My first real trip into L.A. Culture came about a few weeks ago when T. and I took a walk down to Venice Beach.
Here's what I knew about Venice Beach: it's colorful, chock full of roller-bladers and bicyclists, there's all sorts of funky people doing really funky things, there's also lots of funky shops selling funky merchandise.
I was unpleasantly surprised.
It was so much less than I expected. I mean, there were roller-bladers to be sure. And vendors selling knickknacks and charms and voodoo magic and inner peace and epidermal peace. But, it looked so gray.
The haze hanging over the water was gray, the buildings seemed to have lost their luster and had turned a paint-peeling kind of gray, even the people seemed gray. The people were lacking in that colorful, postcard reality that I was expecting.
Did you ever go see the Eiffel Tower or the Grand Canyon? Or, better still, the Alamo? You get there and you're seeing it for the very first time but really for the millionth time. You've already seen it in books and in movies and on postcards. In the movies everything looks larger than life because you're not there to sully it with your meaningless existence. Postcards have the added mystique of being from somewhere - of adventure. When you get there, though, the image event is lacking. There are no special lights, no plucky mariachi band, no fireworks. You miss out on the aerial view, the specially designed filters which make the sunset that much more riveting - where are my lens flares!?
What I missed most of all was the gravity of the place. Venice Beach is supposed to mean something. It's one of those larger than life places. It's a poet's refuge. It's the runaway's first stop in la-la-land. It's a pipe dream.
Okay, so I admit, I'm a little cynical.
T. and I walked out to the ocean passing a female drummer who had set up a full kit right there on the grass and was slamming away with fervid determination and a D.J.(!) across the way spinning turntables and pumping hip hop. Out in the gray surf were about a dozen surfers trying their best to make the most of the timid waves. My first thought was, "How do they avoid the hypodermic needles?" When I lived down in Biloxi for a spell there was no way in hell anybody in their right mind was going to play in the surf. Needles and other nasties had been known to wash up with frequency. It was no secret that for many, many years the city had been pumping sewage out into the Gulf of Mexico. So, I'm a little sketch about the ocean, especially near the city. Am I wrong?
Well, needles be damned, those surfers put on a show.
I'll have to go back and reassess - perhaps I missed something.
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