Van Nuys: 1926



At the corner of 15856 Sherman Way , Van Nuys, 1926.

Wagner-Thoreson appears to be a real estate broker and they are offering one property, a 3-bedroom house at $2350 and another sign advertises 7.5% terms with $1,050 down.

This area today is west of the 405, and just east of Van Nuys Airport.

Photo: USC Digital Archives/ Dick Whittington Collection

The Whirlpool.

Cancer, homecare, medicines, hospice, chemo, wheelchair, bone cancer, lung cancer, cough syrup, Oxycontin, Oxycodone, Remeron, Sinemet, Morphine, adult diapers, sponge baths, bowel movements, stool softeners, rehab, oncologist, nurse, radiation, constipation, oxygen, Stage Four, terminal, incurable, cremation.

For seven months I’ve swum in a whirlpool of ugly words.

Yesterday, again, I went down to see my mom at her apartment. One homecare worker was leaving, another arriving. I came in with four bags of groceries and went back to the bedroom.

She was in bed.

The TV was on. I think it was “The View”.

I sat down on the carpet in front of her bed, the only way she can see me, straight ahead.

Bertha came in with matzo ball soup. I ate two bowls. She fed my mom a few bites.

In the afternoon, I took my mom for a “walk” in her wheelchair.

I picked her up, limp and frail, and moved her from the horizontal position on the bed into her chair. Seated now, I put the pedals on, guiding her weak legs and purple feet into position over the pads.

I squeezed a pillow behind her curved back, and pulled her arms up into a zippered sweatshirt. I draped and folded a blue terry cloth blanket across her lap. Sunglasses went over her eyes, a hoodie atop her head.

I pushed the steel chair and the woman in it out of the bedroom, past the front door of the apartment, into the elevator riding down, through the dark parking garage. And out into the brilliant sun, out into the fresh and salty wind.


A key opened the locked steel gate along the long dock where cruisers, sailboats and yachts were docked. Between the boats and the buildings, that’s where we went.

The hi-rise, swinging sixties apartments along the Marina, with their curved balconies, they were made for tanned stewardesses, white shirted pilots, Irish-American boat captains, cocktails on the sea, cigarettes and sex, lovemaking and laughter.

Architects and developers back then, like now, were drunk on youth, novelty and modernity.

Nobody was supposed to get old. Nobody was meant to come here disabled, wrapped in blankets, pushed along the harbor watching other people have fun. Wheels were the Red’68 Bonneville Convertible- not the walker and the wheelchair.

We walked past Killer Shrimp and crossed the asphalt to the other side where they were renting paddleboats and paddle boards. I pushed my mother to the end of a dock inside the lakelike Mother’s Beach.


On the dock, my mother in her chair, me pushing her almost to the edge, a sinister thought entered my mind.

I thought of Technicolor Gene Tierney in “Leave Her to Heaven”(1944) where she let a crippled boy, her husband’s brother, drown in a cold lake.

If I had the evil gene of Gene I might act on hard and cruel impulse and push mom into the water, an act of mercy perhaps, saving her from the eventuality of dying in bed from fluid in her lungs or some other unforeseen killer.

Instead, I pulled back and fastened her brakes. I took out my phone and photographed my living mother motionless on the ocean dock.





Hours later I was at the Whole Foods bar with Travis, drinking a Scotch Ale, listening to a ravishing real estate agent, talk about her teen son’s abusing father, and her fight to cure her child.

Pretty, like the actress Susan Lucci, she grew up in Venice and talked as if she had sold many millions of dollars of houses in the new rich bohemia.

My buddy, much younger, broader-shouldered, deeper-voiced and all man, listened to her as she massaged him with her eyes.

She showed us pin-up shots of her on the Samsung screen, sexy images that made me ask, intoxicated as I was, what exactly she was selling.

Around us in Whole Foods, was the whirlpool of beauty and freaks that swirls in the aisles among the organic fruits and vegetables: tall women, muscular men, old women in running shorts; beards, tattoos and pegged pants, rolled cuffs, razor cuts, canvas bags, kale and 90% cocoa chocolate bars.

Travis and the real estate agent left, going their separate ways, but I stayed longer, waiting for the beer to wear off. I amused myself by photographing the green-eyed young clerk Joey.

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I am not an alcoholic, but I now can see, with ease, the attraction of numbing pain, blocking sadness, loosening tension. I will willingly submit to its temporal benefits and consoling pleasures.

As I did last night for a few hours after dusk.



One day soon, I will come down here to Venice and Marina Del Ray.

And my mother will be gone.

And I will think of these months, the ones that came about in 2014, where sickness and impending death arrived without warning.

And I will remember the endless summer of insipid profundity, the strange and incongruous times of illness and fun, the months on watch seeing her decline in Marina Del Rey.

Who dares to die in a place where pleasure pushes along unimpeded on bike, in swimming pools, on jogging paths, on tennis courts, at volleyball games?







Wendy’s: 6181 Sepulveda, Van Nuys, CA

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The parking lot at Wendy’s (6181 Sepulveda at Erwin) is full of trash. It has been that way for many months.

The scene: shopping baskets full of garbage, discarded clothes, fast food containers, and all the litter that a Wendy’s can produce.

Conversations with the man who cleans the parking lot at Wendy’s, along with a visit to an employee at Wendy’s has produced no results. They tell me that the responsibility for cleaning belongs to LA Fitness Van Nuys, even though the towing signs along the cinderblock are all “Wendy’s”.

LA Fitness takes care of everything in their newly paved area, but Wendy’s takes care of nothing except what is directly around the sidewalks on their building perimeter.

Why is this tolerated?

Sheer laziness and neglect and the refusal to take responsibility and pride: that is Wendy’s doing.

The victims are anyone who lives in Van Nuys and the surrounding community.

Walking Through an Architectural Plan.

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I was in Santa Monica yesterday afternoon. I parked near Pico and Ocean to capture the waning light of day on camera.

The entire “Civic Center” area, surrounding the toxically secretive Rand Corporation, is undergoing massive redevelopment. There is a new park, a new subway line (arriving 2015), new condos and “affordable housing”, plus promised shops, restaurants and hotels.

The City of Santa Monica has a website describing the project.

“The three-acre site is an urban mix of 160 affordable rental residences and 158 luxury condominiums, 20,000 square feet of retail and restaurants, and walkable plazas and gardens. A walk street was created as a central spine through the site, providing pedestrians with a connection from Main Street to Ocean Avenue through landscaped plazas lined with retail, restaurants and outdoor dining, and public art.”

I went into the walk street yesterday and explored part of the new development.

At 6pm I was the only one.

I walked through angles and shadows past empty balconies shaded in darkness. Trapezoids and bands of glass, rectangles and vertical piers jutted out and sliced in, a silent symphony of architecture performing to an empty house. On Main Street, near a guard station, a sign ominously informed:



A little while later, I wandered back into an old neighborhood of crummy and cute houses south of Pico, and stopped at the corner of Third at Bicknell.

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Atop the hilly street stood a strange, red-domed apartment, The Baron’s Castle. Piled above blocky stucco boxes, the exotic building of unknown origins held my eye. Its finial pointed up: leading, concluding, summarizing.

No great architect built this mess. But it felt honest, uncontrived, alive, accidental, human and organic.

With its cars parked under the first floor overhang, its ridiculously flimsy arched balconies, it was a reminder of how good bad architecture sometimes feels.

I was glad to end my walk here, staring up into spiritually redolent kitsch, irreverent and improvised. It reminded me of the people who live here, in exile, in rented costume, temporarily young, broken-hearted, dreaming, intoxicated, high, sober, scraping by, entertained; seduced by sea and sun.

How many tanned generations fucked and broke up and got together inside the many boxes under the red-tiled dome? What accidents of existence brought people here? And how fitting that they settled into a place imperfect and incomplete.


The great architects who did not build The Baron’s Castle were employed on other places where perfection of form never quite ignited human passion.

Yesterday, I had walked through one perfection of form, a lavishly funded and now completed architectural plan, vetted by the government of Santa Monica, tended to by teams of architects, engineers, landscapers, designers and lawyers.

And found myself hungry.

More is less. Too much is much less.



Beer Bloggers Gather at MacLeod’s.


Andreas and Andrew.


Brew Master Andy Black at his work station.


Linda Whitney: “So many beers, so little time…”

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MacLeod’s held a special event, this past Sunday, for beer bloggers at its new brewery in Van Nuys.

The actual opening is Sunday, June 22 at 14741 Calvert St.


Co-owner Jennifer Febre Boase.

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Artisanal cheeses, Scottish crackers and biscuits were served alongside pints of The Little Spree (Yorkshire Pale Ale).

The vibe was clean, fresh, friendly and authentic.

There is nothing like it in LA. And it may carve out a new niche of lower alcohol beers brewed authentically British.


Owner Alastair Boase serves Andreas Samson.


Hand lettered chalk signs were created by Alastair.

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Jesse Cairnie

Jesse Cairnie

The Art World




Yesterday I went, as I have for almost six months, to visit my Mom, ill with cancer, now in hospice, at her apartment in the Marina.

She can’t walk now, so she is either in bed, or lifted onto a chair, wheeled over and pushed out, into the sun, or more often, up to the TV, where many hours of daytime talk shows play without end.

She asked me to sit down, next to her.

She said there was an explosion of news about cancer cures and people whose terminal illness had been cured through “miraculous” immunotherapies. Would I look into this she asked?

Told that she was Stage 4, incurable, sick with bone and lung cancer, she has accepted the news, but fought it through inquiry and denial. She told me she was coughing more because she had caught a cold.

Loretta, her live-in caregiver, brought my mother into the living room, to vacuum the bedroom. The bedside phone rang, and Loretta handed me a call from Direct TV.

I answered in the voice of old gruff Junior Soprano. I told the woman we were retired people, uninterested in her offer, and hung up. My mother laughed, hoarsely, and said that she loved that voice I used.

She is still fully there, her mental capacity undimmed, even as life seeps out and the monstrosity of dying cells takes over.

I made a lunch of grilled salmon and roasted garlic, rice, fruit salad, plain yogurt, and hot green tea. If healthy eating were enough to insure health this meal might defeat cancer.

After lunch, Loretta wrapped my Mom up. And I pushed Mom in the wheelchair down to vote in the Marina City Club, where more old people manned tables and passed over registration books, which my mother let me sign.

I stood next to her and fed the flimsy two-holed ballot into its plastic holder, and began to read the names of politicians to my mother, who only knew one, Governor Jerry Brown. We read each page: names of candidates and parties running for offices; all enigmas.

Is an ignorant voter more dangerous than an intelligent one who abstains from voting?

We turned the ballot back in, having punched only one hole and we were given stickers that read: “I have voted”.

I took her to the park across Admiralty Way, a running and biking path between the speeding cars and the tall buildings.

Behind the Ralph’s parking lot on Lincoln, there was a small opening in a fence, and I walked down to see if we could get through it. I judged that we could, and I pushed my mother in her chair over the asphalt onto the bark’s decline, through the fence hole and past the dumpster into the parking lot.

She hadn’t been inside a store in six months, and now, where she had once driven herself and walked in, she sat as she was pushed past edibles.

We picked up extra virgin olive oil, aluminum foil and wheeled back to the Marina City Club.



I seem not to cry much when I visit, acclimated am I to the new grimness.

I became, in the last six months, a high-ranking soldier: inspecting the medicines, giving orders to the homecare workers, pulling in supplies, taking over financial, legal and medical decisions, signing papers, managing staff and bringing drugs to the ill and dying, issuing directives for non-resuscitation and cremation.

I had no training, only a sense of duty, obligation and rightness.


When I left yesterday, in the late afternoon, I kissed my mother on the cheek and held her hand, and wandered out into the wind propelled in blank distraction.

From this time afterward I existed in a suspended and stoned state of mind, up on Abbot Kinney drinking wine, and later, intoxicated, walking up alleys and behind buildings camera in hand, anesthetized and numbed.

A woman sitting on the sidewalk, not homeless just sad, stopped me and asked me about my camera. Tina introduced herself. She told me her husband was divorcing her and taking custody of their two children. She asked if, one day, I might want to take photos of her and the children. She told me I should volunteer at Venice Arts and teach kids photography.

I was on wine so I was kind. I listened and gave her my card.

I think I will be like this for a while, even after my mother dies.

Peace will settle on me like a healed burn.






Alleys and Architecture.

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(Photos: Andrew B. Hurvitz)

Last year, on a visit to Japan, I discovered alleys that were vibrant, clean and functional.

In a country where 127m live on land mass that is smaller than California, space is put to good use.

Little houses, imaginatively designed, are integrated into narrow streets and alleys. (Photos: Dezeen)Cave-by-Eto-Kenta-Atelier-Architects_dezeen_1sq dezeen_Small-House-by-Unemori-Architects_0sq House-by-Tsubasa-Iwahashi-Architects_dezeen_1sq House-in-Fukasawa-by-LEVEL-Architects_dezeen_3sqa KKZ-House-by-International-Royal-Architecture_dezeen_ss_50 Monoclinic-House-by-Kazuko-SakamotoAtelier-Tekuto_dezeen_sq Switch-restaurant-and-residence-by-Apollo-Architects_dezeen_3sqa

Whether an entrance is in front or back makes no difference to a Japanese house.

What counts is the integrity and artistry of the architecture.

LA, and the entire state of California, has an extreme shortage of affordable and civilized housing.

Why not emulate Japan and make use of our alleys, the back of our buildings, and enormous asphalt parking lots to create civilized spaces for residential development?


Sherman Oaks alleys below.

Photo credit: Andrew B. Hurvitz


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