modemstudcover1

San Fernando Valley Lore

An island in the center of the street, some 200 feet north of the Goodman residence, separated their 1950s tract from the Chandler Estates. To the south were the Magnolia Estates, and to the east the Weddington Estates. Lots in the surrounding estate neighborhoods boasted half acre to acre or more gated lots occupied by elegant homes that often included tennis courts and guesthouses.

None of the homes in the Goodman’s tract were more than 2,000 square feet. A few corner lots were 7,100 square feet. Many of the residences had the same improvements. The most common addition was a wall added to enclose an outdoor patio. These rooms usually lacked heating or air-conditioning and were built over former concrete sun decks. Instead of plaster or drywall, paneling was hung that created a hollow space between the new room’s lightweight framing and faux wood paneling. In the case of the Goodman’s den, there was heating and air-conditioning, but a lack of insulation. From the backyard, rain water came in through the bottom of the exterior door hung 1/8 of an inch above grade. Other common improvements in the neighborhood included similarly constructed 100 square foot rooms that connected garages to the houses, and flooded during the rainy season.

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We met in the back of Galaxy Arcade on Burbank Boulevard, across from Los Angeles Valley College. On most of the machines in the arcade, on the lower crevices of their screens, Colt had quarters lined up. From the front of the arcade the Tomahawk monitored the situation. If anybody wanted to get in front of Colt’s quarters, the fee was $.50.

“I am sorry Mr. Lines, but my time is very valuable. Being here, I am losing time needed to validate users. Thus, I must earn revenue while I am here. I hope you are not offended.”

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On their way to North Hollywood, the Lemur Brothers rode in silence. Over the AM radio waves, I listened to a football game. Later in time, Captain Lemur Eyes disclosed to me on the drive his mind was not on the logistics of the motel room raid. Instead, he fancied himself on a historic pilgrimage through the Valley by way of Chandler Boulevard to Lankershim.

Information about district history confirms Lankershim is where the eastern San Fernando Valley began. Originally, North Hollywood was called Lankershim. Isaac Lankershim won the lottery between the other original purchasers of the San Fernando Valley to receive the eastern portion of what was called Tract 1000. In the teens an early Valley resident could take the Cahuenga Pass from Hollywood and then make a right turn onto Lankershim Boulevard. Lankershim Boulevard ran into Chandler Boulevard, named after syndicate member Harry Chandler of the Los Angeles Times. The junction of Chandler and Lankershim was a mile south of where the Pink Flamingo, the site of the rendezvous, was built almost fifty years later. Chandler Boulevard ran to Van Nuys Boulevard, named after another member of the original syndicate who in 1911 held the largest land sale in history when he invited everybody who had a telephone in California to come to his Van Nuys Boulevard tract office barbeque via a free train ticket. Van Nuys Boulevard ran to Sherman Way, named after General Sherman, another syndicate member. Sherman Way ran nine miles west to Owensmouth which was the northeast end of the Valley. Captain Lemur Eyes contemplated these routes. He felt The Lemur Connection had solid control over these boundaries. More importantly he pondered whether his sale of BBS memberships would one day be equated with the use of the telephone to start the sale of the largest suburb in American history. Overall, he felt the path he rode would be given a new epic meaning.

“Lemurs. We travel this historic route down Chandler Boulevard, separated by a grassy island you might not think is anything other than a divider in a strangely sloped street, but I can assure you a street car used to run along that path. I can also tell you we will soon be forced to make a left turn onto Lankershim. You will notice an odd configuration of older buildings. We travel the route of the original pioneers of the San Fernando Valley. Today, you will be witness to a new era in what the modem can accomplish. You will tell your children about what happens at the Pink Flamingo and they will tell their grandchildren. You will also say you were an original member of the Lemur Brothers and you were there when a child molestation ring was brought down by the Lemur Brothers.”

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The Pink Flamingo was a boxy coral pink stucco job. Torn blinds were in each of the window cells incased by white aluminum window frames. At first glance, the second floor appeared cantilevered six feet towards the street. The architecture that resembled a cantilever overshot a planter. Weeds grew in many of the former locations of decorative concrete blocks with eight pointed star designs, or maybe they were supposed to be suns. A palm tree rose from a fallen seed in the planter twenty years earlier and broke through a number of the top concrete blocks before the tree died some years ago. For the most part, the planter was filled with dusty dirt, but there were a fair share of debris. Colt 45 cans, spent condoms, Zigzag papers, and cigarette butts were the chief inhabitants of the planter. Eight pineapple shaped tiki faces randomly appeared underneath the cantilevered second story that pointed into the array of disreputable planter trash. In front of the planter a sickly looking pink flamingo’s broken beak extended down into the weeds where grass used to live.

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“Who are these employees? Lisa, Gershom?”

“No, mostly losers. Coolies in their twenties and thirties who smoke and live in North Hollywood.”

“Hey, my mom lives in North Hollywood.”

“You’ll see. L.A.V.C. dropouts from the 70s. White trash. They listen to hard rock. Old stuff like Led Zeppelin. Probably smoke marijuana. Women with kids who are like twenty-five, not married. Well, lots of women actually.”

“Chicks? Could you fix me up?”

“Not for you. These are old women with feathered hair. They listen to heavy metal, Van Halen and similar shit. I told them they can play KROQ, but no heavy metal in the office. I don’t want any new users to think the system is run by a bunch of heshers, but to tell you the truth these salespeople are heshers.”

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A garden style building stood on the south side of Ventura Boulevard. On the ground floor, clay tiles connected three exterior corridors. The Speak Easy occupied the entire lower level. Plentiful xanadus and ferns were in the center of the widest corridor. Three to four offices were along each corridor. The offices were capable of being a single office for a single business with its own entrance and exit to the clay tiles, plants, and troweled stucco exterior. Some of the insides of the front offices were connected to other rooms in order to create 400 square foot to 600 square foot suites, but there was not anything particularly sweet about the rooms. The rooms lacked running water, kitchenettes, or décor other than low pile carpets, drywall, and venetian blinds. All told, Colt had more than 4,000 square feet of modest office space in the best part of town.

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Following his interlude in the smoke filled restroom, he strode into another room chiefly inhabited by young men who had stringy long hair. A twenty-four year old Valley College stoner spoke in a voice divested of testosterone and told a potential user modems were not just for straight people who did not party.

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“Can you afford an office building? A commercial building on mercantile Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks? A building that backs up to nouveau riche head trophies?”

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Let me get right to the point. We did have the party and Colt came. There was a long line outside of Shakey’s. The formation spread out of the parking lot and onto Van Nuys Boulevard. The sidewalks along Van Nuys Boulevard were blocked until the Ventura Freeway. All the action instigated uninvited party crashers from the movie theater down the street. I even think old people from Hamburger Hamlet started to cross the street to investigate the action. News trucks arrived. But even before the news trucks arrived there were reporters.

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A Speak Easy employee, who formerly sold gold at the downtown jewelry mart, was instructed to settle the Straw Hat tab. By 11:30 P.M., in front of Straw Hat, a small crowd occupied the shopping center sidewalk that led onto Van Nuys Boulevard. I stood in the middle of the crowd and used my rubber hands to make Vulcan hand gestures in an attempt to alert those cognizable the Rocky Horror Picture Show had a midnight screening on the other side of Moorpark Street. Ten minutes later, a piece of the Speak Easy crowd stood in line for Rocky Horror.

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PROFESSOR GOODMAN: WE HAVE LOOKED INTO LOS ANGELES VALLEY COLLEGE. APPARENTLY STUDENTS DO NOT NEED A HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMA TO ATTEND COMMUNITY COLLEGE. GERSHOM PLANS TO ENROLL AND TAKE THIS LIST OF CLASSES I PRESENT TO YOUR BALIFF.

HEARNIG OFFICER: HOW COULD GERSHOM GO TO COMMUNITY COLLEGE IF HE HAS NEVER BEEN TO JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL? DON’T YOU HAVE TO BE EIGHTEEN TO ATTEND COMMUNITY COLLEGE?

COLT GOODMAN: NO YOUR HONOR. READ EXHIBIT 4 PAGE TWO LINES TWELVE THRUOGH EIGHTEEN. THE VALLEY COLLEGE CATALOG CLEARLY STATES THERE IS NO AGE LIMIT, OR REQUIREMENT THE LAVC STUDENT BE A HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATE. I MYSELF AM CONSIDERING ATTENDING.

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“Was my brother just in here?” I asked the owner of Bushel Baskets.

“He was. He played Dig Dug, and he just left.”

“Which way did he go?”

“Through the back door by the Kosher butcher.”

I patrolled the alleys and streets to and from Bushel Baskets. Across the street I checked CJ’s.

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The last thing I wanted was for Gershom to get arrested. Regardless of the pain, I went back to Bushel Basket, but did not find him. Afterwards I checked up on every liquor store in Van Nuys, South of Burbank Boulevard that had video games.

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I left my room at the Sportsman’s Lodge and followed Grandma to my house.

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I used some of my remaining $290.00 to check myself into the Carriage Inn on Sepulveda and Burbank. Nobody would have guessed I was that deep in Van Nuys.

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Before I came to Ventura, I stopped in the parking lot of Castle Golf.