Postcard courtesy of Valley Relics/ Tommy Gelinas.
There are no sudden storms in the Southland.
They are slow, and anticipated for many days before arrival.
The rains of Los Angeles are not the violent and fast moving ones from my youth in Illinois.
They come from San Francisco, imported and exotic, served only in winter.
They travel, as if on a slow moving freight train, chugging down across the mountains, picking up wind and moving clouds with great effort, until, by eminent domain, they seize this region in rains, pushing out that squatter the sun, drenching the city in something purifying and disorienting, dark and light; a benevolent symphony of Earth’s workings, cleansing and renewing.
The rains of Los Angeles are a strange corrective of nature. They are more powerful and more intimidating than the human cesspool city of sudden violence and crashing cars. The Army of the Clouds is a conqueror who must be obeyed. Under occupation, rivers are rerouted, trees blown over, electrical current shut off, oceans churned, roads made impassible.
But they are kind in power, artful in practice.
They transform the ugliness of asphalt into reflecting pools.
They tame cars, dragging them through curbside baths.
They throw dark daytime shadows across the city.
And after they pass, one looks east, towards Pasadena and the nation beyond it.
And we stand, once again in the sun, in the Southland, in our winter.
Left to our own devices.
(Postcard courtesy of Valley Relics)
Assisting Tommy Gelinas of Valley Relics in his cataloging of unique and historic items related to the San Fernando Valley, I came across this June 1974 postcard sent from Valley Presbyterian Hospital in Van Nuys to a family in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.
“My Dearest Ones,
Sorry I haven’t wrote sooner but so worried and upset over Mother. Almost lost her. Her pulse was dropping down to 15 from time to time. Then a week ago last Sunday she had a heart attack in the hospital. A week ago today they did surgery and put a pace maker in. She looks great and feeling so much better. If all goes well she will go to my place a week from today.
Edie and Jim”
The medical center, still standing but greatly enlarged at 15107 Vanowen St., is described as a “unique circular medical center, located in the San Fernando Valley.”
This morning, as I drove through Wendy’s parking lot on my way to LA Fitness, I saw a man lying face down on the parking lot asphalt.
I stopped my car and asked him if he was all right. He barely responded.
Not knowing whether he had overdosed, been stabbed, shot, or merely collapsed, I called 9-1-1.
Within minutes the LAPD showed up, followed by the LAFD.
What follows is, in my opinion, a fine example of professionalism demonstrated by law and safety officers.
At the corner of 15856 Sherman Way , Van Nuys, 1926.
Wagner-Thoreson appears to be a real estate broker and they are offering one property, a 3-bedroom house at $2350 and another sign advertises 7.5% terms with $1,050 down.
This area today is west of the 405, and just east of Van Nuys Airport.
Photo: USC Digital Archives/ Dick Whittington Collection
The parking lot at Wendy’s (6181 Sepulveda at Erwin) is full of trash. It has been that way for many months.
The scene: shopping baskets full of garbage, discarded clothes, fast food containers, and all the litter that a Wendy’s can produce.
Conversations with the man who cleans the parking lot at Wendy’s, along with a visit to an employee at Wendy’s has produced no results. They tell me that the responsibility for cleaning belongs to LA Fitness Van Nuys, even though the towing signs along the cinderblock are all “Wendy’s”.
LA Fitness takes care of everything in their newly paved area, but Wendy’s takes care of nothing except what is directly around the sidewalks on their building perimeter.
Why is this tolerated?
Sheer laziness and neglect and the refusal to take responsibility and pride: that is Wendy’s doing.
The victims are anyone who lives in Van Nuys and the surrounding community.
Yesterday I went, as I have for almost six months, to visit my Mom, ill with cancer, now in hospice, at her apartment in the Marina.
She can’t walk now, so she is either in bed, or lifted onto a chair, wheeled over and pushed out, into the sun, or more often, up to the TV, where many hours of daytime talk shows play without end.
She asked me to sit down, next to her.
She said there was an explosion of news about cancer cures and people whose terminal illness had been cured through “miraculous” immunotherapies. Would I look into this she asked?
Told that she was Stage 4, incurable, sick with bone and lung cancer, she has accepted the news, but fought it through inquiry and denial. She told me she was coughing more because she had caught a cold.
Loretta, her live-in caregiver, brought my mother into the living room, to vacuum the bedroom. The bedside phone rang, and Loretta handed me a call from Direct TV.
I answered in the voice of old gruff Junior Soprano. I told the woman we were retired people, uninterested in her offer, and hung up. My mother laughed, hoarsely, and said that she loved that voice I used.
She is still fully there, her mental capacity undimmed, even as life seeps out and the monstrosity of dying cells takes over.
I made a lunch of grilled salmon and roasted garlic, rice, fruit salad, plain yogurt, and hot green tea. If healthy eating were enough to insure health this meal might defeat cancer.
After lunch, Loretta wrapped my Mom up. And I pushed Mom in the wheelchair down to vote in the Marina City Club, where more old people manned tables and passed over registration books, which my mother let me sign.
I stood next to her and fed the flimsy two-holed ballot into its plastic holder, and began to read the names of politicians to my mother, who only knew one, Governor Jerry Brown. We read each page: names of candidates and parties running for offices; all enigmas.
Is an ignorant voter more dangerous than an intelligent one who abstains from voting?
We turned the ballot back in, having punched only one hole and we were given stickers that read: “I have voted”.
I took her to the park across Admiralty Way, a running and biking path between the speeding cars and the tall buildings.
Behind the Ralph’s parking lot on Lincoln, there was a small opening in a fence, and I walked down to see if we could get through it. I judged that we could, and I pushed my mother in her chair over the asphalt onto the bark’s decline, through the fence hole and past the dumpster into the parking lot.
She hadn’t been inside a store in six months, and now, where she had once driven herself and walked in, she sat as she was pushed past edibles.
We picked up extra virgin olive oil, aluminum foil and wheeled back to the Marina City Club.
I seem not to cry much when I visit, acclimated am I to the new grimness.
I became, in the last six months, a high-ranking soldier: inspecting the medicines, giving orders to the homecare workers, pulling in supplies, taking over financial, legal and medical decisions, signing papers, managing staff and bringing drugs to the ill and dying, issuing directives for non-resuscitation and cremation.
I had no training, only a sense of duty, obligation and rightness.
When I left yesterday, in the late afternoon, I kissed my mother on the cheek and held her hand, and wandered out into the wind propelled in blank distraction.
From this time afterward I existed in a suspended and stoned state of mind, up on Abbot Kinney drinking wine, and later, intoxicated, walking up alleys and behind buildings camera in hand, anesthetized and numbed.
A woman sitting on the sidewalk, not homeless just sad, stopped me and asked me about my camera. Tina introduced herself. She told me her husband was divorcing her and taking custody of their two children. She asked if, one day, I might want to take photos of her and the children. She told me I should volunteer at Venice Arts and teach kids photography.
I was on wine so I was kind. I listened and gave her my card.
I think I will be like this for a while, even after my mother dies.
Peace will settle on me like a healed burn.