Up on White Oak Place

san fernando valley, originally uploaded by dugm2.

Up on White Oak Place last night: a party for a magazine launch.

The winds were blowing. Buzzing flocks of valet parkers ran to grab cars as partygoers arrived.

A for-sale mansion had been rented, an ornate and preposterously rococo place, elaborate and overdone; sunk under the weight of marble, chandeliers, heavy furniture and cartoon grandeur.

The event celebrated a new publication that will cater to the top one percent of income in the San Fernando Valley and those whose world stretches along Ventura Boulevard and up into these hills.

A Casa de Cadillac Cadillac in red was parked on the driveway. Young and sexy girls in leggy dresses, bartenders carrying trays of wine, and opulent tables of food from various restaurants in the Valley, were sprinkled around the backyard pool.

At one cheese table, I was instructed to eat ginger with a stinky Italian and to place honeycombs atop a goat, and consume silver painted chocolate.

Another table was full of thimble-sized pies whose ingredients were too small for my middle aged eyes to discern.

Big poster boards printed with San Fernando Valley photographs and graphics kept blowing over as the gusts blew across the panoramic backyard and pool.

After my second or third glass of wine, my tongue was unhitched from head, and anything that came to mind I spoke.

An ad salesman told me that his typical reader lived in a mansion “just like this” and that his Facebook page already had “4,000 fans without any publicity”.

I talked with a sharp Italian born professor who teaches languages at CSUN. Tragically, she was imported from Milan to Porter Ranch where she has lived for half a century.


I went back into the house, detective and decorator, attempting to relate to the exotic style of furnishing inside.

In the dining room, a wide and tall glass fronted cabinet was filled and packed-like a rush-hour Tokyo subway- with Judaica: silver menorahs and tea sets, picture frames, glasses, engraved plates, silver Etrog holders, Kiddush cups, wine goblets. Three enormous black chandeliers danced satanically along the ceiling above onyx tinted granite countertops.

Near the center hallway, a heavy carved wooden desk presented the owner’s business cards for inspection, as if it were a hotel concierge conducting business. Multiple mezuzahs bedecked every interior door, bestowing blessings on bathrooms and bedrooms.

An enormous bathtub was surrounded by plastic bottles of Lubiderm which opened, without shame, to a stadium-sized bedroom where a leonine carved king-sized bed sat under a photographic portrait of a white-bearded Lubovitcher rebbe.

The house swung crazily between devoutness and decadence, minyan and orgy. Sadaam Hussein, Khaddafi, LL Cool J, Angelyne, Donald Trump: if they had collectively hired an architect, this is how it might have looked.

A small red room in the front was crammed full of more gold painted velvet baroque couches and chairs, pushed against the walls-like a Syrian police interrogation room- with a ghastly autographed, NBA orange basketball placed atop a pedestal for admiration….. or possibly worship.

The long wagon train of Jewish history had made its stops in Jerusalem, Tashkent, Tehran, Warsaw, Vienna, Tel Aviv; and finally stopped and unloaded 2,000 years of wares here on White Oak Place in Encino.


Back in the backyard, I struck up a conversation with a quiet tanned gentleman dressed in an exquisitely tailored Italian blazer.

He had removed himself from the crowd, and sat alone on a lower level of the patio, where he and his wine surveyed the San Fernando Valley.

He told me he had just purchased the jacket that day, in a Goodwill store in Sherman Oaks. He worked as a caregiver to his 93-year-old mother and in his spare time took photos. One of his nighttime photographs of Ventura Boulevard was published in the premiere issue.

I knew then and there that he was like me, a real person in a fake environment, an honest loser at a party celebrating winners, an unemployed man, like many, who had lived in California his whole life and dreamed of escape from the Golden State.

I challenged him to arm wrestle but he said he wouldn’t because he might beat me. He warned me about driving intoxicated. And then he got up and said good-bye.

I waited and sat alone, around the floodlit pool, as sobriety slowly returned. Below me were miles of twinkling lights. And the wind was strong, the air bracing and refreshing.  And I was lost in my thoughts, cleansed, relaxed and free of worry, somewhere atop White Oak Place.

Madeleine Brand Back on KPCC.

About a year and a half ago, KPCC’s 9am morning show, Day to Day, was ripped off the schedule, a victim of budget cuts.

In its place was a lamentable and irritating BBC syndicated broadcast.

One could listen to the particularly British view of the world, with its respectful Hamas interviews; 20 minute long dissertations on the tse tse fly, and hear stories about the crisis in the Welsh sock industry.   I wonder how many KPCC listeners stopped listening. Did KPCC actually lose money when it started broadcasting the BBC?

Now Madeleine Brand, who previously hosted Day to Day, is back with her own 9am program. This show is produced in Los Angeles and will radiate, in both its broadcast and world view, from our city.

It is not provincial to want to listen to a local broadcast that explores local issues. Our TV news stations do a horrible job of covering LA, and only public radio, and reporters like Madeleine Brand, come close to quality reporting on the City of Angels..

KTLA-a Distinguished and Trusted Source of Local News.

Here are some stories gathering front page news headlines on the KTLA Website:

50 Ridiculous Celebrity “Duck” Faces
Accused ‘Craigslist’ Killer Found Dead in Cell Photo
Mom, Grandma Accused of Pimping Out Young Girl
2-year old Dead, Sister, 3, Critical After Crawling into Hot Car
2 Teens Die in ‘Choking Game’: Cops Warn Parents
Jet Blue Flight Attendant Caught on Video Leaping Out of Plane
Six Year Old Boy Dies, Detectives Say His Brother Shot Him In The Head
Boy Shot, Killed by 8-year-old Brother
Polite Predator “Thanks” Victims Before Running Away
Donor dies after live liver transplant at CU Hospital
Man Dies After Donating Liver to Sick Brother Photo
Pea Plant Found Growing in Man’s Lung
Cat Rescued After Being Left to “Marinate” in Trunk of Car
Mom Accused of Trading Xbox For Sex With Teenage Boys
Missing Chef’s Body Found Stuffed in Freezer

LA: Portrait of a City


KPCC is having another one of their fund drives. I have to speak up about how personally attached I feel to this radio station.

Public radio seems to be one of the last intelligent, insightful and informative sources of news and culture that exists. Our culture is becoming vastly more stupid everyday with an assault of cable news, reality TV and celebrity oriented websites. The same large scale evil and ignorance that brought us to the brink of economic collapse in the casino of finance, has also destroyed the newspaper and broadcast TV news business.

Formerly international news companies, such as CBS, now have almost no foreign correspondents in any country, and depend on feeder news from such sources as BBC to report from nations like Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. Newspapers are bankrupt and going under. The LA TIMES itself ( owned by the debt heavy Tribune Company) may be extinct by the end of 2009. Imagine the scale of stupidity that now infects our voting population, who must make critical decisions on our nation’s future with the smallest brain power in the history of the republic.

KPCC is wonderful in its widespread catholic approach to stories. It considers everything, from the local Los Angeles school system, to the whereabouts of Osama Bin Laden, to be worthy of discussion. Free of commercials, KPCC programs mercifully do not put infomercial voices like KNX’s Melinda Lee, on the air for six hours every Sunday to advertise cooking tips and cooking products. Public radio is not here to make a profit, it is here to inform and enlighten without selling anything but discussion.

Some people don’t care for public radio (most famously David Mamet) because of its perceived “left-wing” biases. But the stations like KPCC brings in voices from all sides of the political spectrum and take listener phone calls from a variety of views.

Money is short now, but KPCC is a critical contributor to the freedom of speech and thought that makes America stronger. Both personally and publicly, the survival of it is more crucial than ever.

Imagine living in a city where the only sources of news are FOX TV and the DAILY NEWS? Many of us already live in such a place.

Thomas Friedman: Is this Guy Paid to Write?


I don’t think I have ever seen such a poorly written column as that penned by the New York Times’ columnist Thomas Friedman. It is galling how grammatically lazy he writes:

“We have created a system for growth that depended on our building more and more stores to sell more and more stuff made in more and more factories in China, powered by more and more coal that would cause more and more climate change but earn China more and more dollars to buy more and more U.S. T-bills so America would have more and more money to build more and more stores and sell more and more stuff that would employ more and more Chinese …”