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Jewish Journal

The Great Mulholland Divide

by Tom Tugend

May 22, 1997 | 8:00 pm

When I was a UCLA student, some...uh...50 years ago and lived in Hollywood, I thought nothing of picking up a date in Boyle Heights, but I wouldn't even consider going out with a girl from the San Fernando Valley.

I shared the common Angeleno perception that the Valley was some remote shtetl and that anything north of Mulholland Drive was terra incognita.

In the early 1960s, I returned from a year at the Weizmann Institute in Israel with my wife and two young daughters. We thought it was time to redeem our California birthright and buy our own home.

Thanks to the GI Bill, Cal-Vet loans and a generous subsidy from my mother, we figured that, stretching our limits, we might be able to afford a mortgage on a $30,000 home.

Since my job was at UCLA, our first choice was Westwood, Brentwood or Pacific Palisades. Of course, real estate brokers sneered at our pathetic pretensions and condescendingly advised us to look for a hovel in the...ugh...San Fernando Valley.

We bought a nice, small house in Sepulveda, and I quickly adjusted to the daily drive across the Santa Monica Mountains to Westwood.

But when I invited UCLA colleagues to my home, I sensed their puzzlement, if not outright panic. How in the world would they find Sepulveda? What should they wear for the daring expedition? What language did the natives speak, etc.

For the past 29 years, I have lived in the Sherman Oaks hills, a half mile on the wrong side of Bel Air. But the basic Valley-Los Angeles Basin law still holds:

It's an easy ride from the Valley to Los Angeles, but the same route in reverse, from Los Angeles to the Valley, presages a torturous excursion.

Admittedly, we San Fernando Valleyites have a similar block about driving to the San Gabriel Valley. I think nothing of going to the downtown Music Center for an evening's entertainment, but driving the equal distance to the Pasadena Playhouse seems a daunting venture.

Mulholland Drive is the great social divide, the Berlin Wall separating metropolitan Los Angeles.

If you live on the south side of Mulholland, you are a wealthy, liberal and sophisticated resident of Bel Air or Beverly Hills. But move across the street, to the north side, you instantly turn into a redneck, reactionary couch potato, quaffing Bud instead of chardonnay.

Almost half of the metropolitan area's Jews live in the Valley. Curiously, they are largely unfazed by their "inferior" status and are busy building thriving Jewish community centers, schools and synagogues.

I have a dream that, one day, perhaps when Moshiach comes, the Mulholland Wall will crumble. Then, the sons and daughters of Valleyites will link hands with their brethren in West Los Angeles and Fairfax and become as one people.

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