is folding his arms pretentiously and sneering down at us from atop a muffler shop. We all want to eat at his house, but even though we can’t, we can pretend we’re nearly like the Venetians who do cause we’re ordering in. A little truffle oil on those fries and we can imagine we’re there.

Either way, Josiah gets paid.

Of Human Storage

Because we need facilities for all the stuff we can’t fit into our living spaces.  Because we don’t wish to part with old furniture if it has sentimental value, and also when it doesn’t.

We never know when vinyl records might come in handy again.  Or tchotchkes,  scrapbooks or old power tools…

…or Hamilton Beach blenders, washing machines, hair dryers and Atari game systems from 1986.    We keep our stuff…when we move…and when we don’t. Two-thirds of storage renters have houses.

We tell ourselves we never know when we might relocate. Then again, deep down we know we may already be sitting in the house we will die in.

Sometimes we like to visit our lockups to take inventory of a second life. An alternative future.  A possible past.

We keep totems to ward off mortality.   Our surplus is fecund. The alternative is the nakedness of austerity.  There is no lie you can tell yourself about a life unadorned.

Surplus people, on the other hand…we can tell ourselves all manner of lie about them folks.

Easter in the Narrows

Larry was cooking an onion and some chicken scraps he found in the dumpster behind Tasty Thai when we passed him tonight on our way back to the house. He was burning a shirt in a metal drawer as a heat source, but it was to the side of the pan, not beneath it, so there was very little cooking going on.  His crack pipe and torch were on his lap. His dog Zsa Zsa wiggled out of a backpack to say hello.

“I don’t have any power,” he announced cheerfully.  “I like cooking stuff I find.”

“Make sure you cook it all the way through.”

“What day is it?”

“Easter,” I said.

“I still don’t have any power.”