“A paper street or paper road is a street or road that appears on maps but has not been built.”
“Beware! Paper Streets” cautions a sign hung by the Kirkwood Bowl Foundation towards the base of Laurel Canyon, LA, where I lived for most of 2018 (Inside Track 002 dives more into why I was there).
Paper streets are used in real estate cons of all sizes. Up in the Hollywood Hills, as these scams go, unsuspecting non-Angelino buyers purchase land on a paper street, sight-unseen, in hopes of building a home. These marks then arrive at their land with an invalid deed and dashed dreams.
Enough of these streets show up on Google Maps, each with a checkered history, replete with fleece, to warrant warning signs around the Canyon.
West Elusive Street was the Laurel Canyon paper street I explored most, at the apex-turnaround of my old running route, off Jewett Drive. Part of West Elusive spurs up between two houses to the Canyon summit. The bulk of West Elusive, off a bit further at the true end of Jewett, functions as a Kina-secret footpath through jade and succulent scrub brush, dropping you off the summit to the top of Utica Drive.
Curiously, the sign on Gould faced uphill, warning those leaving the Canyon, whereas perhaps its alarm is most useful before an unfinished extension of road indicates trouble ahead.
On the other hand, caveat emptor.
Paper streets convey how cruel we can be to each other, and how most things too-good-to-be-true prey on the trust we need in the world to enjoy life. The Bowl Foundation’s sign admonishes putting blind faith in strangers, even though life gets pretty lonely if you can’t trust anyone.
As I traversed the canyon that year, I felt sorry for the streets themselves, as the sign cast them as dangerous. In that they’re mostly undriveable, yeah, don’t risk your car’s suspension.
Other than to errant drivers, however, their foxtail-laden cracked concrete slabs pose no inherent threat. Rather, the scheme is the peril; faith, the risk; a sobered view of humanity, the cost.
Apparently we can turn our conscience on and off.
A “good deal” is always a two-way street. Every paper street, in a way, is a one-way.
Neither real nor estate, paper streets never burn. But they always burn.
You came a long long way
just to find nothing
on the other end of a promise
from the other side of the sun
the road was mapped but never real
still the dream of a long gone man
now foxtails push up through cracked cement
and long abandoned plans
Paper streets never burn but
paper streets always burn.
On a bridge to nowhere,
you’re never nowhere to turn.
Paper streets always burn.
Doesn’t matter where you’re from
when you see the world from the sky
Broadway to Magazine to Sunset Boulevard
They all draw the same line
You have to put your faith in strangers
or else this is a lonely life
but sometimes people, man, they’re wicked and cruel
we’re not wired to be nice
I lost a fortune to a scheme
at least it was my rock ’n roll dream
some people lose their fortune to a faith
in the world as it seems