Derek Waleko is running for CD 6

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Old school retail politics came to the Home Depot parking lot Saturday in the form of an RV ‘listening tour’.    As I happened to be there to pick up concrete blocks, I took full advantage to express a pet peeve: the blighted, weedy embankments of the Sepulveda/Metrolink undercrossing.  For the price of a few sprinklers, we c0uld recover the long dormant ivy that once covered it in full, and in doing so remove a public eyesore. For a few dollars more we could chip up the asphault median and landscape it with trees.  He listened.  Said it was a great idea.  Then he offered to ask the Van Nuys council for funds.  Granted, he’s running for office, but for those of us who lived through the ‘ we don’t do constituency service’ ethos of the Tony Cardenas era, this was an unexpected and refreshing change.

Across the Bridge

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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

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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.

Americana Theater, Then and Now

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1964.  Jan and Dean. Tab Hunter. Shelley Fabares. Air-conditioned comfort. Acres of free parking! For an extra quarter you could purchase the right to smoke in one of the extra-comfy chairs in the loge section.

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1970.  Expansion into multi-plex.  The Godfather. Jaws. Star Wars. Animal House…you wouldn’t know from the exterior, but a great decade of cinema was about to unspool here.  Sadly and inevitably, the neighborhood declined in the 1980’s, and the Americana became a grindhouse, serving up drive-in fare like Piranha and Humanoids from the Deep.

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2013. Now a profit making cosmetology school with a tuition rate of $16,63o a year.  Tuition at UCLA: $11,220.  Veterans are urged to cash in their benefits here.  For the indecisive, there’s a helpful toll-free number plastered to the side of the building.  That’s $33K for a two-year program…for the right to compete with other WBI alumnus for the right to hang a shingle over a chair at Fantastic Sam’s for whatever shifts they have available that haven’t been taken by graduates of the Academy of Barbering Arts three blocks down Van Nuys Blvd. Or the Newberry School of Beauty on Devonshire. Or the Marinello Beauty School on Sherman Way. Or….

Would I be a bad sport to mention student loan debt is not dischargable in bankruptcy court?  Tell me how this movie ends.  Maybe we should bring back smoking.