This morning I was wandering through the rich neighborhood north of Foothill on the other side of Santa Anita Ave. My mind was wandering , too , a little faster than I walk . I was looking at the mansions , listening to the latino gardeners neaten up the large yards with their noisy mowers and trimmers and blowers , wondering where the house owners are . I never see them and , so , I always wonder where they are .
I saw a little piece of metal on the road as I walked . It brought back memories from childhood . Funny how that happens . Memories swarmed . I passed the little piece of metal but I decided to go back and pick it up . I brought it home .
I picked it up because , when I was a kid , I would have picked it up . These things were treasures for us kids back in those days .
It’s a slender steel bristle from a street-cleaning brush . The street cleaner has a large rotating cylindrical metal-bristled brush noisily slapping the crud on the asphalt as the vehicle drives slowly along . I haven’t seen one of those vehicles in several years . I wondered if maybe the city discontinued the service; but now I think : except in the rich neighborhood . The rotating brush never seemed to ever clean anything anyway . Maybe the sweeper sloosh , sloosh , slooshes around the rich neighborhood still , bothering nobody , cleaning nothing , but nevertheless going through the motions , putting in time , feeling useful . The rich guys’ properties are shaped and shorn and organized carefully into yards of polished pulchritude . But , despite the evident appearances of the elusive and endangered street sweeper , the roads in the rich neighborhood look like those in my neighborhood , looking remarkably like my road’s asphalt , sandy and scraped , with a lived-on look .
My father used to detest these little flexible metal toys we’d find on the road . They were dangerous . They’re flexible with somewhat sharp edges . A kid could bend one of these , then maliciously let it go , and it would spring out and fly recklessly through the air at high speed . I can hear my dad : ” You could lose an eye like that !” None of my friends ever did , but my dad was right ; you could lose an eye like that . We did fling those things hazardously at one another , aggressively , causing various other injuries to each other besides losing an eye .
I think that cities must have swept the streets more often in those days . It seems to me that those little metal shards were lying around all the time , on every street , when I was a kid . Maybe they are still lying all around . Maybe kids still find them when , to adults , they are unseen . Could it be ? And , maybe kids are no longer interested , these days , in picking some discarded scrap of junk off the street to make it a toy , to test it for potential uses , inventing low-tech , perhaps foolish , forms of simple entertainment . We were so unsophisticated back then , I suppose , but easily entertained .
I suppose I have had rich guys on my mind recently . I’ve been reading a book titled THE GREAT LOS ANGELES SWINDLE written by a man named Jules Tygiel and published in 1994 . In the 1920s many of the L.A. elite traded stocks and made money , legally and otherwise , investing in what was called Julian Pete stock . A self-promoter named C.C. Julian started an oil company when oil wells in the L.A. area became a big deal , and later , a mining company , and he roped in the big money men who made quick money questionably on Julian Pete stock deals until the whole scam fell apart . Old man Flint was one of the investors . Motley Flint was the guy who started the upscale city of Flintridge , just north of L.A. My thoughts were wandering , as I’ve said , while I was walking this morning , toward Motley Flint , Julian Pete , the 1920s L.A. underworld , and wealth in general .
Wealth is a relative concept , after all . Some of these guys involved in the Julian Pete swindle had , and admitted that they did, more money already than they could spend . But , they wanted more . C.C. Julian and others were there to promise them more , to promise easy profits on sure-thing investments . The investments seemed so good and paid off so well that they never seemed honest . But nobody asked many questions . Just bask in your incredible luck and don’t ask too many questions ! And they did . And they didn’t . And they counted their money . And they all must have lived in big houses , as big as these , surrounded by their rose gardens and iron gates and manicured acres of lawn , in places more exclusive , yet similar , to where I am this morning , in Beverly Hills and in Pasadena and in Flintridge .
The subtitle of the book I’m reading is OIL , STOCKS , AND SCANDAL DURING THE ROARING TWENTIES . These shenanigans didn’t end in the twenties , though . Does the name Bernie Madoff ring a bell ? But , I’m just talking through my hat . I don’t comprehend money matters , especially at the rich guy level . I just wonder . I wonder where all the people who live in these huge houses are . Are they in there , I wonder , or are they out in the world doing business , making profitable deals as , simultaneously , I wander along their streets, making no deals , gaping often impertinently at their front facades ? I walk along , treading the asphalt of their streets , because there are no sidewalks . The unwritten , needless , invisible signs in a place like this clearly say PRIVATE . KEEP OUT .
Kids could play softball or kickball on these streets . It’d be great ; the roadways stretch wide and are almost deserted . Windows are so far from the curbs in this neighborhood that no ball would threaten them . But , no one plays in the streets here and never have , I suspect..