Civilization, as it is known to exist in Van Nuys, marched north on Sepulveda, and has now crossed Oxnard.
LA Fitness opened yesterday, many many square feet of ellipticals, treadmills, racquetball courts and indecipherable machines aimed at every body part on human bones.
Occupying the very spot where couch potatoes worshipped, Wickes Furniture, the new gym promises to bring an active lifestyle to an area where the Gluteus Maximus is almost extinct, and 16-year-old girls are considered anorexic at 300 pounds.
Bow-fronted, brown, low, and wide, the corporate architecture echoes its clientele. Doors open graciously, in the LA way, onto a wide parking lot, around which spin the orbiting stars of Wendy’s, Costco, Fatburger, CVS and Star Kitchen.
The new building turns its back away from the Metro Orange Line Busway. The Bus Rider and The Pedestrian will have to take the long walk around the north side of the building and enter through the parking lot side. Clearly this structure was designed somewhere in Texas, possibly by someone unfamiliar with Google Maps.
This morning I took an unguided tour of the interior which begins with a pool, an iconic symbol of sunny Southern California, placed indoors at the shady and dark NW corner, near the check-in, with many windows open to viewing for arriving and departing members. The wet old man in the Speedo will be the first image implanted on future arrivals.
But the equipment is, to use a reality TV word, amazing. There are dozens of aerobic machines, now equipped with iphone ready TV screens, so that sweat and heavy breathing can keep an eye and ear on Bill Reilly and Anderson Cooper.
Assembled like a marching army regiment are treadmills, bikes, weight machines, free weights, racquetball courts, and the most important feature of all: walls of mirrors.
Rusted stall doors, pee on toilet seats, un-flushed shit, the smoldering smell of cum in the men’s sauna, 400 lb weights left on leg presses, arguments, indifferent and constantly quitting trainers, torn shower curtains and clogged sinks, stolen wallets and broken-in windows in nighttime parked cars; all these future events have yet to happen here.
For now the glory is in the opening.
The carpeting is new, the paint is fresh, we are older but our gym is newer, and if we go here everyday, and eat healthy, we may live out the rest of our lives here in Van Nuys.
Apparently it’s hard to be a profitable supermarket when you have self-checkout, no cashiers to pay union wages, minimum hourly pay, non-existant health benefits, and cheap food.
Why can’t it be Gelsons that goes into Chapter 11?
Just north of Burbank Blvd. on the west side of Sepulveda, new construction.
Large expanses of asphalt and black tar bake in sun day after day. These are the parking lots behind retail stores, many untenanted, forgotten and forlorn on the west side of Halbrent,north of Erwin, east of Sepulveda.
This area is chiefly known for two businesses: The Barn, a six-decade-old, red-sided furniture store and Star Restaurant Equipment & Supply advertised for 12 hours every weekend on KNX-1070 by radio fillibusteress Melinda Lee.
The Barn uses its parking lot to store trucks. But next door to the north, lot after lot is empty.
I came here this morning with a camera, lens cap off, a provocative act in the bracero’s hood. In the shadows, undocumented workers hide behind doorways and look away when I aim my digital weapon at asphalt. I mean the Mexicans no harm or ill will.
Blithely walking and lightly thinking, daydreaming, I forgot that I have no business here amidst the enormity of emptiness and unproductivity.
I’m looking for a story, for an angle, for a job.
So many are out of work and so much can be done to employ mind and muscle and money.
There is such a wealth and a waste of land in Los Angeles, and America in general. Imagine what Tokyo or Bangkok would do with all these unused acres!
These empty spaces are within a five-minute walk from public transportation, Costco, LA Fitness, CVS and Staples as well as two grammar schools, three banks and an Asian supermarket.
This is a walkable place.
A well-financed visionary could build a low-rise, dense, green, urban farm upon these entombed soils, plant Oak trees, create a little garden with fresh fruits and vegetables, oranges, lemons, and asparagus.
This is a place of potential.
An architect could design some functional and modern attached houses, artfully shading them with native trees.
But for now, the parking lots suffer in silence; waiting for the day that California fires up its economy, wakes up from its long slumber and pushes progress.
A development is planned for a big, empty lot on Sepulveda, north of the Galleria, near the intersection of the 101 and 405 freeways.
The developer is selling it as a “walkable” and “green” project which will enhance the area and promote health and urbanity.
The pedestrian oriented apartments will be within walking distance of PF Changs, the Cheesecake Factory, Fuddruckers and Ben and Jerrys.
I’m not sure that a walkable neighborhood promotes fitness. I live in Van Nuys and see many people walking along Kester, Victory, Vanowen and Sepulveda.
And they all seem to be wearing rubber tires under black spandex tops.
But back to the proposed construction…..
My quarrel with it concerns the colors. They are ugly and outdated.
Before WWII, Los Angeles built predominately in white with red-tiled roofs. Since the mid 1980s there has been a trend to break-up large masses of facades with clashing, discordant colors.
But the idea of building dense housing near densely developed Ventura Blvd can be good if public transportation, including bike lanes, buses and trains, eventually carry people around instead of the insanity of the automobile.
About a year ago, when Americans imagined the economy was rebounding, Orchard Supply Hardware (OSH) on Sepulveda (and in other locations) opened an appliance department where $1200 washing machines and $1500 refrigerators would allegedly be snapped up by those cash rich Van Nuys residents whose homes had lost 50% of their value. Chirpy long haired dudes were hired to push the appliances on hair tinted matrons. It was an experiment in marketing and selling expensive and big-ticket items.
Now the department is closing.
Which is not surprising considering that on any weekday, there are middle-aged men and women, in their prime working years, walking around the aisles of OSH; men and women who should be earning salaries , but instead, spend their day caulking their sinks and fixing their toilet flush mechanisms.
OSH is a good place, a much friendlier and much easier place to shop than the dust filled Home Depot with its armies of illegals climbing the fences. The staff is helpful and the layout is easily navigable.
But no company is an island. OSH cannot sell what people cannot afford to buy in a neighborhood where even a broom is considered a luxury item.
And to paraphrase Lincoln, we are engaged in a great economic civil war, testing whether this nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. And I believe this nation cannot endure, permanently 90% poor and 10% rich.
Riding my bike around the Sepulveda Basin today, I was startled and sickened to see a river lined with trash.
Plastic bags literally covered every branch, every limb, and every single tree along both sides of the banks; devouring, like some gruesome movie monster, nature.
The amount of garbage is so extreme, so massive, so overpowering, that the camera’s lens is unable to completely capture the visual tragedy. Like Haiti after its quake, a photographer must decide whether to shoot wide angle, thus diminishing the particular atrocity, or to go close-up, possibly denying the vast destruction all around. I shot these images both far and close to record the appalling filth and criminal neglect of the river.
There are other sections of the LA River, formerly encased in concrete, now undergoing naturalization. This area of the river, which meanders gently through the San Fernando Valley acts as a flood basin and wildlife preserve.
The City of Los Angeles has abrogated its moral and legal responsibility by allowing and ignoring this environmental catastrophe.
One weekend of box office receipts, from the theaters showing AVATAR in the nation of Moldavia, would probably be enough to pay for a LA River clean-up. Two weeks of Ellen DeGeneres’ paychecks might finance the annual salary of 20 city workers assigned to protect the river. 1/44th of suspected comedian Conan O’Brien’s $44 million dollar pay out might save the lives of thousands of birds.
The pictures on this page were shot around Balboa Boulevard in Encino.
A burning brush fire, in the Sepulveda Pass, near the Getty Center, began today around 1pm.
Photo was taken in Westwood by Andy Hurvitz