People By the Freeway Cook With Gas

Thin orange line behind Orion Street

Biking home from the gym yesterday, great plumes of black smoke near the 405 announced another homeless fire, or the launch of encampment fire season, as we now know it in the Valley.

Technically this isn’t true, the season got off to a running start on Friday with a one acre burn in the Sepulveda Basin that was doused by helicopter.

But the Basin is always burning. At any hour of the day, butane is igniting. Meth pipes are roasting like s’mores. Cigarettes and blunts are sucked down to the nubby entrails and tossed to the winds. Ramen noodles boil over campstoves.  Disputes and debts are settled flammably.  It’s only a question of how much brush gets involved.

In this case the unhoused have squeezed into the narrow no mans land between the sound abatement wall of the 405 and the back fences of the people who live on Orion Street.   They don’t get away with that in Midvale Estates, but in the sweaty flatlands of working class Latino North Hills with its own portion of unpermitted backyard structures people are less inclined to go to the authorities.

When the only thing separating the feral from the domesticated is a kindling line of sun-scorched lacquered wood the tragedy of the commons is waiting. The flames licked their way across the fictional divide of public and private space to what LAFD delicately referred to in the incident report as “outbuildings”, destroying several before being extinguished. All credit to the Fire Dept. for saving the houses proper.

Not half a mile from here sits the former Panorama Motel, recently purchased by the City for conversion to interim housing for people sleeping within 500 feet of a freeway.  It is one of ten motel purchases under Project Homekey.  Cost: $105 million. Total served: 536. At $195,895 per head, it is more expensive than the $130K/unit Tiny Home Villages, but a bargain next to the perpetually-in-the-near-future $700K homeless condos downtown.

My question is this: in the fall, after the Panorama Motel is retrofitted transitional housing, will there be more people living by the 405, or less? Will I no longer see people clustered on the off-ramp?  If the number remains unchanged or worse, wouldn’t that be a refutation of the “housing first” policy?  This will be our acid test.

Maybe it will work. I hope it does.

Four years after passing Props. H and HHH, the homeless population has increased by a third.  The fires however, are daily. That’s a new wrinkle.

For dollar value may I suggest the very un-flammable quonset hut? It was good enough for Gomer Pyle…

Signposts in North Hills

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I wasn’t sure what to make of this lady, whispering to herself while blowing kisses and making peek-a-boo faces at passing cars.   It was Sepulveda Blvd, but then one shouldn’t judge by appearances.  She was the first person Giles and I encountered on our walk tonight.  Sort of like a Wal-Mart greeter for the neighborhood.

The extra Z is for better sleep
The extra Z is for better sleep

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Turning east from Sepulveda, I encountered a street I never heard of with the Salinger-esque name of Memory Park. It was one block long and appeared to be the last bastion of white holdouts from the old days.  I saw two Clint Eastwood in Gran Turino-type guys tinkering in immaculately well-organized garages, one with an American flag hanging un-ironically off the front porch.

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The other house hosted ‘Fun Daycare’,  with a frolicking babysitter-in-a-miniskirt graphic.  I don’t know what to make of this.  Daycare shouldn’t be jail, but should it be this frivolous?  Is it a pitch subtly geared toward sleazy fathers dropping off kids?  It seems like a sly visual joke for a slasher movie. But then again it could just as possibly be entirely innocent, and probably is.

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Then there were these signs,  scattered up and down the boulevard.    This is the info it provides:

How To Pick-Up Girls And Have Them Call You You Will Never Have To Call Girls Again

There are only general rules, you need details becasue every situation is different.

1. Stop spending money in taking girls out to dinner, quit buying flowers and other things. Instead, use that money to pay her to help you wash your car, clean your house, etc.

2. You must pay her by the hour. You clock her in when she starts, and clock her out when she is ready to go home; pay her in cash before she leaves: that is the reason why she will call you again. Never take advantage of her by having her around you for free becasue she will not call you back.

3. The only proble is that they get lazy after the 3rd day and want to relax and have a good time on the clock, but since you are a ‘nice guy’ you will let her (on the clock)

Procedure

1. Send a money order for the amount of minutes you want to buy for consultation $2.00 per minute, $20.00 minimum (10 Minutes)

2. Don’t forget to give us your phone number and name. ( We file by phone numbers)

3. Use text til we call you. We’ll call you once we receive your money order (no checks) then, we’ll schedule a time for a phone meeting that is convenient for you.

Send Money Order Made Out To:

Mark Barton

1317 North San Fernando Blvd., Burbank, CA 91504

According to Google Maps, the address is a mail drop.

The Magic Button and the Hopeful Button

A street person's affirmation
A panhandler’s affirmation

Walking into CVS pharmacy on Sepulveda not long ago I was spare-changed by a panhandling couple at the front doors. I shunned them, as is my wont. (Mrs. UpintheValley always gives, to my consternation) Another person entering the store gave a dollar and they scurried inside after us, proceeding directly to the lotto machine. Or I should say, she scurried in. He followed, admonishing her for her profligacy: ‘Baby, no.  We need this money for bus fare.  C’mon. This is the third time tonight.’ Her: ‘I know what I’m doing.’ Him: ‘One dollar. One dollar only.’  She played five dollars.  Jackpot. Him: ‘How much? Twenty? Fifty? A hundred?  Holy Shit!’  The cashier handed her $200, while he hovered excitedly: ‘Can we get a carton of smokes? Can we get a frozen pizza?’ Her:  ‘I want to score.’  She called the dealer on her cell phone in the parking lot, while he continued to plead the case for at least one pack of smokes, while they were flush. In its own way, it was an entertaining domestic scene.

Jogging in Lake Balboa, I saw a woman who dressed like she might be going out to work the boulevard disappear down into the brush along the LA River.  She left this cardboard sign on the sidewalk at Woodley and Burbank.  In a given day, what does $100 represent?  What would she buy with that she couldn’t with $20?  Why is $20 magical, but the larger sum hopeful? If savings aren’t part of the picture, what doors of comfort open with the ‘hopeful’ jackpot? If you’re not buying comfort, are you buying time? Do you take a day off?  If you’re not buying time are you buying peace with yourself,  peace from the burden of the next $20 problem?

A panhandler's schtick
A panhandler’s schtick