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VALLEY WEEKEND

Cool Options for Dog Days

Ignore the heat. The Valley offers plenty of amusements from drive-in movies to fiddle parlors to just feeding the ducks.

August 22, 1996|David Wharton

It's August, in the Valley. Friends on the other side of the hill are making it clear that they feel sorry for us. OK, it's HOT. We'll give you that.

But living in Encino and elsewhere in the Valley is just fine, thank you. Save your pity for people who don't have a smorgasbord of entertainment options. And we're talking about things you can do practically free on a weekend other than float motionless in your pool.

The Valley Weekend staff recently sat down in an air-conditioned room and brainstormed the things they like to do on days when Venice Beach seems just too far to go. Options, think of these as options. Options without Westside price tags, we might add.

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6 p.m. Friday--The working week can leave a bad taste in your mouth. But there's no reason to let such negativity eat away at your weekend.

Stop by Carrillo's Mexican Deli in Canoga Park and stand in line at the counter for an order of tamales made fresh each day. Meanwhile, have a conspirator drive east to Chili John's, that venerable Burbank cafe, for an order of cumin-laced chili with beans.

Meet at a prearranged location, preferably some place with air-conditioning, cold beer and a transistor radio tuned to Vin Scully and the Dodgers. Smother the hearty corn-wrapped meat in chili. Top with spoonfuls of the hottest possible salsa.

The result is a meal guaranteed corrosive enough to erode any memories of the office.

Carrillo's Mexican Deli, 19744 Sherman Way, Canoga Park, 887-6118. Chili John's, 2088 Burbank Blvd., Burbank. Call (818) 846-3611.

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6 p.m. Saturday--If Kafka had been handy with a hammer or a circular saw, he certainly would have conceived of Home Depot.

Hardware towers overhead, aisle after aisle of baffled do-it-yourselfers and broad-chested, grumbling contractors pushing through with a last-second armful of angle irons. Orange-aproned clerks hurry through the masses, ignoring the muted pleas.

This is hell.

But an unexpected tranquillity comes over the Depot around dusk on weekends. Everyone has either gone home for dinner or simply given up trying to find the bracket that fits their curtain rod.

It's a perfect time to stroll down the plumbing aisle admiring all that gleaming porcelain. Or nod at the cluster of employees who have gathered near the garden department, slumped, joking. Or cool yourself at a display of whirling overhead fans in lighting.

Even if you don't need anything, you have successfully navigated the urban experience, discovering a quiet hour at one of the city's perpetually infernal stores.

It's a cherished secret. Like having the San Diego Freeway to yourself.

There are several Home Depots in the Valley. Look for the crowded parking lot.

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8 p.m. Saturday--A train passes the Winnetka Drive-In Theatre every so often, rumbling, blasting its horn, usually obliterating a few seconds of crucial dialogue.

Outdoor cinema is not for the weak of heart. Or the hard of hearing. This is film going as an extreme sport.

So load the car with loved ones and equip yourselves with several large bags of deep-fried fast food. Drive onto 27 acres of blacktop where you will encounter six towering screens, each showing a double-feature just as soon as the sun dips below the horizon.

Some people remain huddled in their cars or station wagons. Others bring rugs and lawn chairs, setting up as if it were a picnic. They tune the speakers loud enough to be audible above crying babies, barking dogs and 737s on approach to Burbank Airport.

As for the trains, well, there's nothing loud enough to drown them out.

Winnetka Drive-In Theatre, 20210 Prairie St., Chatsworth. Call (818) 349-6806.

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9:30 a.m. Sunday--There is a weekly procession around Lake Balboa Park. In the morning hours before the day grows scalding, people come to walk their dogs along a 1.3-mile concrete path that encircles the water. Mutts mix with purebreds, the groomed with the grimy.

There's an Englishwoman who brings a pit bull named after Margaret Thatcher. And a family with three Pomeranians, two of which are friendly and one which is a snarling little puffball that would go straight for the jugular if it could jump that high.

There's an old man who owns possibly the ugliest dog in the world. There's a couple who walks their large black pig.

Such pageantry unfolds amid the basin's trimmed lawns and thin trees, morning breezes carrying a distinctively detergent odor off the lake's reclaimed waters. Planes leaving Van Nuys Airport provide a rumbling soundtrack.

Think of it as the Valley's version of the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

Lake Balboa is located on Balboa Boulevard, south of Victory Boulevard, in Encino. For general Sepulveda Dam Recreation Area information, call (818) 756-8060.

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