There are ten houses along the west side of the 6600 block of Norwich in Van Nuys.
They are all ranches, built in the early 1950s, solid and compact.
Unusual for Los Angeles, the houses are all original. There are no tear downs. There aren’t any protective fences, walls or gates on any of the properties if I recall correctly. The front lawns are still grass. Not concrete, not RV, not Hummer.
Yesterday, I walked down the street, which has a real sidewalk, and on both sides of the block, two rows of identical tall trees, species unknown, currently bare of leaves, chopped up by Cortadores de árboles.
There is something midwestern about this street: sedate, well-tended and reserved. The only person I know who lived on Norwich was a blond-haired man who came from Ohio, married a woman, divorced, and moved back to Ohio.
Norwich Ave. reminds me of Lincolnwood, IL where I grew up. Especially one thing….
Each of the ten houses has a lamppost in front.
You can stand on the end of the block, on the south, at Kittridge, and on the north at Lemay, and look straight down and see the lights lined up, like sentries, in front of each property.
These exterior lights belong to mid-20th Century suburbia. They functioned, in their time, as gracious servants who lit up sidewalk paths for evening guests, paths planted with geraniums, petunias or marigolds; illuminated walkways for the wintertime mailman, dad coming home from work, and junior on his Schwinn thrown down, rushing in for his dinner of fish sticks, tater tots and Kool-Aid.
Some of the posts have address numbers attached.
Like every other block, people see what their neighbors are doing to their homes and they copy it.
The lamppost is a survivor from a domestic time seven decades passed. It has no real security value, and when it’s turned on during the day it indicates that nobody is home, thus negating its magical protection.
But walking past these homes and their lights, brings you back to the old days of bourgeois Van Nuys, when this district was neat, safe, and proud. And citizens thought that men in suits and uniforms, serving under sky god and nation flag, were looking over them and protecting their lives and family, fulfilling oaths sacred and lawful.
When the people, who always paid taxes and sometimes voted, discovered that nobody was in charge, that security was your own problem, that only wealth bought law and justice, the decorative lamppost went out of fashion.
And here we are today, in the new dark ages, monitored and terrified.