Witches of October

Come, eat my candy...
Come, eat my candy…
Chase the Pokemon into the street
Chase the Pokemon into the street

Our appetites are our undoing. It’s not a question of drinking from the poisoned chalice, but gleefully asking for more. Returning to our happy place, during business hours, when we know better.

Some people can’t stop lying.

Some can’t stop texting all the wrong sh**.


How fitting the storied e-mails, the much sought, much denied commingling of state secrets and side-dealing passed from server to server in the halls of power like a radioactive fruitcake, should end up on this man’s laptop, placed there by his thrice-burned wife. Or “wife”, if you prefer.

A billion dollars in advertising and a lifetime of ambition unraveled by a 50-year-old man spanking his monkey in the afternoon while his wife is at work.

Come children, to Toluca Lake. Fill your bags. Starting tonight, the desire-reward pleasure cycle has been shortened to ten seconds or less.  Sugar wallow!  Sugar wallow!  Starting tomorrow we will discipline ourselves. For now we are going to feed.

Let us pretend its an annual ritual and not an animal one, a predicate of who we’ve become.

If only we read books in trees again
If only we read books in trees again

Death of an American Sweetgum


Bane of landscapers and kids on skateboards, profligate dropper of spiked gum balls, giver of rare autumnal colors in Los Angeles, in-gatherer of finches who feed off its seeds, the sweetgum trees are quietly dying out in my corner of Van Nuys.

According to the Lazy Landscaper, those “hard, brown, spiky balls can create some serious hazards. Not only can they wound you if you slip and fall into them, they can also roll unexpectedly, causing sprained ankles.” Because of their spiky nature, they are difficult to rake up.  And don’t try to run your lawnmower over them,  as “when airborne they are as dangerous as grenades.”


With their alligator bark and massive height we think of them as indestructible and forever with us, yielding a sublime exodus of yellow, then purple, then red leaves, natures way of gracefully tripping down a staircase, to land on the wet asphalt after a heavy winter rain.

We think of the foliage. We don’t think of the trunk, the rootstock quietly rotting from within, until it falls of its own weight.

Desire For Ending


“I can’t wait for it to be over, so we can go back to being friends.” –overheard at Angel City Brewery.

Were it only true.

Nov. 8 will address none of the animating forces now in collision in our beloved America.  The armies of resentment will continue to mass on all sides.  The clerisy has not had its fill. We will all be forced to eat another course.

The Vertical Valley

Out: The Abandoned Church In: The Multi-Unit Apartment Complex
Out: The Abandoned Church
In: The Multi-Storey Apartment Whatever
Out: Hot Sheets Motel In: Mega-Apartments, with ground floor retail
Out: The Hot Sheets Motel
In: The Lifestyle Complex, and ground floor retail
Out: The Mini-Mall In: The Mixed Use Tower
Out: The Mini-Mall
In: The Glass Box 
Out: Abandoned Office Building In: Live-work spaces
Out: The long-abandoned Panorama Tower
In: “Live-work spaces”
Out: Green Arrow nurseries, after 50 years
Out: Green Arrow nurseries, after 50 years
In: Developer Renderings
In: Developer Renderings

God ain’t making any more of it. We got nowhere to go but up.

The post-war, asphalt parking lot, low density Valley prototype we’ve always known, beloved and dreckish, is going the way of the VW beetle.  It won’t be K-town exactly, but in five years Sepulveda Blvd is going to look a whole lot different.


IMG_0130Mrs. UpintheValley and I went to the Channel Islands this week for hiking and sea kayaking.  The landing dock at Scorpion Cove had been taken out by a winter storm,  so at the end of the day we had to queue up for lifts back to the boat on Zodiac pontoon rafts with outboard motors.   The wind picked up to 40mph and we huddled along the cliff face, sand stinging our faces, politely waiting our turn, clutching tickets.  We went in groups of six. They issued us life jackets and we climbed into therafts and waited for a surge of water to lift us off the sand.


It was all very civilized.  But as the air chilled,  and the water got choppier and people began to shiver in their shorts, I began to wonder: what if it 500 people wandered out of the mountains, without tickets, demanding to be boarded? For how long would civilized norms prevail?

What if they took the rafts by force of numbers and approached the boat in a flotilla? If you’re the boat captain, do you weigh anchor and leave the island, knowing you would be abandoning ticket-holders on shore? If you let the first raft of refugees on, because there’s still a little room, how do you say no to the second, third and fifteenth rafts?  If you say yes to the women, but no to the men, how do you enforce that?  Are you willing to shoot someone in the head with a flare gun, to set an example?  Would that deter the others?  How many flares do you have in that gun, anyway?


How soon before the boat turns into this?

What do I do? Sunburned, tired, a little sea sick already from bobbing like a cork in the sea caves,  am I going to resort to physical force to prize our places on a raft?   Secretly, would Mrs. UpintheValley want me to?  I didn’t marry a broad-shouldered man for no reason, darling. Save us!  Who would I be willing to step over to grapple aboard?

When we reach the boat and find it already to listing to the side, overloaded with human cargo, are we willing to be that last pair of hands that causes it to capsize? Do we do the bravest thing and swim back to shore and try our luck on kayaks, three days of paddling back to Ventura in open water?

My armchair bravery is such that I of course would do just that. I would row Mrs. U to safety like Frederic ferrying Catherine to Switzerland in a A Farewell to Arms. It would be my finest hour.

Right up to the moment in the swirling darkness of that first night….as the refugees of the capsized boat, dog paddling in pure fear, catch sight of the kayak in the moonlight and begin to approach.  Then all I have is my oar, my pocketknife and a will to live.