Category Archives: Huston Street

Huston Street Is a Street

She just bought some bitchin’ clothes/Tosses her head/And flips her hair/She got a whole bunch of nothing in there–Valley Girl, Frank Zappa

I used to live on Huston Street. I’m not shuckin’ and jivin’ you here–look it up, it’s an actual street.  It’s a quiet and unassuming stretch in North Hollywood right off the 101 freeway, and it’s pronounced hyoo-ston just like the former ballplayer. I always had a hunch that it was named after Walter Huston, who had won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1948 for his role in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Huston was considered one of the top character actors of his era–but I couldn’t state as a fact that the street was actually named after him, it’s just a half-baked theory. 

world-famous!

The temperature is hotter and the architecture is sun-bleached and dull on the north side of the Hollywood Hills, which is generally seen as a cultural wasteland by the denizens of Los Angeles proper, and depicted as dusty, marginalized, lacking stimulus, and utterly hopeless in movies and pop culture. Lame. I mean, shit, the Bad News Bears were from the San Fernando Valley, and wasn’t coach Buttermaker considered an alcoholic has-been? Wasn’t the film narrative rowdy, working-class, profane, and consciously avoiding the cheap theatrics of a triumphant finale? The perfect metaphor for a place that breeds and exports scumbags with reptilian instincts for self-preservation. America in delirium.

Despite the negative reputation and mockery from friends,  I loved that street. I lived two blocks away from a gorgeous park filled with “brown-bagging” cholos with time aplenty, and trash-talking basketball players. There was also a tiki bar a block away that had a time-worn, paint-battered sign saying, liquor up front and poker in the rear that apparently had never been thought to be re-touched. Proud of its crumbling state was a tiny fish and chips stand next door for conveniently sopping up the booze and chatting with girls when the bar was too loud and bursting at the seams with out-of-work actors from bum-fuck-nowhere letting off some steam. Another favorite of mine was the dark and smelly comedy club on Vineland Ave, and sometimes the patrons standing out front, and even the comedians themselves would give you cigarettes or free drink tickets as you sauntered by, searching for the next sliver of excitement in the humid jungle.

Although I haven’t been back in many years, the Valley will always make me think of lime and salt Tecate, the most beautiful, iridescent, smog-choked sunsets, getting drunk on Boone’s Farm in skate parks, greasy junkyards, double-D bottle blondes in their 60’s, book stores with cats, screaming schizophrenic bums in a Ralph’s parking lot, and Mexican street parties with illegal fireworks and cumbia pouring from the speakers when the LA Lakers won the title (Kobe’s last)  And, of course, Huston Street.

Free at Last! Summer Is Here!

Hook ’em Horns

I dragged myself to one of those fancy movie premieres, and it was an experience that was embraced as a heroic poem and not just a regular, boring Saturday evening–this was a communal, but at the same time extremely individual moment that felt like an atonement of sorts. I had not been to the movies in over a year (since the short-lived and limited re-issue of Alien) and it was the longest I’d gone without being in a cinema since I sat down to watch Return of the Jedi in 1983 as a little devil child. There was the nostalgic, yet forgotten hint of popcorn mixed in with the notes of cleaning spray and faux-butter sludge to welcome me with open arms. I was a tad bit leery about being around so many skin-sacks, but calmed myself on a few occasions by telling myself that the world was a different place– and it was as simple as breaking free of a routine, and a miserable one at that. In conclusion, the movie sucked, but I enjoyed it nonetheless as a free flowing, maskless and anxiety-free critic unperturbed by low-brow cinema. 

The after-party was at the Flamingo Cantina, and their mezcal margarita hit me straight behind my third eye. Matthew McConaughey was making his rounds, flittering amongst the packed club and making benign conversation, but as an ex-denizen of Los Angeles, we just aren’t that impressed by fame. We are used to seeing our screen heroes at the grocery store buying jarred pickles or matzo ball soup and shrugging it off with an, “Oh,”  after getting a 10 second cheap thrill. I can enjoy the craft of acting (some would say the basis of the craft is to act like a disingenuous, self-satisfied prick with a set of veneers, tendencies to show-off, and a healthy case of nepotism) without caring a lick about their social life or even trying to be near them to suck their “aura.” And in the end actors simply don’t impress me as much as athletes or musicians (both somewhat based on meritocracy) as most of them are smaller in stature than even the average person on the street. (Hola, Tom Cruise) Size matters–am I right ladies?

Noted Austin-ite and former Oakland Athletic Huston Street was standing in the corner nursing a Bud Light and wearing some vintage-aviator-style Jeffrey Dahmer glasses that are all the rage with Generation Z hipsters and dads in the 80’s if you happen to have access to a time machine. I’m not sure if he was there for the after-party or if he was just hanging out, but the bartender told me he is now a coach for the Texas Longhorns and I had no reason to believe he was being untruthful. Street had a few excellent seasons as a closer in Oakland before moving on to greener pastures and giant sacks of money elsewhere. I remember being impressed at the time that he was a 21 year old rookie who had to learn how to “piss standing up” with very little minor league experience. Mr. Street had been relegated to oblivion in my mind, and now it all came rushing back with a sun-baked bang. I suppose we didn’t know how good we had it considering we had to endure and agonize with the likes of Jim Johnson and Brian Fuentes since his departure, which now seems as if it happened so many moons ago.