Cinnamon Politics.

Cinnamon Politics

A few months ago, I walked into a Santa Monica dry spice store that my friend and I had dismissed a few years earlier.

It seemed ridiculous to us, that people, in the farm-fresh and organic era, would buy dried spices and spice blends at premium prices, and also waste money inside a store where the edibles sat in glass bottles in the burning Western window sun, becoming milder, less fragrant and more tasteless by the day.

Yet the business lived on, as culinary mediocrity often does in Los Angeles, eventually thriving in its insipid rendition of gourmet flavoring for chef lite hacks.

But then I came back into the spice store a few weeks back. I gave it another try. Maybe I was wrong.

I bought something called Northwoods Spice: salt, black pepper, paprika, thyme, rosemary and garlic, which the company describes as perfect for chicken or fish.

It cost about $13 for seven ounces. And I used it once or twice with no noticeable or discernible improvement in my food. In fact, the food had come out worse with the addition of the Northwoods Spices, giving baked chicken the flavor of something my mom might have cooked in 1975 Lincolnwood, IL served with Uncle Ben’s rice and creamed corn.

Equality’s Front Lines

Today, that company sent out an email with an entirely different agenda. They were giving away either a magnet or a cookbook called LOVE PEOPLE with any $10 purchase.


Further down the email, the owner and alleged author of the email, Bill, talked up his support for “people on the front lines of the continuing struggle for equality.”

Who, really, are the “people on the front lines of equality?”

To some they are students screaming to take down President Woodrow Wilson’s name at Princeton University. To others, like me, equality is often accomplished in a quiet or modulated voice: teaching, reading, praying, thinking, writing, to postulate ideas and reform minds, and argue, through logic and insight, for the reform of certain societal inequities such as equal pay for women and men.

The mob, screaming and tearing up for You-Tube, is the curse of our time. The Arab Spring, so liberating online, has burned up in the Saharan sands and splattered blood from Jerusalem to Paris to Mali. Millions protest. But not one speaks freely.

But, here in America, The Spice Man speaks freely.

He tied in the struggle for equal rights to the strange events in Ferguson, MO, where, in 2014, Darren Wilson, a police officer, shot to death Michael Brown, a black man who had just robbed a store and roughed up its owner.

A grand jury later decided not to prosecute Officer Wilson. And rioting followed after this legal decision.

So why bring this tragic event into a way of advertising your spices? The killing was an epic event, a turn of racial history, an explosion of anger, an invocation for rioting, an example of passion gone amok. To employ this police/pigmentation tale of violence to market spices reduces its enormity to triviality, and grounds it down into mere cocoa powder.

The seller of garlic powder, turmeric and thyme, whose exposure to worldwide aromatics evidently endows him with insight into all senses of the human condition, then compared police reform to Catholic priesthood reform, linking the two institutions, which have no relation or logical connection, but obsequiously praising The Catholics and The Cops for “coming a long way from protecting their own no matter what, to understanding that not everyone has what it takes to do the job.” Perhaps The Spice Man and his unessential oils belong in the latter category.

A scandal about police brutality, a scandal about child abuse, and now (to my mind) a scandal of a salt salesman using the most controversial and unsettled issues of our time to push his product.

Bill’s presumptuousness, his wise ignorance of imagining that his clientele shares his views on the proper role of police, on racial profiling, on police tactics, on law enforcement-all of it- sickened me because it used sensitive and philosophically critical issues in the service of selling spices.

In this strange marketing email, he also praised the Milwaukee police department for “an incredible forward-thinking outreach to our city’s homeless community.” In old America, before the 1980s, the police arrested people sleeping on the streets, not only because it was illegal, but also because it was unsanitary and unsafe. And gutters, park benches, alleys and dumpsters were deemed not fit for human habitation.

Strangely, there are still people, (like me) who think that there should be a law against allowing people to set up home on the sidewalk. Tolerance of it allows it to grow and become a movement of its own, normalizing the cruelty and barbarism of it, and giving a free pass to liberals to walk from their Range Rover with the handicap sticker on it, right into Studio City Lululemon on Ventura Boulevard, past the old lady who has slept on the metro bench for six months.

So now the police, as cited in Milwaukee, are expected to be the ambassadors of graciousness to the mentally ill, and to people made mentally ill by living outdoors in urban filth.

But back to The Spice Man.

He thinks he knows his customers. He thinks he knows them because sells them political opinions, set out in marketing blasts, better kept to himself.

He ought to make a better product before he jumps ahead to planetary reform.

Spices, kept out for too long, lose their potency, like old bromides.






Young Asia.


They were young when we boarded Singapore Airlines at LAX, bound for Tokyo. 22 men and women, flight attendants, smooth skinned, well mannered, and slim, women with hair pulled back wearing Sarong Kebaya. Graceful, smiling, polite, they maneuvered in and out of the aisles, pushing carts, pouring tea.

The flight left on time and touched down in Tokyo as silently and softly as a Kleenex falling on a pillow.

The airports were dazzling, slick, architectural and inviting: Tokyo Narita, Singapore Changi, and KLIA.  Customs officials in every nation were polite, well-spoken, welcoming. Everything they are not in Los Angeles.

The skyscrapers were young, newly built, tall, dropped into every corner of Kuala Lumpur: Icon Mount Kiara, Charigali Tower, 60 floors tall, St. Regis Hotel, 80 stories tall, Menara Tradewinds, Warisan Merdeka (118 Floors Tall!), KL Tower (Menara Kuala Lumpur) 1,381 feet tall, Ilham Baru Tower (62 floors).  They were clearing out jungles, paving over valleys, erecting vast suburban housing and vertical towers in Cyberjaya, Shah Alam, Bangsar, Petaling Jaya. Soon, a high-speed train will connect Singapore, KL and Bangkok.

The land was young, landfill on the west side of Melaka, thousands of acres of new commercial buildings lined up like soldiers in a future army of retail, uninhabited infants.  Old classical mansions that once stood on the shore were abandoned and empty, their contents stolen, their memories wiped clean.

The KL malls were new, full of shoppers, hordes of black haired boys and girls in bright scarves and long dresses, eyes glued in their smart phones, moving through vast air-conditioned, bright spaces. The Pavilion! KLCC Suria! Star Hill Gallery!

The Malaysian highways were new, and along the new landscaped lanes, billboards shouted advertising with smiling faces, multi-cultural Malay and Chinese faces beaming in Samsung, Jasmine Rice, Panasonic, Thai Airways, Telekom Malaysia, Air Asia, Hyundai.

The Malaysian born bride was young, effervescent, intelligent, ambitious, and well connected. She owned a condo, a house (under remodel) worked for a bank and travelled to Singapore, Bali, Jakarta, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Seoul, and Melbourne. She had a lot of friends, a lot of family, a lot of generosity and much love around her. She was the future, for just this moment, of a region where education and money are exploding exponentially.

And the trains in Tokyo, the intersections of Shibuya, Shimokitazawa, Ginza, Shinjuku, they were young, overwhelmingly so, populated with hundreds of thousands of post 1985 human beings pouring off the modern perfectly run trains, into stores and shops and cafes, hurrying everywhere, acquiring purses, shoes, makeup, perfume, suits, electronics.

Inside the endless shops of Tokyo Station, the bowing and the smiling, the serving and the selling, a furious, unabated, exhausting and exhilarating controlled carnival of commerce, this was Japan.

And everywhere, in every corner, the spirit, the energy, the optimism, the faith in tomorrow and the future, a region poised to take over the world, relentless in its work, socialized to harmonize, grouped en masse into money-making and modernism, this was young Asia.

I went here on holiday, for three weeks, to attend a wedding in Kuala Lumpur, to vacation in Phuket, Thailand and stop off in Tokyo for four days.

I came back to Los Angeles in culture shock. For what I saw back there made the Golden State seem dyspeptic, backward, self-congratulatory– without merit.  Our new international airport had dirty windows; the customs people were fat and shouted angrily at passport holders. The bus was late and the driver made jokes (“This bus isn’t going to Van Nuys. Long Beach! Just kidding!”) that delayed our trip.

And the news was that the government was shut down. I thought of that on the 405 bus ride home, having just seen, 10 hours earlier, postal workers at work at Tokyo Station, on Sunday afternoon.

America is no longer young, in outlook or output, and I wonder if we even have any dreams left in our national imagination.

Cindy vs. Nuri

On Tuesday, July 23rd, two women, Cindy Montanez and Nuri Martinez, will face off in a special election to decide the next leader of LA’s 6th District which includes Van Nuys, Arleta and Sun Valley.

After a dozen non-productive and self-destructive years of Councilman Tony Cardenas, the district is still one of the least appealing areas of the San Fernando Valley. Downtown Van Nuys is dying, its post office closed, its shops vacant. The Van Nuys Neighborhood Council is a long-running joke, producing theatrics and anger instead of cleaning up the streets.

Why Van Nuys should continue to suffer is one of the strange mysteries of our city.

It is centrally located, adjacent to North Hollywood and Sherman Oaks, an easy commute to Woodland Hills, Studio City and Hollywood. It is served by buses and three freeways, so it certainly does not lack transportation. On many streets there are stunningly beautiful homes often used for filming movies and commercials.

The downfall of Van Nuys, which was established in 1911, began after WII when regional shopping centers replaced mom and pop stores. The widening of Van Nuys Boulevard and Victory, the elimination of diagonal parking, the ripping down of old houses to make way for large government buildings, the influx of immigrants who were poorer and less educated, the slumlords who bought up apartments and let them decay, the emptying out of legitimate business to make way for pot shops, massage parlors and bail bonds, all of these contributed to the El Crappo aura. And basically El Crappo is all one sees driving along Van Nuys Boulevard.

Whomever wins on Tuesday, Ms. Montanez or Ms. Martinez, both ladies (I like that word) will have to dig in her heels and bring shovel-ready action to Van Nuys, and concentrate with all her might in rebuilding a civilized and thriving district that is no longer the laughing stock of Los Angeles.

Canvassers For Cindy Montañez.

For Cindy Montanez in Van Nuys.
For Cindy Montanez in Van Nuys.

Two canvassers were walking down Orion Avenue north of Victory last night, passing out literature for Cindy Montañez, who is perhaps the best known and best financed person running for the vacant City Council District #6.

According to her campaign literature “she is the only candidate endorsed by the LA County Democratic Party”.

Montañez (b. 1974) was raised in the city of San Fernando, CA along with her five siblings by parents who were immigrants from Mexico. She attended UCLA.

She is an accomplished public servant and explorer who has navigated many hidden corridors of the political landscape. Not yet forty, she stands poised and positioned for state or national fame.

Like Mulholland before her, the path to power flows down pipes from the Owens and Colorado River, baptized and blessed by DWP, the largest municipal utility in the United States.

Her brief resume:

*Democratic Assemblywoman from California’s 39th Assembly District from 2002 until 2006.
*Montañez stepped down in 2006 to run for the California’s 20th State Senate district. However, she lost that primary to Los Angeles City Councilman Alex Padilla.
*After leaving the Assembly, Montañez was appointed to the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.
*Cindy now works as a government affairs consultant for various clients, as well as the Assistant General Manager for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

She seems the most likely to get elected.

Her name and gender are backed up by solid government work.

Who Has the Most Land in the Middle East?


President Obama is visiting Israel this week.

As we have been hearing (ad nauseum) for many years, “Israeli Settlements” or suburban housing erected for families is the main obstacle to peace. Put Israel back inside Israel proper, make it conform to borders settled by the United Nations, and peace will follow. Many US Presidents have talked of the “two-state solution”, the idea that a democratic Palestine and a democratic Israel might live side-by-side in peace.

But the truth is that any Israeli state is anathema to the Arabs. They simply do not accept that Israel has a right to exist. Israel in Tel Aviv is wrong. Israel anything must go.

From 9/11 to the 1970s hijacking of planes, to the killing of innocents at the Munich Olympics, the big bloody event has always captivated and controlled the Palestinians and their allies. They have pursued their own cause by sacrificing women, children and non-combatants.

While Israel is now being asked to unsettle its settlers, what guarantee is there that putting Israelis into exile (in their own nation) would buy peace? None at all. After leaving the Gaza Strip, Israel was bombarded by rockets, aimlessly aimed to kill innocents.

Why not ask the Arabs, who allegedly are tearfully and remorsefully concerned with the Palestinian plight, to give over their land to make a new nation? Why not? Land is land. If a people want to make a democratic and prosperous nation, they can do it anywhere on Earth!

Here are the statistics (taken from Google) on land areas in the Middle East:

Israel: 8,019 sq miles (20,770 km²)

Some Arab Nations:

Egypt: 387,000 sq miles (1.002 million km²)
Jordan: 34,495 sq miles (89,342 km²)
Syria: 71,498 sq miles (185,180 km²)
Saudi Arabia: 830,000 sq miles (2.15 million km²)
Libya: 679,400 sq miles (1.76 million km²)
Algeria: 919,600 sq miles (2.382 million km²)

Other Nations:

Iraq: 169,235 sq miles (438,317 km²)
Iran: 636,400 sq miles (1.648 million km²)
Pakistan: 307,374 sq miles (796,095 km²)

Public to Vote in Secret City Election, Today.

The Voyager Motel
The Voyager Motel
The Voyager Motel, view North
The Voyager Motel, view North

I voted in an election today to choose a new mayor, members for the Board of Education, a Community College District person, and a City Attorney.

I don’t know any of the people, save for Eric Garcetti, who my friend likes and taught tennis to when he was a young man.

“He always was polite. He is a Rhodes scholar.”

Poor Wendy Gruel did not get my vote because her last name recalls bad prison food like watery porridge.

Armed with my LA Times print-out and reading glasses, I walked from my house over to the Voyager (Adult) Motel and entered a room where one table was full of elderly attentive volunteers.

I forgot my wallet and asked an older woman if I needed ID. “Not in America!” was her feisty reply. She directed me over to the other side of the room, to a table staffed by young, multi-cultural texters who barely looked up when I walked over to them.

“Thanks for the ballot.”

“Huh? Oh, no problem.”

I took the strange and clunky, elongated ballot, put it into the plastic holder and used the short pen pointer to make holes next to the names I didn’t know.

After voting, I got a small sticker.

And then I remembered another upcoming election….

For the past few weeks, I have had door knocks and emails from two men running for the City Council District #6 seat, unknown Derek Waleko and unpronounceable Dan Stroncak. The seat was formerly held by fat huckster and do-nothing, now Congressman, Tony Cardenas.

City Council District#6 election will be on May 21, 2013.

Not today but on May 21, 2013.

Got that straight?

An election was held today in which less than 20% of voters will participate. Another election will be held on May 21, 2013 in which very few will vote, for City Council District #6, a desperately dirty, tired, poorly run area, populated by some beautiful but neglected homes, overrun by crime and illegalities, both small and domestic, large and international.

In our pocket, couches and condoms are street décor, and the local bird is a helicopter.

Who will come and focus their energy, attention and resources on Van Nuys?

If not me, who then?