Ralph’s Sherman Oaks.

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At twilight, last night, the new Ralph’s in Sherman Oaks, stood glistening under cloudy skies.


Dressed up and standing alone on the corner of Hazeltine and Ventura: metal panels and squash-colored inserts, coffee-tinted siding alongside creamy towers.


And a profusion of plants everywhere, succulents in the thousands, and grasses, and trees and roses and brown bark, bark laid down in trenches all around the building, even along the loading dock.

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Hygienic, modern, urbane, green.


Friendly to pedestrians and the disabled.


A bright RED plastic sign with the oval circle encircling RALPH’s FRESH FARE.


A new supermarket had come to Sherman Oaks, vaulting over old timers and neighborhood groups and homeowners fearing “urban” might bring the shvartze, the illegal and the hipster to this corner of the valley.


But at 7 pm last night there was no sign of humanity on the sidewalks around Ralph’s.


It had passed the Los Angeles test for a great building. It looked good and kept the streets clean and empty.

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Woodman and Riverside, Sherman Oaks, CA, 1932

Here are two astonishing photos, startling to our eyes, showing how open the San Fernando Valley was 82 years ago.

Today this area is completely urbanized, home to Notre Dame High School and Fashion Square.



Speaking of God at Fashion Square.



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.

LAPD: Sherman Oaks/Van Nuys Residential Burglaries


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 25895@lapd.lacity.org or 818-374-0031.

Burglaries in Sherman Oaks.

From LAPD’s Ron Carter: 
“Those of you who receive “Nixle” messages have already received this update. For those who have not gone onto the LAPD Web at www.lapdonline.org and registered to receive “Nixle”messages and alerts, please consider checking it out. I receive Nixle at my home with current update information.
On November 30th (Thursday) between the hours of 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. there were three (3) additional residential burglaries at the 3400, 3600 blocks of Longridge Drive and at the 3600 block of Cody Drive
At one of these residences, the alarm frightened off the burglars, who left taking only a wallet and a lap-top. At the second location, the alarm was not turned on and the suspects left with assorted jewelry, shoes, I-Pads, Computers, Television, Game Consoles and multiple credit cards. This burglar smashed a rear window using a concrete table in the yard. Please remember to always activate your alarms, even when you are home.
Many of your neighbors are not active in a Neighborhood Watch, and may not attend their  local Government meetings , so it is important that we all share this information. This will help us all to get through the Holidays with less chance of becoming the victim of a crime. It is the “Fear of Crime” which we must also work hard to remove from the neighborhoods.
Thank you for being vigilant in your efforts to look for suspicious activities and persons who you do not recognize from the neighborhood.
Remember, for non-emergency, please call (818) 734-2223 and of course, if you see a crime  “in progress” then it may be a “911” call. Let our Officers verify if that person does have legitimate business in your neighborhood.
I am sending this e-mail to all of my Group Contacts, because this can happen anywhere and anytime. Being aware, alert and knowing “Who to call, When to call and What to say“makes a difference. Please read the attachment.
S.L.O. Ron Carter”

North of the Galleria.

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.

The Optimist

The Optimist

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.

Climate of Contemplation.

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.

4330 Fulton Avenue


4330 Fulton Avenue, originally uploaded by Here in Van Nuys.

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.