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.

RV NH 4 RV NH 3 RV NH 2 RV NH 1 RV NH 15

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.

RV NH 13 RV NH 14 RV NH 12 RV NH 11 RV NH 10 RV NH 9 RV NH 8 RV NH 7 RV NH 6 RV NH 5

The New York Incident.


DSCF0336 DSCF0324 DSCF0323

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.

The Getty: Light, Line and Texture.

Getty Textures 84

Getty Textures 3 Getty Textures 7 Getty Textures 12

The Getty Museum is one of those destinations in Los Angeles tourists come to see. I played a tourist yesterday and went there.

I entered into the parking lot via a new automated system where one pays at the end of the visit and no interaction with a human is necessary. It cost $15.

A tram transports you to the top. You ride up in it, like a European, secure in its cleanliness, safety and recorded instructions.

The plazas and the sculptures and the architecture are still here, but the water had been turned off, in deference to the drought.

Getty Textures 17 Getty Textures 18 Getty Textures 22

There were two exhibitions going on which I walked through quickly. One was full of drawings and paintings from the studio of Andrea del Sarto who lived in early 1500s Florence. Exquisitely wrought chalk portraits reminded me of what my father, who studied at the Art Institute in Chicago, used to aspire to.

“Light, Paper, Process: Reinventing Photography” was an exhibition of various experimental, often abstract, tactile printed photographs from dozens of artists. Blotches on one print read, “chromogenic print soaked in Rainbow Lake water.” Another showed concentric circles, still another was shadows, and another drops of black splotches.

These were selected by experts, curated by intelligentsia, and worked in their incomprehensible oddity to expel me quickly.

The rooms where the prints hung were crowded and hot. Suffocation soon got the better of me and I ran out into the light and air as I always do when I visit the Getty.


Getty Textures 32 Getty Textures 36 Getty Textures 38

Better to me than seeing French tapestries in dark rooms is to walk outside and observe the light, line and textures of the Getty buildings and grounds.

The Getty design is now more than 20 years old, and just as a 1955 design looked old to 1975 eyes, so the architecture, with its squared and rectangular lines, seems dated in our present biomorphic era of computer generated forms and origami like skins.

Perched on top of the Sepulveda Pass in arrogant modesty, the buildings transformed the rural aura of the pass into something of a gaudy parade of wealth, equaled by the Skirball and its cold, pink, granite towers.

Getty Textures 41
Students from Brazil.
Getty Textures 44
David Cu

Getty Textures 52

The $1.3 billion dollar Getty, whose funds might have worked to transform a gritty neighborhood in South Central into something better, was also used to plant thousands of oak trees along the hillsides. The lands around the museum are now verdant and shaded.

$1.3 billion was spent on the museum. And twenty years later people sleep on the streets of Los Angeles. But art is safe, secure and protected.

Such are our priorities.

But that is another discussion.

There are still, to the photographic eye, many lines and textures and shadows dancing all over the buildings and grounds of the Getty.

These are some I captured.

Getty Textures 53 Getty Textures 61 Getty Textures 65

Getty Textures 78
Alessandro Borsani, Student, Visting from Milan.

Getty Textures 68 Getty Textures 69

Getty Textures 86
Elliott Kai-Kee, Educator

Getty Textures 84

A Quiet Enclave


DSCF0020

There’s a little area of Glendale or east Burbank or whatever you want to call it, a quiet neighborhood nestled into the confluence of Griffith Park, Victory Blvd, and Riverside Drive.

Old, snug, shaded, smelling of horse and hay, hit with the low, dull roar of the nearby 134, its winding houses and cottages are silent, eccentric, redolent of the old Western town, and completely out of tune with the flash, bang and sprawl city of Los Angeles.

I’m drawn back here. Especially on days like yesterday when the skies were dark, and gray clouds spread over the San Gabriels in a convincing display of more ominous meteorological conditions.

It was cool and autumnal when I turned up Winchester Avenue and parked near Riverside.

Hidden in the crook, under large trees, I found a sprawling, two-story high, hacienda apartment with a red tiled roof, white painted brick and a lush green lawn obliviously and joyfully unworried by drought. Adirondack chairs, twig chairs, plastic chairs, and a barbecue threw off an impression of eternal leisure and life without worry. A 1965 Turquoise Chevy Chevelle sat on the driveway: as if yesterday was still today and what was old was still young.

California, up until about 1960, built apartments that looked like well-to-do homes. You might live here poor, work as a waiter, scrape by on next-to-nothing, but you were surrounded and intoxicated with hope and dreams and a stage set of domestic happiness. Your aspirations were given to you the moment you arrived at Union Station. Only later did you realize they would be taken away.

DSCF0017

IMG_7672 IMG_7671


DSCF0026 DSCF0035 DSCF0041 DSCF0046 DSCF0052 DSCF0057

The streets are clean in Burbank and Glendale, often spotless.

Coming from Van Nuys, which gives a social excuse to every ill around us, it is remarkable that Burbank and Glendale are run so seemingly well, with a presentable public face that is simultaneously progressive and traditional.

Streets are swept. Windows are washed. Alleys are paved. Walls have no tags or markings. There are no shopping carts of clothes tied to trees. There are no tent cities of the dispossessed under the overhangs of buildings.

DSCF0027

 

 

Processed with VSCOcam with q2 preset

IMG_7666

And there are many small motels here. But I didn’t see prostitutes and pimps and hookers and johns and the sex community walking along Victory in Glendale.

Maybe the laws are tougher here. Maybe the police and the courts and the residents work together. Whatever they are doing here they are not doing on Sepulveda Boulevard.

At a public safety meeting last week in Van Nuys, held jointly by Councilwoman Nury Martinez and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, the issue of homelessness came up. Ms. Martinez spoke to a resident complaining that public sidewalks are now taken up with the private possessions of individuals. The Councilwoman said the courts had sided with the people who tie their shopping carts to trees and put up tents in the alley. “You can’t haul away their belongings.”

Legally, the illegal is legal.

And that is the way the new world works. What would have been unimaginable in 1945, 1955 or 1965 is tolerable today because everyone knows that toleration—not the law—is the highest principle liberalism can aspire to.

The inhumanity and injustice of allowing people to live on sidewalks and eat trash and set up tents anywhere, that must be tolerated because “we are understanding.”

Maybe it would be inconvenient for him, but Mayor Garcetti should allot some time in his schedule to drive way out to Glendale from LA City Hall and contemplate what they are doing that provides some space for civilization and contemplation that is missing in much of the San Fernando Valley and greater Los Angeles.

IMG_7669

Charm’s End.


DSCF0011 DSCF0009 DSCF0045

If one were seeking calmness, emptiness, and quiet, a strange but real place to find it might be found on Victory Boulevard, north of Alameda in Burbank.

Here, after 6pm, on a Friday evening, between the close of business and the setting of the sun, I walked, with a friend and a camera, along this stretch.

DSCF0018 DSCF0057 DSCF0032 DSCF0025 DSCF0013

Back here, in the shadow of the mountains, somewhere east of the Golden State Freeway, the old Burbank hangs on, consistent in its ethos of cleanliness, orderliness, workaday business and enterprise, un-self conscious, without irony, quietly fixing cars; selling donuts, batteries, oil and lube jobs.

One-story buildings are occasionally broken up by 1970s English style castles and 1990s glass block offices. But the silent majority of style remains firmly in Dwight D. Eisenhower’s hands. There is no litter, no graffiti, no people selling things on the sidewalk, no people laying on the sidewalk or sleeping on benches, no dog shit on the grass.

DSCF0055 DSCF0031

But some people are suffering behind the tidiness.

At the very beginning of our walk, a middle-aged man was smoking a cigarette outside of a motel near Frank’s Restaurant. He told us he was an animator and had two sons, ages 13 and 15. He had lost his job, and later his home, and was evicted and now living in temporary housing room with his kids. He was white, and perhaps a little younger than me, friendly and well-spoken.

Yet, he too embodied something old and old time in his friendliness, as if he had stepped out of the Great Depression and into one of Dorothea Lange’s photographs.

I didn’t take his picture but his words are seared into me.

DSCF0010 DSCF0007 DSCF0049 Winchells Victory Burbank DSCF0029

 

 

Tom Ford’s Style Makeover


1382630609019_project-upgrade-tom-ford-edition-gq-magazine-november-2013-style-lead

Last night I was trying to make use of the lamentable offerings on Roku and found myself on the Conde Nast Channel.

Offerings included a snappy series of style makeover videos hosted by Tom Ford, a handsome fashion designer who once ran Gucci.

In each short, Mr. Ford and a middle-aged editor at GQ appraised a guy who needed stylizing.

An array of schmucks, always under 35, with nice hair and nice jobs, stood in front of a white studio backdrop.

Mr. Ford, tanned, expensive and exfoliated; large glasses, fingers on his chin, looked them up and down.

“You are quite handsome, do you know that? But your eyes have crow feet,” he said to one man.

“You have premature gray hair,” he said to another 30-year-old, “Your eyebrows need trimming. The eyebrows are the architecture of the face.”

Onto these men went layers of Tom Ford clothing: oversized wool turtlenecks, tight jeans, high boots, suede jackets, and strangling scarves.

And upon completion, he would render his verdict based on the men’s new clothes and grooming.

“Now you look like a successful restaurant owner!”

“Now you are ready to be the CEO of the company!”

“If you want to be President in five years this is how you have to dress!”

He delivered his opinions with the confidence of a scientist and the reliability of a psychic.

Who would argue with Mr. Tom Ford, a man of large ego and white teeth, who rode into fame’s frontier pushing brands and image, marketing and makeover, money and manliness?

Perhaps I would.

Well-knotted neckties and well-tailored suits, polished dress shoes and good hair might count for something.

And many live thinking that if I only knew what I wanted to do in five years I could figure it out.

Mr. Ford, no disrespect intended.

But please fuck off. People like you bring us down when you bring us up.

The only expert we need is our own conscience.
Perfectionism demoralizes.