Wings and Prayers

When None is the answer to One Party rule

Let us consider two observational truths. 1) any practical weaning from fossil fuels must include nuclear power; and 2) Housing First is not getting addicts and mentally ill off the street, nor resolving the damage they inflict on themselves as well as the rest of us.

It shouldn’t be controversial to say so, but in California it is heresy.

Michael Shellenberger, once a man of the environmental left and now a fearless witness for common sense, earns my vote for governor.

There is something else unfolding besides a foregone election.

Institutional America is closing ranks around a successor ideology to democracy as we have known it, with the legacy media leading the way in demanding Big Tech de-platform and demonetize all dissenters.  But beneath that, there is an extraordinary reevaluation of polarity and affiliation taking place in real time. Much open-field running, poetically and politically, from left to right, as well as the other direction, led by facts.

I find it quite thrilling, perhaps the defining intellectual moment in my lifetime. The army of Born Again Realists is advancing, and manages to include Tucker Carlson on the right and Glenn Greenwald on the left and a lot of people in between, like Matt Taibbi, Krystal Ball, Saagar Enjeti, Bari Weiss, Andrew Sullivan, Freddie DeBoer, Aaron Mate and all the people on Substack.

Also comedians like Bill Maher and Jimmy Dore and Russell Brand.  And paleoconservatives like Rod Dreher and, I can’t believe I’m saying this, the no longer quite so lefty Naomi Wolf, who is doing a podcast with, of all people, Steve Bannon.

We are all a little trans now, politically.  Two years of Covid propaganda, married to lethally flawed policy, woke a lot of somnolent Americans.

Trump’s exit from the stage gave certain people permission to come out of the closet.

Out: CNN
In: Joe Rogan
Out: National Review
In: Zerohedge
Out: Lord Fauci
In: Bret Weinstein, Peter McCullough and Robert Malone

We live in the Era of Forever Lying. America needs more bullshit callers. Only one institution needs to flip for the edifice to come crashing down.

Faster, Elon. Close the deal. Land this plane.

The Million Dollar Platypus

Open Houses, Panorama City, 2022.   $950,000
Open Houses, Panorama City, 1948. $10,000.           USC Digital

While shopping at Aldi on Sunday, Mrs. UpintheValley was approached by a realtor lady in Kardashian makeup waving a glossy brochure for an open house.

$950K. In Panorama. In a mixture of morbid fascination and crass self-interest we went.

You can learn a bit about the evolution of the Valley from the above two photos.  When land was cheap and abundant, houses were spaced well apart, bare bones, without luxuries, priced for accessibility to first time home buyers.

Today you put a second floor on the old starter home footprint, then squeeze three of them onto a 7000 square foot lot, tarted up with glue-on crown moldings, quartz countertops, central air and three bathrooms, then gate it off from Others.

A platypus is a cluster of free standing homes that don’t actually touch so they are technically not condos, but you can stick a broom out the window and scratch your neighbor on the shoulder while he’s sitting on the john. The lots extend mere feet beyond their foundations, there are no yards or common areas, the ground floor is a garage door, and the compound is ringed by a wall. Neither fish nor fowl, to quote a prominent New Urbanist.

Such developments are frequently abutted by other platypi, eroding the meaning of private property, or at least privacy, as the decades speak to each other over the fence. Feeling a little smug about how much sleeker, more modern your digs are than the 90s monstrosity next door is part of the pleasure principle.

Also, I’ll say this: the rooms were absurdly spacious. Made us feel like we still living in a dorm, or an early apartment, which is the idea. High ceilings, cool air flows, a giant flat screen are a nice distraction from the fact you will be indoors all day long. No yard, a hot patio and Nordhoff street,  a stroad really, inhospitable to pedestrian traffic, offering few nearby amenities. You enter the platypus on wheels, drive all the way inside the house, press a button and the door rolls down behind you. Like you’re living in Rancho Cucamonga, only with a shorter commute.

Foundation and Slabs, Lakewood, 1950.       William Garnett

Then there is that $950,000 price tag. For perspective…the $10K Kaiser Houses of 1948 would be $119,000 today, perfectly priced for a young couple in their 20s.  Nothing is priced for first time buyers anymore, nor for savers and strivers. Starter homes are priced for multi-generational households, five earners under one roof, or for the offspring of the wealthy who are gifted six figure down payments.

But this is where we are now.

A single family ranch house, among the neighborhood’s last, stood where these nine houses are. In 2010 it was purchased for $265,000, then sold for $1.65 million in 2020, merely for the dirt underneath. That profit is baked into the sales price, $155K per unit, paid to the guy who invested cash at the bottom of the mortgage meltdown and waited a decade.

Unjust? Yes. More unjust than one family sitting on that much land in a city in dire need of higher density? That’s a delicate question.

Walking upstairs in one of the unfinished units we noticed the floor sagging several inches in one corner. Back outside one could see the support pillar had been knocked off its foundation at some point, and then a supplemental pier had been placed underneath it, with mixed results.

Los Angeles is poised between greed and precarity, just slightly off its foundation.

Crime Scene on Sepulveda

Look at her. In her defense, she was fated on the drafting table to be one of the Valley’s Ten Ugliest. 7101 Sepulveda, a brutalist concrete filing cabinet, a Robert Moses-esque excretion dropped in 1962, no quarter given to public taste. Someone may have endeavored to pass it off as in the then-voguish International style, but certain buildings just say No. This one says it with gun placement window slots. Your eyeballs, like the Pharisees, shall not cross.

This is the building to which the Stasi brought people for questioning who were never heard from again.

As foreshadowing it sat too close to the curb, shrinking the sidewalk to less than three feet at the corner and around the utility pole to allow more room for parking in the back.

The early sixties were a time of Great Progress in California. The freeway system, the Universities, the aqueduct. Pat Brown. Clark Kerr. Buildings, even churches, were stripped to their utilitarian essentials. Gone were cornices and patterned brickwork and decorative overhangs and bas relief.  In the name of modernity crap like this was erected all over the state, particularly college campuses. Modernity was defined by two words: air conditioning.  But also parking.  Parking has preordained most civic decisions since.

Tax Protestors, 1964. Valley Times Collection

For the first five years of its life 7101 Sepulveda served as a branch office of the Internal Revenue Service, an example of form matching function.

From 1967 to 1995 it housed Merit College, an early for-profit school training court reporters and paralegals.

In 1995 Merit College closed its doors without notice, leaving 900 students in the lurch.

Since 1995 it has been vacant, defying the economic laws of scarcity, immune to adaptive re-use. A monument to bad planning, but also a certain species of absentee landlordism.  The kind who waits for others to develop the neighborhood while they collect royalties off the cell phone towers on the roof.

Inevitably it was occupied as a crackhead Delta House and in 2019 gutted by fire.

You would think the City would make this eyesore a municipal issue. Twenty-eight years of public blight should be enough. You would be wrong. Government may have grown glandularly since 1962, it has not become wiser or more responsive, nor more effective in countering monetary interests. Arguably, less so.

Ed Ruscha

There’s an aesthetic sidebar to this. In 1967 the artist Ed Ruscha rented a plane and took a series of aerial photographs of Van Nuys parking lots, several of which hang in the Tate Gallery London. A signed print of 7101 Sepulveda was offered at auction for $8500.

I have mixed feeling about this. Normally I begrudge no man his hustle, but Lazy Art is annoying, more so if it’s making serious bank off my neighborhood without engaging it. Suffice to say this conceptual perspective now hangs un-ironically in the homes of people who couldn’t find Van Nuys on a map.

In 2020, CBRE sent up a drone and took this photo to lure potential buyers. Unlike the Ruscha print, it is available for download without charge.

The exoskeleton and parking lot can now be yours for $8.7 million.

So, if you’re keeping score, 7101 Sepulveda has been vacant and unproductive for nearly as many years as it was occupied, despite occupying prime frontage in the hottest real estate market in the country.  How hot? There are two ranch houses for sale in the neighborhood, a 3Br for $1.35 million and a 2BR for $900K.

$900K also happens to be the 1998 assessed value of 7101 Sepulveda, which means the person who buys this house on LeMay will have the same property tax liability. This might explain, in part, why the owners have managed to leave it vacant for so long.  It’s an argument for a split roll adjustment to Prop. 13.  Also for a mandatory development clause on commercial property located on a transit corridor. Three years to file a building permit or you must sell. Can’t believe I’m writing this but here my baseline free market libertarianism collides with civic pride.

Mr. UpintheValley’s prevailing Cancer Theory of Los Angeles posits not overdevelopment but its opposite: deep pocketed speculators who sit on strategic corners for decades waiting for others to buy them out.

Up on Roscoe Blvd the owners of the old Montgomery Wards site have been teasing redevelopment plans since…1995, while leasing the massive asphalt lake that surrounds it to film companies and for Covid testing.

In 2018 a mock-up of The Icon at Panorama, a long promised 600 unit mixed-use retail island, was draped over the old Wards sign, offering the promise of an imminent Culver City-ization.  As the months and years ticked away without breaking ground the mock up slowly disintegrated in the sun, nature declaring a verdict on the unrealized transition from 1964 Asphalt Heaven to Los Angeles 2.0.

Where’s Rick Caruso when you need him? Running for Mayor, promising to expedite the building of homeless shelters. More. Bigger. Faster.

The Valley needs it own Caruso. A street fighter-on-a-budget Armenian Caruso. Mr. UpintheValley is feeling politically homeless about now.

Carusovilles and Keith

“I will build 30,000 temporary housing units in the first year. If anyone knows how to build I know how to build. If I don’t get it done vote me out.  I know I can get that done. I’ve talked to the manufacturer.”

So said mayoral candidate Rick Caruso last week, walking through Skid Row for the benefit of local TV news. If you don’t know, Caruso is on the right, displaying the Hand Gesture of Progress.

“The minute we have good, warm, clean bed and food, then people need to move off the streets. No more encampments. You have to enforce the law. We may offer a bed once, we may offer a bed twice. But the third time we are going to have to say I’m sorry but you’ve broken the law.”

I agree with him but this is wishful thinking as policy.

After the third refusal to self-house, then what? Jail? Imagine the headlines. Billionaire Puts Paupers Behind Bars. It’s a moot point. In 2020 Los Angeles County voted to close the Twin Towers facility to felons.

Fines? They’ll never pay. Penalties will accrue. Years hence, upon a hypothetical sobriety, the chains of Dickensian debt will prevent them from re-integrating and we can’t have that.

The pillory?  If this were colonial Virginia we could parade them in Shrews Fiddles through downtown with signs saying Sloth. If only!

“Sorry, but you have broken the law and we have no place to put you” is not exactly a deterrence.

To distill to a sentence our cognitive dissonance around the army of dispossessed who squat and hunker among us, if would be difficult to improve upon a good, warm, clean bed and food.  A solution few have asked for, and when offered, fewer takers.

In a contest between civic good intentions and the unrestrained id, human nature wins in a blowout.

Man is first a social animal. Hunter gatherers roam the urban landscape, forming street families and alliances. From the detritus of the city all can be foraged:  plywood and tarps and cast off tents, couches, old rugs and bikes. Electricity can be purloined from any light pole. Run a cable across the sidewalk, fire up the flat screen and the hibachi and smoke what needs to be smoked with the satisfaction hunter-gatherers have enjoyed at sundown since we first left the caves.

There is a raison d’être to be found in this, even pride, irritating though that might be for the rest of us.

Add EBT, free phones, free health care, pro bono legal representation and the crucial license to steal™ and most of Maslow’s Needs are well met. The weather is glorious.

Sitting in a clean, Boise decision-approved Tiny Home, with a bookshelf and a lock and showers and rules about drugs and smoking? This appeals to taxpayers.  This is what we would do if we were in their shoes, between filling out job applications, and learning to code.

If you were hoping Caruso would do for the armies of dereliction in L.A. what Elon Musk is poised to do for free speech by purchasing Twitter, you may be disappointed.  He accepts the operative premise of Shantytown, Inc., the massively funded bureaucracy of service providers:  we can build our way out of this.

We can’t. This is the fatal flaw of his candidacy: I’m a developer. I will deliver more units per year. 

Too bad, because he’s wealthy enough not to need the local machine to fund his campaign. He doesn’t owe anybody.

For those who think Housing First policy is working, I would remind readers we are running a real-time experiment in the efficacy of Tiny Home villages in Venice and Van Nuys and North Hollywood, and not only are they utilized at about one-third capacity they continue to be surrounded by encampments, thriving uncontested.

The stars come out for Housing Now! 1989

Take a good look at this picture. Lakers coach Pat Riley. Jon Voight. Bea Arthur. Edith Bunker. Casey Kassem.  The great and good coming together to address the terrible blight of Skid Row. They mean well. They’ve opened their checkbooks. In 1989 camping on the sidewalk in Los Angeles was confined to fifty square blocks downtown. To deal with this, the City had a line item in the budget totaling…millions.

For 2022, the City will spend $1 Billion on Homeless, Inc. The County spent half a billion, the State $7.2 billion, 40% of which came here. I have no idea what the Federal government sends us, but it ain’t zero.  Like a well watered garden, the army of addicts and freeloaders have grown ten-fold, from San Pedro to Granada Hills.

Let us not despair, there remains a fourth alternative…smiling at us from the branches like the Cheshire Cat, villainous and coy.

Stop subsidizing it. All of it. Lean into human nature.

Wait, what? Are you serious? Yes. But, but…we can’t! It’s monstrous! Think of the case workers! The administrators and lobbyists! How will they eat? How will those checks make it home to Pasadena?

While we’re at it, re-criminalize theft. I know of no civilization which has survived the abolition of a principle as basic as this.

Here’s Keith from Pennsylvania to explain it.

*btw, this video is eleven years old and this guy was still here as of 2020.

Mrs. U’s Victory Garden

About 20 years ago I was at a wedding, talking with an old guy who grew up in L.A. in the 1930s. He graduated from Manual Arts High School. I told him how envious I was he got to live in the city before freeways and strip malls and straight pipe mufflers and tagging and homeless encampments.

He looked at me like I was stupid. “1934 was horrible. I was hungry.”

Yeah, yeah. But one third the population. The Red Car. Craftsman bungalows everywhere. No smog. Jake Gittes.

Like a putz, I began embellishing with film references. The man grew noticeably upset. Indignant.

“You don’t understand. I was hungry. Understand? I waited in line with my mother for flour to make bread.”

We have not had shortages of basic goods since the 1970s. We haven’t had hunger since the Great Depression.

Ours has been a world of ever cheaper calories, of YouTube testimonials of retail ‘hauls’ –look at everything I got at Aldi for $100!- of gout-ridden families waddling through Target, their carts piled with pizzas and cereal and impulse buys. Long supply chains and just-in-time inventory work really well until there is a bump in fertilizer costs. Or a lost shipping corridor. Or the price of fuel per tractor/day goes from $68 to $128. Or the price of barley feed from $295 to $470/ton.  That’s just in America.

Potash and urea have quadrupled on the international markets. The Ukraine spring planting (25% of the global wheat) has been curtailed for obvious reasons.

Cheap food, like cheap fuel, may no longer be possible for the foreseeable future.  Some of us may have to relearn the lived experience of our great grandparents, the people who saved their bacon grease and kept their money in mattresses.

Fortuitously and wholly unrelated to global events,  Mrs.UpintheValley decided this was the year she would garden in earnest. Back in January we put together some containers, thinking it might be pleasant, not realizing it was like buying BitCoin in 2017.

I built four of these for her. Each four feet by eight, 18 inches deep. Materials were about $100 per. Half the lumber was recycled. She filled the bottom with free chips, followed by one third compost, free from the city, about half bagged soil, and then a layer of mulch on top, also free. Looking left to right you can see the stages of filling, and the string line grid.

If you’re a salad freak like us, it’s a bowl of Eden every day, courtesy of Mother Earth.

If you plot it correctly, you can pack a lot of food in a small space. The fourth box is strictly for tomatoes, though they are all babies now.

New York Times

With government mandated food rationing in effect during WW II, gardens flourished across Los Angeles. In 1942, roughly 15 million families planted home crops; by 1944, an estimated 20 million victory gardens produced roughly 8 million tons of food—40 percent of all the fruits and vegetables consumed in the United States.

Believe it or not, she used it all

Good times make for weak men. Weak men make for hard times. Hard times make for stronger women. Strong women bring back tolerable times.

Messengers of Chaos

Instagram: Street People of Los Angeles

The universe keeps sending messengers. Runners. Heralds.

I picked up a young man from a house party Saturday night.  He had two brand new MacBooks tucked under his shirt. He spent the entire ride bragging to a friend on the phone how he had just stolen them from his unsuspecting hosts.

He was from Chicago, on a weekend furlough from the Marine Corps base in Twentynine Palms.  He got himself a motel room in Hollywood, hit the bars, met some girls, accepted an invitation to a house party, saw two laptops in an empty room and couldn’t think of any good reason to just leave them there and now couldn’t wait to tell people, and didn’t mind my overhearing every word.  A Marine, no less.

How much of this do we attribute to a particular morality he carried with him from Chicago and how much to a cultural understanding Los Angeles has become a City Without Handcuffs? There’s no way to know.

We are coasting on the assumptions of a high-trust society when the basis for that trust has eroded and may no longer be present.  We are behaving as though America 2019 was still operative.

Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly, “On The Town” 1949

On Friday a group of West Point cadets on spring break in Florida decided to do some blow. And why not? I would have. In fact, I did, many times, in an era of safety before the Russian roulette of drug consumption brought about by Fentanyl. Four cadets overdosed on the spot. Two more overdosed through secondary transmission while administering CPR. Six dead in the yard of the rental house, a seventh now on a ventilator.

America has lost nearly 200,00o people to drugs since the passing of George Floyd. The majority of those deaths were Fentanyl-related.  Unlike opium, which is produced around the world, the precursor chemicals are solely from China.  The distribution networks run through Mexico.

It’s almost like…a military invasion.  But no one is allowed to call it that.

If you want to sap the will of your opponents, send in a pestilence.  Like Lenin to St. Petersburg on a sealed train in April 1917, courtesy of the German Army.  By October Russia abandoned the front, and he was in the Winter Palace establishing his “dictatorship of the proletariat”.

Vladimir arrives at the Finland Station

America will take more than five months to collapse. But it won’t take twenty years either.  She is undergoing a Great Unwinding from a constitutional republic to an oligarchy run out of San Francisco and New York.  She has no enforced borders and no guaranteed rights not subject to revision by corporate managers. She has “elections” nullified by the administrative state.  Her citizens no longer possess local control of schools or zoning or bodily autonomy. The only monopoly on violence is held in trust by the media who licenses its use to preferred groups.

She is transitioning…into something of which Buffalo Bill and Davos might approve.

Counterintintuitively, Van Nuys may fare better than the rest of the country.   Most of the shitty things have happened here already. It’s baked into the cake.

Truckistan, Mon Amour

When Hollywood loved men in trucks. Also disobedience.

Old America, Data Point #1: “Convoy”, the country novelty song by C.W. McCall glorifying defiance of authority, spent six weeks at #1 in the pop charts in 1976.

Data Point #2: Smokey and the Bandit was the second highest grossing film in 1977, after Star Wars. The entire plot line could be summed as: man escorts a truckload of beer across the South, evading authority. Plus flirtatious banter with Sally Field.

One might argue that America doesn’t exist anymore, but that would be misleading. It simply has no place at the media banquet.  Truckers are un-photogenic people who know no one and nobody knows.  They bring us neccesities and reside in the dhimmitude of undesirable zip codes.

Besides, aren’t half of them, you know, fat racists or something?

Nothing has illustrated the existential gulf between the Laptop Class and the Peasants more than Canadians lining roads in solidarity as the Freedom Convoy, 40 kilometers long, rolled across the provinces in protest of the mRNA “vaccine” mandate.

Evan Mitsui/CBC

While the truckers enacted a platonic ideal of non-violent civil disobedience in downtown Ottawa,  Prime Minister Trudeau, who was elected with less than a third of the popular vote, invoked for the first time in Canadian history the Emergencies Act, claiming for himself the powers of martial law.

We are 100 weeks beyond two weeks to stop the spread. Does anyone really think this is about public health anymore?

Ottawans took to the streets with jerry cans to provide gas.  Donations poured in by the millions, first to GoFundMe, which seized the funds and threatened to redistribute them to other causes, then to GiveSendGo, which was promptly hacked by a Twitch-streamer who doxxed the mailing list.  Now the donors, many of them small businesspeople, are being threatened by activists and contacted by the media who demand convoy supporters explain themselves.

This smug prick is our future. Get used to the smell of his ball sac on your nose.   Everything you see in this frame; the throne chair, the microphone, the monitors, were delivered to his home….by truckers. Everything, save the smirk.

Now the Trudeau administration is in the process of identifying the protestors and those who donated to them so as cut them off from access to banking, consequently from participation in society.

It’s worth noting in 1976 Betty Ford took to CB radio to court the working class during her husband’s election campaign. I’m trying to imagine Jill Biden, or anyone else, doing the same today.  Can you? Me, neither.

If you’re keeping score at home, the Canadian head of state has chosen to deprive his citizens of liberty as a constituency service on behalf of the Pfizer Corporation.

Trudeau could easily have played the hero by suspending the mandate. He could have climbed aboard a rig and led the trucks out of the capitol like Moses in a sea of Maple Leaf flags. But he didn’t.  In all the sturm and drang of recent weeks no one seriously proposed actually, you know, honoring the truckers simple request.

A Digital Passport is much too important.  That’s where this is all going.  If 70% of us just got the jab, we were told, we would all be given our lives back. We’re way past 70% now and the experimental drugs have failed to convey immunity as promised. Guess who is blamed for that?

The Los Angeles Board of Supervisors want to lay off 2000 Sheriffs Dept. personnel for refusing the jab.  Sheriff Villanueva has refused to cooperate. So they voted to take the decision-making away from him and convey it to a willing bureaucrat. That’s a whole lot of political capital to spend on firing people.

The effect, if not intent, of a Digital Passport is to render once inalienable rights conditional, and subject to revocation by corporations, at the behest of politicians. Once the architecture is in place, any criteria can be loaded into it.

Canadians still have some fight in them. Do Americans? I’d like to think so, but we’ve been acting like a defeated people.

When the trucker hat was ironic                                                    Credit: Elle Magazine

Here is wisdom: Stop appealing to the government for a redress of grievances.  This isn’t 2002. That is as viable as Paris Hilton in a Von Dutch trucker hat.

Twitter and YouTube don’t ask for permission to de-platform people. The shadow funders behind the Center for Countering Digital Hate didn’t ask permission when it named itself the arbiter of acceptable opinion.

This works in both directions.

Try this: STOP DRIVING, truckers. Also, Amazon delivery people. UPS. Uber and Lyft drivers. Everyone.  Let no wheels roll for one week. See how long the digerati manage without their pleasures brought to them on the daily.

The financial benefits of the new economy may flow upward, but the transportation network remains an essential hard power. It should be deployed as such.

Count me in.

Let Us Now Fire the Peasants

Pink as the new tyranny

Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland) wants to fire people. On Friday she introduced  AB1993, requiring the termination of every employee in California who fails to obtain a mRNA shot, including independent contractors.

Contractor? Hey, that’s me.  I’m among the officially wicked now. Or about to be.

All over the world the vax mandates are coming down. In the U.K., in Denmark, in Sweden, in the western provinces of Canada.   But in Los Angeles, because we can’t have nice things, the pink safety mafia is cranking the screws, deep into the future.

When pink was just pink

This might be a good juncture to state the obvious. There has been a total collapse in the efficacy of the mRNA shots over the past six months. They do not convey immunity. They do not stop transmission or infection. They have proven totally ineffective against the Omicron variant. The potency of the shot lasts less than six months, and begins tapering off after three months. In short, the Pfizer and Moderna jabs are not vaccines.  Referring to them as such serves the purposes of the pharmaceutical industry. They also have a terrible safety profile.

This isn’t about public health. This is about a digital passport on your phone like a QR code.  Once the architecture is in place, any criteria can be swapped in.

This will not end with the Wuhan virus, for this is the beginning of something.  Why do you think they are expending so much political capital to keep it?

Peasants, in our natural habitat

Get your sunshine, take your vitamin D, hit the trails, build your immune system and stop cooperating. Call bullshit by its rightful name.

Go Rams.

The Girl from the Sunset Marquis

Joan Jett, Sunset Marquis 1976                                                Credit: Bob Gruen

It works like this. The door opens and people slip into the backseat and offer up a sliver of their life for ten minutes. A glimpse of truth.  Or just confessor bullshit to entertain themselves, depending on the evening. Sometimes they want to know all about me, how I came to the priesthood of Uber, what lessons I have obtained on my journey.

Late Saturday night I arrived at the storied Sunset Marquis, and a young woman entered in a talkative frame of mind.  Wanting to know things. Like:

What do I think of L.A.? No, really. Do you like it?

Me: I love Los Angeles. I am uxorious in my feeling for the city.
Gen Z Beauty: What does uxorious mean?
Unrestrained affection, as one would have for a spouse.
I like that.
Unfortunately, I don’t know how much longer the city can withstand the degeneration of the past two years.
What do you mean, degeneration?
Lawlessness.
What do you mean by that?
Stealing. Unlimited shoplifting from stores.
This is a thing?
Yes. You can steal a thousand dollars of merchandise at a shot, with impunity. Tribes of people do this every day in LA.
I don’t understand. Of all the things about LA, shoplifting bothers you? 
Well, yes. Stealing is lawlessness. Lawlessness bothers me.
But there are all these studies showing crime hasn’t gone up, because of Covid, and the police are making up statistics to get more funding. At the end of the day it’s just capitalism, right?

I took the last sentence to mean capitalism as a form of systemic inequality. Shoplifting being the inevitable antidote to said unfairness.

She wasn’t as batty as she sounds, this girl with money to Uber off to the Sunset Marquis by herself for $20 cocktails. I would characterize her as genuinely mystified by my value system and curious why I thought the way I did. She wanted to continue the conversation once we reached her house, but I had other ride requests. She tipped well.

Maybe she was relying for her information on this woman, who also expresses cheerful mystification.

We are living in a great epistemic schism. ‘Alternative universes’ to use Jen Psaki’s formulation.

The Strip is long past the mayhem of the metal years. It exists now as a luxury theme park atop the burial grounds of rock and roll history.  What would Motley Crue fans make of our conversation? Or two people sharing a smoke outside the Whiskey after a Doors set? Would they agree with her?

For all the self-destructive exuberance of the 1970s and 1980s we had higher social trust. We had mosh pits, and groupies debasing themselves for musicians who wore more makeup than they, and yes, there was plenty of theft. But few among us were pretending crime didn’t matter. There was a foundation of order we all stood upon and took for for granted, like Mediterranean weather. And ass-cleaving denim.

Getty Images

A Postcard from Sorosville

So here’s a small data point in our current disintegration.  I ordered an item from Lululemon, a feminine wife-flattering thing.

Given the supply chain constraints, there was suspense as to whether it would arrive in time for Christmas, a tiny leaf floating in the River Ganges of holiday commerce from Groveport, Ohio to Hardin, MO to Mayfield, KS to Canyon, TX to Topock, AZ…dots on the railroad map, clocking in every 12 hours, before disappearing the night of Dec. 23rd at an undisclosed location on the outskirts of Los Angeles.

The shipping container, or its contents, never made it to the distribution hub. For eleven days, radio silence. Then an alert from FedEx the item was at long last on a delivery truck in Sun Valley.

Eleven days sounds to me like they sent a new package across the country. Theoretically, the shipping container itself could have been misrouted in the intermodal transport system.  I find this explanation on a low order of probability.

A differential diagnosis suggests it was waylaid by package pirates in Lincoln Heights. Or the other banditry choke point, outside Pomona.

Ninety containers are compromised (read: broken into) per day.

Union Pacific has made “over 100 arrests of active criminals vandalizing trains” in L.A. County. Per a special directive from D.A. George Gascon all were released within 24 hours. Of the arrests, none to date have resulted in court proceedings.

Add train robbery to the growing list of unenforced felonies in Sorosville.  A pry bar, bolt cutters and a willingness to climb a slow moving flat car and you too can be Butch Cassidy.

It’s baked into the price of everything we do now.  So let us break out the world’s tiniest violin for Mrs. UpintheValley’s late arriving gift.  As I said, a small thing, a mere data point in a sea of annoyance. There are families with real grief this week.

Sandra Shells, ER nurse, attacked without provocation at a bus stop at Union Station, succumbed to a brain bleed after her head struck the pavement.

Brianna, unrequited martyr?

Brianna Kupfer, an architecture grad student knifed to death in Croft House, an upscale boutique on La Brea Avenue, mid-afternoon.

Money was not a motive in either attack. Straight murder, nasty, brutish and pointless.

The killer, masked, backpack and hoodie, anonymous and indistinguishable from the army of shambling street people is as of this writing still at large. I will go on record now and predict he has been in custody and released without sentencing for other crimes in the past two years, probably more than once.

Brianna calls to mind Polly Klaas, all grown up. If ever there was a designated victim tailor-made to galvanize the public into a ferocious response it is she. If ever there was a face to push Westside liberals off the sidelines, to make them stakeholders in the unfolding tragedy they helped to set in motion, this is it.

I’m not sure it’s going to happen. Los Angeles of the 90s had the moral sense to boo Robert Shapiro at the Laker game during the O.J. trial, to vote for broken windows policing and three strikes laws.  It had a very different media. It didn’t have out of town billionaires writing checks to install our carpetbagging fashionista D.A.

The man in the tailored suit who swore an oath uphold the law had this to say: “The reality is that we go through these cycles, and we go through the cycles for a variety of reasons … In many ways we cannot prosecute our way out of social inequalities, income inequalities, the unhoused, the desperation that we have.” 

Prosecution is exactly how we rid ourselves of this scourge. Inequality, however defined, and housing status will be with us always.

Being right is of no use at the moment.  It has little persuasive value. It has no name in the street. Persuasion is in the hands of an ever smaller coterie of people who own/curate our media feed. They simply cannot afford to let Brianna become Polly.

Counterintuitively, working class strongholds like Van Nuys might be at an advantage right now. We’re not a soft target. We see you coming.