Silent Split.

She had come and lived here, in our house, ten years ago, a shy, thin, smart and curious girl of 20.

She lived in the front bedroom and seemed to spend her days studying, sitting on the bed, hunched over her laptop, emerging at night to sit down and eat dinner with us, and then going back in her room to study more.

On Monday morning, she began her week early and walked to the new Orange Line bus and went to classes at Valley College. She earned money tutoring and working in the computer lab. She made friends with other immigrant students, a girl and boy from Russia, a nursing student from Thailand.

Our tenant never complained about school, or money or fatigue.

After two years at Valley College, she walked in the house one day, and said, almost imperceptibly, that she had been awarded a full scholarship to UCLA, one that would eventually pay for graduate school, should she choose to go.

She graduated, with honors, in microbiology. But unsure of her next move, she worked at a software company in Westwood, where she eventually rose to oversee the marketing department, again spending her long days quietly concentrating on the computer, and focusing her fast brain on the logistics of statistics.

Outside of work, she was dating another graduate from UCLA, whom she eventually moved in with. He applied to graduate school, and they both moved to Boston so he could study there. But her LA company kept her on, and she regularly commuted back and forth from her Westwood office back to her Brighton apartment near Boston University.

He graduated and the couple moved back to Santa Monica. She applied to graduate school at UCLA and was accepted to an MBA program. He began work at Cedars-Sinai Hospital and at a private clinic near their apartment.


And yesterday afternoon, the first cool, cloudy day in several months, we met only the young lady in Westwood and later drove to Koreatown for lunch. And after we finished our meal, we got back in the car. She sat in the back seat and announced quietly she had broken up with her boyfriend of seven years.

She recounted her version of the story in cool, calm, measured tones. Emotion rationed and mostly banished, she had already moved out of her apartment and into new student housing near UCLA.

And so we pulled up to her new home in the gated complex. And she got out, thin and stylish, in a short white lacy dress, and walked into the dark courtyard, a single woman.

Something in me hurt as I watched her go inside, something that went back many years to Chicago where my grandmother lived alone in her apartment in West Rogers Park and I had felt compassion and sorrow for that lone woman in her own room.

The young woman in 2015, going back into her apartment alone, and my grandmother in 1975, were not the same.

It was only my mind- emotional and dark and contemplative and perceptive and interpretive- mixing past and present.

Here was another immigrant making their way in life, in a strange country, and succeeding, in education and work; a person who had less advantages than me, but one who possessed courage and hardihood.

I felt protective again as I did when she first came here in 2005. And I thought, driving home under the gray clouds through the Sepulveda Pass, that Louise Hurvitz, now in heaven, might want to hear this news.

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Building the Self-Esteem of Properties.


A recent run of work inside a Ventura Boulevard real estate office brought me into the world of those listings, words and photos, meant to build the self-esteem of homes.

I speak of the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) and its breathless descriptions of current residences offered for sale.

Awkward, ill-proportioned, ungainly, ostentatious, oversized, outdated, gaudy, trendy, remodeled, modernized, updated, whatever their individual personality characteristics and physical appearance, once they had undergone descriptive transformations via agency wizardry, they each emerged as self-confident houses ready to graduate into acceptance of offer and transfer of title.

As anyone who spends time in Studio City or Sherman Oaks knows, there once existed a lovely pair of communities where tree-lined streets and charming cottages co-existed with larger and wealthier hillside homes. But lately, the obliteration and demolishing of sweet little places and the replacement of small and human with enormous and robotic, has become a frenetic, greedy and exhausting activity.

6 bedroom, 7 bath, 5,000 sf houses on 7,000 sf lots, and every single one of these places as indistinguishable as pennies in a piggy bank.

Their owners are an exotic lot of ethnicities whose names are unpronounceable but mostly sound like San Fernando Valley streets spelled backwards.

4533 Casa Grotesqua was purchased in July 2014 for $795,000 by Kraproom Namdoow and Sordec Notluf. And after a $60,000 kitchen upgrade was sold for $2.1 million to Edisrevir Yrotciv, an attorney.

 14432 Moonshine Drive, Studio City is an outstanding 2 bedroom, 1 bath house with walking closets, a two-die for pool, expansive windows overlooking bustling, sophisticated Ventura Boulevard. It was completely remodeled in 2014 by designer Enitlezah Agneuhac and features stone ground fountains, heated toilets and high security children’s playrooms monitored by close circuit cameras. It is now offered for sale at $2.1 million.

The real listings on the MLS are too grammatically mangled to reprint here. If they were homework assignments handed in to English teachers in any 7th grade class, they would all be graded F.

But why bother proof reading listings for houses selling for one, two or three million dollars?

When your mortgage is $9,000 a month, there is very little time left over for reading or writing.

Social Media Stories

Social Media Stories

Sometime over the last few weeks, an exhaustion and demoralization with social media sunk into me.

The Blog, the Twitter, the Facebook, the Instagram.

All of it.

A long time coming.

I have an urge to destroy it all.

I’ve already come off of Instagram, a feeling akin to an alcoholic quitting drinking. I no longer look at other people’s bodies, trips to Capri, or bearded hikers standing on railroad tracks in Washington State. I have no more desire to like and no more desire to have someone like me.

The blog I created in 2006, “Here in Van Nuys” has opened up some new avenues for me, in people I’ve met, in others who shared my interest in urban exploration, history, photography and the architecture of Van Nuys, the San Fernando Valley and beyond.

But my secret motivation for writing and photographing, to get discovered and enriched, and motivated and respected, and financed and hired, well much of that never happened.

Instead, the tired and poor, the lost and the aimless, those searching for some place to put their hopes in Van Nuys, without having money or vision, those are the ones who glommed on. There was no knock on the door by developers, or architects, or the Mayor. Nobody thought Van Nuys worthier because of my writing, or maybe they did, but it lead, not to a new community, but back to another blog post.

Occasionally, a notable person popped up in email. In 2010, playwright Jon Robin Baitz, sent me a nice message, signing it “Robbie”. We met for coffee, and he said he would stay in touch, and we never spoke again.

There must be a reason why I write and photograph and why I created “Here in Van Nuys”, but to the fast, shallow, clickable, dumbed down virtual world, that answer always ends in clicks and celebrities.

Recent disappointments are small but telling.

  • I photographed a guy and thought they were some of my best photos ever. He put them on his Instagram, with his 9,000 followers and less than 10 people liked my photos.
  • On Linkedin, another website whose purpose is mysterious, a comedian/actor/performer/writer/huckster named Rich R—— connected with me. I never met him before. He said he was looking for projects. I contacted him and he said, “I’m lookin’ at your IMDB dude and I don’t see nothin’ since 2006. I mean people have bad luck, but I’m like what have you done lately?” He later added, “I’m involved in several projects, including one in the low millions, and some other things on Vine, so if I have time I’ll look at yours.” Apparently, he believes INDB is factual and accurate. Just as Instagram is the truth.
  • A friend who lives in Encino told me of a nearby home renting for $8,500 a month. It was just rented by a 19-year-old white punky kid, a “social media influencer” who has two million followers and attained some recent notoriety for forcing his underage girlfriend to have sex with him on camera.

I cite these stories as evidence that human life, and human beings are sucked in by an imaginary world, a make-believe life, that sometimes pays, but also, much more, destroys and devalues.

The longer I walk in the virtual world, the more I feel it as a kind of imposter and identity thief who steals my thoughts, my reality and my existence and plays it out as a funhouse game.

Taking myself off of it, one step at a time, seems the next logical, lifesaving step.

Kevin Huezo, Graphic Artist.

Kevin Huezo is a student living in Van Nuys, currently studying graphic design at CSUN.

He sent me an admiring email a few months ago after he found “Here in Van Nuys” online.

We met up in person and decided to collaborate on a project together.

Kevin took my photographs of actor Kayde McMullen and transformed them into a new realm of art.

Here are Kevin’s creations:

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The RV Encampment

Screen Shot 2015-08-28 at 11.51.53 AMParked along Tujunga Avenue in North Hollywood, on the east side of the park, between Magnolia and Riverside, a remarkable new residential community of homeless people has been established in a line of permanently parked RVs.

Visible and egregious, with their reflective cardboard stuffed inside windshields to cool down the metal houses in the summer sun, these faded and rusted motor homes are testament, depressing and sobering, to the high cost of housing in Los Angeles and the inability of so many to find a suitable and safe place to live.

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I walked along here today and photographed some 15 vehicles where people live.

In front of one, a woman and two men were in lawn chairs, sitting in the shade. The lady asked me, in a friendly way, why I was photographing and I told her it was for my blog.

“I’m homeless. We’re all homeless,” she said.

And I told her I knew that. And I also said I was photographing these four-wheeled residences to let others know how their fellow human beings were forced to live.

“God bless you,” she said.

And I continued my walk.

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In a Grieving Mood

The first anniversary of her death will be on September 1st.

In the year since my mother died, I have experienced days of grief that just came over me, an intense sadness: unshakeable, persistent and gripping.

And then, inexplicably, the darkness leaves and I’m set back into temporary equilibrium. I no longer cry easily and my laughing is real.

But the fragile happiness goes away again, and then the days of moodiness, anger, sadness, loneliness, self-destructive thoughts and a yearning to have someone hold and comfort me, comes back.

These are those days: these late August days.


Since I was a kid I’ve always hated August.

I hated its hotness and its humidity. I hated its interminable thirty-one days of family beach vacations. I hated coming back to “reality”, to school and to work. I hated August holding us in its grip of tall corn and short tempers, melted ice cream and burning asphalt. August is the threat of impending hurricane, school, and work held back by the ruse of calendar.


There is really nobody close to reach out to.

The advice, always, is to just get busy with something. If you had a full-time job, if you had kids, you wouldn’t be in this state-of-mind.

I think of that stinging indictment delivered by a friend in Chicago: “You’ve chosen a selfish life.”  How selfish to feel.

So I go to MacLeod Ale and have a few beers and talk to people I know, not about anything deep, just something human and non-virtual.


I hire a model and take photos and think I’m taking great photos. He puts them on his Instagram and I put them on mine. And then he takes my photos off his Instagram. And I close down mine.

There is no solace or satisfaction in art when you go online. What seems great to you is crap if it doesn’t garner 8,000 likes.

There is a mighty fine job interview with some super smart people and the opportunity to work on something interesting. It pays well, it’s nearby, it might turn out to be stimulating.

So I go in for the job meeting and then I wait for an answer.

And I must stop myself from imagining the rejection, even though that is what happens most of the time.

This morning I wake up and see a gruesome news story about the killing of a news reporter and her photographer, the wounding of another woman, and the pursuit and eventual death of the suspect.

It is just another morning of murder in America, refreshed every single day by the shooting of some other strangers in some other states.

I follow the story of the news crew killings on Twitter. They reveal the identity of the killer. Then he posts his POV video on Facebook and I watch it.

What kind of madness is this?

Is social media making people ill?

We are all enraged by something. The ubiquitious gun and smart phone make our most bestial and primitive urges possible. We can act, produce and distribute our own unspeakable fantasies for the world’s consumption and entertainment.

In this new epoch of human life we are  all Gods stage managed by the Devil.

I decide the cure is to lessen my place in the virtual world. I will delete something, I will stop doing something online, I will take my eyes and thoughts out of the Internet.


When you are in mourning, they say there is no time- table for recovery. You imagine that the hour will arrive where grief, a monster of no particular form, shall scatter and take with it remnants of memory, love, and attachment.

You go through the day, in motions: working, cleaning, driving, shopping, cooking, and watching television.

You drink a beer or two and feel something elating, calming, relaxing and pleasurable.

And when the beer wears off, you are deep in touch again with something you tried to forget. And you cry and cry but there is nobody to pick you up and hug you.

You are alone, facing something final.

You are in a grieving mood.

Awaiting redemption and answers and the return of normal life.



The New York Incident.

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The New York Incident

I went back East for two weeks in July. My first stop was Boston, then I went to New York City and ended up in Chicago.

On Wednesday, July 22nd, I boarded a late afternoon train at Boston’s South Station and rode down, through the Connecticut shoreline, into Westchester County, and finally New York.

I hadn’t been in Manhattan since 2008. And as I walked through dismal Penn Station, dragging my suitcase on wheels, laptop slung around my neck, camera in bag across my shoulders, I entered into dusk on 8th Avenue and up into loud, thrilling chaos and disorder and a human army of walkers and honking cars and trucks.

It was about 8 O’Clock and I grabbed a smoking stick of chicken kabobs from a street corner vendor. A few jovial, joking, middle-aged guys, on their way to Madison Square Garden, stood behind me and kidded me about my kabobs, asking me if they were any good. They were my first interaction in the city, and a good one: the heart and soul of New York is the casual, interfering, obtrusive love of strangers on the sidewalk.

I walked east on 34th, aiming for a bus to take me uptown on Madison to my destination at East 87th. Eyes on the Empire State Building, I walked through Herald Square and then into a protest that spilled into the intersection of 34th and 5th.

There were hundreds marching against police brutality. And there were cops, on foot and in their vehicles, yelling through bullhorns to get the people off the street. The action and the sounds, the theater of it all, pushed me into grabbing my camera from my bag and start photographing it all.

As I was shooting pictures of people against law enforcement, someone came behind me and walked away with my luggage. My entire clothing and shoes and toiletries were stolen.

I knew it right away, or rather I realized it when I pushed through the crowd and got to Madison Avenue. I still had my computer and my camera, but I was without the two-week supply of pants, underwear, socks, shoes, and toiletries I had come with.

The next morning I had to go buy new clothes. Everything. I went to the cheapest place I could find, H&M, and bought it all. It was stuffed in a plastic bag.

I was near 59th and Central Park West, and had called the NYPD to see if I could go to a precinct station and file a report the stolen suitcase. They said to go to Midtown North at 306 W. 54th St.

As I walked up to the old brick building, a female cop came roaring out of the door and pointed to me, “You! Get out of here. Go to the other side of the street! And the rest of you, you can’t sleep here! Get up and get out!”

She thought I was homeless because I was carrying my bag of new, replacement clothes.

I ignored her and went inside the cop house. A large STOP sign was in the middle of a grungy room where cops sat behind swinging gates and an elevated stage. I saw a water fountain. Thirsty, I went to get a drink beyond the STOP sign.

“Sir! Get back! You can’t just walk in and drink there!”

I explained that I was here to file a stolen property report. They told me to put my name on a list and wait at a window on the other side of the room.

I waited. And nobody called me. Other people came in and walked in front of me. So finally I looked through the glass window and saw a bearded Orthodox Jew at a desk and a black woman standing behind him.

“Yeah, what do you want?” the black woman asked.

“I’m here to report my suitcase was stolen last night,” I said.

“Your suitcase was stolen last night so what are you doing here this morning?” the Orthodox Jew asked.

“I was robbed near 34th and 5th and they said to come here and file a report,” I said.

“34th and 5th? That’s the Empire State Building. You don’t come here. You go to the Midtown South Precinct at 357 W. 35th St.” the Orthodox Jew answered.

“They said you would write up the report and send it down to them,” I said.

“Who said that? We ain’t doing their work for them!” the black lady answered.

I realized now that I was in that territory of comical and tragic best covered by Woody Allen. There was no empathy, no service; only obstacles, ridiculous and inexcusable, but this was how the city that doesn’t work works.

I walked out of the police station and marveled at the New York comedy routine I had just experienced.

I still love that city.