The early March air smelled quite frequently of jasmine yesterday.
The skies were cloudier, anticipating and foreshadowing the slowest, rarest event that mercurial, moody nature ever delivers to Los Angeles: rain. We want it so badly that when it comes we regret it, like so much else in life.
I walked east along Victory and stopped at 14619, where a two-story building, housing VIP Printing, caught my eye.
Built in 1960, it’s a box with a second floor of louvered windows and panels, alternating. The first floor has shops under a protruding horizontal overhang. Except for the ugly signs marring the façade, it has a plain purity and deserves better treatment.
On the corner of Van Nuys Boulevard and Victory, the symbol of Van Nuys: an overflowing trashcan.
Also at that intersection: decrepit one-story buildings.
In a finer city, these prominent parcels might be five, six, seven, or eight stories tall and contain many apartments on each corner. This is Van Nuys, stuck in 1966, perpetuating wasteful land use, wasted because housing is desperately needed. We need one less pawnshop and 500,000 more apartments.
The Q Bargain Store at 6351 Van Nuys Bl. was built as Sontag Drugstore in the 1940s. It still has the streamlined look of its youth. Like all of Van Nuys Boulevard north of Oxnard, it got old, it got poor, and we all got fucked.
Deformed beyond belief is the decapitated 6314 Van Nuys Boulevard, which in its decorative heyday was called the Norvald Building. Prominent people and institutions: realtor/developer Harry Bevis, Bank of America and DWP were tenants in the 1940s and 50s. A 1953 photograph shows Van Nuys Stationery store, Whelan Drugs and Bill Kemp Sportswear for Men.
Van Nuys, it is not fiction to say, once had businesses supported by letter writers and men who wore well-tailored sportswear. They used the word “amazing” a few times a year to describe space travel, or volcanic eruptions, never as an adjective for avocado toast or their little dog Zoe.
Diagonal parking was available along with a streetcar running down Van Nuys Boulevard. Imagine that!
The Country General Store at 6279 Van Nuys Blvd is a very fine country/western clothing store with a large selection of boots, ornate belts, and men’s Western hats, jeans, and sport shirts.
Unfortunately, the façade is cheap vinyl and fakery, obscuring a neo-classical California Bank that once anchored this corner with respectable, solid architectural forms and operable windows. A decorative clock and a traffic light with moving Stop/Go arms embellished and celebrated an urbane, safe, and tidy young town.
The future, seen through the past, is waiting for its revival. We send our thoughts and prayers to Van Nuys, a critically ill patient wounded by fatal liberalism and self-destructive policies.