The Invisible Dog.

Recently, I thought of one running inane storyline in TV’s  “I Dream of Jeannie” about an invisible dog named Chin-Chin who attacked anyone in a uniform, specifically Major Anthony Nelson and his buddy, Major Roger Healey.

The animal would chew up their clothes and then Jeannie would have to step in and restrain the animal. Since the dog was partly invisible nobody could understand why Major Nelson and Major Healey had chewed up and torn uniforms. Especially NASA psychiatrist Dr. Alfred Bellows.

Around our neighborhood we have a loose German Shepherd who wanders out of his property on Columbus Avenue and is often seen by concerned neighbors who worry about his safety. The owner apparently does not care if her dog escapes, unleashed, and dashes across Victory Boulevard at rush hour.

A few months ago, in the morning, I went running and encountered the dog near my house at Hamlin and Columbus. The dog snarled at me and then came at me like he was going to bite or attack . I tried to walk around him, but he was not going to let me pass. So I went into a driveway of a neighbor. The dog eventually wandered off.

I related the story on Next Door and of course, people were dubious of my story. They said I ran off screaming, that I handled the dog incorrectly, that my fear showed.  Then some neighbors said this dog had killed another dog, and was a danger to the community.

The point was that my story, like most items on Next Door, ended up being a place for people to argue, and to doubt the veracity of what had been reported. Somewhat like the invisible dog on “I Dream of Jeannie.”

I’ve since reported the dog to E. Valley Animal Control. And the Next Door posts about the wandering German Shepherd continue to proliferate. One woman said perhaps the dog had a problem with men, (as Chin-Chin had a hatred for men in uniform?)

On a more cheerful note, the archives of the Los Angeles Public Library contain images of Barbara Eden (b. 1934) at a few charitable events in the San Fernando Valley circa 1960.

Photograph caption dated May 22, 1959 reads “Young Michael Rohmer, 8, post-polio patient at Orthopaedic Hospital, center, sells tickets to 3rd annual benefit golf tournament to actors and actresses, from left, Barry Coe, Barbara Eden, Sal Mineo and Terry Moore. Tourney is sponsored by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Investigator’s Association and will be held May 29.” Orthopaedic Hospital is located in downtown Los Angeles.

Photograph caption dated July 26, 1957 reads, “Actress Barbara Eden signals last call for Trailer Coach Association’s 1,200-mile travel-trailer caravan from North Hollywood’s May Co. parking lot to Seattle, starting today. Some 160 persons in 75 trailers will participate in caravan trip to Seattle’s Seafair celebration Aug. 2-11.”

Photograph caption dated March 23, 1960 reads, “Sherman Oaks actress Barbara Eden samples spaghetti sauce dreamed up by another film queen, Marilyn Monroe, whose recipe for sauce is included in Celebrities and Citizens’ Cookbook being made available to public by Women’s division of Sherman Oaks Chamber of Commerce. Division is headed by Mrs. E. J. Turner, right.”

Photograph caption reads: “Actress Barbara Eden, official hostess for the Los Angeles Open golf tournament, helps Junior Chamber of Commerce president Bob Meyer in selling tickets for the $44,500 links classic Jan. 8-11 at Rancho”. Photograph dated: Jan. 4, 1960.

Caption included reads, “Happy group at birthday party held at Charter House in Anaheim, get together to blow out single candle on cake signifying first anniversary on July 2 of Melodyland Theatre. Left to right are Melodyland producer Danny Dare, stars Barbara Eden and John Raitt of ‘Pajama Game,’ current attraction, Patti Moore, actress wife, producer Sammy Lewis and Bob Golbach, Charter House manager.” Photograph dated July 10, 1964.


Carl’s Jr.

Here’s what to my eyes is a pretty picture.

The scene on Sepulveda at dusk with clouds gathering in the sky, and early winter light, mercifully gentler and cooler.

This is Van Nuys. This is Carl’s Jr. And this is the eight lane highway that is not a freeway.

On the east side of Sepulveda some big apartments are going up.

Unsecured Networks.

Yesterday afternoon, for an hour or so, I was perched, up high on a wooden chair, in the back of my favorite coffee shop in Studio City. I was writing a short story and concentrating on a character who suffers a nervous breakdown.

Across from me, diagonally, and seated at a lower table, a middle-aged woman sat with her open checkbook, her mobile phone, and artfully addressed mailers with her mid-century name and current address calligraphically sharpied.

Her name and address were so large and so graphic that I could read it seven feet away: Terri Lynn Graumann, 12765 Moorpark #Apt. 2904. Studio City, CA 91604 [Name and address have been changed]

I went back to my writing but then the woman turned around, frazzled and disoriented, and asked, “Did you see anyone go into my purse?” She was referring to her black, poster-board sized, leather handbag that looked expensive and elegant.

“No I didn’t,” I answered. I half expected her to accuse me but she didn’t.

She turned to another couple, in conversation, to ask them the same question.

It soon became obvious that the woman was missing another electronic device that her mobile phone indicated was right there in front of her, or nearby.

She rifled nervously through her 36″ x 24″ x 1″ purse, and upended her papers and looked under the table and inside her black duffle coat pocket. She brought us all into her missing electronic device mystery, and we had to stop writing, or talking, or thinking, and listen to her plea to find her missing Ipad.

Then she ran out of the coffee shop, ostensibly into her vehicle, to locate the missing object. On her table, left behind, were blank checks, her name, her home address and her mobile phone.

She returned, relieved and carrying her missing device. She had found it in her car.

She sat down, opened it and started to work on her finances, which I could not see in detail, other than the large logo for Chase Bank.

I’m often jittery about getting robbed, and sometimes, like that woman, I’ll wonder if that wallet or phone or laptop I brought in to the coffee shop has gone missing. So I am not without empathy for her temporary debacle.

But again, it is ironic, in this day when shows like “Mr. Robot” dramatize how easily one’s information can be hacked electronically, especially, in public places; to see someone do almost everything wrong, and indeed, dangerously, to put her personal information and financial privacy out in the open.

Again, real people sacrifice reality to save a digital device.

In a larger sense, we lose “friends” who come to town and post photos on Instagram and Facebook and never bother to see us in person. If we “unfriend” them that is as grave an insult as not getting together in person. Or maybe it isn’t.

We work on our online persona, to gain followers, to get compliments from strangers, to make friends with people who have more fans, and then we fail to visit our family for Christmas.

Or we are thrown into a panic because one portable computer is missing and we think that it is the end of the world.

And an idiot on Twitter, the most powerful man in the world, cannot resist joking about global warming, the FBI, nuclear war and health care. His projections matter most to him and the rest of the world must be brought into his virtual drama.  That real icebergs are melting, that real people are sick and have no insurance, that real children die from guns, that real wars are started by selling weapons to evil countries, those facts are real. But a tweet, a conjuration of idiocy read by millions, it matters only because it is spoken online.

That’s the true story of modern life: to rescue the imaginary while imperiling the real.

And not knowing the difference.




Baseball Team in Van Nuys, circa 1957

Tom Cluster has been a longtime reader of this blog, having a special interest in it due to his association with Van Nuys. He grew up here, partially, from 1955-62, and lived on Columbus Avenue, north of Vanowen.

He sent along this 1957 photograph of his 5th Grade baseball team, most likely posing inside a courtyard of the newly constructed Valerio St. School.  It was a five minute bike ride from his house.   Most of the children, as strange as it seems today, walked or rode their bikes to school. Only a kid with a broken leg would be driven to school in a car.

He wrote:

“I’ve attached a picture of a group of boys in my elementary school in 1956 or 57.  You’ll notice that a couple of them have the rolled up sleeves on their tee shirts. Bottom row, third from left seems perfect.  The guy second from the right in that row has let it fall out a bit.  It was quite the “tough guy” look.  I remember when we first moved to Van Nuys, I was riding my bike in the new neighborhood and two guys stopped me.  They were older, and they had that look.  They asked me what I was doing there, and I breathed a sigh of relief when my explanation that we had just moved into the neighborhood satisfied them and they let me go.

I know that what completes that look is having a pack of cigarettes as part of the rolled up sleeve, but the version we had in elementary school was definitely without tobacco.”

1955: Stylers of Van Nuys.

Photograph caption dated February 23, 1955 reads “Posing with custom, are, from left, Wally McIntyre, president, Stylers of Van Nuys, and George Weinstock, secretary-treasurer. Sleek showpiece is ’48 Olds with unaltered engine but complete customizing, including ‘Frenching’ (recessing) headlights, ‘shaving’ (taking ornaments off) hood and ‘deck’ (trunk), new upholstering and rungs, choming windowsills and painting dash to match general color scheme (Mandorin (sic) red and white).”

1964: When Republicans Still Roamed The Valley.


Some remarkable photographs from 1964 show openly Republican women, out and proud, at Sportsman’s Lodge in Studio City. They had gathered to support the candidacy of George Murphy for the US Senate. Dressed in flowered hats, mink stoles and gloves, the ladies, as they were referred to back then, held a luncheon in the heart of the now 100% liberal district.

Mr. Murphy won the election and served from 1965-71.

A Wikipedia entry describes a Reaganesque sounding entertainer:

“George Lloyd Murphy (July 4, 1902 – May 3, 1992) was an American dancer, actor, and politician. Murphy was a song-and-dance leading man in many big-budget Hollywood musicals from 1930 to 1952. He was the president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1944 to 1946, and was awarded an honorary Academy Award in 1951. Murphy served from 1965 to 1971 as U.S. Senator from California, the first notable U.S. actor to make the successful transition to elected official in California, predating Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger.[1] He is the only United States Senator represented by a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.”

At the time, marijuana and homosexuality were illegal,  a woman needed her husband’s permission for a bank loan, a drunk sleeping on the street would be arrested, almost nobody was obese, tattoos were for sailors and people in the circus, and the Republican Party was the sworn enemy of Russia.  Children walked to school and rode bikes, and most adults smoked at home, in the office, in movie theaters, and while driving in their cars.

How most Californians survived growing up with free tuition, plentiful jobs and cheap housing is beyond our imagination. We are fortunate to be living in a much more progressive and kinder era with homeless encampments and marijuana dispensaries in every neighborhood.

Courtesy of the Valey Times and the LAPL:

Photograph article dated January 28, 1964 reads, “At the kick-off of 1964 campaign activities of the Laurel Oaks Republican Women’s Club, more than 300 political leaders and Valley Republican women gathered to hear George Murphy, candidate for the United States Senate. Mrs. Edward Gephart was general chairman of the tea, which was held at Sportsmen’s Lodge, Studio City. Honored guests were California leaders of the Republican Women and Valley government officials. John Willis, television and radio newscaster, was master of ceremonies.” Mrs. Ben Reddick, wife of Valley Times publisher, serves tea to Mrs. Allen K. Wood, Sherman Oaks. Mrs. Wood also poured at the tea table.