Bank of America at Haynes and Van Nuys Blvd.


gri_2004_r_10_b904_f14_004
Ph: Julius Shulman
gri_2004_r_10_b904_f14_001
Ph: Julius Shulman

Many are familiar with the large, architecturally impressive Bank of America at Haynes and Van Nuys Blvd. It was designed by Paul Revere Williams, a prominent architect who was also an African-American Angeleno. The bank was built in 1967 and features murals inside and out by artist Millard Sheets. In 1968, famed photographer Julius Shulman photographed the bank. It was a high point for civic architecture in Van Nuys, and perhaps the last time this area felt proud of its main street.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Prior to the 1967 bank, there was a more humble, late Art Deco, Bank of America at this same location, 6551 Van Nuys Bl.

In this black and white photograph, one sees the crisp, scrubbed-down, finely cared for building. Around it was a thriving street with well-dressed, law abiding citizens, and perhaps the occasional criminal whose activities were the exception not the rule.

00133214


DKV-uMvUQAAoTRM.jpg-large
Chase Bank, Sepulveda at Victory.

Today, human beings in Van Nuys sleep, eat, and defecate alongside bank buildings. Their disgraceful conditions scarcely cause anyone to notice. Or care.

In 2017, we are so busy congratulating ourselves on our “tolerance”that we forget that things that were once intolerable, illegal and immoral were considered so for many good reasons. In our gross barbarity, in our willful blindness to the suffering of neighbors, we are co-defendents in a new type of indecent nation, one that tests our moral fiber and will present itself to history for judgment.

Human beings do not belong on the street. They should be housed safely, affordably, with sanitation and security. Call this conservative, call this liberal, call this anything you want.

 

La Tuna Canyon Fire


The sky was exceptionally sublime last night with distant plumes of smoke climbing up into the clouds. The air was smoky and humid. The city seemed exhausted, ready to take a cold shower, drink ice water, and crawl into a bed without a blanket in an air-conditioned room.

But firefighters were racing to multiple scenes, battling on foot, assisted by water dropping copters. There would be little sleep for the defenders of life and property.

Near 12653 Osborne St, Pacoima, CA 90012

The 2017 La Tuna Canyon Fire in the Verdugo Mountains, a punishing event, looked tame from a distance in Pacoima along San Fernando Road. Closer up, panic and urgency: horses, dogs, cats and people evacuated. Others chose to stay home, hose down their roofs and wait it out.

In Sunland, still along San Fernando Road,  one could glimpse the hot flames shooting up in the crevices between the jagged hills, orange fire against the dark blue sky.

Near 8134 San Fernando Rd
Sun Valley, CA 91352

Dormant Beauty


 

On a Sunday evening in July, on foot, after a few beers, the old town of Van Nuys, carried a note of Tribeca 1985, in its summoning of potential, laid out, for dreamers and developers.

There were empty storefronts and shabby alleys, but there were also women in chairs, attending children on bicycles, who played near clothes for sale, hung on a fence. Here Andreas bought a shirt for $3.

There were menacing BVN insignias on garbage bins and apartment walls, but there was also the eternal light of California soaking the decay in cinematic color. If I were sober, if I were alone, I probably wouldn’t have walked here.

Intoxication, used wisely, is a gift. When nerves are soothed, adventures commence.

What glories the cessation of fear brings to the eye. Every corner revealed something: teal and brown homeless tarps seemingly sculpted, the wood pallets in the alley placed with artful intention, a wood gate in the back of a parking lot like the entrance to an old western town.

The best buildings were the forgotten ones: The steel walled packing house on Vesper St., the pink stucco cottages on Cedros, and 14225 Delano St. a mid-century structure with a dark green cornice and an inverted glass wall, respectable, laconic and businesslike.

It was Sunday night but some people worked.

On Bessemer St. a worker at Technology Auto Body buffed a gleaming pick-up truck, squeezing the last minutes of light to finish his job.

Last night, these fearsome streets, Calvert, Bessemer, Vesper, Delano and Cedros, were peaceful and passive. Sometime soon, this walkable, neighborly and nostalgic area will revive, and these ramshackle adventures through denigration will take their place in the history book of Los Angeles.

 

 

SaveSave

The Model is Not Your Friend


Screen Shot 2017-06-27 at 10.12.27 AM

I just published my latest short story, “The Model is Not Your Friend.”

The plot:  two sober living men intoxicated by young beauties get drunk on self-deception.

I mulled this idea around in my head since the beginning of the year, choosing the title early on.

Originally it was about a man chasing a woman and chasing his youth while she turned his life upside down. Boring and banal.

I wrote pages of that story and then destroyed it, something I never have done.

Then I went back to something a playwright named JRB once told me. He said he tears a photo out of a magazine and begins to write from it.

I used that concept, of seeing something visual and then building a tale from that. It happened that I have a friend who is a painter, and I like his work, and he lives nearby, so his art propelled me to write.

Maybe this is all boring. I happen to hate those NPR radio shows where some producer or director or actor or songwriter talks about what inspired them.

So fuck all that and just read the story.  Please.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Intoxicated Minds


So I have been on a month long hiatus from most alcohol including beer and wine. I wanted to see how staying away from drinking made me feel and so far it’s been good. My pants fit easier and I don’t wake up in the morning with a headache of regret.

But I still went to the 3rd Anniversary Party at MacLeod Ale. Which, as I said for a few years now, is the best thing to happen in Van Nuys since maybe 1960.

Friends and near friends were there. I went back and hung out with some people and we drank and laughed and everything was fun.

There was one eccentric, older woman with red hair. I decided in my intoxication that she should join our group and I pulled her over.

She immediately asked everyone where “they were from.” She didn’t mean Reseda or Santa Monica, she was inquiring about the ethnicities of all the people.

And the usual bragging rights afforded to the mediocre came out. “I’m from old Norwegian stock and on my mom’s side her father was a ship captain from Ireland and we also have some pirates who we trace back to Crete, and then on my grandmother’s side she had a distant relative who was a first cousin with the Rockefellers.”

When her finger pointed to me, I knew what was in store so I dodged the bullet. When you are around drunk people you don’t say your last name is Jewish. You say Russian. So I did. That seemed to satisfy her, and she related my background to something noble that helped elect her leader who was making America great again.

Around the hops the discussions continued. This time the drunken brother of a regular customer was making fun of another person who he said was “a fake boyfriend of my sister and definitely gay.” The chuckles and the chortles of the regular dudes continued and they made fun of the man they pegged as gay.

It reminded me, in a strange way, of those days, long ago, in Lincolnwood, IL when I was friends with the Clarke Family and good old Pete, Dave’s older brother would greet me at the front door with “Hello Fruit!” or “The Fruit is here!” There was always a laugh on that one, the calling out of that which is not normal or regular.

I think I was 10 at the time so I didn’t understand what he was saying. But my father, schooled in Chicago manliness, honed on the ball field, said, “My son is not a fruit!” and so I learned I better not ever be one.

It is now 2017 but you wonder if those sober vows of tolerance are really just ready to burst especially when the intoxicated gather. There is public tolerance for almost everything that once set teeth on edge: gay people, pot smokers and growers and sellers, mixed race couples, trans people, obese people with tattoos, homeless people. We think it’s OK for people to walk around mentally ill and sleep in the street, and we are quite “cool” also with two dads for Sarah, and if Sarah wants to become Sam, that is “cool” too.

Everything that once made us uptight is “cool” just as everything else is “amazing.”

And maybe when we are sober, and rational, we decry the hate speech, but get a few beers in us, and we revert to our old ethnicities, our old tribal thinking, or old dumbness, really.

And somewhere there are little kids playing well together and everyone gets along great until one little kid learns he is a Unitarian, or a Ukranian or a Uruguayan and then the trouble starts.