If they ever decide to revive Van Nuys, they might come up to Valerio, Orion and Cohasset Streets, north of Sherman Way, West of Sepulveda, East of the 405, an old place on the map where big estates sit in semi-ruins next to newer neighbors carved up and gated in.
The old Valley comes and goes here like a dying patient, brittle but breathing, broken-down, evoking another time. Behind peeling picket fences, on big dried out lawns, under shingled roofs, among the orange trees, someone’s dream home still stands, tended to by an old woman with a watering hose who sweeps her driveway with a corn husk broom.
On Valerio at Orion, high hedges obscure a flat-roofed, two story high bungalow, casement windows and divided French pane doors. Silent, mysterious, dignified, it might have stood alone among many acres of groves in rural Van Nuys. Across from it stands another two-story house, probably built or related to it.
All the dreams and history of Southern California since the 1920s are packed into this pocket: the Spanish house, which gave way to the 1930s and 40s storybook sprawling ranch, which yielded to the 1950s and its bizarre angularities, culminating in the ostentatious 1980s and 90s when concrete, gates and columns joined guns and burglar alarms in defining suburban living.
All the eccentricities and domestic styles are on display.
At 7433 Orion, a 1960 (?) a two-tone blue and white Buick coupe sits on the driveway in front of a red ranch.
At 15148 Cohasset, a broken down picket fence stands guard in front of a long Spanish/Moderne ranch house, in fast decay but wearing its old metal, wood and vinyl windows in mismatched dignity.
At 15351 Cohasset, an elegant red brick gate, atop which stands a leaning lantern, guards a big white ranch with double hung windows, the kind you see in Beverly Hills or Studio City. A copper bell is daintily affixed for ringing arrivals.
At the corner of Wyandotte and Orion, dazzling horticultural brilliance of California covers a Spanish house guarded by a massive Date Palm under which a profusion of aloe, oranges, cacti, succulents, and vines climb, crawl and cover.
And finally it ends where I started walking at 15414 Valerio, an English cottage which has a cryptic sign hanging over the front entrance: SNAKES LANE.
This is Van Nuys too. And it is hidden away and forgotten, gently existing somewhere beyond false perception and demonizing stereotype.