by : Eric Paul Brown

Vose Street Follies

Published Date : November 2013




The events are real. Really too real, to be sure. I first heard about the Vose Street apartment from my good (and new co-worker) Dave.

It was by happenstance that I had recently gotten that job with the Los Angeles Unified School District working with Dave and Ed at a lock down facility in Van Nuys, California. I had just graduated from California State University, Northridge with a shiny, new degree in Journalism. In other words, I had no skills and was desperate for a job!

Van Nuys, I am told, was once a nice place. During the years I was living there, however, it had been in steady decline for years, and now appeared to be closer to a war zone-complete with shootings (Otherwise known as 4th of July) nightly. The streets were always occupied, be it day or night, with people from all walks of life. Across from Vose, we had the black gang that dealt in cocaine sales. This would later be the cause of a flurry of LAPD helicopters overhead and what seemed like a million police cars as a bust was finally made and the guys were carted off, never to be seen again.

I had many encounters with our local drug dealers. They were always pleasant to me, and were never trying to not advertise what they were. There was more gold around their necks, something that Mr. T would have approved of, and the newest Mercedes-Benz, and female hanger-ons. To me, this was just part of the background. At least with these fellows in the neighborhood, there was no trouble on our side of the block. I mean none! Everyone knew what they were up to, but turned a blind eye. Until the day the LAPD came knocking. Then the party was over, and another, same element moved in. Welcome to Van Nuys!

Of course, when you mentioned that you lived in Van Nuys, most folks in the know would wince, probably involuntarily, and would understand life may not have been fun at this time for you.

For me, after talking to my new working friend and neighbor, Dave, I couldn’t argue the price. I believe I was paying a whopping $435.00 dollars a month for rent, which-even on my measly wages, left me with enough cash to spend on Miller-Lite, which I purchased from the requisite 7-11 on the corner. Yes, that swill went down easy back then.

Speaking of 7-11, which loomed ominously on the corner of Vose Street and Van Nuys Boulevard, I would be remiss to not mention the lot of rouges that hung out there, which richly made up the compliment of living in this honeycomb.

Memory fails as to the name of the pan-handler who I talked to daily, but let’s call him Jerry for lack of memory. He would stand post outside of 7-11 and implore the masses for whatever change they could give. I never did get his full story, but he certainly wasn’t homeless. What he was, however, was the pulse of the neighborhood. For a little bit of change, he would tell me everything going on, complete with backstories. We spent many hours drinking beer, while Sonny, the cashier, would ring up all the customers that came through the doors, hour after hour. Sonny, I later found out, was in some style of indentured servant deal where he worked ungodly hours in exchange for getting to America via the store owner. He was educated, to be sure, but understood his plot and role in life, and never complained.

Sonny would ring up my beer and, at the time, Marlboro Lights, purchases, and pass along all the police, crimes, and other gossips of the day. Later on, he would be pivotal in providing much needed supplies, after the 1994 Northridge earthquake. All around, Sonny was the happiest person I had ever met. Never had a bad day, nor was he ever tired, despite the long hours he worked. I suspect if I ventured down to those parts again, Sonny would still be ringing up folks, just like back in the day.

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