Between the Rains


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It was a perfect day to stay in, a rainy Sunday, windy and wet.

Chicken Cacciatore with mashed potatoes would come later in the day, but sometime in the middle of the afternoon, I went outside, between the rains, and walked around the neighborhood.

Gutterless Columbus streamed slow, dark rivers, past neglected houses and errant yards.

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On Haynes, an impromptu lake formed at the end of the street, temporarily transforming a ranch house into a lakeside cabin.

Blown down palm fronds littered Hamlin Street.  And up in the sky a patch of blue, like the eye of God, looked down on Earth.

Lord knows we need rain.

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Mostly Wholesome Van Nuys


Valley Times (1946-70) once published in the San Fernando Valley until it went bankrupt.

45,000 of its images are now being digitized and will be available online at the LA Public Library. To search for the images you must go here. Then enter “Valley Times and Van Nuys” in the “Keywords” box. Over 1,700 images will come up. Unfortunately, that is about the best search advice I can give. 

The booming Valley back then, seemingly a more wholesome and happier place, also includes many images of Van Nuys, some of which I’ve posted down below.

New boys and girls music groups at Van Nuys Junior High School, 5453 Vesper Av.  1/23/65
New boys and girls music groups at Van Nuys Junior High School, 5453 Vesper Av. 1/23/65
2/19/65: Motion Picture Club Camera's Dancers at Valley College.
2/19/65: Motion Picture Club Camera’s Dancers at Valley College.
2/23/65: Kids protest new anti-skateboard ordinance at Van Nuys City Hall.
2/23/65: Kids protest new anti-skateboard ordinance at Van Nuys City Hall.
10/8/64: Actress daughter sentenced to 30 days in jail for drunk charge.
10/8/64: Actress daughter sentenced to 30 days in jail for drunk charge.
8/27/64: Registration at Valley College.
8/27/64: Registration at Valley College.
11/16/64: Nazi gear found in trunk of man arrested for possession of tear gas.
11/16/64: Nazi gear found in trunk of man arrested for possession of tear gas.
11/20/64: Valley Presbyterian Hospital, Van Nuys, CA. Out patient clinic.
11/20/64: Valley Presbyterian Hospital, Van Nuys, CA. Out patient clinic.
3/4/64: New road signs in Los Angeles?
3/4/64: New road signs in Los Angeles?
5/24/63: Cesspool Protest at Valley Municipal Building, Van Nuys, CA.
5/24/63: Cesspool Protest at Valley Municipal Building, Van Nuys, CA.
12/3/63: New Fiat 1500 Spyder Convertibles arrive.
12/3/63: New Fiat 1500 Spyder Convertibles arrive.

Unstable Atmosphere/ Yesterday, a Strange Light


Yesterday, I went downtown. I took my camera. And I drove, in my meandering way, locally, hunting for light and shadow.

I left Van Nuys and went through Griffith Park and picked up Glendale Blvd where it emerges in Silver Lake and runs down into Echo Park.

1461 Alessandro St.

Near Effie Street, I stopped. And I saw dark clouds hover over the silver skyline, glass glistening coldly.

I parked where dozens of people sleep on the sidewalk next to a storage building and the street ends at steep, ugly concrete stairs. Climbing the steps, I stood near the metal rails and looked towards our downtown draped under an impending storm.

Yesterday, Sunday, a strange light and gentle gloom came in and out, an alternating atmosphere of rain and cold windy gray.

Thoughtlessly happy Los Angeles wore an unfamiliar face. The city everyone thinks they know once again confounded me.

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Near 4th and Main- View NE

I drove on to my destination at 4th and Main.

Downtown, at the art loft, a show at 2A Gallery was closing. The works were those painted by my friend Tam Warner’s father, Orien Lowell Greenough. He died, poor, in 2008. He was a liberal who hated war. His creations on canvas satirized, in depth, the hypocrisy and brutality of the killers and statesmen who run this world. His time had Stalin, Hitler, and Khrushchev.

We have ISIS and Putin, Al-Qaeda and Boko Haram.

The men who put on the show, Clay and Calvin, and their 2A Gallery, had recently come into my friend’s life, nurturing, elevating and sanctifying the late painter and his work. His daughter, after a run of mistreatment by another gallery, was grateful for their care and love.

It seemed as if Orien Lowell Greenough and his work were again going to find recognition in Los Angeles, full validation that had eluded him when he was alive, the story of so many artists, and writers.

And then Calvin and Clay confirmed that they were not only closing the show, but closing out their life in Los Angeles. They would be packing up and moving to McComb, Mississippi to live in a more affordable area. They would leave in 30 days, and drive 4 days across Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, eventually arriving in The Magnolia State, where the flag still flies the colors of The Confederacy.

Everyone was sad. But none more so than my friend, who had made a connection with the newly departing angels who had came out of nowhere to champion undervalued Orien Lowell Greenough.

Tomorrow, there may be money in art, but today you need to eat. Like the dead artist, the living gallery was squashed by the bottom line.

The truth is that they could not afford to live in Los Angeles any more. Or perhaps the truth is that they chose not to live in Los Angeles because home was somewhere else. Truth is subjective- so the artist claims.

Their departure is a loss to this city.

And when I left the loft, calmed by two evaporating beers, I drove in the dark rain through dystopian concrete canyons. I lost my way downtown, and found that my usual entrance onto the 101 was closed. I had to make a detour, a rerouting of my way home, that took me down old Temple Street, and over to Rampart, where I found a wet and slow, hidden and unfamiliar way to get onto the freeway and back home.

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The Changing Valley (2005-2014)


When I began “Here in Van Nuys” in March 2005, I was not on a mission to document the soon-to-be-demolished parts of the San Fernando Valley.

But through time, some of the buildings I photographed and wrote of are now gone.

Below are some of these.


These buildings stood on the west side of the Van Nuys Airport along Balboa Blvd. They evoked, especially in fog, the WWII era. They were functional and plain and were bulldozed in 2013 to make way for new development.

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The intersection of Burbank and Van Nuys Boulevard presented an opportunity to create a new, cohesive, architecturally significant corner. Alas, CVS, Chipotle and Chase Bank were all designed in vastly different styles and the area, upgraded, looks newer but without distinction.

Dec 11 Burbank:VNB:CVS

A community organizer from Chicago ran for President in 2008 and attracted these followers.

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The LA River in Encino near the Woodley Avenue Bridge was a river of plastic in February 2010 before the sweeping plastic bag ban was put into effect.

Feb 2010 LA River Near Balboa

In May 2010, the “Russians” came to Studio City and transformed a Brady Bunch era commercial shop into a twin onion domed monstrosity.

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Future home of “The Federal Bar” in North Hollywood before. (Circa 2008)

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Many lovely homes from the 1920s and 30s were demolished along La Maida St. in North Hollywood to make way for pre-crash condos. (July 2006)

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October 2007 along Redford St. in Studio City: more condos across from CBS.

Oct 2007 Radford