Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Watch where you're going

It’s amazing how oblivious we are going through life (or at least how oblivious I am going through life). Recent example:

A couple of days ago I drove over Beverly Glen. This is a local canyon that separates West Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley. I use it frequently. Anything to stay off the 405 Freeway. When I had my play at the Falcon Theatre I took Beverly Glen every day for two months. My car could negotiate the turns on its own.

I usually had the radio on so was listening to music or a ballgame. Traffic was sometimes slow but it generally moved. And it was always faster than the 405, even when I was behind a garbage truck or a meteor landed on the road.

This time over Beverly Glen I also had a letter to mail so I kept my eyes open for a mailbox. In so doing I found myself really paying attention to my surroundings.

And it was like a completely different experience. For the first time I noticed….

One guy has a boat in front of his place.

Another has a vintage 65 Mustang.

Some of the trees have turned colors and are New England-like. 

There are lot more houses for sale on the east side of the street than the west.

Hippies still exist.

Someone was throwing out a couch or maybe a person. There was a guy sitting on the couch.

There are some very cool mid-century homes.

One nimrod has planted cactus.

There are speed limits on some of the turns.  

A few have white houses with bright red or blue front doors. They must get Jehovah’s Witnesses constantly.

One homeowner still had his "Vote for Shriver" sign in the front lawn.  Do they know up there that the election is over? 

I hope that was a dog and not a wolf.  I was just relieved there wasn't a baby in its mouth.

There’s a new repaved section without lines yet. Is it okay to pass?

Homemade lemonade stands do shitty business on busy canyon roads.

There's a food market.   And it's probably been there my whole life.

The point is I observed so many more things than usual simply by paying attention. How much of the rest of the world around me am I missing by grooving along with Queen and obsessing over that joke I just can’t seem to make work? It’s one thing to stop and smell the roses; it’s another to recognize there are roses there.

I hope to build on this and be more observant in the future. There’s a lot more to see than I’m seeing. Unfortunately, I think within a few days I’ll slip right back into my old ways. But it’s worth making the effort once in awhile. That’s all I’m sayin’.

And no, I never found a mailbox.


Anonymous said...

Wonderful column, Ken. It's so hard to notice things when you're driving. When I'm a passenger, I see so much more.

Charlee H. said...

Charlee H.

Brian Hennings said...

Great post, Ken. Reminds me of the Ferris Bueller quote.

And I agree with Anon... whenever I'm a passenger on a route I regularly drive, I'm surprised by the amount of things I notice that I've never seen before.

John said...

More disturbing is that I find that even on hands free when I am on the phone I barely remember driving. Don't know if I ran a red light, sped, hit a pedestrian. Scary, because I am sure I'm not alone.

MikeK.Pa. said...

Re: "Someone was throwing out a couch or maybe a person. There was a guy sitting on the couch." Being California, maybe it was a high-end bus stop. Was there a Starbucks stand next to it?

Good luck finding a mail box. It's like finding a pay phone. Or a road map.

Regarding observing people: One of the best ways is taking a train. I commuted for 15 years by train and amazing the cross section of people you see.

Scooter Schechtman said...

Glen? Canyon? You Angelenos sure have funny names for your cricks and hollers.

RockGolf said...

Note to self: If I see Ken Levine driving, keep a wide berth. He's probably not paying attention.

(Hey, I'm in Canada, can't give a much wider berth than that.)

Pete Grossman said...

A guy named "Scooter" is calling "Glen Canyon" an odd name? Oh sure, Sherman Oaks is named after a developer, but a glen is a deep, long valley. Not really a big stretch.

Speaking of Sherman Oaks, on the Sherman Oaks side heading up Beverly Glen near Mulholland, there is a mailbox, albeit an inconvenient one - it sits atop a 25 foot pole and says, I kid you not, "Air Mail."

Chester said...

You were mailing a letter??... What the hell is a letter?

Unknown said...

Couldn't find a mailbox? Kind of like looking for your keys or glasses and they're right in the open. You go blind to the thing you are looking for.

Of course they basically have eliminated all mailboxes on corners after 9/11.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.

We be what we be...Freewill or not.....it's irrelevant.

When I was a wee Tor, walkin' to grade school, the owner of the former Pittsburgh Mercantile (Which began as an honest to goodness Coal Company Store - just as in "Sixteen Tons," was gazing skyward from just outside his store's front-door.

He, in a most excitedly amazed voice with expression to match, stopped me and spake thus,
"Look! Look up there! The MOON IS OUT and IT's DAYTIME!"

Moi, greatly surprised by this, I had viewed the moon in daylight many times and I 'twere just a kid, looked at him, no doubt somewhat confused AND skeptical...
...how could ANYONE get to be so old and never viewed the moon by day... replying
"Yeah, it's out a lot in daytime."

I walked on as he continued to gaze and say "I've never seen that before. Never!"

I thought at that epiphanmatic moment ,
"I don't wanna end-up that way,"
I ain't.

Though we're all just serving entropy and shall be served as worm's entrée...if I have any say (and with Determinism/Indeterminism moi ain't) ...I go down dancin'.

Damien said...

I had the same experience once. For some reason I decided to drive the the speed limit down La Cienega.

Hamid said...

Someone was throwing out a couch or maybe a person. There was a guy sitting on the couch.

That image is hilarious. If it was a domestic incident, all they would have needed was a camera crew from COPS and the scene would be complete.

I've come across a number of eccentric or downright bizarre people on my visits to LA. Three stick out in my memory for their quirkiness. One was a homeless guy in Santa Monica asking for change. Nothing unusual about that. But when I said I didn't have any, he said "Take me home with you, man. C'mon, I'm tired." As much as I wanted to let him crash in my hotel room, I had to decline.

Another time I saw a homeless guy on the street holding a sign on which he'd written "Homeless, hungry, etc." Maybe he just wanted to show his skill with writing executive summaries.

But the most memorable encounter was at a train station when I walked past a woman who seemed as unremarkable as the next person. As I continued on, I heard her say in a really deep creepy ass voice "Satan is your god. You know this to be true". That was some scary shit, but then without missing a beat she asked someone "Where does this train go to?"

YEKIMI said...

A few have white houses with bright red or blue front doors.

Never really noticed that until my brother moved into a new housing development. I then noticed while all the homes were generically alike they all had doors that were different bright colors....bright purple, green, orange, etc. I assumed it was for those nights when the suburbanites came home shitfaced they'd be able to tell which house was theirs. To me it looked the same as if a person had a giant herpes sore in the middle of their forehead (Late 70s a housing allotment was built where I lived at the time, hundreds of houses that all had the same Diarrhea Brown (as I called it) vinyl siding. I knew the developer and asked why he chos such a horrendous color and his response was that "No one wanted it, the factory was looking to unload it, so I got it at an incredibly cheap price. I don't have to live there and look at it so why should I care what color it is?"

Len said...

Check out the jazz club in the hidden strip mall near the top of Muholland and Beverly Glen. I believe it is owned by Herb Alpert.

tb said...

Well, it sounds like Kens eye problem cleared up. The red front door thing, isn't that a feng-shui requirement or something? And Chester said "What's a letter". That's good - reminds me that when Kareem Abdul Jabbar got his statue in front of Staples center he received a congratulatory TELEGRAM from Larry Bird. I thought "What is this, the 1940's?"

Mike said...

Watch where you're going. Recent example: A couple of days ago I drove over Beverly Glen.
I didn't know her personally...

Someone was throwing out a couch or maybe a person. There was a guy sitting on the couch.
Narrator: Many Los Angeles residents try to attract rare & exotic fauna to their gardens. For example, by placing an old sofa on the front lawn, they can observe weary pedestrians.

Cap'n Bob said...

This just in: Ken Levine seriously injured when he rammed the back of a garbage truck on Glen Canyon Drive.

Dan Ball said...

Maybe the couch potatoes got tired of watching TV and decided just to watch traffic instead? They probably got tired of NBC's PETER PAN promos.

"Ethel, that creepy guy's doing the slow drive-bys again! Every goddamned day for the past two goddamned months he drifts through here. Always behind the damn garbage truck, too. What's up with that? Time to put an end to this madness. Either get me the remote or the Smith & Wesson! And get me a Nattie Light too, will yas?"

When possible, I always take the scenic route. You never know when you'll find a quicker way to get somewhere or a longer way that's hella more interesting/entertaining. It drives my family and friends NUTS! Well, I say nuts to them and their Point A-Point B neurosis.

If there's an airport nearby, that usually plays a large part in my madness, too. Being an aircraft mechanic's kid will do that to ya. It's probably no coincidence I live in a town where I pass by a neighborhood airport nearly everyday driving home from work. Bowman Field in Louisville (where they shot part of GOLDFINGER) is the neatest curiosity. Just in the middle of the old subdivision neighborhoods developed in the 40s and 50s is this little neighborhood airport in the middle of the city. Art Deco terminal, Art Deco hangars, plenty of aviation-themed bars and liquor stores. Did I mention it was featured in GOLDFINGER? It's Heaven!

Ken, I'm proud of you for championing the scenic route. Keep spreading the awareness! lol

The Curmudgeon said...

Never found a mailbox? Of course no -- you've got about as much chance, these days, of finding a phone booth.

By Ken Levine said...


Is that airfield near Curran Rd.? I had relatives who lived there and I would visit as a kid. It was one of those housing developments, and I seem to recall a small airport nearby. Wonder if it's the same.

Dan Ball said...


That's the one! My wife and I found a pretty nice house on Curran that we wanted to buy a few years back. When you drive down that street and get to the main road, you're looking right at that Art Deco terminal. They've got a fancy French restaurant in there now called Le Relais. There's also this really old Lockheed Lodestar sitting out on the tarmac probably in the same spot since you visited. I know it hasn't moved much in the last 20 years.

Did you know at the time that the GOLDFINGER scenes with Pussy Galore's Flying Circus were filmed a block away from their house?

By Ken Levine said...

Did not know that. I do know they filmed scenes in Louisville. Another Louisville memory is Bob Bolin's fried chicken. Best fried chicken and onion rings in the world.

Dan Ball said...

I'm sad to report I haven't heard of Bolin's fried chicken or onion rings. I couldn't even find anything on Google that they ever existed. KFC Yum! probably had Google censor non-KFC fried chicken hits in the Louisville area. After all, they have naming rights to the Derby and our big arena downtown is called the KFC Yum! Center (aka "The Bucket").

RCP said...

I've driven Beverly Glen (live a block away from it) but usually don't get the opportunity to slow down and enjoy the scenery - as soon as I do, someone's riding my bumper. That's "life" on normal stretches, but I refuse to speed up on the curves - I'm not flying off into space so the jackass behind me can save three minutes.