On our last trip out to Europe we spent a day on either end in LA, Santa Monica to be exact. Yeah, I know, we’re going the wrong direction. But that’s the way we roll. Or rule. Or ride, I’m never quite sure.
Santa Monica in and of itself really is not what you’d call terribly compelling, consisting of a beach, a bike and walking path, and a pier. There’s probably more to see up above the beach but we didn’t get that far. As far as Mary is concerned Santa Monica is the Pyramids, the Great Wall and the Statue of Liberty all rolled up in a big ball, because her personal Wonder of the World is located just a block or two from our hotel. I’m speaking of course of the original Hot Dog on a Stick stand. The one and only. Mary’s idea of a cultural touchstone is not what the experts at the United Nations (or whomever gets to designate cultural landmarks) would necessarily agree with, but this is of little concern to her. Just as long as she gets her corndog.
One of the big draws for me, personally, is the boardwalk, that extends down at least as far as Venice Beach. It might go further, but once you’ve reached Venice Beach, you’ve reached the end of the line, where reality takes a holiday. Venice Beach is where those little odd shaped pieces of humanity that don’t fit in anywhere else have washed up.
There’s the old Jewish guys taking their morning sabbaticals in small groups, probably talking about how either the stock market is tanking or that their bursitis is acting up something fierce. Middle aged guys jogging, who’ve done it every day for thirty years, without a shirt, so they can catch some rays. Human raisins.
Observe the scruffy homeless guys (and some gals) that lounge around the boardwalk during the day, and probably sleep on the beach, or in the alleys nearby, at night. They’re not particularly good panhandlers, being a bit too laid back to get enough cash to do more than keep the buzz at a low simmer. Dreads are not required, though somewhat popular among the vagabond class.
There are the vendors selling soulcatchers, hand-painted rocks, hand-painted shells, homemade earrings crafted from bones, feathers and other detritus (no doubt found in better trash bins around the city). Tie-dyed shirts and wall coverings, bobble head turtles and handmade flutes. Every piece of Sixties paraphernalia that should have been towed out to sea and sunk in an abyssal trench, but wasn’t. Dreads do appear to be de rigueur here among the hawkers.
Muscley guys doing weight lifting and flexing. Lots and lots of oily flexing. There’s the refugees from that very small moment of time during the Seventies, when roller disco was supposedly cool (hint: it wasn’t). It’s sort of like finding a tribe in the wilds of the Amazon who have been bypassed by civilization.
Sidewalk (or more properly boardwalk) cafes, selling beer at a time where the sun is nowhere near the yardarm. People obviously nursing hangovers from last night or getting started on tonight’s. Or both.
Bicyclists, tricyclists, unicyclists, bicycles built for two, skateboarders, in-line skaters, joggers, walkers, wheelchairs, Segways, bicycle rickshaws, baby strollers, and every other and forms of personal transportation can be seen on the boardwalk.
Come see it, take it all in, don’t mind the faint whiff of weed. It’s all there for your viewing pleasure. Certainly not anything we’ll see during the next couple of weeks in Paris. It comforts me obscurely.