Friday, January 4, 2008

Lankershim in all its glory

no burgers no more

I never know what to expect when I walk out my front door. Despite its garish abundance of used car lots, abandoned furniture warehouses and endless potholes, North Hollywood has its more flavorful moments. There's a part of North Hollywood that is unique for its run-down desolation. I'm talking about the part of North Hollywood that I know very well: the mile long stretch of Lankershim that runs northwest of Burbank Blvd. My dog and I both know this section very well, we walk that dirty mile down and back a couple times a week. For her it's a sidewalk park devoid of tasty fourlegged animals, and for me it's a real-live treadmill. During these 40 minutes I get to know my neighborhood and to take it all in, breathe in the dust and the bus smoke, step around the crusted vomit outside the laundromat, bypass the greasetrap leak over by the Yum Yum donuts and try not to smell that horrible sickly smell of boiling chicken or pork or whatever it is that every apartment around here likes to cook that smells so goddamn bad.
This walk can be as much of a punishment as a reward. In the summer it can be as blistering and hot as a naked walk through El Paso with nothing on but a pair of worn cowboy boots and some Malibu Tanning oil. At night it's a no-man's land of men circling in their waxed cars like vultures, simultaneously rolling their tinted window down just as they pull up alongside me and my dog. Avoiding them is like a scarier version of Frogger; so I prefer to walk in the day, and the ridiculous summertime heat doesn't stop me. I walk with an open mind, squinted eyes, and a bad attitude, pissed off and ready for anyone that tries to talk to me. Leave me alone. No, I'm not a hooker. No, I'm not a stripper, and if I was doncha think I would take a cab?
"So what kind of work do you do" Mr. Seik-in-a-turban asks me.
I don't want to answer that.
"Am I working today?"
No, I'm not working today.
"Your dog doesn't look like she's feeling good."
I know. that's why I'm standing in the shade with her.
"Do you want a ride?"
Uh, no. (visions of him turning the corner the wrong way while we're in his shitty volvo station wagon, never to be seen again...)
We're almost home. It's not that far and she'll be fine..
"I have a bottle of water in my car, do you want it?"
Yes. Fine. I'll have a water. But you go get it and bring it back and I'm not doing anything for it.
"Well, do want anything else?"
"Are you sure you wouldn't like some money or some food stamps?"
(Are you kidding me? Do I look like I need foodstamps? !!!)
I'm not poor. Give me the water and leave me alone.Thank you.
Oh wait, I look down...I'm wearing a cutoff jean skirt and a faded turquiose tanktop with a motorcycle on it. It's really hot out and I'm sweating. Pure WT-wear. And I AM a white girl. All this adds up to the wrong picture for this guy and any man driving by in his jalopy landscaping truck.
"Are you sure you're not looking for a 'date'?"
I walk away, shaking my head. Second thoughts immediately creep up. Hell, I should've just asked for 20 bucks and hopped on over to Fashion Q to pick up something cute. Oh well. Guess you can't blame a guy for trying. You rarely see girls walking this stretch unless they're behind a stroller with another 3 kids at their side, or ones with a cold sore and bad roots. So why would I be walking just for fun? Hmm, maybe because I have a fucking dog that needs to be walked? Too obvious for some.


So usually during our walk I have to keep my headphones up real loud to drown out all the hissing, the honking, the name calling. Some of it still catches me off guard still though. A bum sabotaged me once during my walk on Christmas Day. He popped up from behind a low cinderblock wall that enclosed an empty dirt lot and told me,
"Hey baby, you look like MEAT! YUM!"
Was he hungry? I did not have any holiday ham in my pockets to give him, poor thing. My other bit of seasonal cheer came this New Year's Day. While walking in the parking lot past Circus Liquor Store I received a loud hollar and a
"Shake Yer Clam, Whoooooo!"
from a very happy bum. He sure was spreading his joy because he made me and some other random people within earshot laugh too. I've decided that there comes a point in time when it's best not to be offended by what people say and just roll with it and appreciate the crack-muddled language of the street. It's all in the eye of the beholder anyway, I swear. As I was walking in a crosswalk I had this one guy yell at me that he liked my dog but did not like my ass. That's ok because I liked his car but not his face. His rude comment was just beginning to stick with me until I turned the corner and the next guy that saw me couldn't believe his very eyes. What a booty I beheld!
"Let-me-walk-behind-that-beautiful-mass! Oh, you don't have the time for me? Oh really? Well you look damn good momma. Mmm-mmmm!."
He loved it. Screw that other guy.
I'm a little afraid that my routine walks will be less entertaining as gentrification wipes its clean white glove down Lankershim Blvd. The neighborhood has had a bit of taming over the years, along with the laws that placed silky bikinis over erect nipples in all the city's strip joints, came the disappointing uprooting of cult-classy venues such as Cinema Spa. This all had to happen because, you know, the world really needs another family-friendly Best Western, and nipples are just so dang naughty.
Thankfully though, there are a few gems left and that's why I still have this odd love affair with North Hollywood. Take, for instance, the Silver Saddle Motel with its free-standing "Mr. Blonde" advertisement for 99-cent Camel filters, circa early eighties. What? How, and more importantly, Why? Are the cigarettes from 1980 too? Besides that small wonder there's the spray painted horse on the roof. And the deserted burger joint that hasn't been open for years next door. I'm sorry to say I've never had the pleasure of riding out a night at the Silver Saddle, and so it is on my list of things to do before I die. Before North Hollywood loses another seedy cockroach-infested icon from its pornorific hey-day, I really must step foot through the worn painted doors and onto the dirty carpet. With all respect, I'm only assuming that the carpet's dirty because this venerable motel has only, count them, two employees. Now that's alot of cleaning for whomever is not working the door. As dirty and disgusting as this place may be, it still gets points for not burying its ugly head amongst all the reform. And any guy who's man enough to pay for a rough night there with me on some plastic sheeting with a bottle of rum and some bug spray I'd say I'll be his forever.
So while keeping with the theme of things, after that said fanciful night at the S.S.M., maybe the next day I'll have to leave the guy behind and finish off my trashy excursion with a hung-over walk down to Denny's for some weak coffee amongst the other NOHO nere-do-wells. And then, of course, I'll have to walk that dirty mile back home. Alone.
Just maybe on that walk-of-shame I'll meet up with some familiar faces. If I'm lucky, I'll run in to the tall and flamboyant "Concetta" at a stop light, and we'll do a quick chat about about shoes or the weather, while I hide my smile remembering the first time I ran into her.
It was enormously hot that day. I could see her coming up from the corner of my eye as I waited at the Oxnard light at Lankershim. She looked so uncomfortable in the sweltering heat in her black stretchy rayon tube skirt, top, scarf, and 4 inch wedgies. She had an awkward gait and her narrow hips looked like they couldn't support the heavy burden of whatever was stuffed in her bra. The worst of it was that the afternoon sun really was winning the battle over her makeup. It was running down in rivulets and making a sad attempt to cover the thick stubble that shadowed her very well defined, square jaw.
She had to bend her slender yet full-calved legs to take a good look at my blockheaded female pit (who had a pink collar on, lest you mistake her identity).
Her coal-rimmed eyes lit up as she commented,
"Oooooh! How cute!" in a whisky and honey and Virginia Slims voice, but still questioned,
"Is it a boy or a girl?"
Haha, how funny you should ask?