The Nervous Hour


Later in the year, if we are feeling better, or if we are alive, we may look back on March 11, 2020 as one of a number of dark days in a time of never-ending calamities.

Today, as the Coronavirus was declared a pandemic, and the stock market crashed yet again, and the slow-motion, fast spreading virus appeared aimed for me and my nation, I walked past this gruesome, burned-out building at 7101 Sepulveda Blvd. It caught fire on November 24, 2019.

A 5-story office building that caught fire months ago, and is structurally unsound and unsafe, is the setting for a community of homeless owners. Where is LADBS? Where is Nury? Where is God?

I didn’t photograph the community of perhaps 40 or 50 men and women who make their homes just north of 7101. They are, of course, there illegally, but why the hell not?  I dared not disturb their encampment, a satellite skid row in a community, Van Nuys, that until this century, was tacky, but spotless. 

In 1967, at 7101 Sepulveda Bl., the building, the parking lot and a motel court, was photographed by Ed Ruscha, our famed artist, for a book he compiled called “Thirty-Four Parking Lots in Los Angeles.”

The photograph is in the collection of the Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. And the LACMA.

Like his other works, “Twenty-Six Gas Stations” and “Every Building on the Sunset Strip,” Mr. Ruscha used documentary photography unbeautifully to state unequivocally what we honestly are in our built forms. 

Ah, the Sixties, when we laughed at the bad designs of roadside architecture, parking lot covered suburbia, and those husbands and wives who only wanted to live in a $30,000 ranch house and barbecue steaks.   We thought anyone over 30 ridiculous, an old prejudice recently renewed.

The children of the 1960s and 70s are among the ones living in the tents with the rats and the needles and the trash. 

We have fallen further than anyone could have imagined in 1967. We have only to look baldly at the evidence in front of our own eyes. We don’t need Twitter to tell us things are rotten in the states of reality and mind.

One thought on “The Nervous Hour

  1. I completely understand your perspective. But you are airbrushing history a tad. I refer you to Edward R. Murrow’s 1960 “Harvest of Shame” documentary – filmed seven years earlier than Ruscha’s photographs. Rttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJTVF_dya7E Is it possible you aren’t disgruntled about the state of poverty and disorder in Van Nuys as much as the intrusion of these conditions into what was always meant to be a safe haven? Would you really mind if the ugliness and vagabonds were quietly gathered up by the authorities to some distant location never to be mentioned again?

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