Sunday, August 28, 2011

Paris thoughts

I'm leaving today for five days in Roussillon, in southwestern France, and then a (much needed) week in Paris. Rain is predicted in the capital, but that will hardly stop my ramblings in my second-favorite city on Earth.

My second-favorite city.

This reminds me that when visitors comment on the admittedly rampant ugliness of Los Angeles, my first response is inevitably to point out that Los Angeles is just 231 years old—an infant still in diapers, sometimes badly stained.

Architectural democracy in action.

Paris, which most certainly consider one of the world's most beautiful cities, is an order of magnitude older, having been around for nearly 2,300 years and counting.

"Come back when Los Angeles is 2,300 years old and see how beautiful it will be," I tell the doubters.

Of course, what we know as Paris today was very largely the result of the draconian rebuilding of the city by Georges-Eugène Haussmann in the mid-19th century, very late, relatively speaking, in the the city's history.

Paris sous la pluie.

Perhaps what Los Angeles needs is a visionary of the caliber of Haussmann who will rake away all the mini-malls and dingbats, widen (and repave!) the boulevards, and bring some sense of order into the urban free-for-all that is L.A.

Is there a Baron Haussmann in our future?

If only it were this easy.

See you in two weeks.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

On Revuelta Way

If there were ever a brick-and-mortar example of the dictum that money can't buy taste—well, not good taste—it's this newly listed mansion in lower Bel-Air, which has nearly 26,000 square feet of living space, almost all of it absolutely atrocious.

"The encrusted style" exemplified.

The living room is furnished with seating in what I like to call "the encrusted style"—a perversion of design in which every surface writhes with vermicelli-inspired curlicues and nightmarish arabesques, all of it misproportioned and slathered with a surfeit of gold leaf that would make Midas retch.

Louie the Whoie?

The seating is arranged not for conversation but for staring at one another—or perhaps for a belly-dancing exhibition.

Meanwhile, in the dining room, things are scarcely less gaud-awful.

Seats 50 oil sheiks for dinner.

"More is more."

The sickly icing on this nauseating cake is the pompous master bedroom, which has all the intimacy of Vegas casino, complete with with three hi-def TV screens.

This pile of pretense can be yours for a cool $23.9 million. Any takers?

"I'll take it!"

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Resurrecting a lost neighborhood

. . . one house—and one story—at a time.

The amazingly detailed blog Berkeley Square Los Angeles is slowly but steadily bringing back to life the once-chic Berkeley Square in West Adams. Raise your hand if you've ever heard of it. (I hadn't.)

This gated community, once home to the elite of Los Angeles business and society, was lost in 1972 to the construction of the 10 Freeway.

The relatively anonymous but tirelessly assiduous blogger provides post-by-post information about the houses that formerly graced these streets.

He also goes beyond the façades, to deliver the stories behind the houses.

This being Los Angeles, the tales include murder, adultery, pandering, and . . . well, read and find out.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Parkway use and abuse

Apologies (and thanks) to the several followers of this blog who noted my extended hiatus from invective. I have no excuse except an occasional Oblomov-like sense of futility. I'm back now and plan to pan with relish as the summer winds down.

* * * * * * *

As an avid driver, I still tend to think of a parkway as a "broad landscaped thoroughfare," in Webster's definition. The Burbank Boulevard between Sepulveda and Balboa sort of thing, for example.

But for the Los Angeles Department of Public Works, a parkway is defined as "the area of the street between the back of curb and the sidewalk that is typically planted or landscaped."

Whatever you call it, this strip of green fronting the street can add tremendously to the quality of a neighborhood.

Creative use of the parkway as a tomato and herb garden on Tremaine Avenue.

Alas, this absentee owner in Hollywood has let the parkway in front of her building become a mini-wasteland, complete with razorgrass, downed palm fronts, broken concrete curbs, and a shattered Panasonic television set that has been there since January.

Parkway as dumpway, Argyle Avenue.

Panasonic: "Ideas for Life"

Upkeep of the parkway is the property owner's responsibility, with consequences for neglect. (The above example will be remedied. Stay tuned for "after" pictures.)

The department's Bureau of Street Services has a downloadable Residential Parkway Landscaping Guideline brochure that spells it all out and also provides a list of suitable alternatives to turf and televisions.