Escape from LA

...and a Pistachio Wars update.

It’s been two weeks since we moved out of our place and I’m just now beginning to come back to life. This might have been the most difficult and tiring moves I’ve ever had to make — which may or may not have something to do with the fact that we have a four month old daughter to deal with and I hadn’t had a full night’s rest in about that long.

But the good news is that we decided to use our forced displacement as an opportunity — an opportunity to get away from California for a bit. We jammed all our stuff into a Pod (yes, the pod life in all its exciting dimensions) and the three of us are now in Mexico, sweating it out in a touristy village in Nayarit and putting off for at least a few more months having to figure what the hell we’re doing with ourselves.


We spent a few days in a hotel in Venice Beach on our way out of Los Angeles at the end of July and the last thing I saw there was the police raiding homeless encampments on the boardwalk and scattering them around the area — part of a longer “post-pandemic” war on the homeless that I’ve been writing about over the past six months.

I’ve been unplugged from our cybernetic all-platforms news feed since then. But now that I’m back two weeks later, I see that process has taken on a statewide character. First thing I saw in the news was a photo op showing California’s progressive family-friend-to-oligarchs governor Gavin Newsom dressed up in working class gear, personally hauling and throwing away homeless people’s possessions. It’s gnarly. But I guess he’s been feeling the fear from the upcoming Republican recall election and this is the way he responds: showing that he’s not afraid to get his hands dirty and to get rough and tough with these no good bindle stiffs. And just yesterday my friend Patrick sent me an interview with Larry Elder, the Republican frontrunner of the Newsom recall drive, confirming that there was indeed a deal struck between the Trump administration and LA’s progressive mayor Eric Garcetti to ship the homeless off to faraway reservations built on unregulated federal land in the Mojave Desert. Far out of sight, totally out of mind — an easy bipartisan solution to a difficult problem! I speculated that such a deal was in the works a year and half ago, when we first moved back to LA — and it turns out it was indeed true. The only reason this plan to ship the homeless into federal gulags didn’t go through, according to Elder, was because Trump, archenemy to all the good liberal people of Los Angeles, didn’t win reelection. Ha! That’s progressive California for you — a reactionary backwater that wears its corporate wokeness like a magical cloaking amulet.

Gotta say that it’s good to get away for a while and to enjoy in the ignorant life of a tourist, forcibly oblivious to the problems around me. I’m gonna try to keep it going for a whole longer.

Speaking of which, I’ve been doing some background work on the next chapter of my The Soviet Jew book. But I haven’t been able to do do much writing. It’s just been too hard to fight the sweltering heat. For someone born in deep winter in the arctic wastes of Leningrad, living in 90 degrees with 90 percent humidity without air conditioning feels like I’ve had a temporary lobotomy done. So I figured I might as well take the rest of the month off and relax and hang out with Evgenia and Eurasia, surf a bit, and watch the thunderstorms gather and break over the Pacific Ocean.

I’ll resume my regularly scheduled posting in September. In the meantime, if you haven’t already, you can read the first chapter of the book I’m serializing at this handy table of contents page I’ve put up.

Okay, gotta go. I have a giant pot of beans to tend to.

—Yasha Levine

PS: Forgot to mention that Rowan and I are getting close to finishing a rough cut of Pistachio Wars — the documentary that we’ve been working on about the power that oligarchic farmers have over California’s water and the destruction of the state’s ecology wrought by industrial agriculture. I’m excited because he’s using his vacation time to come out here from New York so we can work on the edit in person and hopefully push this thing over the edge. It’s an important doc, and only getting more important as time goes on. Check out the update he wrote about where we are with the documentary.