Locust, Pass By

Panorama City, mon amour

Imagine making lattes for eight hours and coming home to this. Or crawling into the muck to snake a drain. Or changing bedpans, wearing a name tag  and a customer service expression all day, subject to Yelp reviews. Hanging asphalt shingles in the Palisades sun, then returning to a penitentiary: rolling gates of steel bars, begrimed stucco and a palimpsest of tagging thinly covered in beige.

It may not be the picture Americans have when the golden phrase California lifestyle is invoked, but for half a million people in our city this is reality, not the Potemkin village Los Angeles conjured by scripted content and advertising.

This is the California finger hold. The ten year waystation for essential workers, who might be grateful for the bars, their framework by necessity one of resource protection. A tenement with an unhappy face.

In 1964 the Dingbat was very modern, with spacious balconies, aluminum windows and crisp rectangularity stripped of ornamentation, unlike the bungalow courts of Hollywood, with their tiny portions and absence of parking.  Cheap and purpose-built, requiring no skilled craftsmen in woodwork or tile. Across SoCal the bedrooms-over-the-carport rent factories spread like kudzu, many of them built on former  ranch lots. It was affordable housing before there was a phrase for it. A good dingbat evoked a mood by way of a fanciful name: The Troubadour, La Traviata, the Something-Something Palms. A wink between landlord and tenant.

If you started life in a mud hut in Chiapas, it probably tasted like heaven for awhile. If you started in Riverside you might re-think your life choices. The dingbat fell out of favor as it descended the class structure. The neglected decor peeled away and now the buildings are unnamed and mute to the world but for notices from a management company:  Secure parking.  Premises under 24 hour surveillance. Section 8 OK.

Then there’s Sherman Oaks, where 1964 looks as timeless and inviting as an episode of Mad Men and one ascends the waterfall staircase like a minor deity. Beyond the double doors awaits a world of good taste and better appliances, and a view.

Most of these domiciles weren’t built as mansions, just larger ranch houses for the professional classes. An ambitious Boomer could climb from Panorama City to here in 20 years. The wealth effect has put paid to such notions now. A house above the tree line is mansion priced, even if only 1600 square feet. You’ll never afford it, but your cardiologist daughter might. She’ll be able to affect modesty. She’ll be sure to let you know she’s not one of those vulgarians in a Persian palace in Encino.

To be wealthy in America is to be exempt from aesthetic depravity. Or noise.  Or sweaty people lugging buckets of takeout past your open window while you sweat in front of the box fan. It is to have dignity in egress, always. It is to be far from the locusts. To quote Scott Galloway, it is to be loved.

It’s illegal to build dingbat housing now. Zoning. Earthquake codes. Fire laws. So we gets lots of upscale mixed-used development, four stories of Bento Box matchstick atop a two story concrete pour, with an AmazonFresh at street level, a good fit for the urban core. For the Valley, not so much.  The existing dingbat stock will be kept alive with soft story retrofits.  In Santa Monica and West Hollywood, where the juice is worth the squeeze, some landlords lean into the mid-century theme and trowel on a modern skin, restore the name, re-dingbatize their buildings.

But the Valley dingbat won’t get the 2.0 treatment. Nor will it age into shabby gentility, like the San Bernardino Arms evoked by Nathaniel West. It’ll look like a penitentiary.  In class terms, it kind of is one.

Day of the Locust, 1975

Au Revoir 2022

Who were you? Where did you begin, that you would end so far from home, bearing detritus like water from the well? Did you find the magic dirt you were looking for? What wide-eyed, greedy baby replaces you come Sunday?

If only we could recycle years like plastic bottles.

Christmas Eve, Light and Dark

Demonic caterpillars have burrowed wormholes in my mothers memory. She can play Wordle. She will correct your spelling of obscure French names, like Daignault. But she won’t remember who is sitting on the couch on the other side of the room, even if it’s her first born. She parks herself for hours in front of the fireplace pretending to read The New Yorker, staring at the object in her hands, not turning the pages.  She proclaims herself an eternal victim of the wine fairy.  “Whose glass is this?” she will announce, clutching the offending stemware she has been sipping from for hours.  When my father explains to her she has three glasses going, in different rooms, she apologizes for taking his from him.

To spare her feelings, he refuses all offers of caregiver assistance. They go it alone in rural Mendocino, stoically, as though the calendar read 1972, but with WiFi. Everyone pretends she’s not peeing herself.

“Lying awake at night I have rushes of anxiety that, if she goes first, I won’t be able to deal with it. I wonder at times if there is a me without her. One of the paradoxes of her dementia is my dependence on it. The more she needs me the simpler life seems. I worried at first if I would be able to deal with her illness. Now I worry I won’t be able to deal without it.”

If you knew this man as I did, a selfish, incorrigibly lazy, entitled Boomer asshole, his late life transition to Saint Theresa-like grace has been nothing short of baffling.  A lifetime of curated resentments, one of the earned pleasures of middle-age, has been snatched from Mr. UpintheValley.

That’s what I used to feel. Now I’m grateful. She’s not a burden I or my sister are eager to take on and our history with her is darker, more complicated.

In October I bought them a trundle bed to place closer to the downstairs stove, sparing them from building two fires a day this winter. He cuts all their firewood himself.  She has woken in the middle of the night, demanding to know where he has taken her.  Whose house is this?  What’s happening? He explains it all, they are sleeping downstairs for awhile, no one has kidnapped her, it’s closer to the fire. He gets up and plays the piano for her and she settles down, seeming to reorient herself. In the morning she forgets it ever happened, which can be a separate mercy, kinder than eerie moments of perfect clarity.

She is blessed to have him, and he’s blessed to remain able to shoulder the burden, which is as Christmasy as it gets when you hit 80.

John is my neighbor.  On Jan. 3  his house, in which he has resided since the age of childhood, is going to be auctioned off at a trustee sale at the courthouse.

His mother, before she died, took a $350K cash out re-fi against the house she purchased for $34K in 1977, signing John’s name to the loan.  At the time he was working at WalMart. He no longer does. They covered the mortgage by renting rooms and illegal structures on the property to people on disability, the marginally employed, the precarious. No one has paid him anything in two years, allegedly. Consequently no mortgage payments have been made since 2020.

He survives on SNAP benefits and General Relief. He has no credit, no family laying claim to him and apparently no friends to move in with. The responsible tenants have rotated out, replaced by a motley crew of drug addled spongers. His world has shrunk to a barcalounger and a bed in the living room which he shares with a motorcycle. The other rooms and outbuildings are locked and he has no keys.  He’s neither fish nor fowl, falling into no protected class. Slow, but not special needs. Unfit for work but not elderly.  Just a man without resources or survival instincts at a moment when America is unraveling economically.

In a reasonable world I could easily buy his house, pay off his mortgage and put some money in an account for him to relocate, but no bank will lend on it in its current condition, doubly so on a short sale.   To the sharks it will go, the Armenian mafia or some BlackRock-affiliated institutional buyer, paying all cash.

Jacob Marley, rattle your chains.

Merry Christmas, everyone. Blogging has been light of late. Thanks for sticking around.

Good Morning, Caracas!

St. Bonin and the police Abolitionists

After a protracted tally of mail-in ballots, hundreds of thousands of which entered the system after Election Day, my beloved Los Angeles has gone all in on Venezuelan governance.

Kenneth Mejia, Hugo Soto-Martinez, Katy Yaroslavsky prevailed by comfortable margins, joining Eunisses Hernandez in the de-policing caucus.

Angelica Duenas is waiting to join them after the special election in April to replace Nury Martinez.

$280 per vote…

Karen Bass, who did not campaign in any meaningful sense, and whose platitudes about wraparound services and the “broken policies of the past” (i.e., law and order) went unchallenged by the local media, defeated open wallet chump Rick Caruso, who could not name a single enforcement mechanism he would deploy in service of the only two issues people were talking about: homelessness and crime.

Let us pause here, and consider the long march through the institutions in two photos:

The American Prospect

No knock on our new Mayor, but she didn’t have to do much to cross the finish line. We have quietly enacted a paradigm shift from elections based on persuading voters to a contest of ballot retrieval. The county clerk mailed 5.6 million of them, unsolicited, to addresses across the county. Two million come back, the majority without a chain of custody, and not necessarily in the hands of the people who “voted”.  This is an arrangement highly advantageous to the most ruthless. In a one-party city, take a guess who that might be.  Here the 50 year march may have reached a satisfactory Maoist conclusion.

Take a good look at this map, Bass in purple. It looks like two cities.  My precinct, majority Latino, went 60% for Caruso.  My former pre-home ownership neighborhood in Los Feliz; white, hipster, went 72% Bass, suggesting not just a geographic division but one between renters and homeowners. Or, if you prefer, the rooted.

It’s a pretty good argument for separation.  Why shouldn’t the Valley become a municipality of its own? Since we can’t file domestic abuse charges against City Hall, why not annex ourselves to Greater Burbank? We appear to be united on at least a few basic principles.

Actual Venezuelans are streaming across the southern border. Cosplay Venezuelans in New York, Martha’s Vineyard and Silver Lake want nothing to do with them. Sensible people don’t have Another America to which to emigrate, though we do have Florida. We can only seek out jurisdictions which are a decade behind the crazy curve, kidding ourselves all the while. Eventually the fight will come there. It will sniff you out in your outpost of Eden. There’s no avoiding what we’re dealing with.

I’m staying. I’m making my own pocket of Eden, in an unraveling city.

Mrs. UpintheValley, sheltering in place

A Land of Unconfirmed Claims

The County Election, George Caleb Bingham, 1852

We voted Friday after work, at a polling center a mile from Chez UpintheValley, not far from our normal precinct.  There were eight poll workers waiting for us.  The place was empty.

They scanned my bar code and I signed for a ballot on a mobile device. The officiant checked a box cancelling the vote by mail ballot sent to our house.

The ballot was a long piece of thermal paper I inserted into the machine. I worked my way through a series of touch screens. Upon completion I was prompted to review my choices. The tabulator then printed them on the ballot itself, and I was prompted to confirm the physical document matched what was shown onscreen. All was copacetic. I pushed the VOTE button and the machine sucked the ballot inside.

Let’s review. An idiot-proof process, with two fail safe moments, an electronic signature printed on the ballot, a PDF of which is on file with the County Clerk. An electronic tabulation sent to the Board of Elections, and a hard copy to be held in the event of a manual recount.

The imperatives of convenience and integrity duly satisfied, I left with a bounce in my step and an “I Voted” sticker affixed to my shirt like a Boy Scout badge.

Harlem, 1946

Why would we ever alter this?  Why would we mass mail unsolicited ballots to every address in the county, and allow those ballots to be collected or completed by ballot harvesters, members of paid advocacy groups? Why would we allow for drop boxes when we have the Postal Service? Why would we allow a growing portion of the ballots to enter the system without a chain of custody?

Above all, why do we no longer have an Election Day? What reason, but for fraud, do we allow ballots to be accepted for 7 days after this Tuesday?

You didn’t know that? Neither did I until the primary in June, when Rick Caruso “won” the vote 41-38, only to “lose” in July, 43-36, after all the E+7 ballots trickled in.

That’s what they call it. E+7. If it has a plus sign, it must be harmless, right? Helpful. Progressive and Good. The Times deployed various linguistic constructions to explain the tardy ballots: last minute; late arriving; or just late; while remaining awfully coy as to just what the percentages were, before and after Election Day.

Allowing large tranches of votes to arrive after Tuesday is like allowing extra innings in a game in which one team is leading by a run with three outs in the bottom of the ninth. It’s a form of do-over.

Twitter

Get ready for plenty more of this pre-emptive scolding, pre-bunking, to use NPR terminology, encouraging you to discount the evidence of your own eyes, and the memory sickness you retain of the old, bad, revanchist America of 1776-2016, when votes were tabulated on Election night.

What happens if Rick Caruso is leading by two points on Tuesday? Around the rest of the country -Red States mainly- races will be tabulated and called by midnight, concession speeches made, recriminations begun, but in L.A….the gaslighting descends.

As hours become days of uncertainty, in which no local journalist demands explanation from the Kremlin-like County Clerk in Norwalk, and we are progressively acclimated to the idea Los Angeles as uniquely helpless in tabulating votes in a timely manner..is anyone going to do anything about it?

If the numbers are going against Bass, I can guarantee the Democratic Socialists of America, Los Angeles chapter will be doing something. They’ve been working for this moment.  They have their shit together. They’re organized. This is their make-or-break year.

You and me?  We’re only homeowners in the Valley. Back in the day, we passed Prop. 13 and stopped busing in its tracks. Now we’re just schmucks with unconfirmed claims™…

Goldwater Girl, Panorama City, 1964

The Tears of Bonin

NY Times

If you want to know who rules you, ask who you are not allowed to criticize.  If the last three weeks in Los Angeles have taught us anything of our meticulously curated hierarchy of intersectional grievance, Mike Bonin, westside councilperson and Injured Gay Parent™ stands at the top. His tears are his megaphone.

Dabbing theatrically, he had a prescription for setting things right. To ameliorate the grievance suffered at the mouth of Queen Nury, the banished witch, the good citizens of L.A. needed to vote in a slate of progressive candidates. Then he named them, one by one. On live local TV.

All DSA or DSA-endorsed people.

We are asked to pretend this is about Doing The Work of this Journey We Are All On, and not, you know, a City Council coup, a brass knuckled back room putsch.

In January, before the timely intervention of County Clerk Dean Logan (an act of bureaucratic grace extended seven months later to George Gascon) Bonin was on the verge of being recalled.

Now he’s dictating terms to the rest of us for after he leaves. Starting with demanding the additional defenestration of Kevin De Leon who said nothing which merits resignation. A man whose political crime was one of being changuito adjacent on a surreptitious recording.

The recording, over a year old, was held in reserve until it would trigger two special elections, favorable to the left.  A thunderous silence, a journalistic incuriosity bordering on senility, hangs over its provenance.

Now the BLM/DSA mobs are camped in front of De Leon’s house in Eagle Rock with laser pointers, giving the full Kavanaugh treatment, demanding capitulation. How many times must he be told to resign? wonders the Times. They can’t get their heads around this defiance, this bucking of the pecking order.

For 30 years Harold Meyerson predicted a Los Angeles run by a critical mass of Latino labor. The mass was achieved decades ago yet Latinos remain underrepresented on the Council, four seats out of fifteen, two of which are about to be decapitated to satisfy the demands of a coalition of gentry liberals and Gen Z socialists. Progress! It only seems like an obvious turn of events in retrospect.

Herein the elusive dividing line is laid bare. On one side: essential labor, working class striving. On the other: the laptop class and young people with too little wisdom and too much time on their hands.

Wokeness launders privilege. You end up with the absurdity of people in $1.5 million houses in Glassell Park decorating their yards with signs for Eunessis Hernandez, who supports the abolition of the police department. You end up with anti-gentrifiers picketing Dunsmoor restaurant because it has $23 lentils on the menu, while ignoring the massive tip pool it creates front and back of house down to the busboy who works double shifts on Sunday and banks a $3000 check.

The road to working class uplift is paved with bougie lentils. The road to civic perdition is paved with language police but no law and order.

Can’t believe I’m writing this, but hang in there, Kevin de Leon, you corrupt ambitious political hack. Apres toi, le deluge.

Mike Bonin, good riddance.

Chola With A Louis Vuitton Bag

Cruella De Nury, before the fall

In 1987 Ruth Galanter was nearly murdered by a transient on her front porch in Venice weeks before a special election for city council. In a moment of public sympathy, she would become the last non-machine candidate to gain office in Los Angeles at any level, for the next 35 years.

Elections have become entirely pro-forma. The Democratic Party selects the candidate internally, funds her lavishly against token opposition, do-gooders and neighborhood gadflies who offer themselves as road kill so Angelenos can tell ourselves we are not North Korea.

Termed limited pols leapfrog to a different legislative body representing the same district, from city council, to state assembly, to Congress, and back, inverting the normal democratic arrangements of selection.

Hertz Jong-Un and Hertz Jong-Il

As an illustration of dynastic politics, here’s my state Senator Bob Hertzberg, at a staged photo op with his son Daniel and hand-picked replacement. Bob is rotating over to the Board of Supervisors next year. Daniel is rotating into Dad’s warmed legislative seat. Do I have a choice in the matter? Depends on how we define “choice”.  If Twitter de-platforms me, I have the choice to build my own social media network. It’s a free country and nothing but a billion dollars in capital is standing in my way.

Thus we have been governed in my beloved Los Angeles, long before Mrs. U and I arrived with our possessions piled in the back of my pickup truck like the Clampetts.

Until now.

Enter the black swan. Changito-gate.  If you’ve been anywhere near media this week, you already know the jist.

Nury Martinez, my Nury, longtime foil of Mr. UpintheValley, has been elevated overnight to national villain status -Trumpified- and is on the chopping block along with Kevin DeLeon.  The White House itself just called for her resignation.   Suddenly, Van Nuys is the center of American politics. Who knew?

Lost in the woke posturing is the actual scandal of the recordings: pols carving up their own districts, hand selecting voters. Also, the obsession with assets, like the airport and the Budweiser brewery, which can be leveraged for donations. You have to squint pretty hard to find the outrage over that. But “negrito”? Oof. Ecstasies of sanctimony. To the guillotine with her! But first, everyone must listen to the Oaxacan Peoples Band bleat discordantly in front of City Hall in response to being insulted as short, dark and feo by la Nury who is now somewhere in seclusion, sprouting a white streak in her hair and gassing puppies.

Here’s the thing. Black people call Asian merchants Ling-Ling and white folks Opie and Becky, and do so without apology. People on the alt-right refer to Central Americans as squatemalans. Butch gays refer to swishy gays as extra. Mestizo culture has an elaborate pecking order based on skin tone, with Jorge Ramos and the pneumatic telenovela blondes at the top and Oaxacans off-screen, sitting at home watching. White people have constructed a caste system based on educational pedigree and cultural signifiers that places The New Yorker subscribers at one end and Southern Baptists at the other.

In unfiltered settings people always tell on themselves.

Spike Lee nailed intra-ethnic insults around the time Ruth Galanter was elected. Watching this clip is to pay a visit was a whole other America, refreshingly truthful. Also an entirely different Spike. I kinda miss that guy.

Assume all ostentatious offense to be cover for other things.

The real question would be who made the recording and sat on it for a year? Qui bono, who was the Brutus in the room? Gil Cedillo, already a lame duck  (and whose comments are the least damaging) has the least to lose.  But I don’t think it was him. What does he have to gain? It’s a murky play.

I think it was a staffer. With a socialist agenda.

Here’s who has an entire city to gain: the DSA cadres in waiting. Changito was not first black swan of 2022. In July, baby socialist Eunisses Hernandez eliminated Cedillo in the primary on a platform of police and prison abolition and a permanent extension of the eviction moratorium.  She prevailed by several hundred votes corralled by activist ballot harvesters after Election Day. It’s called E+7 voting, and it was quietly enacted this year. Get used to it, all close races will be decided this way going forward.

That’s one seat. They already have Nithya Raman in district 4. There’s two. Hugo Soto-Martinez is running in CD13. Erin Darling on the Westside. That’s four. Kenneth Mejia, twice endorsed by the Times, is the odds on favorite to be Controller.  Add two special elections next year for the Martinez and DeLeon seats and that’s a potentially solid caucus for Venezuelan governance. No evictions. No law enforcement. Fungible private property rights.

Rick Caruso, here is your moment. If you really want to be mayor, defy expectations and side with the principles of privacy and free speech, and remind the city that no one is a virgin. Predictably, he is calling for resignations all around. His plan for winning the Latino vote is to demand Latinos surrender 3/4 of their representation on the City Council in the name of cancel culture.

Billionaires, hacks and socialists. Given the choice, I might stick with the hacks, grasping self-interest, potty mouth and all.

Photo credit: CBSNews and CalMatters

No One is Coming

The unintentional cruelty of civility

Correction. These two are coming. The Hack and the Billionaire. The people who have always been here, scratching one another’s back.

With everything that’s befallen Los Angeles in the past two years, local media allotted exactly one hour for a single mayoral debate and it was not entirely edifying.

Rick Caruso: We need to get people inside.
Karen Bass: Get them in.
Caruso: We need an Ethics czar at City Hall.
Bass: He stole my plan.
Caruso: The City is in crisis.
Bass: I agree. Crisis.
Caruso: Leadership starts with setting the tone.
Bass: We need bold and decisive leadership.
Caruso: The LAPD staffing level should be raised to 11,000.
Bass: It should remain at 9,700

Me: If we’re not arresting people for looting, what difference does it make? If there is no bail for felonious assault, what have we gained?

Caruso: I’ll build 30,000 tiny home pods in the first year.
Bass: I believe we need to work together to get people housed.

Me: We have already imposed Tiny Home compounds in neighborhoods and they are at 30% capacity. Encampments bloom unabated and un-policed on the next block.

At this point, the debate panelists might ask: if there is no enforcement mechanism, no restraining principle, of what tangible use are the billions we have allocated to Shantytown, Inc.?  Tis not the nature of L.A. media to ask the obvious, only to curate the boundaries of the narrative, which do not include discomforting those feeding at the giant tit of service provision.

Do I really need to say this? Safety is the first social justice. Los Angeles is coasting on the civilizational assumptions of 2019, and it’s beginning to dawn on us the guardrails we took for granted are no longer in place. A man fires up a meth pipe on the Red Line then assaults a woman and people record it on their phones but no one intervenes.  We are backstopped by police, in theory, but we know better.

You can count on one hand the people in this city with the resources, name recognition and institutional standing to break with the Homeless Industrial Complex and tie policy to some kind of enforcement, any kind of stick to offset the innumerable carrots on offer. Rick Caruso, developer of The Grove, is one of them.

Does he make even a gesture in that direction? He does not.

In a truly surreal moment he criticizes Ron DeSantis for sending 50 migrants to Martha’s Vineyard. Like it was a bad thing. Like this was his ticket to the Latino vote. Does he actually believe this sort of pandering works on people who commute to work on the Red Line, or is he obeying memos from Aisle 518 Strategies, the progressive firm he hired to advise his campaign?

For two years DeSantis stood on principle against vaccine mandates, school closures and Covid lockdowns and was reviled for it. Murderer, they called him. DeathSantis. To say events have vindicated him would be an understatement. He did right by the people of Florida and pulled the politics of the state in his direction.  He’s the most effective politician in America, and beloved of Republican voters, who are 26% of the electorate in L.A.  Which is to say, half the Caruso coalition in any victory scenario.

So Caruso’s plan, if we can call it that, is to denounce the hero of the one group without whom he has no chance of winning. Pro tip: don’t do that.

Want to reach Latinos, Rick?  I mean, really? Do something for Melanie Ramos’ grieving family. Do something for the next 100 unsuspecting young people who are going to do a fentanyl laced bump in the bathroom cause its Saturday night or pop a tainted Percocet handed to them from a classmate who got it from the open air drug market down the street because L.A. is lawless now.  Stop pandering to the people who have an interest in keeping it that way and don’t have daughters in public school.

No one is coming.

Melanie Ramos, 15, DOA at Bernstein High

Ten Days in The Devil’s Asshole

The body dysmorphia of heat

Darling, pour me a whisper…

Every couple years in the Valley we are visited by a fortnight of heat, unrelenting, merciless.  Usually around Labor Day.  A high pressure system rolls in, then sits on you and sits on you and sits on you, burning the leaves off the trees, browning the succulents, killing the grass, yellowing the bamboo, refusing to relent until your spirit breaks.

The kind of heat to quote Raymond Chandler, meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands’ necks.

There’s a ridiculous saying about the Valley:  Ten degrees warmer here. Nonsense. If the beach is 72° with a marine layer in the morning, Hollywood is 85° and balmy. Van Nuys is 107° and barely cools off at night. The Valley might as well be in Nevada.

The class structure is never more evident than during a heat wave.  The gentry enjoy a different climate entirely. To know that in the abstract is one thing, to have the ugly truth sweated from you like a peasant is another.

Darling, pour me a whisper is Mrs. U’s antidote to class discomforts and I reach for some chilled rose, from Paso Robles, where we briefly stopped earlier in August. Leaving the car was like stepping into an air fryer. Walking two blocks to the tasting room my skin began crisping. Like chickens escaping a rotisserie we collapsed upon air conditioned stools and panted for water.

Paso Robles is bone dry, perhaps the most inhospitable location in California for viticulture and yet they are overrun with vineyards fed from aquifers.

We’re told to let our yards die and not to flush after we pee while Big Grape has its giant straws in the earth.  Thirty-four gallons of water to produce one glass of wine, don’t you know.

And here we are in Van Nuys, air conditioners rattling, drinking a Paso appellation as a way of coping with nature’s wrath while failing to heed her limitations. It’s the California way.

I spent the week down in the crawlspace under the house wiring in new electrical circuits for my new service panel to create capacity for more square footage, more appliances, including, yes, more powerful air conditioning, in the assumption juice will always be available from the service feed snaking through the elm tree to the house. Normally a safe bet, but this year maybe not so much. What nation is more prudent and technically proficient than Germany? Yet they are facing a looming winter rationing heat.

We carry on as though the old paradigms were still operative, and for now they are. But at 107° you realize you are living at the co-terminus of fragility and misplaced certainty.  Everything works, but only because of the geo-engineering of the last century. The pipes and reservoirs and transmission lines of the Pat Brown era are fruits of a problem solving ethos which has fallen out of favor.

We could have sold in 2021 at the top of the market. We elected to double down on Los Angeles. Am I the ant or the grasshopper? Or to continue the chicken analogy, is it battery cage syndrome that keeps me here?

A new era begins…

Yesterday afternoon, in a severe mercy, clouds rolled in, dropping rain. But the thermometer stayed over 100º, like the tropics. Like Florida. Very un-Mediterranean.

Listen, Mrs. U said, and turned the fan off and scurried to the window like a child, watching the rivulets course down the pane with the wonder one would greet an unexpected snowfall.  The angry spell was breaking. The time before we would once again share a bed was reduced from days to hours.

All over the city last night, young women were out and about in crop tops and mom jeans, skipping on heels across glistening sidewalks, perfectly delighted to bare wet shoulders in the tropical air. Filled with intrigue about elusive young men and treacherous roommates and doubts about the right blend of SSRIs and alcohol, but little worry about pipes and wires and power generation and where food comes from and how this fragile republic hangs together.  It was like Blade Runner meets Instagram.

Their lack of seriousness is a welcome tonic for my middle-aged ruminations.

When they ask me where I’m from I am honest, and so are they.  Van Nuys? Oh God, you live in the Devil’s asshole. Not really. But I understand why someone might think that.

Sorosville, Year Three

From the Summer of 2021 to this…

Through a quirk of fate I once knew Dennis Peron, the man who did more than anyone to legalize marijuana in California. I knew him in San Francisco as a gadfly from the neighborhood, circulating his petitions for a doomed cause. Cannabis was just one of those things destined to be illegal in 1996. Maybe not a felony, but something on the other side of the law, like numbers running.

Suddenly one day Dennis had an office on Market Street and America’s first medical dispensary, operating on a speakeasy basis. He invited me to his office for a chat.  The gadfly persona was no more.  George Soros was backing him, he announced. The future was neatly laid out. HIV, very much a lethal pestilence at the time, demanded medical marijuana on compassionate grounds could not be denied. Once medical cannabis could be cultivated and exchanged there would be simply no way to stop full legalization for recreational purposes. Only a question of when.

We know how this turned out. Today you can buy flower with the ease of a trip to 7-11 or have it delivered to your house by app. All perfectly ordinary, but back in the mid-90s, not even the most starry-eyed optimistic stoner would have predicted it. Nor the iPhone, nor Instagram.

No one saw it coming, but a billionaire made it happen. It had a salutary effect on Soros, who has since made himself the franchisee of urban chaos, through his army of woke prosecutors, installed city by city, one seven figure check at a time.

We are re-learning civilization requires handcuffs.  It’s hard to believe now but Broken Windows policing was once as settled a political issue as we had in America, so completely transformative of the urban landscape you couldn’t campaign against it, even in Los Angeles.

An entire generation came of age with no living memory of street crime. Now that they’ve tasted it, people are ready to take corrective measures.

George Gascon, Soros’ handpicked prima donna, was a dead D.A. walking, next in line after Chesa Boudin for a public auto-da-fe.

The voters of Los Angeles County submitted 715,833 signatures in support of his recall, where 566,857 were required.

Carlos Gonzalez, SF Chronicle

Yet here he is this week, smiling and dapper, having tap-danced his way around his reckoning at the polls.

How did this happen?  In secret, courtesy of Dean Logan, Registrar of Voters, who managed to disqualify 195,000, or 27%, of the signatures away from the eyes of Recall Committee observers, who were banned from the building on the grounds it was not an election but a signature verification process.

For perspective, L.A. county rejected 1% of mail-in ballots in the 2020 cycle due to non-matching signatures.

Dean Logan has a history. In 2004 he was the Director of Elections in Seattle during the Dino Rossi-Christine Gregoire gubernatorial race, in which Rossi prevailed by 261 votes, then 46 votes in the recount, and then in a second manual recount Logan “found” 573 votes for Gregoire, previously disqualified due to -wait for it- signature matching issues.

The blowback was so intense Logan was forced to resign. Because we can no longer have nice things, and because one can only fail upward in the administrative state, Los Angeles hired him soon after.

People living in saner American climes watch the clip above and express disbelief.  Why do we allow this to happen?  As though we have been taken over by a charm of beguiling whispered in Aramaic instead of the decidedly unsexy nuts and bolts of an election process where billionaires and bureaucrats call the shots.  If signature matching can be manipulated to elect favored candidates and disqualify recall petitions, the person making those decisions holds inordinate power in the new era of vote by mail.

It’s going to get stranger. We no longer have an Election Day. We have entered the era of E+7 voting.  Activist groups have a full calendar week beyond the election to harvest ballots, bring them to drop boxes without a chain of custody, under a verification process that remains opaque. This is how Eunisses Hernandez, police and prison abolitionist, prevailed in District 1 this summer. It’s how Karen Bass went from five points down on the night of the Mayoral primary on June 7 to a seven point lead over Rick Caruso a month later when the results were certified. Or ‘certified’.

Were they late-arriving ballots or last minute? Even the Times couldn’t decide the correct nomenclature for this new reality.

Who would have predicted San Francisco would red pill before L.A.? Stranger things.