Alleys and Architecture.

Day 4-Near Hotel Celestine  48 Day 2-Shinjuku-ku 40 Arrival at Hotel Celestine 13

(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


DSCF0106 DSCF0105 DSCF0104



There were 120 narcotic “Norco” tablets in the prescription bottle on March 31st.

Six days later there were seven.

The medicine was supposed to be administered to an elderly cancer patient, bedridden, in pain.

But the physical therapist probably stole the medications, stuffing 100 or more pills into his pockets.

And yesterday that was the morning news, in my life, at 5:30am. Later I drove down to Marina Del Rey and reported the “burglary” to the sheriff and filed a police report.

A mollusk on a mattress: my mother.

Unable to lift, eat, or wash herself.

A cancer victim.

A crime victim.

Dependent on live-in home care workers, visiting nurses; tethered in fragility to life, eaten away by lung and bone cancer, yet strangely alert and intelligent to her bodily decay and the circumstances around her.

I was angry, nervous, agitated, betrayed. And my mother spoke from her horizontal position and said, “The important thing is to remain calm.”

My command center was my phone, electrified with texts.

Dr. G refilling the L-Dopa.
Dr. H refilled the thyroid.
The handrails were delivered.
How could the PT spend 14 hours in five days on physical therapy?
Who lost the Access Transport card?
We need eggs.
They won’t refill the Norco without a police report.
The premium blue disposable underpads arrived.


The day was hot and windy and blinding.

And then the sun slipped down and left the last hues of light over Venice.

Calmed by a glass each of beer and wine I walked on Abbot Kinney after 7pm, moving past shop windows, past bored clerks staring into cellphones.

Everything at that hour distracted as I wandered in and out of pretty stores.

Lubricated and intoxicated, I went into Elvino Wine Shop. I tasted a Croatian Red and walked out with a French Bourgueil Cabernet Franc.

I was wandering involuntarily now, sadness sedated, lulled into a dark gray perfume store furnished like a laboratory, lined with clear glass bottles.


“Spray the Santal on your left hand,” she said.


And then I was in my car driving in darkness over Beverly Glen.

The love theme from Spellbound played.

I saw Ingrid Bergman holding onto Gregory Peck, wrapping him in love, rescuing him from collapse, guiding him through danger, analyzing his dreams, fighting his delusions, saving his life.

Rain in Van Nuys: November 14, 1952

From the USC Digital Archives come these photographs of flooding in Van Nuys at Tyrone and Sylvan Streets (a block east of the Valley Municipal Building) after heavy rains.

Caption reads: “Mrs. Agnes Snyder removes debris from car on flooded street. Wayne WIlson (bare foot) crosses St. Overall views of flooded Tyrone Ave. — cars submerged. Kids in stalled car.”

There are smiles on the faces of people, a lack of jadedness, that seems characteristic of that era. The hardship is harmless, nobody is getting hurt, the flooding is inconvenient and messy, but they are making the best of it.

Imagine the same situation in today’s Van Nuys.

A herd of fatties stuck inside their SUV, DVD player and boom boxes blaring, everyone on their mobile phones, three enormous women with tattoos, dressed in black leggings, broadcasting their “movie” on their smartphones with scowling and angry faces, never knowing how to live in the moment.

Presentando El Palacio Kester.

Back in 1965, a forward thinking developer built a two-story apartment building at 6345 Kester in Van Nuys.

He called it “Le Magnifique”,perhaps the last time the French language was used to name a building in our area.


So advanced, it was awarded a “Total Electric” plaque proudly affixed to the exterior.

With deep, wide, shaded balconies, underground parking and a convenient location in the heart of bustling, clean, prosperous Van Nuys, it provided a nice starter residence for young couples, recent arrivals to Los Angeles, and perhaps a few retired people.

Now the Mid-Century modern apartment has been transformed.




Back from a long, intoxicated weekend down in Tijuana, it has been knocked-up with twin pregnant cornices, painted in bands of Salsa Red and Cheez-Whiz Gold, and wears a large pair of decorative lions on two sides of its newly engorged and expanded bulk. Pasted on the ends of the building are decorative stone pieces to dress it up even more, while adding the appearance of more weight, causing the obese trollop to seemingly dance in platform heels atop her vaginal garage entrance.

This is Van Nuys when things are looking up.



Day of the Oncologist.

On Tuesday, February 11, 2014, the Los Angeles sun rose at 6:41am and the sunset at 5:33pm. And I was driving east on Wilshire, through Beverly Hills, in the last hour of daylight, transfixed at the odd lull of creamy illumination, under gauzy skies, light that lasted long; accompanied by slight winds, cool and oceanic.

That day I had gone with my mother, a homecare worker, my brother and a nurse to visit two doctors, one an oncologist, the other GP.

The oncologist was down in El Segundo, a Japanese-American in slim gray khakis, and thin herringbone tie tucked under a natty Tattersall shirt. He spoke, quietly, unpromisingly, about six weeks of radiation and how cancer might be attacked in the lung, how its curative program might weaken the body. He advised two scans: a PET and an MRI to further determine if the malignancy had travelled to brain and bone or beyond.

But as much as he knew, he admitted he didn’t know everything. And what course my mother’s lung cancer might take, he could not say. His understated reverence for discreet diagnosis drowned out by his patient’s unceasing, hoarse, gurgling, sick cough.

The day was full of wheelchairs and waiting rooms, insurance cards and doctors smiling with closed lips.

Later on, I was trapped in my car, on the 405, sitting in a vast unmoving ribbon of automobiles stretching from Culver City to Bel Air, so I got off at Santa Monica Boulevard and drove east, just to move.

And it was in Beverly Hills, a place I despise, that I found solid peace under partly cloudy skies.


On Linden and McCarty Streets, there are many old, lovely houses, well mannered, and discreetly elegant, some with small libraries behind bay windows, white siding and wood shake roofs, and old Spanish houses, not small, not grandiose, comfortably gracious and visually palliative.

I walked and looked, and found a few signs that said, “No Subway under BHHS”. Surprisingly none said “I Love Global Warming” or “Let’s Drive More SUVs and Promote Lung Cancer”.

This habit, of looking at nice houses, I inherited from my mother, an old hobby, learned in Chicago, driving past center-hall colonials she wished she lived in; then later on, in the 1980s, driving in her 1972 Delta 88 convertible down President Nixon’s street in Saddle River, New Jersey, not far from her new home in Woodcliff Lake, past that wooded estate where the 37th President lived.

Beverly Hills, CABuilt 1927

My walking tour of Beverly Hills ended near 220 S. Linden Drive, in front of an empty 1927 house, recently sold, where a cracked driveway, open garage and sagging second-floor window porch left evidence of past life. Silent, abandoned, a lot on the street.

Who owned it? Who valued it? Who furnished it? Who made love here? Who woke up and who went to bed here? Who drove up its driveway every night imagining that those nights coming home would go on forever?