What do you do when your flight is delayed and you have about 8 hours to kill at the L.A. airport?
You hop in a cab or Super Shuttle van and go to one of the nearby towns. I looked at a map on my phone and saw that LAX isn’t that far from Venice Beach. I had been once before, years ago, and remember the lovely homes on the canals, quirky shops. I wanted to see it again.
Super Shuttle dropped me and a confused Japanese tourist off in front of a hostel. We were just steps away from the broadwalk that lines the beach, and the glorious beach itself. I wasn’t dressed for the occasion, I was dressed for a cross country flight back to the colder East Coast.
Walked a little on the sand but didn’t go down to the water, I knew I wouldn’t be able to resist getting my feet wet, which would mean getting my jeans wet, which would mean stinking up my Virgin America flight with the not so subtle scent of seaweed and dead sea life.
There is a graffiti park and a skate park. I spent a while watching the impressive skaters zoom around the concrete waves. I am reminded of how easy it is to crush on skater boys.
I have lunch at a small restaurant with outdoor seating right on the broad walk, enjoy a stereotypically light and Mediterranean chicken and salad lunch. I’m inspired to sketch the guy sitting across from my table, in his skater clothes and big sunglasses. I guess that he pays a lot of money to dress like he doesn’t have a lot of money.
Lots of shirtless boys. I could eat this weather with a spoon.
One dorky guy rolls by on a Segway. Not a cop, there isn’t a police officer in sight for most of the day, unless they are mostly plainclothes. Finally, 4 mounted officers clop by on the broadwalk.
Surfers. Lots of surfers.
The beach is wide. Breeze is fantastic, classic palm trees.
This, this is world-class people watching.
Between the crazy shirtless homeless guy yelling random stuff, the tourists, the bodybuilders, the beachgoers, the skater boys, cyclists, hipsters, hula hoop hippies, bikini babes, vatos, sunglass hawkers, street performers, artists and folks dressed in scrubs trying to sell you a medical marijuana card, your head spins.
Incidentally, those medical marijuana “evaluations” seemed to range in price from $30 to $40. Don’t go to the first shop you come to off the main street, walk a few blocks away and the price drops. For the record, I did not go into any of them. Sketch-ola.
At one point, a guy whizzed by in a motorized wheelchair, pulling a midget in a smaller wheelchair.
There were lots of people with dogs, and 90% of the dogs were either Chihuahuas or pit bulls. If I lived in L.A. County, I’d need to make some changes. I’d need bigger sunglasses for one thing, and an agent. I’d need a pit bull, and abs.
Many people seem to live at the beach and have fairly elaborate tents or live-in vans arranged with their earthly belongings. Many of the vans are elaborately painted and have signs that say NO PHOTOS. Like many beach communities, the indigents are mixed in freely with the multi-million dollar homes and well-to-do residents. Beautiful, flower-lined homes are juxtaposed with what I can best describe as beach hovels. They all get roughly the same view.
Someone was selling frozen popcorn. There was lots of live music. Did I mention rollerblades? I thought that was a fad but it has lived on loud and proud in Venice Beach. There were lots of cool beach cruiser bikes and several not as cool recumbent bicycles.
Many artists selling wares ranging from bad paintings to not so bad paintings to windchimes to everything in between … there were several groups of homeless people selling a variety of hand-lettered cardboard signs that appeared to be made for other homeless people … which made me wonder about their business model.
I commend the vendors and performers for their creativity.
There are your usual spiritual advisors offering readings.
All of Venice Beach is a freak show, but there is a formal freak show that charges admission ($9). I didn’t go in, but it appeared to be family friendly. Tip: later in the day, the price drops to $5.
There is a guy who for a dollar will tell you why there is a pyramid on your dollar bill.
Guy selling advice, sign says “ask me any question.”
Further down, a man advertises “shitty advice” for $1.
Talk about diversity. I noted a group of guys with big bellies all wearing wife beaters, tucked in to their pants.
A man walks by wearing a Baby Bjorn (with a baby in it), shirtless. (the man, not the baby)
A guy who looked like Christopher Walken on his worst day walks by with his shirt wide open wearing breezy beach pants.
There was a group of young Asian breakdancers practicing on the Joe Wieder body building stage. People playing handball.
Dog in a bike basket. Endless blue sky. Tandem bikes. Shul on the beach.
I enjoyed a lovely lemon and olive oil gelato at Nice Cream.
I sit on a bench in the sun, rapidly licking gelato before it runs down my hand. I watch a man either doing tai chi or fighting with the grass. He is yelling and cursing, which would seem to rule out tai chi. I’m careful not to make eye contact with anyone.
Another guy madly revs a matchbox car. Someone gets into a fight with a portrait artist.
I walk a couple of blocks off the beach and have some of the best ceviche of my life. Sadly, I catch a cab back to the airport to catch my red eye, and don’t even mind that I have sand in my shoes.
Later, friends will ask me, why the hell did you go to Venice Beach?
Check out my photo gallery here. I could have taken pictures for days, but phone battery life worked against me.