Happy ride and fake solitude
February 3, 2021 § 7 Comments
Yesterday I had a rare blogging lapse and spent the day considering whether I was going to keep forging ahead with daily writing. It took a lot of reflection, by which I mean lying in bed, to realize that of course I’m going to continue.
All that bed-lying came on the heels of two happy rides. The first was two days ago. I started out at the bottom of the mountain, which I’ve still yet to ascend completely, and made it about an hour and twenty minutes up until the snow got too deep. Much had fallen since my last time I’d ridden up that high, but much was also melting, which meant boggy, sloggy, not-very-rideable conditions.
On the descent I practically had my ankles jarred up into my shoulders. The downhill is rough. Giant cracks cross the road and the only shock absorbers I had besides my 35mm Panaracer touring tires were my elbows, knees, neck, and spine. It took a solid twenty minutes to get to the bottom, and my hands were so cramped up from the constant clenching that I had to stop at one point to relax them.
About an hour up there is a big green house. It’s four whole miles up this dirt mountain road, and five+ miles in total from the highway. There is no other house once you hit the dirt. Those folks are isolated. The house is powered by a massive diesel generator. They have a gas tank on stilts that holds hundreds of gallons of fuel. I supposed they like being alone; we all do after a fashion.
But this kind of solitude seems fake. The generator is incredibly loud and smelly, belching as it does diesel exhaust. The idea of being alone in a mountain home far from humanity doesn’t work so well when you sound like four or five humanities with your smoking, choking generator.
Half a mile further up is a small house on stilts. It runs on propane, I guess. The curtains, which are big cloth tarps, have always been drawn the two times I’ve been up, and like the other house there has been no human activity ever visible. I figure that these people do what everyone else does. They watch TV or sit in front of their phone.
Is that the whole point of solitude? To watch TV? Can’t you do that in, say, Los Angeles?
There’s another problem with solitude, as I’ve learned and re-learned countless times in my life. And it’s this: If things aren’t quiet in your head, it doesn’t matter where you live. You’re never going to have peace of mind simply by changing location. Now it’s true that environment helps to quell the mental racket, and in a lot of cases it’s the environment that is the source of the racket. So you can make a lot of progress towards reaching solitude by leaving that type of racket behind.
But true solitude, where you are able to listen to nothing and hear only what is on the wind or in the trees or within the bounds of the streams, that kind of quiet requires a mental aloneness that only comes with a lot of practice and with the careful jettisoning of society’s cowbells, work whistles, ringtones, and the barking dogs who populate the infinity of the Internet.
Though I’ve never yogaed or meditated, I doubt that either of those things can bring you long-term solitude if you’re still surrounded by the normal racket of things once the session ends. Those folks stuck up high on the mountainside may have achieved a kind of silence–they sure can’t hear the sound of the trash truck–but I doubt they’ve achieved solitude, since both houses have pretty sizeable satellite dishes stuck to the siding.
For a while at least I’m holed up at the paved end of this mountain road. It’s pretty quiet up here even though I have neighbors who I’ve yet to actually see. The sun rose a few minutes ago, noiselessly. The morning wind blew. There was a little racket in my head but now it’s all here, on the screen, and the important space is quiet once again.
Live your faith
January 31, 2021 § 3 Comments
I had started off on a dirt road that turned into deep sand and then morphed into rocks and then big rocks and then broken pavement and then a jagged asphalt lip and then a proper road that led back to the highway.
All in all a bust, as I’d been looking for a dirt route that would follow the river all the way to my destination, four or five miles hence.
After a half-mile on the highway I spied a dirt road down below that looked like it might parallel the river, so I took a USFS trail and almost went over the bars going down a slope that Manslaughter would have taken at 30. The dirt road was good until it wasn’t, becoming sand then mud then dead-end into the river. I bushwhacked for a while until I got tired of hike-a-bike, as the foliage kept getting denser and the nonexistent trail kept not appearing.
I walked back to another dirt trail and to the highway, rode for another mile, and had another stab at it. Again, I found a nice dirt USFS road that became a plunging fall but I didn’t even try to ride it. More walking. One thing about not being in a hurry and about being old (they’re related), and riding with sneakers is that I don’t really mind getting off and walking. It’s the cyclist’s version of multi-modal transportation.
Eventually I wound up in someone’s backyard, which was butt up against an abandoned mill filled with arsenic, mercury, and lead tailings. “KEEP OUT: CANCER AND BIRTH DEFECTS” it said. I did. No pregnancy of mine was going to be endangered by mill tailings.
I rode on the road a bit then skipped off into an abandoned golf course which took me through more sand, more mud, more walking, more pushing, and finally to the river, where a redneck bridge spanned a tiny, gushing, beautiful stream. There were some bright red stockings and underwear and a bra hanging on a bush. Someone had reached that moment where she had to tear everything off asap and didn’t care where it landed.
It didn’t look like there was going to be a Northwest Passage. I had to climb through some brush to get back on the highway, went another minute or two, found another trail, and rode it til it petered out. It was bumpy and jarring. My old bones didn’t exactly love the rattling.
On the way home I stuck to the highway and passed a Catholic church outside town. The spire was rusted but they had a marquis that said, “Live Your Faith.”
What is your faith? Catholicism? Protestantism? Islam? Sikh? Buddhism? Science? Money? Racism? Cars? Bikes?
That sign reminded me that everyone has a faith but few people live the faith they espouse. Most people’s faith is money but they try to live it according to some other faith like religion or morality. But morality and religion cannot be reconciled to the faith of money, so such people end up being hypocrites and miserable.
If you believe in money, live it. Proclaim that money is your solution, your grail, the standard by which you judge yourself and others. Let money be your guide and it will guide you. You will be a lot happier than claiming to care for the poor and the afterlife when, in the privacy of your own home, you are cutting every corner on your taxes, pinching every penny, scheming how to make more, or doing everything you can to show others that you are MAKING IT.
Same for the other faiths, whatever they may be. That church marquis nailed it. Live your faith.
My faith? Bicycle. I believe that my bike is my solution and riding it is my grail. It’s how I judge myself. Did I ride today? Then I lived my faith. Did I use my bike to improve the world today? Then I lived my faith. Etc.
I had to struggle a bit to get home; it’s a 1.2-mile climb up a bitterly steep hill. I was sweaty and tired because, well, I’m not that strong. But I didn’t have any trouble, really, getting up the hill. My faith, you see, was with me all the way.
January 22, 2021 § 1 Comment
I was in the passenger seat today for four and a half hours. I had forgotten what it was like to travel by car. My last car trip was back from Houston to LA in 30 hours, a foggy blur of exhaustion, cold donuts, and lots of night.
This time I was fresh. Rested. Eager to get out and about. See the world. Experience things. In a words: Travel.
Here are some things I noticed acutely.
- No wind. The wind on a bike is your most beloved friend, your most hated foe, or some combination of the two. In a car the only wind you really notice is from last night’s pot of beans.
- Lethargy. Sitting saps energy, but it’s not the tiredness that comes from exertion. You are kind of numb and get number until either a) donuts or b) coffee or c) both.
- Only huge things. You only notice huge things in the car, which consists mainly of other cars, trucks, buildings, signs. There’s no fine-grained detail like there is on a bike, where you don’t simply see flashes of roadside garbage but the actual color, size, and brand of the wrapper.
- Blame casting. When anything happens it’s always their fault–the road contractor, the idiot driver, the horrible traffic jam. On the bike when you fall off at inopportune times, or basically when anything else untoward happens, it’s almost always YOU.
- Tiny skies. The windshield restricts, chokes off the sky. While cycling you see the whole thing in its unobstructed beauty.
- Cops. Never been pulled over for speeding or drug running on my bike.
- Gas. The gas station experience on a bike means “I got a couple of elderly fried burritos and they gave me gas.”
- Peeing. On a bike I can pee anywhere. And do. No exit ramps or searching for a tree or a gas station. Brake, zip, whizz.
- Rattling. Cars rattle. And when the road’s rough or you nail a chug hole, you feel all the fat jiggle. Bikes are much smoother and less jiggly.
- Impatience. In a car you’re impatient to get there. On a bike you’re grateful you ever got there at all.
- Stop-and-go. There’s almost no stop-and-go, bumper-to-bumper bike traffic.
- Fighting. Have you ever been stuck in a car with someone you’re fighting with? Talk about claustrophobic. Never been in a fight on a bike ride, at least not for long, and certainly not with someone I’ve not been unable to escape from.
- Time travel. Cars go so fast you have zero appreciation of changing landscapes, scenery, weather … bam, you’re there.
- Parking. Haven’t yet had to circle the lot to find a parking space for my bike.
- Back and neck cricks. Cars are cramped and they also give you leg cramps. Everything is sore from sitting. When biking it’s mostly just your ass.
For all the whining, there was one part of the drive that I was glad to be in a car, a 14-mile steep uphill, twisting canyon climb with absolutely zero shoulder and plenty of zooming truck traffic. If I’d been biking I’d have chosen a different route, of course. But depending on the route, some roads are best driven, for sure.
January 22, 2021 § 12 Comments
For over a year and an half I did all of my errands by bike. This meant that, in very short order, I wound up with not that many errands, especially when you live at the top of a steep hill that it takes a couple of miles to reach.
The last few weeks, since returning from Texas, I’ve been riding as a passenger in my girlfriend’s car to do things like buy groceries. I never thought too much about it, except this one little detail: In a car you always buy more stuff, because on a bike you have to haul it all home on your back or your rack. How many potatoes and what size milk carton are real issues.
Yesterday she and I were talking. “I need a new cutting board,” I said.
“Let’s go to TJ Maxx,” she said.
“It’s the shop you’ve walked and ridden by about 10,000 times that says ‘TJ Maxx.'”
“Yeah, but what is it? A kitchen store?”
She looked at me like she often does. It’s a look that says, “He’s fucking with me. No, he’s a moron.” She took a breath. “TJ Maxx is a store that sells stuff that everyone wants. Everyday stuff. It’s cheap and the stuff is usually really nice.”
“Cheap and nice? I smell a rat.”
“Well we don’t have to go. I just can’t believe you’ve never been inside a TJ Maxx.”
We got in her car and drove up to the store. It was 10:00 AM and they had just opened; the store was empty except for us. At first it looked like any old Target-type box store. But when we got to the kitchenware my mind was blown. Pots everywhere. Twenty kinds of spatulas. Twenty kinds of mixing bowls. Glass food storage thingies by the zillion. Everything you could want, and tons that you couldn’t, in infinite variety and color. Want a Minnie Mouse spatula that’s too tiny to even flip an egg? Check. Seven kinds of iron teapots? Check. Eight different varieties of wooden cutting boards, all for less than $20? Check.
“This is sick,” I said, happily.
“Yes, she said. It’s TJ Maxx.”
I got my cutting board but did not stop there. There was a great little saucepan with a lid. There was a cool wooden spoon. There was an electric water pot. I kind of lost control, and blinked stupidly at the $75 bill at checkout.
“Are you okay, sir?” the clerk asked.
We got back in the car and I realized what had happened. I’d been car-ed. That’s what happens when you go to buy something and come back with a bunch of stuff you didn’t need and only vaguely wanted. Never happens on a bike. Ever.
Crazypants translator, or Alba Elephantis
January 18, 2021 § 11 Comments
Cyclists who remember the anti-cycling campaign by divorcee-hermit-turned-pariah Robert L. Chapman, Jr., are now getting the last laugh as they watch his white elephant languish on the real estate market for the absurd price of $9.5M. The fun is even better because he’s been trying to unload this stinker since shortly after buying it, with what appears to be at least one failed attempt in 2011, when the owner sought a whopping $10.9M for one of the few properties in Palos Verdes Estates that continues to lose market value as time goes by as compared to appreciation of prices in PVE as a whole. Needless to say, there were no takers.
An objective observer might think the owner has been desperate to get out of this gilded dump for going on ten years. If the house was bought in 2007, that means it took a mere four years for Chapman to presumably sour on the crowds, the police reports, the problems with neighbors, and the ongoing party palace down belowr, all “extras” that a buyer can expect with the purchase of 612 Paseo del Mar. Savvy buyers have taken a pass on this overpriced lump of garish bad taste, and there’s no suggestion that what was ugly then has somehow become beautiful now.
Doesn’t look like 2021 is going to be any better. Now, mired in the muck of a collapsing market, this albatross of a fixer-upper which is too expensive to tear down, too expensive to remodel, and too ugly to live in, is struggling in the one market that always seems to win. Exceptions prove the rule …
In an attempt to get some sucker to bite, a failed real estate copywriter, perhaps Chapman, has penned this write-up of what Chapman has laughably named “Villa Activista,” but which the market refers to as “Alba Elephantis.”
To protect the public from the silliness with which Alba Elephantis is being marketed, I pulled down sections of the the website www.612paseodelmar.com and have provided a handy translator for the crazypants marketing hokum used to lure unsuspecting sods into buying this millstone.
Villa Activista is a trophy property located at 612 Paseo del Mar – the intersection of Bluff and Malaga Coves in Palos Verdes Estates, California. This absolutely authentic French-Italian villa was built sedulously upon nearly an acre on the prime block of the most prestigious street in the city … Villa Activista’s fortunate owners look out unobstructed upon spectacular natural scenery but remain inconspicuous to the outside world.http://www.612paseodelmar.com
Crazypants translator: Has CP ever seen a French-Italian villa? No? Let us help! View the photos below and compare with CP’s “absolutely authentic French-Italian villa.”
CP Translator: “Spectacular natural scenery” in this case means “gorgeous ocean view with ringside view of endless traffic jams, stripping surfers, and party house down below regularly filled with partying rentals.” Another hilarious word he uses is the “Acropolis effect,” emphasizing that in Alba Elephantis you will be perched above the teeming masses. That is actually true. But he neglects the other half of the “Acropolis effect,” which is that sound waves travel up, so you get to hear all the fascinating conversations down below. Morning coffee with a cursing fistfight? Check. Glass of wine in the evening hearing people talk about their epic surf sesh? Check. All-day-long prattle by the public wafting up through your open windows and doors? Check, check, check. So exclusive and privy to start your day with “Fuckin’ killer shit man!”
In the case of Villa Activista, this ocean view mirroring Italy’s Amalfi Coast is the focal point from nearly every room in the house.http://www.612paseodelmar.com
CP Translator: Ah, yes, mirrors the Amalfi Coast … What he means is “apes, and fails to copycat Amalfi.” Folks, the PV Peninsula is pretty, but it’s hardly a world-class destination. Comparing this heavily developed, tiny stretch of coastline replete with eyesores, no culture, no cuisine, and the hideous traffic getting in and out of PV with the Amalfi Coast is hucksterism of the worst sort. What the author means is “another faux Italian home designed to fool people who’ve never been to Italy.”
Horcada Hill homes’ [sic] have a front-row seat to an everchanging [sic] show of sea life, boats and paddleboarders.612paseodelmar.com
CP Translator: Fucking surfers and traffic everywhere, morning to night, whenever there’s surf. Which there usually is. Note: Who in their right mind wants a front row seat to boats and paddleboarders? Isn’t the point of expensive homes to have “unobstructed views of nature”?
Privacy and Peace Perfectly Protected: 612 Paseo del Mar’s massive land size of nearly one acre, combined with its landscaping and dwelling’s positioning on a sloping lot, gives its residents the ultimate in peace and privacy on top of privileged vicinity to Bluff Cove … The Palos Verdes Estates Police Department headquartered a mere two minute drive down Palos Verdes Drive West deepens one’s foundation for peace of mind. Unlike other neighborhoods further away, squad cars patrol this neighborhood with frequency akin to a private security force.612paseodelmar.com
CP Translator: The area swarms with outsiders, so it takes every bit of design to screen out the saggy tummies and jockstraps. Years of reports to the police department have resulted in constant security patrols due to constant fears of crime. The privacy is a fantasy and the fear of intrusions are real. Also, Alba Elephantis has a public-access dirt path that leads from Via Horcada down to the bluff, a handy shortcut for surfers, visitors, amateur photographers, gawkers, and others who want to park in front your home and easily walk to the “surfers paradise.”
With real estate being all about “location, location, location,” from Villa Activista one goes from gazing at to [sic] splashing inthe [sic] ocean after merely a skip across the street. Imagine not having to load the car to hit one of L.A. [sic] “raddest” surf spots: Bluff Cove. Also known as Little Waikiki, the Cove is famous for its long rides both left and right as swells pushing east break upon the rock reef just offshore.612paseodelmar.com
CP Translator: Imagine everyone else in SoCal loading their car to park in front of your home so they can enjoy public access to hit one of LA’s “raddest” surf spots. Also known as “Police Patrol Central,” the massive weekend surf crowds are famous for parties, good times, and a dawn-to-dusk party looking up at your jacuzzi.
If the surf is flat or blown out, peel off your wetsuit and lace up your hiking boots612paseodelmar.
CP Translator: Peel off your wetsuit because SO HAS EVERYONE ELSE. Learn to teach your small children how to say, “That is a hairy penis” and other fun educational projects from the deck.
Tell me again about how hard you have it
January 11, 2021 § 8 Comments
I was walking along the Strand and saw a guy with a bike digging cans out of the trash. The path was crowded with people, beautiful people, not beautiful people, vigorous people, slothful people, made-up people, ponytail people, all of them there to see and be seen. But no one seemed to see this guy, Jesse, as he opened the garbage and dug around in it with his hands.
“Hey, man,” I said.
He looked at me for a split second, the streetwise analysis, friend or foe? “Good morning,” he said. A lot of the time people simply want to be acknowledged, that they exist. I passed him and continued to to the pier.
On my way back, much farther down, I saw him again and stopped. We had already exchanged that initial greeting, so there was no hesitation on his part when I tried to strike up a conversation.
He lived in Long Beach, took the bus to Redondo four times a week, and then rode his bike along the Strand collecting recyclable trash. “It’s only a few dollars but it helps,” he said. “I’m just trying to make a living. I don’t want to go back to prison.”
“When did you get out?”
“A year ago.”
“Where are you staying?”
“I’m at a sober living house in Long Beach. I got a place to stay and food but I need to make money. Can’t get no work because of my record.”
“What kind of work do you do?”
“How long were you in prison?”
“Twelve years. Started out with nine years and nine months but I got more added on inside. You can’t go to prison and not get time added on, that’s how they set it up.”
“What did you go to prison for?”
“It was at night in front of my house, I had had an argument with some guys that morning and they jumped me with baseball bats and these big pieces of rebar, there was three of them. They was beating me but I got out my knife and then they all ran away except the one guy.”
“What happened to him?”
“You know I was crazy mad, crazy with pain, they had broke my shoulder and my head was covered with blood and I was crazy mad, man, I didn’t even know what I was doing. They wanted to give me 29 years to life but it wasn’t my fault, those dudes attacked me but what was I supposed to do? If I hadn’t done something they would have killed me, it was me or them.”
“So what happened?”
“They got it down to manslaughter, nine years and nine months. Then I had trouble inside, man, you know the politics.”
“There is the Mexicans and the blacks and the whites and when the Mexicans is beating up a black dude you gotta join in or they kill you, right there. Or if the blacks are beating up a Mexican the blacks gotta join in or they turn on you, man, right there, why aren’t you helping? So I was in a lot of prison gang fights and got more years. I didn’t want none of that I just wanted to get out but the politics is what they are, if you are a Mexican you are a Mexican.”
“So how did you ever get out?”
“For the first couple of years it was hard ’cause I was always out in the yard. That’s where everything goes down, you can’t go out in the yard without the politics. That is where they buy and sell the drugs, the alcohol, that’s where they fight, everything goes down in the yard. And the COs they like the violence, man, they love the fights.”
“Who is that?”
“The guards, man. They let a fight go for a long time before they break it up, then they stick you with more years. And they bet on the fights, man, they don’t care if you get beat to death, in High Desert, they were really bad. I was in five prisons during my career. High Desert was the worst.”
“So how did you get out?” I asked again.
“I started going to classes and working in the prison. In the beginning I didn’t like the rules you know, I was a grown man coming from the streets, don’t nobody tell me what to do, why I gotta follow some rules? But in prison, man, you learn the hard way or the easy way, but you learn or you stay there the rest of your life. So I took all the classes I could and every job I could get, so when they was like, ‘Hey, man, we going to the yard, come on,’ I could be like, ‘No, man, I can’t go, I gotta go to class’ or ‘I gotta go to work.’ Anything keep me out of that yard, man, anything. Only thing I want now is I don’t want to go back.”
I gave him ten bucks and couple of ones that I had in my pocket. It was more money than he was going to make for his entire day of work. “If you ever get arrested or in trouble, call me. I don’t look like it, but I’m a lawyer. I won’t charge you anything.”
“Really. What’s your number?” He told me and I texted him my info.
I don’t know if it was the twelve bucks or the knowledge that if the worst came to pass, at least there was someone he could call, but he gave me a warm handshake and a warmer smile.
Next time you see someone digging in the trash, take a second, if you dare. Whoever they are, they are a real person, worthy to be seen, acknowledged, for the humans that they are.
What goes around, spins around
January 8, 2021 § 14 Comments
Some bicycles beg to get stolen. Kristie had taken incredible security measures to protect her most treasured possession, in this particular case her Fuji SL with Dura-Ace and the lightest, most durable set of FastForward carbon wheels which were 100% carbon, made fully of carbon and exclusively carbonized through various carbon procedures. To ensure that the bike would never be stolen, she had leaned it up against her garage unlocked, which faces a busy street, for a few hours.
Later that evening, when she went out to bring her beloved bicycle into the house, she was astounded to see it gone, and in its place a beat-up POS Giant hybrid bike with brakes that didn’t work, a chain that barely turned, and gears that were a transmission in name only.
Many tears were shed and many oaths uttered as she marveled at how someone could have ridden by on a broke-down clunker, seen her shiny, beautiful, expensive bike leaning against the garage, and thought “Sweet! Time for a swap-er-oo!” and then ridden off.
It didn’t help when I pointed out that anyone who cared so little about a bike as to leave it out unlocked shouldn’t be too surprised when someone rides away on it.
Fortunately she had another, much less wonderful and less beautiful bike that she was able to continue riding, and she took the junker Giant and chucked it in the garage, where it languished, if dead things can languish.
Last week, when I met Bill who was in need of a bike, I began looking around for something that might work for him. Some people suggested the Salvation Army but that was a bust. Then I remembered the junker Giant and took a look at it. It was carbon and most of the damage could be fixed by someone with a trusty wrench.
So I called up Baby Seal at the Dropout. “Bring ‘er in,” he said, “we’d love to help.” I heard Boozy P. groan in the background as JP said “we” and recounted the dire prognosis of the patient. Boozy P. loves taking horrible, broken, worthless bikes and spending hours in order to make them look simply terrible. But, sixpack! So it’s all good.
We dropped off the bike, and Boozy P. set about refurbishing this distinctly unloved bicycle. When he was done with it, it sparkled. Brakes fixed, transmission fixed, new tars, and lots of bike polish … the junker Giant had been transformed.
Yesterday we took it over to the encampment on Lomita by the 110. Bill was in his tent, and he had great news: His caseworker had gotten him Section 8 housing and he was getting ready to move into a home for the first time in six years. He was so incredibly happy.
“We found you a bike,” I said.
“Yeah, really.” I took it out of Kristie’s car and put the front wheel on, or at least that was my plan. However, the bike had cantilever brakes and I was having difficulty.
Bill looked on sympathetically. I knew what he was thinking: “Must be a pretty sad life to be this old and unable to put on the front wheel of a bicycle.”
I fumbled a bit before he gently took over with hands accustomed to doing, you know, work. “These are cantilever brakes,” he said. “The cable slots out of this barrel adjuster by the brake lever, and it has fallen out. You have to pop it in like this.” He popped it in. “Then the wire between the brake pads has to be squeezed just a touch so that you can connect the cable.” He expertly did just that.
“Wow,” I thought. “Dude knows bikes.”
And it made sense. For one, it’s not that difficult. For another, you have to know things living out there. You can’t really pay people to do them, and they don’t happen on their own.
I gave Bill a lock to go with the bike. He was really happy and thanked us. “No worries,” I said. I told him the story about the stolen bike swap and he had a laugh. Then I told him about the refurbishing by Baby Seal & Co., and about the various people who had donated money for me pass on to others.
“Thanks so much,” he said, repeatedly. We shook hands and left, but not before I handed out tens to the other guys standing around.
We drove up to a break in the median and did a u-turn to head back home. Bill and a bunch of his friends were clustered around the bike, admiring it. Re-cycling, indeed.
My home, your home, our home
January 5, 2021 § 3 Comments
The hardest thing about returning to LA has been trying to figure out where to ride my bike. The biggest temptation is to fall back into the group ride, of course. But that’s a cul-de-sac. After riding around the country for a few months, the idea of going back to sporty riding sounds pretty dull.
Plus, I’m not mad anymore.
One idea that has stayed with me is the idea of homelessness, and I thought about that as a topic. What is homelessness? Who are the homeless? Does homelessness matter? Why should I care about it?
So I googled a bit and learned that the word itself is fraught. There are numerous other ways to talk about homelessness than by using the word “homeless,” simply because the word itself expresses little, but prejudices much. One of the best things I read was the comment that the description of homelessness should be limited to scenarios where it is relevant. And the more I thought about that, the more I wondered when, at least in my travels, it ever was?
Some people I met lived on the streets, some in shelters, some in cars. Others appeared to simply be moving from one place to other. What relevance was the state of the physical place they spent the night, or the day? More to the point, in my interactions with people I met, what difference did it make where they lived except that, when they appeared to have no fixed abode, it made it easier to approach them and talk?
In the same vein, with a few exceptions, the people I met never talked about where they were living. It wasn’t a point of discussion except to the extent that I asked them about it. This drove home something more common and general about many of the people that I met: They were poor. Some had more housing security, some had less, all were a few dollars away from having nothing.
I’m reading an amazing book right now called “The Invention of Capitalism” by Michael Perelman. In the first few short chapters he makes the compelling point that in order for capitalism to work you have to have poor people. A lot of poor people. And in fact, no capitalist society has ever existed that hasn’t deliberately created them in huge numbers. In the same way that Marxist socialist countries could never demonstrate the workers’ paradise, no capitalist country has ever been able to exist without poor, subsistence-level strata that make the whole thing work.
It drives home a central point, which is that, left to their own devices, no one wants to work for someone else if they can avoid it, and in the sense of being a wage-slave, no one really wants to work at all. It is only the idea of having others work for you, and profiting from their labor, that can really fire people up.
Thinking about the people I met on my bike, I realize that despite the heterogeneity of their living conditions, all were poor and sitting at one end of the security v. freedom spectrum: The more security, the less freedom. The more freedom, the less security.
Humans and all animals want to be free. They want to search for or raise their own food, secure their own shelter, and go about their business without having to punch a clock, wear a uniform, pay a tax, or do what someone else tells them to do.
Many years ago I was in France, visiting with the family of my wife’s friend. The father, Jean, was explaining to me why he had refused to take a parcel of land from his father-in-law when offered it, and instead had bought land and built a home of his own.
“You see this ground?” he asked me.
“Yes,” I said.
“I want to piss here, I piss here. I want to piss there, I piss there. Nobody tell me where to piss.”
Understanding that homelessness has little to do with people unless you’re talking about where they live clarifies a lot for me. One, I don’t have to use the word any more. Two, interactions with people on my bike are nothing more than a way to talk, interact, see if people are in need, and if so whether there’s anything I can do to alleviate it, even if it’s only a few bucks. It’s a way to educate myself and to appreciate the communion of human fellowship.
I’ve run across so many amazing and insightful people simply by pedaling around and taking a minute to chat. Think I’ll keep it up. Beats the group ride, at least for now.
612 Paseo del Mar, Palos Verdes Estates, CA 90274: A terrible investment?
January 3, 2021 § 10 Comments
A couple of days ago I posted here about what appears, at least to me, to be the wildly over-inflated value of the home for sale at 612 Paseo del Mar, Palos Verdes Estates, CA 90274, also known as 701 Via Horcada. In that post I wondered why the 701 Via Horcada address was not being used for the listing and speculated that it was because owner Robert L. Chapman, Jr., doesn’t want the numerous police reports associated with the home and neighborhood to pop up when someone does a search of the home.
Apparently, the Paseo del Mar address is “worth” more than the Via Horcada address (“Horcada” in Spanish means “raving lunatic”), as Paseo del Mar is the most desirable address on the peninsula. So this explains the 612 Paseo del Mar listing, although when you google 701 Via Horcada, the same house pops up in real estate home descriptions. This fits right in with the potential deception spotted in the Secretary of State filings for 701 Via Horcada, discussed as well in that previous post. Chapman, who I suspect to be a relentlessly anonymous internet troll, appears to spend much of his time covering his tracks so that the “real” Chapman cannot be definitively nailed down. Same with 612 Paseo del Mar; is it really 612 Paseo del Mar or 701 Via Horcada?
Inquiring minds could likely care less.
What inquiring minds will care about is this: Since its purchase by Chapman in 2007 at the height of the real estate boom and immediately before the massive bust, the property has gained relatively little in value. It’s an odd strategy of “buy high, sell low” for a tiny fellow who claims to be a stock market balding-boy-genius, and there’s little doubt in my mind that 612 Paseo del Mar, Palos Verdes Estates, CA 90274 turned out to be a bad investment and that Chapman is now desperate to unload the big, stinky turd by spritzing some perfume on it in the form of a fancy address name change. Add to that the fact that he may well be imprisoned in 612 Paseo del Mar, Palos Verdes Estates, CA 90274 simply because he is so loathed that wherever he goes he is met with disgust, distaste, and shunning. This would not be a pleasant living environment for his poor family, who might well be wondering when the next restraining order is going to magically appear on their doorstep.
However, there are real reasons why this overpriced, under-sized “estate” is floundering on the market. In a word: “TRAFFIC.”
I’ve been bed-bound since returning from Texas as I try to rest and eat my way back back into fitness, and for the first time in forever I hopped in a friend’s car to go get a cup of coffee at Golden Cove. As we drove along PV Drive, we noted the extraordinary sunset that was shaping up and the extraordinary snarl of cars that made the very entry into PV a nasty, crawling, freeway inch-along.
“I wonder if the surf is up?” I said.
“If it is, you know what that means for Paseo del Mar.”
“Indeed I do.”
So we dropped down to the lower portion of Paseo del Mar to see what the traffic was like leading up to Bluff Cove, 612 Paseo del Mar, Palos Verdes Estates, CA 90274, and all the other hapless homes located on this supposedly exclusive street.
All I can say is that the traffic was mind boggling. The surf was indeed up, and the combination of people having nothing to do on the holiday weekend, the stay-at-home order, and the stunning sunset had turned Paseo del Mar into an amazingly frenzied hub of activity, just the thing that you’d want if you were in the market for a $9.5M home. My favorite was the guy and his wife who had set up for the sunset with their own little generator and arch of electric lights, the perfect guests that you’d like to have if you were seeking the exclusivity and solitude that money so often promises to buy.
But whatever mess we encountered on the lower slopes was nothing as compared to the crush of people and cars smack in front of the public coastline facing 612 Paseo del Mar, Palos Verdes Estates, CA 90274. In addition to a giant piece of garbage a few feet in front of the “auxiliary” mailbox, there was a giant blackened garbage can and a whiny admonition to “Pack Out Your Trash.” Those packing the trash in were present in swarms, happy little surfers and surfettes parked bumper to bumper where they had presumably been sampling waves, the SoCal groove, and the view from the backyard of 612 Paseo del Mar all fucking day long.
- Chapman is selling.
- The value of 612 Paseo del Mar, Palos Verdes Estates, CA 90274 has barely risen since 2007.
- Everyone who doesn’t live there wants to come visit.
As the Bluff Cove HOA states, the area around 612 Paseo del Mar, Palos Verdes Estates, CA 90274 is indeed a “Surfer’s Paradise,” but it’s more than that. It’s a destination, a day-cation for visitors from all over LA, Orange, and San Bernardino counties. And any potential buyer who thinks that the this strip of public, open-access, world-class coastline is going to decline in popularity as the covids remain, group gatherings diminish, social distancing stays in place, restaurants and large entertainment options are limited, and the real estate market tanks, well, that person needs to revisit reality.
Nor was the awful traffic jam that we encountered limited to the surf spot at Bluff Cove aka 612 Paseo del Mar, Palos Verdes Estates, CA 90274. It continued all the way down the street up to the cul-de-sac, with cars jammed in every which way. Descending Bluff Cove, Via Horcada itself, a dead-end, was jammed head-to-toe with happy surfers who had scored parking right in front of what was almost certainly the home of Robert L. Chapman, Jr., himself, although we didn’t bother to drive down the street and see for ourselves. Although I’d been considering putting in an offer for the home, an even swap for my nifty North Face tent, seeing all the traffic helped me conclude that this was the last place on earth I’d want to live.
Peace of mind? Purchasing a piece of paradise?
Check out these photos and see for yourself. If it’s traffic you want, you can already get that in LA on the 405 pretty much any time of day or night.
And the good news is that it’s not going to set you back $9.5 million U.S. dollars.
Has Robert L. Chapman, Jr. committed a felony? Via Horcada LLC a/k/a 612 Paseo del Mar, Palos Verdes Estates, 90274
December 31, 2020 § 11 Comments
In looking over the records on file with the Secretary of State for 701 Via Horcada, Palos Verdes Eatates, CA, 90274, it appears that that the statement of information for 2017 may contain deliberately false information. Does this constitute perjury, and if so, should the district attorney for the County of Los Angeles initiate an investigation against Robert L. Chapman, Jr.? The home located there is also listed as 612 Paseo del Mar, Palos Verdes Estates, CA 90274, and is currently listed for sale for a sickeningly overpriced $9.5 million considering all of the complaints that have been filed with the PVE Police Department about this property and neighborhood.
At the outset, Robert L. Chapman, Jr., filed and signed a 2007 Limited Liability Company Application for Registration with the California Secretary of State, shortly after the formation of 701 Via Horcada, LLC, a Delaware corporation. Presumably this was the business entity formed for the purchase of 701 Via Horcada, Palos Verdes Estates, CA 90274, in which Chapman has lived since 2007. The home located there is also listed in county tax records as 612 Paseo del Mar, Palos Verdes Estates, CA 90274.
The section of the California Corporations Code regulating limited liability corporations states that “(c) An individual who signs a record authorized or required to be filed under this title affirms under penalty of perjury that the information stated in the record is accurate.” Of course this includes the LLC’s statement of information, a document that LLCs are required to periodically file with the state.
The 2007 application for registration lists “Robert L. Chapman, Jr.” as the managing member. However, in 2017 a statement of information is filed with the state to reflect a change in the LLC’s agent for service of process, changing the agent from CSC to someone named “Robert Lewis, Jr.” In addition to this name, which is suspiciously similar to “Robert L. Chapman, Jr.”, the 2017 statement of information is now signed by not by Robert Lewis Chapman, Jr., but by by the managing member Robert Lewis, Jr.
This leads to a couple of obvious questions:
- Who is Robert Lewis, Jr.?
- Does he actually exist?
- If not, does naming him in the statement of information as agent and managing member constitute perjury pursuant to the Corporations Code?
- If so, who submitted the false 2017 document to the Secretary of State?
- If the person who submitted it was in fact Robert L. Chapman, Jr., should he now be investigated by the Los Angeles District Attorney for commission of perjury, a felony?
- Should concerned citizens and neighbors in Palos Verdes Estates request that the DA launch such an investigation?
The concerns about 701 Via Horcada’s state filings don’t end there. The home located there is also listed as 612 Paseo del Mar, Palos Verdes Estates, CA 90274. In 2019, the LLC filed what appears to be a completely unsigned “Statement of No Change.” Unlike the 2017 filing, this new document now lists the managing member as, you guessed it, “Robert L. Chapman, Jr.” However, it affirms that none of the previous information has changed, i.e., the agent for service is still the mysterious “Robert Lewis, Jr.” and that the managing member is still “Robert Lewis, Jr.” despite listing the managing member now as the former “Robert L. Chapman, Jr.”
It’s hard to figure out why the Chapman who signed the 2007 application would falsify the new agent for service and managing member in 2017, if that’s what happened, other than to make it easier to evade service of process. If that’s the case, it suggests that Chapman might have a lot of problems he’s concerned about getting sued for. But it also suggests that whoever filed the 2017 document may have committed perjury, if “Robert Lewis, Jr.” is a sham person.
Perjury in California is defined in Penal Code Section 118, stating in part that “every person who, having taken an oath that he or she will testify…before any competent tribunal, officer, or person, in any of the cases in which the oath may by law of the State of California be administered, willfully and contrary to the oath, states as true any material matter which he or she knows to be false…is guilty of perjury.” This includes giving false information on a material matter in a signed affidavit, and the Corporations Code seems to explicitly make deliberately false information filed with the Secretary of State perjurious.
Any person considering the purchase of 701 Via Horcada, Palos Verdes Estates, CA 90274, should carefully investigate this and other issues related to what is possibly a deliberately false filing with the Secretary of State. The home located there is also listed as 612 Paseo del Mar, Palos Verdes Estates, CA 90274 There may be other, even more serious legal issues that a potential buyer would not be aware of until it’s too late. No one wants to buy a house and end up buying a lawsuit.