Last week, mid-week, it rained. A storm started the way storms do in Southern California, by announcing its front three days before arrival.
It came down slowly, from the north, and the skies darkened, ever so perceptibly, on Sunday, and by Tuesday the rains poured.
When the storm blew out, on Wednesday, the air was clean and refreshed. And doughy white clouds marched across blue skies.
Three small trees, all oaks, arrived from the city, ready to plant. There was room for only one on our property: a Coast Live Oak, which will look quite magnificent on my 100th birthday.
I went down to my brother and sister-in-law’s house on Saturday and took photos and videos upon the arrival of their new brindle boxer puppy.
These are videos that will show a 2012 Prius on the driveway, and these are videos of my 7-year-old niece and my 5-year-old nephew and a two-month-old puppy.
In five years or ten or twenty years, people will watch these and marvel at unwrinkled and smiling faces of youth, beauty and innocence; days we all have and days we spend in childhood never knowing how ephemeral and passing and short it all is.
I left the Marina and drove east across Culver City on Saturday, along Washington, and turned north on Robertson and went east on Pico and ended up on La Brea at Blair Lucio’s store General Quarters.
Mr. Lucio, on his own, without partners, has opened a concrete floored, iron and corrugated steel men’s shop decorated with black and white photographs of motorcycles, Steve McQueen, and images of postwar life in Southern California.
He is a young, well-groomed man with impeccable taste and good manners who favors plain front khakis, single needle cotton dress shirts, worn leather and canvas knapsacks and pure pine athletic soap.
He worked at Nordstrom’s and that retailer’s high standards of etiquette and service seem to have been branded with a burning iron into Mr. Lucio’s character.
If I had more cash I would spend it here because everything is high quality, classic and well edited.
LACMA has installed a show, Living in a Modern Way, devoted to the same place and era that Mr. Lucio adores: the post-WWII years, when California innovated in the arts, home furnishings, architecture, textiles, graphic design, automobiles and industrial products.
The exhibit has a full-scale reproduction of Ray and Charles Case Study House No. 8 in Pacific Palisades as well as an Airstream trailer and Avanti car.
Most interesting are the people who attend these events. They have artful, creative, charmed and haunting faces and they don’t look anything like the rest of the people who live in Los Angeles.
I went to see Luke Gibson’s architectural photography exhibit on the 8th Floor of the Wiltern on Saturday night.
It was dusk and the sun was setting and you could look north and see the Hollywood sign; and in the east the hills and houses were bathed in a sweet and gentle melon light.
The steel casement windows were open and I sat on an indoor ledge and looked down at a revitalized and busy Koreatown intersection with its new glass tower across the street and crowds pouring out of the Western/Wilshire Metro station; walking, using the city as a city should be used, on foot; with vigor, purpose and joy.
Luke’s aunt, an older and beautiful blond woman, came up to me and introduced herself. She was carrying an Ipad and remarked how proud her family was of their photographer nephew.
She had come up from Lake Forest in Orange County that evening, along with her daughter, son-in-law and two very tall young ladies, her granddaughters.
I told her that I lived in Van Nuys and she said she had graduated from Van Nuys High School. Her father had come from North Dakota and the family had lived on Ventura Canyon in Sherman Oaks.
We spoke about the mythical and magical days of yore, the California that really existed but really exists no more: orange groves and walnut groves; clean streets and unlimited opportunity for all. It was all gone now, except on DVDs and in our minds. And she was sweet and smart and savvy and even at seven decades, the ideal California girl.
And she knew how to how work that Ipad and had uploaded online Scrabble and Yelp.
I had some work to do on Sunday and I went to meet someone at the Marriott across from the Burbank Airport, but before our meeting, I walked around Fry’s Electronics where the most advanced and latest technology is sold to the least educated and most obese.
Outside Fry’s, in the parking lot, the sun was brilliant, the heat was dry, the mountains were radiant, and the planes flew across the sky and down into airport, gliding into an atmosphere of calm, glistening, radiant, and intense light.
There was hardly any traffic on sun-bleached, treeless Empire Avenue, the service road that runs between the south side of the airport and the railroad tracks.
I thought of Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh and all of the lesser-known war workers who once assembled planes here under a fake city blackout cover. Times past of productivity and progress.
After my meeting, I drove on that road, and over to Van Owen and down Vineland.
I was unaware that a few hours earlier, a distraught man, despondent over his finances, brandished a bb gun, called the police and told him he was armed. The cops came and asked him to disarm and when he refused, they shot him dead in front of his family.
Hours later, I went to Ralphs on Vineland/Ventura to do some Sunday grocery shopping and got on the 101 at Tujunga, traveling west, back to my home here in Van Nuys.
I was in my Mazda 3, with my friend Danny, watching the road, navigating the heavy traffic, and preparing to exit the 101 near Sepulveda.
I wasn’t going fast or slow, just driving defensively, cautiously, courteously, speedily, not excessively, within reason, as one does when approaching an exit ramp.
And then the dissolve, the madwoman in the rear view mirror…
A wildly gesticulating female driver, in her white SUV, held up her two fingers in a double fuck you to me from her driver’s seat.
Her hands were making digit signs, signs that she emitted in a mad, contorted, deliberate, accelerating, irrational, insulting spastic performance. I watched her gesture fuck you, fuck you, and fuck you again from her car as we got off the ramp at Sepulveda.
And then I pulled up next to her. Again she pulled up her hands to signal numbers, fives and ones, supposing that I would know that she alone knew how fast I was going and it was not fast enough for her. And how angry, enraged and beyond reason she was. She was unashamed, unembarrassed, unhinged.
And tragically, she is what is called average or normal these days. An insane and out-of-control driver, furious when her 90-mile-an-hour motoring is temporarily impeded by another auto.
We waited at the light next to her. We yelled at her and my friend said she was “cuckoo” and then the light changed. And I turned right and she turned left onto Sepulveda, but I would not be lying if I said at that very moment I too was enraged. I was ready to assault or kill this woman who had destroyed my peaceful Sunday afternoon with her madness on the 101.
It has happened to me several times before when I was the target of a woman, always a woman, always white, always showing their fingers and their fuck-you on the road, behind the wheel, when I, obeying the law and doing absolutely nothing wrong, was just driving and being courteous.
I am not a person, I believe, who goes around with a vast arsenal of fury inside of me. I talk things out. I listen to Chopin and Bach and I exercise and run and drink wine and beer and laugh a lot.
But this is California these days. There are no rules for how to behave in public. The Grossest Generation: that is what this generation is.
She is the reason that I also sometimes hate Los Angeles and wonder if all of the nostalgia for the greatness of our past can make up for the uncivil awfulness that passes for civil society in the Golden State.
Well, at least we can remember how golden the Golden State once was.
It was a delightful weekend until I got on the 101.
The “Hayden Tract” neighborhood of Culver City. National near Washington Blvd. The construction of the Expo Train. has provided a boon to this area and will provide a new alternative way of life to this section of LA.
Photo: Here in Van Nuys
Very soon, sooner than we might imagine, there will most likely be hundreds of dealerships, all over California, whose vast acreage will be emptied.
People are simply not buying or leasing as many cars. Auto companies are not producing. There is a depression in the car industry.
What can we do with the leftover land underneath these closed dealerships?
I wish that these enormous plots of oil soaked asphalt, which once existed and thrived as a testament to our voracious hunger for cars, would somehow be converted back to orange groves or some agricultural use.
Culver City has a wonderful farmers market, that comes here Tuesday afternoon. What if this “progressive” city were to tear up this defunct auto dealership and plow its asphalt into dirt and grow organic fruits and vegetables here?
Humans will always need to eat. Our appetite for the gasoline powered automobile is not eternal.
Every day, the news reports indicate that home prices are falling. And here in Los Angeles, the price of a single family home has supposedly dropped 26.7%
So I wonder, as always, if it is finally possible to find a decent home in a decent neighborhood where your neighbors are not a pack of pit bulls, and the kids might be able to walk to school, and your wife (if you have one) might be able to walk around outside at night?
And then I find a three bedroom, two bathroom home in bland but increasingly hip Culver City, a town that has always reminded me of Burbank. The residence looks in the advertisement like so many 1950′s starter houses, the ones that G.I.’s bought for $15,000 with $3,000 down and mortgage payments of $150 a month.
What might they be asking for this modest little nothing house? $1,050,000
Over a million dollars.