“Free” Landscaping

Our utility bills at work
The law of incentives at work

In the interest of conservation, the Department of Water and Power is offering cash rebates to homeowners willing to replace their beloved lawns with drought tolerant landscaping.  If this calls to mind some of the lovelier succulent and native plant gardens one sees in the swankier parts of town, that would be an understandable assumption.   The Valley being the Valley, it’s a little different in practice.

An outfit called Turf Terminators is pocketing $3.75 per square foot for scraping turf, backing up a dump truck of gravel, dropping it without a weed barrier and planting a one gallon pot every six feet and calling it “landscaping”.  This plague of ugliness is sweeping north from Oxnard Blvd., the unofficial demarcation line between good taste and tastelessness in the Valley.

The Return of Mr. Inscrutable

Gone but not forgotten
Gone, but not forgotten

Feral cats come and feral cats go.   When they go, they stay gone.

Mr. Inscrutable joined the nightly scrum at the porch food bowl during the winter holidays and charmed his way into the bosomly embrace of Mrs. U.  But he declined, despite entreaties, to cross the threshold into the household proper.

Mocking her desire for him, he sauntered back to the Crazy Cat Lady house, and there he remained in regal indifference.

Then he disappeared altogether, like so many before him.

Months later, he’s back…and looking unwell.   Skeletal. Grimy. Missing tufts of fur.  Hoarsely moaning for food.

A plate of pate was brought to him.

The mystery of where he had gone deepened as he gobbled. If his appetite was robust, he wasn’t suffering from one of those unmentionable feline maladies which can only be named by initials.

“I think he was stuck somewhere he couldn’t get out of and was only able to wriggle free after starving for weeks.”  The where and why and how of such a scenario remained cryptic, yet it seemed as likely an explanation as any other.

He sleeps curled up in front of the door now.  He rarely leaves our porch.  He even head-butts for attention.

But he still doesn’t enter the house. It’s a cat thing.

Field trip to York Avenue

A Yelp review in process
A Yelp review in process

“You need to stop writing right now and you need to put on your shoes and leash up the dog and we need to go to Highland Park right now and have a vegan donut.”

“Now, now? Or soon now?”

“Now. We have to celebrate my NEH grant.”

“Didn’t we already do that?”

“I want to re-celebrate.    Justin loves this place.

Just like that, my Sunday was shot.

Justin is one of Mrs. Upinthevalley’s vegan Yelp friends. When Justin comments, Mrs. U delights.  I am dragged around town by another man’s whimsy.

The donuts were as promised: vegan, gluten-free (allegedly) and invaded the pleasure points of the mouth like the Marines taking Omaha Beach.  The battle was bloody and brief, but decisive.  Normally given to portion control, she emerged from the store with a box of three, and we dispatched them without restraint.  Note the fingers of her right hand vainly clutching previously consumed remnants.

We had reached the point in the afternoon where post-hypothalamic regret frequently sets in.  Oft-heard phrases include:  “That was disgusting,”  “I hate myself,” and “I’m never eating (that) again.”

Not today.

“Lets walk this off and get another. How many miles do you think that would take?”

Mrs. U, NEH-winner, master teacher, ModCloth brand representative, reduced in three donuts to a family car-pawning crackhead picking through the pipe residue for another hit.

Is that the blueberry one?
Is that blueberry?

So we set out on foot through Highland Park, a neighborhood we had once dismissed as too ghetto to buy a house in. Which in retrospect we must have gotten confused with Glassell Park.  This side of Mt. Washington is another world.   The comparisons to Van Nuys were dismaying to say the least.  Let the self-loathing begin:

Historic preservation
Historic preservation, for starters
Bespoke masonry
Bespoke masonry
Bike parking spaces, with cozies
Bike parking spaces, with cozies
DIY wisdom


This picture says it all. Even the weed sprouting from the crack in the sidewalk isn’t really a weed, rather a pricey decorative grass of the type one sees fronting higher-end remodeling.

Guess what we didn’t see.  Tagging.  Swap meet stalls. Winos, methadone addicts and parolees.

The only thing standing between Van Nuys Blvd. and York Avenue is five years of civic leadership.  Oh, wait…


Why even go there?  Let’s resume our happy perambulation through Hipsterville East:


That’s more like it.

A Town Called Nice


There is a town, due east of North Hollywood, where police leave their patrol cars on Friday evening to assist elderly people, frail and disoriented,  across the street.


Coincidentally, it also still retains stores from another era, like Battery Hut, and Al Summerfield’s Train Shop. How such establishments manage to stay open on a commercial boulevard in this day and age, I have no idea.  Well, actually I do.  I could insert a number of snarky things about the political climate of the City of Los Angeles right here, but I’d rather leave you with this:

God Bless America
God Bless this officer. God Bless America.

Exit Ghost


When we’ve lost the ability to share the public square together because so many of us want such radically incompatible things, something’s got to give.  Apparently it’s the statuary.

I can’t help thinking they seem to know.  Like Jessie the Cowgirl from Toy Story 2.

Then again, maybe the new owners of the house were just re-thinking the landscaping.

The last summer of drones


You know this isn’t going to last much longer, don’t you?

Mounting a GoPro camera on your personal falcon to fly around the Valley at tree-top level…obeying your commands, delivering messages, packages….sniffing out backyards, taking inventory of the City from a vertical perspective, that’s just too cool and/or creepy and/or empowering, depending on your view.

Soon, the people’s airspace will be subject to regulation. Everything ten feet off the ground will be a subsidiary of Google.  The City will withdraw the air from the public domain. It’s only a matter of time.

There’s my snarky libertarian thought for springtime.