Plying the street trade on a sunny afternoon.  Immediately outside this frame is a middle-class neighborhood of nice ranch houses, with tidy yards.  Four years ago, these women were not here.  Section 8 housing vouchers, SSI, EBT cards…plus vacant apartments = ghetto, in miniature, with all its trappings.  The people who own the apartment buildings and cheap motels along Sepulveda extract a nice profit in government remittances, but don’t live in the neighborhood they are despoiling.  The police, who are very well remunerated and don’t live in the neighborhood, either, do not push the women off the corners during the daytime hours.  The Chief of Police, Charlie Beck, lives in Simi Valley, and has a personal driver whisk him to town each day.  For how long, do you think, would a hooker stroll be tolerated on the streets of Simi Valley?  How about Brentwood? Sherman Oaks?




Along Raymer Street, the fossilized remnants of a once prodigious ivy patch….now entombed in chain link.  One wonders why this was cut.  No one inside the fence is trying to see out. No one passing by on the street has any reason to look in.  The fresh shoots of new ivy climbing out of a weephole in the asphalt suggest it was unlikely anyone was watering this to begin with. (Ivy is surprisingly hardy and resilient in the arid LA heat) What practical concern or fit of pique put a chainsaw to the roots of this mastodon, this brontosaurus of the scrapyard?

Across the Bridge


There’s a moat, two major boulevards and a railroad line separating the high density apartment buildings of Panorama City and their attendant chaos from neighboring communities. There is also a little-known pedestrian land bridge across the Southern Pacific tracks providing egress for the studious of mind to slip into Van Nuys and attend Fulton College Prep.

Last White Man in Van Nuys


Well, not exactly.  Plenty of white folks left in those areas of Van Nuys now known as Valley Glen, Lake Balboa and Sherman Oaks.  But Old Van Nuys, in its working class, starter home glory,  is now the landing place for strivers from Central America and Asia.  At the time of Prop. 187, they were hot-racking it in boarding houses or sleeping on a cot in the back of a store. Today they hold mortgages.  Happily they perambulate the aisles of big box outlets, they fill the pews, the maternity wards and car pool lanes.  To walk the dogs on a Saturday night in springtime is to have one’s olfactories titillated by unfamiliar barbeque and to hear three different languages in the space of a block. A landscape of bouncy houses and childrens balloons, of men drinking beer around a television in the breezeway broadcasting futbol and UFC.

Slide over to tyhe leafier landscaping of Northridge or Studio City and the houses are bigger, the lawns better tended, but you don’t hear or see the neighbors quite in the same way. No one is kicking a soccer ball in the street. And far fewer are sitting in the pews.

Sound City Studios, Then and Now


soundcity 1970's


Classic rock albums were once recorded here.  You can learn all about it in Dave Grohl’s new documentary.

From the Daily News:

“I am a total Valley Girl,” Grohl clarified. “I love living in the Valley. My wife was born and raised in the Valley.”   How did that happen to, arguably, grunge rock’s biggest icon?

“I moved to Los Angeles in 1997 and lived in Laurel Canyon for a year,” Grohl added. “Basically, I just drank my way through the Sunset Strip and (slept with) anything with a pulse and then I thought, yeah, I gotta get outta here.”

After some time out of state, it was a recording studio conversation with fellow musician Beck that convinced Grohl to settle north of the hills.

“There’s that funny stigma that is the San Fernando Valley, that it’s not a cool place to live,” Grohl noted. “I never understood that.

“So when Beck said `I think I’m gonna move out of Silver Lake.’ I said, `Dude! Valley! You’ve gotta go Valley.’ And the engineer in the studio said `The Valley? You don’t want to live in the Valley.’ And I said, `Well, why?’ And he said, `Because it’s the f— Valley!’

“That’s when I realized, that’s exactly where I want to live. Let everybody have the other side of the hill. I have the f— Valley! I love it here, it’s great.”


Won’s Coffee Shop


A topic of passing fascination: the down market old school establishment which manages to stay in business as an old school establishment while conceding nothing to modern taste, or a retro  makeover, and lacking the patronage of a hipster clientele a la the Dresden Room.  I thought they might be getting away with it as a front for massage parlor profits,  but at 3 pm on a Tuesday it was doing a brisk business in chow mein, conducted by a James Ellroy character who barked at cook and customer alike and slapped greasy plastic-lined menus on the counter. Interior matches expectations.