Lemay, west of Kester

On Lemay St. just west of Kester, a trash camp has been removed, then put back, then removed, then allowed back.

Residents of this tidy and pleasant section of Van Nuys know their area is not unique in the suffering brought on by government negligence.

Countless calls, emails, Zoom meetings and tweets have not changed a thing. The trash camps are a steady reminder of how far California has fallen, how pathetic the situation of law and order is.

Three months ago, the LAPD Van Nuys division held their monthly talk and all the Senior Lead Officers spoke. Our man proudly stated he had removed this trash camp, which previously was unhoused on the SE corner of Vanowen and Kester.  The camp then moved itself, shopping baskets and cars, to Lemay.

I don’t blame him or law enforcement for “allowing” the trash camps. This one, like many, has been cited for prostitution, drug dealing, and indecent exposure. The police are handcuffed by law.

A neighbor on NextDoor wrote that her granddaughter was playing outside when one male vagrant came up to the little girl and pulled his pants down.

He allegedly still lives in a tent along Lemay. Why?

There are many reasons to be depressed about life in Los Angeles today. In fact, progressive, thoughtful, sensitive Councilman Mike Bonin, who famously allowed murders, trash fires and thousands of vagrants to camp out and cause mayhem during the pandemic, has said he will not run for reelection, citing his personal battles with depression.

Bless him. But let him be gone to serve his emotions first so millions in our city can awaken happier tomorrow. 

Lest people who read this essay think I am advocating against the Democrats or liberalism, I instead am posturing for a middle ground of care for the addicted, and housing for the lost and beaten down. 

You can arrest them, jail them, deport them, or kill them, but only if you live in China or Russia. For those of us who still believe in American ideals, the law constrains us from revenge, even as we seethe in anger and contempt for the disorder and crime around us. 

But we also need local laws that apply to the entire city. We cannot stop enforcing with exceptions. Like near a school or hospital or homeless services building.  

It categorically must be completely illegal to camp out and live in a public park, on a public sidewalk, to urinate and defecate outdoors. Anywhere.

We cannot parse our laws to such inanities as prohibited “within 500 feet of a school.”

Imagine if we said you could drive blindfolded, stone drunk at 100 miles an hour, if you never drove past a school?

One of the bitter ironies of Los Angeles is the amount of wasted space that exists where civilized, regulated and sanitary communities could be erected to house the unhoused.

Next to the encampment on Lemay is the sprawling parking lot of the Casa Loma College which used to be a building that was the home to the American Automobile Association.

99% of the time the parking is empty. The entire lot, building and parking, is 112,994 square feet, 18 times larger than a 6,000 square foot “single family lot.”

Home Depot sells a backyard studio building that is 10’x 12’. It costs about $45,000.

Even if that is overpriced, imagine if within the bounds of the Casa Loma parking lot an agency or non-profit built 25 of these and there was a full-time security officer overseeing this community? What if this model town became a blueprint for other humane towns throughout Los Angeles?

There are, to be sure, many objections to this, but they are often imaginary, created in the minds of fearful residents who object to new types of supportive communities which are actually superior to the “free market” ones that currently exist.

The Skid Row Housing Trust is an exemplary non-profit which “provides permanent supportive housing so that people who have experienced homelessness, prolonged extreme poverty, poor health, disabilities, mental illness and/or addiction can lead safe, stable lives in wellness.”

They built 13604 Sherman Way, designed by architect Michael Maltzan, in 2014. It is houses 64 people but was bitterly opposed by the community before it went up. Yet it is perhaps the most attractive building built in the entire San Fernando Valley in the last 50 years.

But there is not enough of the good stuff. The trash camps are more numerous than these white paneled residences.

For now, the trash camps along Lemay, and everywhere else in the city, are a daily dose of depression for millions who live in Los Angeles and a barbaric and cruel way to treat people who must, through choice or circumstances, live under plastic tarps along the road. 

A Vast Wasteland: 15 Years of Facebook Messenger

Regretful, nostalgic, curious, melancholy, I recently opened my 15 years of Facebook Messenger to look at old messages, sent and received. 


Who were these people? What did I want with them? What was I hoping for? 

I found a vast wasteland of forgotten names, broken connections and lost memories.

On August 9, 2012, I sent Christian L. a photo from a party. On November 3, 2016, he opened it. That was the end of our conversation. Who was Christian? What photo did I send? I’ll never know.

15 years ago, like 15 minutes ago, I was looking for work. Or thinking of sex. Or trying to connect to someone for some reason involving either reason. 

Zokai was a muscular black trainer from the gym. He was a potential protagonist in my short story, “Decline Press.” I thought I would photograph him. Have him read dialogue from the story. I sent him a message on August 14, 2016. What became of that? Nothing. Maybe I was to blame for spelling his name as “Zaikai.”

I unearthed a buried trail of dead ends, leads that lead nowhere, communications dreamt up out of my hopes, longings and imagination.

I was always thanking someone. 

On June 14, 2012, I thanked Samson whom I talked to at the Raymer Street Bridge. I have no recollection of the man or the conversation, but I do have a good friend with that last name who lives near Raymer Street. 

But he is not that Samson.

Then there was Satoshi, the hermetic, buzz cut Japanese model who brought me to a chanting worship service at his Buddhist temple in North Hollywood. I spent two hours gasping for breath as I repeated the same indecipherable chant over and over again. 

I tried to contact him after the service, but he never returned my messages. Angered, I sent him one of my petulant texts, and then attempted to apologize. I felt bad for him because his mother died. And then I met a man whose mother also died, me.

I was forever striking out and asking for forgiveness. 

I was always trying to fix what I fucked up.

I often attempted to go back in time before I offended, to find my way back to paradise before my fall.

Does everyone have a life like mine? Is it mere honesty or self-flagellation which propels me to air out long forgotten messages that don’t mean anything?

Should I even air my dirty laundry? Aren’t we all saints in our own mind? FB Messenger begs to differ.

Ambitious, directed, soul cycling, tanned and glistening fashion executive Glynis who I worked with at Ralph Lauren in 1989-90. I owed her an apology before she asked for one. That was 2013. I haven’t spoken to her in ten years, but here I was asking for her forgiveness.

I look again at 15 years of long-gone messages that went out to strangers, friends, acquaintances, co-workers,hotties, cousins, aunts, brothers, lovers, ex-friends and permanent enemies. I review notes of infinitesimal pettiness, penitential pleading, glib emotionality. 

I see myself in the mirror, cracked, crazy and unhinged. Or kind, forgiving, funny, ridiculous, self-effacing. 

My father died in 2009 at age 76. He grew up in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood and his boyhood pals included Norm Jacobs, who took over Baseball Digest in 1969. Jacobs is 89 and a silent partner with Jerry Reinsdorf in the syndicate that owns the Chicago Bulls.

Norm is also a multi-millionaire publisher and owner of a sports team. His pal, my dad, spent his life going from mediocre job to job in publishing and advertising, battling epilepsy, raising a retarded kid. Norm never hired my dad, never looked after his well-being, really never knew a thing about my father’s life after 1950.

After my father died Norm was annoyed was me. I had let his teammates down.

During the pandemic death was all around. Carol had died. She was a girl, then a woman, who moved with her family from Wilmette, IL to Woodcliff Lake, NJ the same year we did. Our families were friends. I lost touch with her. Now she was dead.

I sent a condolence message to her surviving partner Katherine in Chicago who never answered.

Did it matter I cared enough to send a kind note to a grieving person I had never met, 40 years after I last spoke to their dearly departed?

Yet my condolence note on March 19, 2018, to Patrick, concerning the death of our mutual friend Trout, mattered.

I found a long-forgotten request to Councilwoman Nury Martinez to clean up a trash heap.  When the distinguished history of Van Nuys in the early 21st Century is written who will memorialize my contributions and my plaintive emails and texts to correct the filth that befouls our district?

Was the trash cleaned up? Did the trash come back? Or did it persist, like my messages, under a smoldering heap?

There are many messages to people that fell out of friendship. Chris was offended when I said his kitchen wall was hollow. Jacque, friend of 40 years, crucified me for not stopping off to say good-bye when I left Chicago after a two-day visit. “You were always selfish!” she said.

And Kristy McNichol. I sent her a FB message when I finished writing my novel about two families in 1980s Pasadena, “Exiles Under the Bridge.” Surely, she would be interested in it, having starred in a late seventies TV show, Family, which was set in that town.

How the imagination works, and tortures, and devises improbabilities, spun out of fantasy, to keep us alive and hopeful. 

Sweet Anita. We met through my blog. She lives nearby. We always laughed, she always complimented me, we had dinner at her house, she came to mine for wine and cheese. 

I pulled her off FB when we moved to opposite ends of the political fence. Yet I still miss her, wish I could crawl back into her good graces, for surely, we have done nothing to offend one another, and what happens in the voting booth, should stay in the voting booth.

I grew up when it was unspeakable to desire the same sex. Now it is blasphemous to desire a person from the other political party. 

On May 30, 2019, I waved to Christina. Who is she? I don’t know. 

Keith B. came up to me at Starbucks on August 3, 2017. 

Cary apologized for “getting pretty boisterous” at MacLeod Ale on April 6, 2015, and how things may have gotten a bit out of hand, and damn if I don’t remember anything about it.

MacLeod’s beer and my intoxication, was another instigator of trouble when I made a joke at the brewery about Sam W.’s “$250 sweater.” He didn’t take offense.

In 2015, just like 2022, and 1994, I was wondering who an agent for my writing might be. An obscure life prepping for a recognized life that will never be.

Producer, director, writer, political activist, and Married to a Millionaire Melissa of Nyack, NY let me know my short stories had no money in it.

Brad sent me a message on October 9, 2013, asking if I knew where Matt was? (Matt was a hustler/model I photographed a few years earlier.)

I didn’t know where Matt was. 

I still don’t know where Matt is.

Looks Like Yet Another Redevelopment Plan for Van Nuys.

In Urbanize LA “Revamp in the works for Van Nuys Civic Center.

“In a motion entitled “Building a Livable City,” Martinez instructs the Planning Department and LADOT to take stock of the number of parking spaces needed to serve Van Nuys City Hall and other government functions in the Van Nuys Civic Center, and lay out a plan for consolidating parking onto a smaller footprint. This would clear the path for redevelopment of the complex’s remaining parking lots with a mixture of affordable housing, open space, retail, and other community serving uses. Likewise, Martinez proposes that any scheme also incorporate amenities for pedestrians and cyclists.”

Must we endure these promises again? Here is what they were writing 31 years ago this month:

Downtown Van Nuys, due to 70 years of misguided “redevelopment”, has obliterated itself and now crawls along at the lowest condition in its history.  Homelessness, abandoned storefronts, and an eight lane wide highway are what it looks like.  

Ms. Martinez has occupied her office, figuratively and literally, for over 7 years and during that time she has spoken up about all the ills of Van Nuys and the NE SFV: human trafficking, crime, housing, drugs, homelessness.  

Yet, still the tent cities remain. The shopfronts are no more. The entire area looks like hell.

And at the center is the 1958 planned Van Nuys Civic Center, a ghost land of courthouses, library and police station all populated by vagrants, trash, emptiness and hopelessness. Surrounding the area are many tens of thousands of parking lots, enormous concrete fiascos erected 50 years ago to provide dignified places for vehicles to live. They are mostly empty now, and should be destroyed and replaced with housing, housing, housing!

But this requires a plan, an architectural plan, and there is never, ever any architectural thought put into any structures that go up in Van Nuys. Instead, a crooked and semi-literate group of grifters with dough show up at planning board meetings and offer up the shit boxes that are shoved into the poor streets nearby. And VNB remains the center of dysfunctional governance in the SFV. 

In past “great plans”, the Orange Line bus and and bike path was supposed to revive Van Nuys. But next to the path, are parking lots, rented out by nearby car dealers to store their unsold vehicles. This land, paid for with public tax dollars, is instead being exploited by for profit auto dealerships.

So I’m cynical.

Our present condition as a city, due to the horrendous tenure of Mayor Garcetti, normalized everything wrong, illegal, dirty and dangerous.

But let’s try again. Keep trying. We have nothing to lose. But our minds.

The Bright Place

We went down to Santa Monica last weekend to walk around the parks and the beach.

The weather was sunny and windy and the skies were clear.

There were people outside: runners, bikers, exercisers.

On the sands there were volleyball games, soccer games.

In the water, there were people in wet suits on surfboards, paddling.

It was Southern California and we were happy to be here. (Even if I look serious.)

“Dad Got Mill”-a short story

“Dad Got Mill” is a new short story about a middle-aged man who opens a luxury men’s store
on the brink of the pandemic.

Set in Silverlake and the San Gabriel Valley, the story explores the underlying conflicts of economic
inequalities, racial tensions and the demands of marital and family life.

Please read it on my short story page.
And let me know what you think.

Thanksgiving Archives.

In the archives of the Los Angeles Public Library are many old photographs from defunct newspapers such as the Valley Times and the Herald Examiner.

Thanksgiving is always a holiday where family, togetherness, food, and feeding the hungry are foremost.

The old ways of thinking about this holiday are on display in some of the images below, taken in the 1950s and 60s.