Denial.


“She was screaming at night about her arm, her chest, her leg,” Anisha, a caregiver, said.

“She hardly slept.”

Anisha was speaking about my mother,now in Stage 4 cancer, confined to a bed for the last eight months.

Later on, when I went into her room, my mother said she had slept well the night before. “There is nothing wrong with me,” she said.

She was breathing on oxygen, then she told us to take it off. She has refused most pain medication, reluctantly asking only for sleeping pills.


 

I took her out on Sunday, in her wheelchair, and we ventured along the Marina. By chance, we happened to come to a dock where a water taxi was taking passengers. I wheeled her down and we rode around the harbor for a dollar.

A hospice nurse visited on Sunday night and found nothing “wrong”, only anxiety.

On Monday, another nurse came and told me later my mother’s feet were showing signs of “mottling” an impending indicator of death.


 

On Tuesday, I was back down at her apartment. A social worker was talking to my mother. Anisha told me that my mother had not slept the night before, and had talked of her future fear and past regret. “You should give her some hope for the afterlife,” Anisha said to me, an atheist.

When the social worker left, I went back into the bedroom. My mother was combative, annoyed. “You and your brother are driving me crazy with this system! How would you like to be under a microscope?”

I asked her if she had slept well. She said of course. She slept fine.

Again we went out to roam around the Marina. It got windy and she asked to go back inside. “I want a steak,” she said. She had not eaten more than liquids for at least a week. I corrected her and said she meant hamburger.

And then after I left the apartment, after I had two glasses of wine at a bar, I walked around Venice, shooting pictures along the canals, and then wandered back to my car.

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The phone rang as I drove east on Washington. It was Anisha. She wanted to assure me that my mother had slept well last night. When she had called out, it was only in a dream.

“I told him,” Anisha said to my mother before she hung up the phone.

Art in the San Fernando Valley: 1970-1990


10560575_10152556019069463_8203707631608093871_o CSUN will run, from August 25-October 11, 2014 an art show devoted to the San Fernando Valley as it existed in the years 1970-1990. One of the artists, whose work will exhibit here, is Mike Mandel. I found some of his photographs on Flickr. 10040107395_bf46ac63d9_o

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All Photos: Mike Mandel

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Van Nuys Boulevard: Between Sherman Way and Saticoy (Part II)


 

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Here are some additional photos from my exploration (along with “Up in the Valley” pal Andreas Samson) as we walked in the commercial neighborhood along Van Nuys Boulevard from Sherman Way to Saticoy.

John's Barber Shop

John’s Barber Shop (14435 Sherman Way Suite 105 Van Nuys, CA 91406) has only been open a year, but has garnered a devoted local following. I found them, again, on Yelp and went there today for a $15 haircut. Third generation barber Jerry said that owner John also comes from a long line of barbers. The styles adhere closely to the current “fade” trend evocative of the 1950s with greaser hair and short razor thin back and sides.

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Near John’s in another expansive mall, south of Sherman Way, one finds a variety of ethnic restaurants including Tacos Mexico (7140 Van Nuys Blvd Van Nuys, CA 91405) housed under a red and white taco shaped roof. Many reviewers give it high marks while some express the usual hatred for Van Nuys itself.

 

“The best Al Pastor tacos EVER!!! The marinated meat is heavenly and the seasoning is just perfect.”

 

“I know there are thousands of divey taco stands all over Southern California and I have tried quite a few, but I feel completely lucky to have found this little gem located in a shitty part of Van Nuys.”

 

“On this dank and dark corner of Van Nuys (with pawn shops, ATT Mobile units, and laundromats).”

7128 Van Nuys Blvd, San Fernando Valley, CA 91405(818) 780-8022

Oddly placed Korean BBQ: Duk Su Jang (7126 Van Nuys Bl.) which has been around for a long time but is not getting any good reviews from Yelp: “Extremely Poor customer service, not so fresh vegetables, ok meat, high prices, dirty and old building.”

DSCF1034 DSCF1031 Van Nuys/Sherman Way

Architecturally, logistically, aesthetically, the landscape of Van Nuys Boulevard at Sherman Way reflects the lowbrow tastes of the 1980s and 90s when small shops were cleared out and vast blacktops of asphalt and ungainly malls proliferated. On a hot day, this is one of the hottest places to walk, un-shaded by trees, drowning in exhaust fumes, and a nightmare for pedestrians to navigate with lumbering buses and speeding cars.

Van Nuys reaches the acme of ugliness at this point: cheap, crass, tacky, devoted to car and fast food, obesity and environmental degradation.

But within this suburban hell, there are many small businesses that are making money, employing people, and greasing the economic engine of the San Fernando Valley. A largely Latino population runs and patronizes the stores, shops, services and eating establishments, often paying cash for everything from transmissions to groceries.

 

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Van Nuys Boulevard: Between Sherman Way and Saticoy (Part 1)


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Bustling, aesthetically hideous, vibrant, multi-ethnic, colorful, trashy, tacky, inhuman; filled with families, vagrants, small businesses and the newest Americans.

Van Nuys Boulevard, between Sherman Way and Saticoy, that is where the action is.

Reformers and planners might dream of trees and benches near the Valley Municipal Building, in the old downtown, but Van Nuys has moved up north, where the bus riders catch the #162 and #163, stopping to grab lunch at Boston Market, buying a cake at Mey Fung Bakery, picking up smokes at Angie’s Cigars, getting their hair cut at John’s Barber Shop, and snacking on Ceviche Peruano at Ay Papa Que Rico, a Cuban restaurant rated highly on Yelp.

7429 VNB

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Like a vision from old Tijuana, a row of brightly painted shops near 7433 Van Nuys Blvd, houses El Progresso Supermarket and Guateex “Rapido y Seguro” a place to send packages and shipments to Central America; a barber, a tattoo shop and “Tropical Fish and Pets”. Each business is enclosed in a cube, vividly colored, advertising signs.

7301 Van Nuys Blvd, Van Nuys, CA 91405

Salvadorean food is served at La Carreta (“The Cart”) a one-story, stand alone restaurant with tables and parking at 7301 Van Nuys Boulevard. Mediocre reviews alternate with better ones on Yelp:

“This is a small Salvadorian restaurant in the middle of Van Nuys (yeah, yuk, Van Nuys I know) I work out here and it’s hard to find good places to eat. Here, I love the pupusas. I get them filled con frijoles, con loroco y con loroco y frijoles.”

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And smoke pours onto the street from burning mesquite at Ay Papa Que Rico, 7344 Van Nuys Blvd, Van Nuys, CA 91405 where Yelp reviewers are ecstatic:

“I was getting my car serviced & I smelled the most delicious mesquite scent coming from this place on the corner. I walked in got a half chicken, & Wow!!!!!! It has to be some of the best tasting grilled chicken I have ever had.”

 “The grilled chicken is a definitely must order! It’s Tender, juicy & well seasoned. Cooked to perfection. Also try the Cuban sandwich, it hits all the right notes.”

 

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English Westz

As night falls, the long day of men and women who work in dirt and heat, under cars, in kitchens, cutting hair, stacking boxes, looking after children,  go back to their apartments, (like “English West”), collapsing on the couch, taking a long shower, resting in a bedroom where the air-conditioning blows cold.

Part 1 of a 2 part article

 

 

 

 

Incident at Wendy’s


This morning, as I drove through Wendy’s parking lot on my way to LA Fitness, I saw a man lying face down on the parking lot asphalt.

I stopped my car and asked him if he was all right. He barely responded.

Not knowing whether he had overdosed, been stabbed, shot, or merely collapsed, I called 9-1-1.

Within minutes the LAPD showed up, followed by the LAFD.

What follows is, in my opinion, a fine example of professionalism demonstrated by law and safety officers.

 

Death at the Beach


Yesterday, I was at my mother’s bedside, as I have been many Sundays since January.

My 10-year-old niece Ava was there too, propped up in front of my mom on the rented hospital bed, her violet eyes shaded by a straw hat. And my sister-in-law Pri sat nearby in a white leather chair, resplendent in white crochet shorts, and a fitted denim shirt covering her fit and polished body.

Outside the windows, whose northern view stretches from Hollywood to Santa Monica, the Marina sky blew weird and malformed haze and clouds, the type that indicates rain in any normal city but whose presence in the Southland is always ignored.

We were talking about mean girls, and then we were talking about kitchen renovations, moving a refrigerator to the other side of the door. We were talking about a new couch in the Living Room. And I was invited to do my imitation of my brother at work, which evoked laughter from his daughter.

And then there was a thunderous boom. Followed minutes later by the sirens and the fire trucks speeding down Admiralty Way.

I went onto Twitter and checked Venice 311. I learned lightning had struck 7 people. Every few minutes I looked. Until The Tweats said a body was floating near the shore.

And then they confirmed a man was killed by what we had heard, electrocuted in the Pacific Ocean near Washington Boulevard.

He went into the water and entered eternity on an 8 million to one chance.

Later on, as it always does in Los Angeles, the sun came out. We lifted my mother out of her bed, into her wheelchair, and pushed her along Washington Blvd. past skateboarders, bikers, and runners.

On the beach, near the sand, were parked the trucks from KCAL and KABC and cars from LAPD. Above us helicopters hovered in the sky.

These were the only clues that something tragic and meaningless had recently come out of the sky, weather that blew fast, dark and deathly over the water, taking away 20-year-old Nick Fagnano, a student swimming on a Sunday, a young man loved by family and friends.

Friday Night Lights at MacLeod Ale


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I stopped by MacLeod Ale in Van Nuys last night.

The mood was low-key. Scottish music played. People sat on stools in the cool air-conditioning. The servers were jokey.

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Brewer Andy Black, serious and studious as usual, was in back testing his brew for sugar content.

At the new wood tables up front, people sat, drank beer and ate pizzas and truck food from Haute Burger.

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This good looking couple came all the way from Haskell Street in Lake Balboa.

And outside the brewery, as night closed in, the dented cars and steel fences stood motionless as another long, hot day on Calvert Street went dark.

Calvert St.

 

The Nowhere City Goes Somewhere


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Yesterday, near downtown Santa Monica, on a strangely cloudy and drizzly summer morning, I drove west, unintentionally, into blocked roads, past barriers and bulldozers.

Men were tearing down buildings, punching holes in plate glass windows and digging trenches.

The long winding humanitarian project known as the Expo Line had made its way from central Los Angeles, sweeping through Culver City, catapulting by bridge and track into West Los Angeles and finding itself and its destination next to the Pacific.

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The empty shell of Midas, a beautiful Spanish Revival structure, lay in ruins, a stomach full of bricks and wood, its ornate ornament ready for obliteration.

50 years ago, the novelist Alison Lurie wrote a novel, “The Nowhere City” set in some places along the soon-to-be-demolished houses in the path of the Santa Monica Freeway.

Yesterday, near downtown Santa Monica, I saw the sequel to that book.

After half a century, the Nowhere City Goes Somewhere: on foot and bike and rail.

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Ed Ruscha’s Aerial Photographs of Van Nuys: 1967


Edward Ruscha [roo-SHAY] (b. 1937) has had a long career in Los Angeles making poetry out of banality. His photographs of Los Angeles apartment buildings, gas stations and other drive-by scenery was ground breaking art in the 1960s.

Twentysix Gasoline Stations ( Source: http://oliverjwood.com. Oliver Wood. License: All Rights Reserved.)

Twentysix Gasoline Stations
Source: http://oliverjwood.com. Oliver Wood. License: All Rights Reserved.)

“26 Gas Stations” (1962) ,with its now widely available Rockwell Standard Font, has been copied so much it has turned Rusha into cliché.


 

I found these fascinating studies of parking lots seen from above that Ruscha made in 1967. They show Van Nuys (and North Hollywood and Sherman Oaks)  paved over and baked in sun.  Patterns of suburban development, diagonal lines and box stores, trailer parks and shopping centers, become cubist abstractions from Ruscha’s bird’s eye view.

These are all in the collections of the UK Tate Gallery. They sell for many thousands of dollars, are collected by wealthy people, and hang on the walls of large homes from East Hampton to Knightsbridge.

When you are sober, remember:  some very important people in the art world consider aerial photographs of Van Nuys’ parking lots as collectible art.

14601 Sherman Way

14601 Sherman Way

7133 Kester

7133 Kester

7101 Sepulveda

7101 Sepulveda: ED RUSCHA Parking Lots #20 (7101 Sepulveda Blvd., Van Nuys), 1967/1999 Gelatin Silver Print image: 15″ x 15″ / paper: 20″ x 16″ Signed and editioned in pencil verso Edition 9/35 $8,500 framed Walker Waugh Director Yancey Richardson 525 West 22nd St. NY, NY 10011 Tel: 646.230.9610 Fax: 646.230.6131

14655 Sherman Way

14655 Sherman Way

14425 Sherman Way

14425 Sherman Way

Fashion Square, Sherman Oaks

Fashion Square, Sherman Oaks

6610 Laurel Canyon

6610 Laurel Canyon