May 15, 1994.


Twenty years ago, I packed a large green duffle bag, boarded a plane and flew from New York to Los Angeles.

On the flight, sitting beside me: Julie Garfield, daughter of actor John Garfield. She was an acting teacher and gave me her card.

I rode a van from LAX that travelled circuitously through the old city. It climbed up hills and down into the worn and painted-peeled stores along east Sunset, eventually making its way into the San Fernando Valley.

I moved in with a college friend- a tall, lumbering 31-year-old woman in pageboy hair, in therapy, in torn blue jeans and white oxford shirts. She rented a two-bedroom house on Teesdale Avenue in Studio City for $1,200 a month. And worked as a freelance TV producer (Woodstock ‘94; Saturday Night Live).

When I arrived, she was sitting on the back sunroom porch, smoking and talking on the phone. A high school era VW Bug convertible was parked in the driveway.

“You know what I mean…” was her introduction to endless monologues about her recent breakup with a comedian. She slept, until 10am every morning, on a white puffy bed under a chandelier, kept many cans of diet soda in the refrigerator and never emptied her ashtrays.

I paid her $100 a week and told her I would stay until I found a job and could move out.

I looked in the back of the Hollywood Reporter and mailed out resumes. And followed up with phone calls, eventually getting hired as PA for a small production company on Laurel Canyon.

It was summer in the San Fernando Valley: headaches, afternoon naps, walking down deserted Moorpark to a sweltering ice cream parlor with plastic sheeted windows. And working out at Bally’s basement gym in Studio City, a strange, creepy place where old guys masturbated in the showers all around me.

I had run away from New York, from my parents in NJ, setting up a life in a city I really didn’t like.

At the end of the summer my roommate was due to return.

On September 10th I cleaned the house and waited for her arrival. But she didn’t show up. She later called and said she had changed her mind and would come back September 19th. Then September 19th came and went and she wasn’t home. She never phoned.

On September 30th, her father called from Woodland Hills and said his daughter would be coming back on October 2nd. He asked me to leave her key under the back door mat. She arrived on October 5th. Without apology or concern. It was her house. Right?

It was my first introduction to the intrinsic selfishness of Los Angeles: the glib invitation, the plan forgotten, the lunch date blown off, the return flight missed, the good parent stepping in to save the bad adult child.

I learned that for some of the people who live here, only they matter.

She really didn’t care. Who was I? Somebody who lived in her house, cleaned and cared for it, planted flowers, washed floors and changed light bulbs.

We later fought because I told her that I had an overnight guest in her house sometime over the last four months. She screamed that my $400 a month did not give me the right to have friends over. She threw me out. We never spoke again.


That summer I went online for the first time and learned that there was something called the Internet with a dancing wizard whose wand conjured up websites.

That summer I drove around Burbank and Hollywood dropping off tapes to post-production facilities and learned what motion control and Barham Boulevard were.

That summer I ate alone at a Thai restaurant on Ventura Boulevard and met my future partner.

That summer I watched KTLA as a white Ford Bronco went down the 405 while helicopters, reporters and cameras tracked it for miles.

That summer I learned that there would no longer be front store entrances to enter, that I would go from parking lot to parking lot, that my walking would be on the treadmill and that restaurants stopped serving food at 9pm.

That summer I learned that summer would go on past September, into October and November, and start again in February.

That summer I came to a place where people without jobs own houses and cars, bad restaurants are beloved, and a friend’s success is the saddest thing on earth.


There would be no more clouds or rain. And the quaint old houses with front porches were inside Warner Brothers’ back lot.

Part of me died twenty years ago, the part that saw my life as a crew-necked male ingénue wandering the historic streets of Manhattan; invigorated by life, by potential, by the thrill of urban exploration.

Part of me died inside, even when the outer part found love, bought a house, wrote stories, took photographs, and woke up in a house surrounded by fragrant flowers and glistening grass cut and manicured weekly.

When the first hot days bake the asphalt and the blowing desert winds set in, I am carried back to the summer of 1994, my first summer of exile, when I blew here like pollen to the western edge of southwestern America.

Regretful

Angry

Sad

Futile

Directionless

Wandering

Aimless

Mercurial

Lost

Haunted

These thoughts. Did I carry them always?

Or were they brought out of me, the day I came to live in Los Angeles?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Van Nuys Orange Tree


Van Nuys

Photo by Andy Hurvitz

Valerio, Orion and Cohasset Streets.


If they ever decide to revive Van Nuys, they might come up to Valerio, Orion and Cohasset Streets, north of Sherman Way, West of Sepulveda, East of the 405, an old place on the map where big estates sit in semi-ruins next to newer neighbors carved up and gated in.

The old Valley comes and goes here like a dying patient, brittle but breathing, broken-down, evoking another time. Behind peeling picket fences, on big dried out lawns, under shingled roofs, among the orange trees, someone’s dream home still stands, tended to by an old woman with a watering hose who sweeps her driveway with a corn husk broom.

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On Valerio at Orion, high hedges obscure a flat-roofed, two story high bungalow, casement windows and divided French pane doors. Silent, mysterious, dignified, it might have stood alone among many acres of groves in rural Van Nuys. Across from it stands another two-story house, probably built or related to it.

All the dreams and history of Southern California since the 1920s are packed into this pocket: the Spanish house, which gave way to the 1930s and 40s storybook sprawling ranch, which yielded to the 1950s and its bizarre angularities, culminating in the ostentatious 1980s and 90s when concrete, gates and columns joined guns and burglar alarms in defining suburban living.

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All the eccentricities and domestic styles are on display.

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At 7433 Orion, a 1960 (?) a two-tone blue and white Buick coupe sits on the driveway in front of a red ranch.

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At 15148 Cohasset, a broken down picket fence stands guard in front of a long Spanish/Moderne ranch house, in fast decay but wearing its old metal, wood and vinyl windows in mismatched dignity.

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At 15351 Cohasset, an elegant red brick gate, atop which stands a leaning lantern, guards a big white ranch with double hung windows, the kind you see in Beverly Hills or Studio City. A copper bell is daintily affixed for ringing arrivals.

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At the corner of Wyandotte and Orion, dazzling horticultural brilliance of California covers a Spanish house guarded by a massive Date Palm under which a profusion of aloe, oranges, cacti, succulents, and vines climb, crawl and cover.
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And finally it ends where I started walking at 15414 Valerio, an English cottage which has a cryptic sign hanging over the front entrance: SNAKES LANE.

This is Van Nuys too. And it is hidden away and forgotten, gently existing somewhere beyond false perception and demonizing stereotype.

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Journal of American Progress: Short Stories by Andy Hurvitz


I have finished editing Journal of American Progress, a self-published book of eight short stories.
There is a $2.99 download available for the ipad.

My hope is to reach a wider audience, in an easy and economical way.
I am publishing for the new generation who reads on a tablet.

Here again is a summary of the book. I ask your forgiveness for the self-promotion
but hope that you will think it well-earned:

JOURNAL OF AMERICAN PROGRESS

Andy Hurvitz crafts a collection of short stories, of people caught in the illusory melting pot of Los Angeles.

In three stories, inspired by the late Billy Strayhorn’s mordantly elegant song titles: a taunting teen thug gets his comeuppance in “A Flower is a Lovesome Thing”; a retail sales clerk imagines he is friends with a laconic Western heir in “Something to Live For” ; a bitter decorator escapes to Chicago to plot revenge on his reality TV rival in “Lush Life”.

Colton Banning is the protagonist of three stories where the young multi-racial athlete, escaping desert poverty, tempts fate to conquer Hollywood through sports and social climbing, encountering wealth and power poisoned by sadism, revenge, sexual desire and envy in the beaches and bedrooms of Venice, Santa Monica, and Malibu.

In “Somebodies and Nobodies” a sex tape could blackmail a powerful woman and Colton risks his life to get it; Colton rents a room in a messy Venice house of refugees from India and Vermont, pursuing poetry, power and sex in “Journal of American Progress”; and in “The Bright Shop”, he is back in time, in 1969, to meet a successful LA fashion retailer living in an architectural dream house, a place she escaped to from the Holocaust. Two other tales explore desperation under the sun: In “Dry Wind”, a depressed film editor, tempted by escape and money, submits to an ex-girlfriend’s manipulation, falling under her spell, into theft and sex, on a car trip to San Angelo, TX . And in “Day of the Deltoid” a bored, sexually addicted housewife navigates between decadence and respectability while remodeling her Cheviot Hills home.

No person who knows or dreams of Los Angeles can fail to be moved by this cunning and insightful writer whose caustic and poetic prose breathes the dirty air and fresh dreams of this region. It is an elegiac and entertaining collection.


Dry Wind-a new short story by Andy Hurvitz


Manipulated by Hollywood promises, an indebted editor, working on a pop star video, suffers blinding headaches, red eyes, and debilitating depression;and is sent on a fool’s errand to take stolen money to an old woman in San Angelo, Texas; confronting tragedy, memory and love’s delusions.

Dry Wind.