Up on the second floor, a muscular, middle-aged salesman with high Charles Bronson cheekbones and slicked back hair stood in his Zaaz exercise shop waiting for customers who would get on a machine, plunk down two grand and vibrate their bodies into athletic form.
His name was Eddie. He was born, Italian-American in East Cleveland, OH. I met him many months ago and we stopped again to speak today at Fashion Square in Sherman Oaks.
I may have been walking around the mall in a catatonic state of Zyrtec. Tired, not going anywhere in particular, I had just browsed Apple laptops, tried on Hugo Boss jackets and was gliding on the second level of the mall like a cloudy whisper of oceanic fog.
Empty, adrift, morose, I was swimming in circles, unmoored from the sea of purpose and ready to be hooked by Zaaz.
Eddie noticed my dourness and asked how things were going. And then he spoke of his own spiritual self-affirmations, his belief in the Lord Savior Jesus Christ, of good things ahead. And he asked me what I believed in.
I told him I was born and raised a Jew, Bar Mitzvahed but not a believer. So he stepped up on the machine, an exercise pulpit palpitating with electric vibrations, and from above he spoke down to me, a congregant, about my heritage, of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; and of Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, Joseph and Mary and God. He talked of shalom, and peace, and evil in the world, his formidable biceps holding tight to the handles and shaking with impulse and motion.
Still moving on the whole body vibration machine, he revealed his own doubts, his down days when he had no money, his deflated acting career. He spoke of his intimacy with Jesus, the touch of God, the God who had once been a man and died on the cross to save the world and return it reborn.
He got off the machine. And stood down on the marble floor, feet planted firmly, looking at me, man-to-man, eye-to-eye as a mall choo-choo train chugged and whistled past.
He then wrapped up his short sermon with a quote from Proverbs 2:7:
“He will keep the salvation of the righteous, and protect them that walk in simplicity.”
We shook hands in earnest. And I walked from J Christ to J Crew in search of my next ministrations.
Van Nuys Burglary Detectives are reporting serveral residential burgalries took place over the weekend in the area of RD991 (Mullholland Drive to Beverly Glen to Valley Vista Blvd. to the 405 Freeway.) All of these took place during daytime hours.
Several other burgalaries also occured in RD966 (Woodwan Ave to the 101 Freeway to Fulton Ave to Chandler Blvd.) Suspects are described at four male Hispanics, 20-25 years old driving a 2004-2007 Totota Camry or Nissan Altima metalic gold in color. Suspects were also discribed as wearing LA Dodger apparel.
In many of these burglaries the suspected enetered through open attached garages which gave them access to the residence.
If you have any additional information please call Van Nuys Burglary Detective Robert Kraus at email@example.com or 818-374-0031.
Just north of Burbank Blvd. on the west side of Sepulveda, new construction.
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.
If you were to bullet point Mike Hewson’s biography, the list would sound sad:
• Grew up gay in the 1950s
• Drafted into Vietnam as a medic
• Returned to Los Angeles and worked in a hospital
• Cared for his mother during her 4-year ordeal and death from cancer
• Watched his good friends, all young men, die from AIDS.
But it was Abraham Lincoln who said, “People are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” He might have been speaking about Mike, who was born on July 18, 1945, and moved to 16724 Morrison St. in Encino five years later.
He had an ideal childhood, with a stay-at-home mother and a father who worked as printing company salesman, and a younger sister, Deawn.
In those days, Encino was like a small town, with block parties and vast ranches and newly built houses. The 101 and 405 didn’t come through the Valley until the early 1960s.
He went to Encino Elementary and Birmingham High School. His family lineage, including many veterans of many wars, stretched back some 200 years.
He attended Valley and Pierce Colleges for two years and then studied to become an Operating Room Technician.
In 1967, he went into the Navy and later joined the Marines and went off to Vietnam for 27 Months. His nickname was “Flash”.
In his field hospital, 30 miles outside of Dan Nang, near China Beach, he assisted in neurological operations on wounded soldiers. Blood, suffering, the horrors of war, death and truncated and destroyed young men: all of these violent and horrific human tragedies marched before his young eyes.
He got down in the trenches and did anything he needed to do to help his fellow Marines. He was “Doc” but he was GI Joe too, never allowing his higher position to interfere in lending a helping hand.
He told me that everyone knew he was gay, but that he never heard one hateful remark. He believed that a lot of homosexuality went on in the armed forces, but that it was not an issue because survival and fighting mattered most.
Only politicians make an issue of it.
When he came back to the San Fernando Valley, in 1971, he was overjoyed to be back in the USA. He was still only 26 years old, and he went to work at Encino Hospital and lived as a single gay man in the Brady Bunch era.
Active in the Metropolitan Community Church, he also hung out with a group of friends who all died from AIDS. He and another buddy survived the lethal scourge of the 1980s.
Unlike many people who remember so fondly the San Fernando Valley and talk badly about its present condition, he finds that some things have gotten better. He misses the horse farms and orange groves, but he loves all the trees and greenery that has come up in the last 60 years. He remembers the view of the mountains that was so clear in the early 1950s, and now those views are returning as cars burn cleaner.
His last job was at Barnes and Noble in Encino, and he does regret the loss of the store, which was closed by greedy billionaire owner Rick Caruso and will be replaced with another CVS.
Mike is retiring to Puerto Vallarta. And at age 65, he will take his optimism down to Mexico, which is also a place where people have hard lives but smile frequently.
Days of clouds, rain and chilly winds; the last few months in Los Angeles rendered this externally driven city of outward brightness and sunny exuberance into a reserved and subjective place where thought and contemplation drifted, like a cool fog, into the mountains and valleys….and mind.
We, formerly tanned, t-shirted and flip-flopped; opened up old plastic containers under our beds and in our closets and dug up thermal shirts, wool sweaters, down jackets and knit caps.
We drank dark malty beers; ate beef stew and consumed glasses of red wine. We ran from our cars into our houses and curled up on the couch under layers of wool. We felt like we were back in Chicago, on winter break, imagining icy sidewalks and slush filled gutters under the El train.
Sundays on the beach, playing volleyball or biking, swimming or running….. Replaced now by gloved and hatted hikers, and fireside Christmas parties under rain-soaked skies.
The snow came to Stevenson Ranch and even Palm Springs shivered. There was lethargy in our limbs. We caught colds. We lay in bed under an electric blanket. And drank hot tea.
There must have been some compensation by nature or God to account for our inclement weather. Maybe that higher authority, HE who sends the rains across the planet, HE decided to wash the City of Angels in something baptismal and cleansing.
We needed to save money, on water and air-conditioning, and we now have no reason to turn on our outdoor sprinklers. We are devoted to our lawns, but by our prayers they now are damp and fertile.
But mostly we needed the clouds and rains to contemplate, so much, because we have lived in stress and excess, in violence and rhetoric, in bankruptcy and foreclosure, in a strange land of exaggeration and drama, both online and offline, personal and political, where events have spiraled out of control.
Cloudy days and rain, cool weather and bracing winds, these are some of the tranquilizers that spill out of the sky, cooling our burned nerves and returning us to some semblance of spiritual and emotional balance.
Mid-Century medical modernism on display in Sherman Oaks.
Flagstones, louvered -steel window coverings, over-sized overhang, double-door entrance, welcome mat with embroidered address numerals.
A strange hybrid of suburban luxury, technical mastery and Hollywood artifice. A place of secrecy, discretion, and celebrities in sunglasses.
Mystical, luxurious and redolent of women in high-heels, cars with fins, Chanel No. 5, coral lipstick, teased hair, Kim Novak and pap smears.
Spread out on lawns and along the sidewalks: blankets and sheets. They are covered with old clothes, boxes of CDs, vacuum cleaners, pots, pans, glassware, chairs, hats, scarves, underwear, socks, and baby clothes.
Since the Depression laid its dollar-killing hands around the neck of Los Angeles, two years ago, junk sales have blossomed and proliferated and spread like dandelions. Jobless, insecure, fearful, angry; the people are throwing their vast array of crap onto the public sidewalks and private lawns of LA hoping to get $40 or $60.
Jack and his Mom
Outside a neat, small apartment in Sherman Oaks’ Posoville district, my friend Jack’s mom sells stuff every weekend. They live together in a three-room, vinyl-floored unit whose walls are decorated with carved crucifixes and many paintings.
White-haired, dressed in sweats, speaking in an accent that originated somewhere east of the East River, she gave me a hearty welcome. “Go to Unit #13 and see my son,” she ordered.
I walked through the gate, past the jellybean shaped swimming pool and knocked on the door. Italian, single, straight, 45, delivery service driver; Jack answered and gave me a hug.
He was watching the game, (whatever game that was I do not know), next to a bigger lug named Caesar, a large, oversized, crotch-picking co-worker in an AC/DC t-shirt and cargo shorts whose pockets held two freshly rolled joints.
Caesar, grinning ever so proudly, told me he had walked out on his wife of 14 years last week. She lived down the street with his two kids, 10 and 14. He had just come back from Las Vegas with Nikki. “I like to eat pussy,” he explained. His wife didn’t know where he was, which was fine with him.
Jack, though, has had some bad health problems lately. He can’t keep food down. He went to several doctors and has had a colonoscopy. He lost weight. He lost his appetite. He thinks he might be allergic to gluten.
The talk, as it does often these days, turned to “who caused the economy to crash”. I waited for the roulette wheel of scapegoats to spin and this time it landed on a surprise group.
Jack blamed “immigrants” who bought more house than they could afford and then crowded all their relatives in. These relations were all non-workers and non-citizens but they collected government benefits like disability, food stamps and unemployment. Their housing speculation (not Wall Street or the Federal Reserve or banks), he explained, had driven the whole economy into the ground.
Jack also talked about “who owns Beverly Hills” and how he found a website that named all the names of the property owners in every house and “none of them are Americans”.
Unloved and Unneeded
There are many garage sales in Los Angeles now. They are set up anywhere by anyone. You don’t even need a garage anymore.
All along the wide, sunny, indistinguishable arteries of Kester, Balboa, Roscoe, Vanowen, Tujunga, Riverside, Burbank, Magnolia, Woodman, Moorpark, Venice, National, Sepulveda, and Pico; a city is emptying its closets and cleaning out its drawers and dumping its used, unloved and unneeded detritus; hoping to sell for pennies what was once purchased for dollars.
These are the red-flag days in California’s economy and in its social order. We Angelenos, we Americans are becoming more like our garage sales. Put out on the street to be had for next-to-nothing. Cheapened, starving, and needy. Down to our last nickel. And perhaps ready to be ignited by someone who will gain power from the powerless.
THE GROSSMAN BURN CENTER, AT SHERMAN OAKS HOSPITAL,BURN SURVIVOR 27th ANNUAL CELEBRATION OF LIFE HOLIDAY REUNION
THE GROSSMAN BURN CENTER AT SHERMAN OAKS HOSPITAL
27th ANNUAL CELEBRATION OF LIFE HOLIDAY REUNION
WHEN: Saturday, December 5, 2009
3:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m will be the opening ceremony, LAFD Color Guard, National Anthem with the LAFD singing. Recognition and speeches will be given at this time.
WHERE: Los Angeles Fire Station 88
5101 N. Sepulveda Blvd
EVENT: 100 Burn Survivors along with their families, Dr Richard Grossman, Dr. Peter Grossman and others will be on hand for a special evening to honor the courage and inspiration of survivors during this holiday season
INTERVIEWS: Burn Survivors
Dr Richard Grossman
Dr. Peter Grossman
Members of the Fire Department
FOR MORE Roy Forbes, Media Relations – Grossman Burn Center
INFORMATION: (818) -981-2050
Photos: USC DIGITAL ARCHIVES
Looking back at these March 15, 1952 photos of a rainstorm in Sherman Oaks & Studio City (Vantage/Ventura) you see the humble, commercial, helter-skelter development of commerce along Ventura Boulevard.
57 years ago, most businesses still had awnings on the windows to keep out the summer sun. Air-conditioning was not widespread.
The gas stations were not the modern covered ones we have today, but were a combination of adobe/Spanish styles from the 1920s and slicker ones from the 1930s.
People ate a lot of ice cream at soda fountains.
And what happened to all those elegant lampposts, the same ones that still grace Wilshire Boulevard?
Hmmm….not everyone in “Part of Sherman Oaks” agrees with the push to rename a section of Van Nuys, “Sherman Oaks”.
Facts are being marshaled, and selectively cited, to support the secession of an area of Van Nuys so that it can officially call itself “Sherman Oaks”.
On a blog “Part of Sherman Oaks” you can read this:
San Fernando Valley neighbors have banded together in an effort to become officially recognized as a part of Sherman Oaks. A core group of neighbors living in the 91411 & 91401 zip codes organized themselves in order to spread the word throughout the entire community that we the neighbors residing east of Sepulveda Blvd, west of Hazeltine Ave and south of Oxnard Blvd down to Burbank Blvd are a Part Of Sherman Oaks.
Lawn signs are quite numerous now. I drove along Hatteras Street from Van Nuys Boulevard (still has that horrible name) to Kester and there are “Part of Sherman Oaks” signs planted on many lawns. It reminds me of some sort of a latter-day Anschluss, where, in 1938, Germany invaded and then absorbed neighbor Austria. The difference here is that the richer and more powerful residents of Sherman Oaks could care less if a few hundred homes in Van Nuys joined them.
What distinguishes the disputed area of Van Nuys that would make it want to go south?
I live north of Victory, near Van Nuys High School, on a street that has large homes on large lots and is home to a number of discreetly wealthy and creative people. (I only fall into the second category). But when I drive off of my street, I enter the slum of Kesterland, with its armies of men waiting on corners for work, the filthy and unkempt businesses that cannot sweep the gutters daily, badly maintained apartments that leave trash and toys all over, and lots of cars that emit smoggy exhaust. This is Van Nuys and this is what is looks and feels like on its busy boulevards. It is, yes, it is, disgusting.
And the people who keep up their homes, and don’t park their cars on their front lawns and don’t blare mariachi music when they wash their cars, they also don’t seem to shop or eat tacos or buy their shoes North of Oxnard. It seems that the neighborhood committee, which lists factual reasons why there is some sort of physical barrier separating them from the rest of Van Nuys, really think that culture and immigration should not be mentioned.
An industrial zone is not a “natural barrier”. Greater Glendale and Burbank both have industrial areas within their communities, and there has been no outcry from Hollywood Way and Magnolia to secede from the rest of Burbank. That is because Burbank has a positive connotation and “Van Nuys” does not. And when one drives through Burbank, one is transported, magically, back to the 1950s, in a city of crew cuts, American flags, and Bob’s Big Boy.
And lest one believes that mostly white homeowners are better at keeping up their properties, I invite them to come to my street where the best maintained houses are owned by natives of Guatemala and Mexico and the worst kept places are inhabited by whites. I would venture to guess, and indeed I know, that the ugliest aspects of urban decay in my neighborhood, other than tagging, involve billboards, above-ground power lines, and that endless stream of automobile traffic made possible by under investment in public transportation. The slum apartments are “managed” by those who come from east of the Meditterranean, not south of Texas.
I frankly do not think that any community group which expends its energies, not on improving its community, but rather in superficial Potemkin village, Orwellian name changing will ever achieve anything positive. The fortunes of Sherman Oaks are going down, along with the rest of the world. And there is litter on Ventura Boulevard, and criminal activities galore in the real estate, pornography and entertainment industries whose prosperity built up the great glories of Sherman Oaks.
But hell, if you think you can make a go of it, why not call yourself “North Beverly Hills”?