A Time for Re-Learning

A small but spirited Recall George Gascon rally took place at Topanga and Victory yesterday, in quiet response to the noisy lawlessness of 2021.

Is this the mustard seed of a Prop. 13-style rebellion? A beginning of the return to broken windows policing? Or a doomed last stand by a declining demographic? I have no idea. After the past year I can’t trust my political instincts when it comes to predicting events in Los Angeles.

Shootings are up 73%. We don’t enforce property crime or public nuisance crime at all, so any numbers on that front are meaningless. No one is allowed to say so, but there is a historical connection between the two.

We are in the midst of our Great Unlearning. Or Re-Learning, depending on your view.

Note, but a year ago Jackie Lacey was on the verge of reelection in the jungle primary for District Attorney -Gascon a distant second place with 28% of the vote- when BLM activists began showing up outside her Granada Hills house in the middle of the night, chanting, knocking on her door. After weeks of this, her husband David emerged at 4:30 AM flourishing a weapon, ordering everyone off his porch and property.   An orgy of sanctimonious media coverage ensued. Menacing! With a deadly weapon!  Jackie Lacey, Crenshaw raised, a member of that disappearing breed of law and order Democrat, was recast as Wife of Dirty Harry.  The Times saw to it she never recovered and now we have this George Soros-backed carpetbagger from San Francisco making decisions as to where the societal guardrails will be placed in L.A.   Apparently they will be in El Segundo.

The recall rally took place across the street from the now defunct Promenade at Woodland Hills. Which invites a question: what if the restoration of law and order that brought people back to the cities is destined to become an artifact of the 90’s, like the traditional indoor mall, or Dawson’s Creek?

The same tech companies that devoured the mall also de-platform critics of BLM.  Make of that what you will.

The final remaining tenant is the AMC theater. Like Macy’s, AMC may also be on its way to the graveyard of commerce.  You can stream unlimited programming, so there’s that.  But there also has been a decline in public decorum and fewer people willing to sit in close proximity with the unhousebroken.  Cinema is becoming either an evening of Netflix on the comfy couch or $30 tickets at iPic in a posh zip code far from the unruly.

I saw The Dark Knight here. A packed house and a most un-woke film. It was so much better as a bonding experience with strangers. We walked out of the theater together knowing we had been part of something special.

America was another country then. Same people, different set of rules.

Rust Never Sleeps

What is it about vintage cars that we can’t let go?  We scour junkyards. We burnish the metal with our bare hands as lovingly as we would polish a fertility goddess for luck.

Observe…a Mid-Century moment of Zen in the form of a 1957 Chevy Bel-Air Townsman. A gas guzzler before we had a phrase for it.  Futuristic, yet simultaneously maternal. Like driving a sofa.  When City Hall planned the post-war Valley street grid it had the Townsman in mind. Fins and chrome and low rise development as far as the eye can see.  As she made a left on Sepulveda seventy years of suburban landscape condensed to a single frame and very briefly fell into a rare decadal alignment.

I drive a Toyota hybrid, a nearly silent machine of flawless efficiency and lightweight, plyable materials, perfectly suited to its time and purpose. The day the battery system ceases to work it will get compacted and placed on a barge to China and I won’t miss it. There’s no chance I’ll be looking for a used one in 2050 to occupy me in retirement.

And then there’s this…nest of 1970s Pontiacs stashed in Granada Hills. A fire swept through in 2018, scorching the cars beyond restoration, yet the carci remain like a murder of crows, waiting to be summoned to life by Stephen King or a landscape installation by Christo or a post-America where nomadic clans roam the Hobbesian landscape chaining the bodies of their defeated enemies to the hood like a 12-point buck.  The owner isn’t calling the scrapyard. Why would he? Form, not function, is the obsession.

Looking down from Google Earth one finds hoarder yards with fifty cars stashed behind the fence, the remnant of a custom car culture of which the Valley was once the apotheosis: George Barris, Don Beebe and The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine Flake Streamline Baby.   The cars won’t be moved until the owner dies and his quarreling heirs build an ADU.  Unless…

In 2016 a man in Illinois named Chris Carter saw this picture on Facebook and recognized the van from its appearance in the 1979 drive-in classic Van Nuys Blvd., a film released a year before he was born.  For a year he sleuthed online, crowdsourcing its location.

“I just couldn’t get it out of my mind. To see that van abandoned with a tree on it, and to know its former glory, how nice that it looked, how it was in a movie … I knew I had to do something.”

Since 1992 it had been parked by an access road on a bluff outside Lancaster. Carter drove to California with a flatbed trailer, hooked it up, returned to his body shop in Illinois, lovingly restored it, then drove it back to California for a celebratory cruise down Van Nuys Blvd., only to be charged with auto theft.

The “owner” of the Wild Cherry van, a woman named Laura Godin, had once cruised, traveled, camped and lived in the van as a young bride in the early 80s.  Though she not registered it in nearly three decades and abandoned it on rural property she rarely visited, and had no plans to restore it, she couldn’t let it go, either.

What followed is what happens when the restoration impulse and the hoarder impulse lay irreconcilable claims to the same assemblage of metal.

Carter could have created a replica from parts of other 1975 Chevy Vans, but didn’t. Like Indiana Jones, he had to find the relic and bring it to the museum. Twice.

There was a time when we built muscle cars in Van Nuys at one end of the boulevard, sold them at the other end, and in between had an unregulated cruising culture.  Now we have road diets and traffic calming measures and preposterously long red lights designed to make driving so unpalatable we will sell our cars and ride trolley lines that won’t be built for five years.

We won’t recreate Valley 1.0 but we can cling to the artifacts of memory.

Islamic Republic of Van Nuys

I went to MacLeod for a beer run and encountered this woman shuffling across Victory…hunched…clutching her mask to her ears as though warding off demons…fearfully navigating the sunshine.   This is what we’ve allowed the media to do to us. We veil ourselves as though we were living in Tehran, 1982.   What are we really afraid of?  I don’t think it’s the Wuhan virus. Being Karen-ed by a neighbor, on the other hand, seeking to collect her snitch reward…being ratioed by the Virtue Police on social media…these are our modern terrors.

Trader Joes is one of the few permissible places we are allowed out of doors.  How quickly we have acclimated to lining up like this.   Let’s roll back to February for a moment.  If you could be put in a time machine how confused would you be by our present submission?

It’s nearly May. The dreaded curve is in the rearview mirror. Our zealotry has exceeded any data-driven health concerns.  All is now a public demonstration of obedience to rules handed down by the Clerisy.

I feel I’m being a bit of a bore writing this for the third time. But neither the Mayor nor the Governor have the statutory power to suspend civil liberties. To hear them speak of the conditions which need be met before the economy can resume one is given the impression of a royal personage considering the granting of a favor.

Sweetheart, if you want to wear a mask and confine yourself to your rooms, no one is stopping you.  Which of course you are not doing. Nor are you going without a paycheck while you outline your terms of Our New Normal.  The rest of us, on the other hand, could do with some herd immunity.  You know what else?  We have centuries of good public health policy on our side.

We will regret letting the government bribe us with our own money to not work. Trixie likes a good belly rub, but she’d rather be climbing Runyon.  So would I.   So would you. Even if hiking isn’t your thing, liberty is.