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Awkward, ill-proportioned, ungainly, ostentatious, oversized, outdated, gaudy, trendy, remodeled, modernized, updated, whatever their individual personality characteristics and physical appearance, once they had undergone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.

More Postcard Observations

Budweiser FrontBudweiser Back


The Joseph Schlitz Brewery on Roscoe in Van Nuys was an especially popular destination in the 1950s through the 70s.

The adjoining Busch Gardens, with its array of exotic birds and lush waterfalls, was another fantasy environment of natural artifice, like Disneyland or Knotts Berry Farm, a fake beloved world for visitors to Southern California to write home about.

I have scanned many cards (owned by Valley Relics) of the famed gardens, and one in particular caught my eye.

Postmarked March 4, 1960, it was addressed to Miss Donna Friedl, 1921 Maynard Avenue, Cleveland 9, Ohio.


It read:


Hello Donna,


I did not pay for this card they give it to you for visiting the brewery, from Grandpa Friedl.

Something in his wry comment leads me to imagine Grandpa Friedl as a white-haired, humorous, kind man who might have snuck past his wife to offer his granddaughter Donna some candy before dinner.

That was a long time ago.

Nobody has a young daughter named Donna any more.

Busch Front



Fabulous SFV Front

“The Fabulous San Fernando Valley” is another postcard unintentionally funny.

For here is a view of what looks like Sepulveda Boulevard, somewhere east of the 405, (today’s Galleria) with the dam and mountains in the distance, and thousands of cars packed into the foreground.

Fabulous? The grandiose superlatives of Southern California (best weather, best women, best bodies, best schools, best place to live) were spoken of so often, that the actual truth seemed blasphemous. It was, and is, sometimes very ugly here, boring beyond belief, polluted and blindingly plastic. An early 1960s walk up a Sepulveda, north of Ventura, would lead you past auto junkyards and tacky motels, but you were in a “fabulous” place, didn’t you know it?


Saddle and Sirloin Back


Sixty or seventy years ago, many restaurants fashioned themselves as Western places, with steaks on the menu and wagon wheels on the wall.

Saddle and Sirloin was a small chain with “steaks aged to tenderness” and at their Palm Springs location, in 1949, Daddy and Mother were sitting down to eat a steak and found time to write to their daughter Florence in Newcastle, Indiana and tell her just that.

“We’re about to eat a steak, it’s balmy outside,” Mom wrote. Her appetite and her temperature lead one to salacious thoughts. Perhaps she looked like Jane Russell, with dark red lipstick. With love and dinner and hot weather….. could the bedroom be far behind?


Otto's Pink Pig Restaurant Back


Otto’s Pink Pig Restaurant at 4958 Van Nuys Boulevard was another well-known place whose warmhearted postcard promised “Otto’s Famous Baked Ham Sandwich, Best in the US” and “Mike O’Shea’s Special Salad Supreme.”

Their motto: Big Enough to Serve You- Small Enough to Know You.

Eating out, dining in a restaurant, was not done several times a week, as is the case today. People ate at home. They ate what Mom cooked.

So it was a special treat to go to Otto’s and dine on such fare as Filet of Sole Marguery or Roast Long Island Duckling (shipped fresh by refrigerated freight train?).

Hearty, friendly, generous with drink and food, sensibly priced: was it all of those things?

Long gone and obliterated, the neighborhood, an off-ramp of banality, is now home to strips of office buildings, medical offices, and Sherman Oaks Hospital. There is nothing exotic, fun or magical here as there was when Otto’s Pink Pig lived here.




Ralph’s Sherman Oaks.

DSCF0084 DSCF0087


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.

DSCF0089 DSCF0090

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.

DSCF0092 DSCF0091



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 or 818-374-0031.