I live in a neighborhood called Valley Glen (formerly East Van Nuys). I’m guessing civic pride in the Glen is high since the ‘hood’s power brokers take the time to send out a little green pamphlet every few months called the Valley Glen Voice.
It’s a quaint little eight-page, green-tinted newsletter, with tree tips ("Please Don’t Top Trees!") invites to community events, even recipes (for eggplant caviar – blecch). Basically, a two-minute, thirty-second read, at best. But before the fall edition made its way to my recycling bin, a front-page story jumped out at me. The headline read “Welcome to Walgreens.” Oh shit. Another drug store. Who knew there was such a demand for one-hour photo service?
But what really ate at me was learning that the new drug store (located mere blocks from Walgreens on Coldwater) is moving into space on Victory Boulevard currently occupied by the venerable Chris & Pitt’s restaurant. NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! Be still my beating heart.
C&P may not serve the best ‘Q in the Valley, but you can’t deny its many decades of history; yet in about a year’s time (“if everything goes well,” according to the ever-cheerful Valley Glen Voice) all that’ll linger are sauce-stained shirts and memories. Little by little, the weathered old liver spots on the Valley’s face are getting dermabrasioned in white wash.
And it hurts. My first stepfather was seriously goyim, and the almighty ‘Q was sacrosanct. To step-pappy, good livin’ was a rack o’ ribs, a 32 ouncer of Colt 45 wrapped in a crumpled brown paper bag, and a game of chess to wash it all down. Of course, it can’t compare to its brethren in Texas, Kansas City, or even Oakland, but Valley ‘Q will forever be a craving I must fight – hard -- to suppress. Barbecue is in my blood.
When my family landed in Sepulveda in the summer of ’73, we quickly discovered the smoked gold cooked up at Dr. Hogley Wogley’s in Van Nuys. A Three-Way from the good doctor went a long way in our cramped apartment. And no, it wasn't some sauce-soaked sexual romp, but rather a very meaty meal featuring a plate piled high with carnivorous goodness.
Hogley’s ruled the Valley then and now, but Chris & Pitt’s carried some heavy weight as well. They were big time -- selling their special brand of bbq sauce (Hickory, baby) in supermarkets. Just like Bob’s Big Boy and their outta site blue cheese dressing, Now that was some old-school branding. You could pick that shit up at Lucky's.
Additionally, the Pitt’s is “Home of the Live Wood Fire.” Hell yeah it is. With neon beer ads, cheesy native American paintings, rickety ceiling fans and rows of brown banquettes, it’s a rough-hewn roadhouse proudly lacking the effete affectation of today’s uptight trendoid chow palaces. You come to Chris & Pitt’s to eat, not to dine. It’s a Fred Flintstone scene, full of ravenous barbarians at the gates of hunger, anxious to gnaw on a rack. And you’re going to get messy. You finish your meal not with a cappuccino, but with a toothpick and multiple wet-naps in foil containers. For me, Chris & Pitt’s served as a gut-busting booze sponge before a long night of longnecks down the road a stretch at the Palomino. (R.I.P.)
Like I said, this hurts … another artery in the throughline of my life snapped without anesthesia. An historic landmark gutted for a goddamn chain drug store. The news turned me instantly into a concerned member of the community. What is happening to my neighborhood? Valley Glen is going the way of Times Square! I needed answers – and quick.
Yet I’ve been unable to crack the great Chris & Pitt’s mystery. I called the restaurant, and those who work there don’t have a clue. “We hear rumors,” a night manager told me. “But I don’t really know anything.” I rang the corporate office and was greeted with a brick wall. “I can’t really comment on it,” said a drone named Peggy. How messed up is this? The deal is apparently done, yet the employees don’t know and the suits aren’t talking.
I tried the Valley Glen Neighborhood Association, the original bearers of the bad news. They were more than happy to gush in their newsletter about the arrival of the new business, but the association president couldn’t be bothered to answer the emailed questions of a fellow neighbor. This is silence that’s deafening.
I’m quickly learning that Suburbland is just like the rest of America: If you ask questions, you’re either ignored or greeted with a condescending smirk.
But we don’t have to stand idly by. Fight the power. Fight Wonder Bread gentrification. Raise a rib to Chris & Pitt’s.
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