Paper Streets (Sarsaparilla Sessions 2021)
“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.

Paper streets are used in real estate cons of all sizes. Most often, as the scams go up in the Hollywood Hills, unsuspecting non-American buyers will purchase land on a paper street sight-unseen, in hopes of building a home. These marks will then arrive at their land with an invalid deed and dashed dreams.

There are still a few paper streets in Laurel Canyon, enough to warrant a warning sign. The one I encountered most was up at the summit of my old running route, off Jewett Drive, called West Elusive Street. Is there a more perfect name for a paper street? I spent a lot of time up there.

Curiously, hung as to face uphill, the sign warns those leaving the Canyon, whereas perhaps its alarm is most useful to those arriving. Still, as a means to 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 sign provides a universal admonition about putting blind faith in strangers.

Neither real nor estate, paper streets never burn. But they always burn.

Beware, indeed.


Paper Streets

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