Heaven and the Venice boardwalk
Saturday, August 19 2000
I was actually waiting around my house for Kim to show up when my new housemate John finally materialized. I've never seen him doing anything all by himself, and today was no different. He'd brought his sister and his sister's housemate. Most importantly, he'd brought a check for first month's rent and initial deposit.
Kim came by a little later to pick up a few things and leave me, well, a single dinner plate and a cheaper one-line replacement cordless phone for the two-line cordless phone she'd brought me a week before. We ended up going back to her new place in Venice so I could do a few manly punk rock things like set up her computer for DSL and figure out a way to get her some pirate cable teevee.
Kim's new apartment is actually owned by a scientist in San Jose. It's a long narrow two bedroom/two bathroom loft, similar in shape to Corynna's place in Mar Vista. The breezes blowing off the ocean (only five blocks away) are cool and refreshing, even on a hot day like today. (It's been relatively hot for the past week or two.) Kim is renting out the basement to that guy Robert, former Dr. Susan Block handyman. He's already got the place all set up as an animatronics/sculpture studio.
Kim's expansionist tendencies are definitely manifesting in her new residence. She's taken over the downstairs hallway as a sort of waiting room and taken it upon herself to decorate the outside with colorful new agey pebbles and various plants. She says the guy in the condo upstairs is cool about it, that he's some sort of former hippie dude who is now a left-leaning lawyer.
After several runs to the hardware store to get F to F adapters and splitters, it turned out that the upstairs neighbor wasn't getting cable and we couldn't just jack into his line. To get cable into Kim's new place, someone is going to have to climb the pole, probably after dark.
It was a bitter sweet visit. Kim and I were getting along well, and it was painfully obvious, despite the fact that there were no pictures of me amongst the many on the refrigerator, that Kim hasn't exactly moved on. I suppose it should come as no surprise that Kim is still very much in love with me. And, in the context of her not living with me any more, it's easier for me to recall what I first liked about her. Still, there's no sense in muddying what has developed into very clear water.
I'd brought my bike with me, and on the ride home, I headed north up the beach, starting at Washington Street. Venice Beach is entirely public along this stretch, with considerable attention paid to the traffic needs of pedestrians and those riding on human-powered vehicles such as bikes, skateboards and inline skates. There are separate lanes for the bikes, so it's possible to move quickly if you want to, even on a crowded hot summer Saturday like today.
And was it ever crowded, like a couple-mile-long linear county fair. Wanting to experience it in all its glory, I got off my bike and walked through the thick of humanity on the Venice boardwalk for at least a mile. It was an endless sea of faces, all different sorts of faces, most of them young, tanned and attractive, and many of them speaking foreign languages. A great many of the men were obviously body builders out to show off their wares. This came as no surprise; someone told me once that Venice has a "Muscle Beach" where ernest young men go to pump iron in public. It's not my scene, but, I'll champion their right to do it.
For my part, I've noticed that I've shed a few pounds (along with the last remnants of my pot belly) on this cheese & lettuce sandwich diet I've been on. Indeed, to keep my pants up this afternoon I was forced to use a power cord I'd picked up at Kim's place. As I walked down the boardwalk, the ends of the cord kept bulging out from beneath my button-up shirt, making me look like some sort of indigent forced to wear a power cord as a belt.
Like any famous place, Venice Beach is renown for its personalities. The only one I recall from earlier in my life is the guy who rides around on inline skates playing heavy riffs on a battery-powered electric guitar. He made a cameo appearance in the Perry Farrell movie Gift. I saw him today, cruising along at low speed playing his guitar and serenading a young lady with his strong melodic voice. He's not just some boardwalk freak, mind you; the guy has genuine charisma. There was another guy who was dressed up as a faux African tribesman, complete with fake leopard tunic and parenthesis-shaped plastic spear. I don't know what he was going on about, but he'd drawn an unexpectedly large crowd. He may have actually been African; he was black after all.
Parts of the boardwalk are Schtevish watering holes, briefly resembling stretches of Pacific Beach in San Diego. Thankfully, though, this is largely the exception. The vast bulk of the boardwalk is comprised of headshops, palm readers, tattoo parlors, and other shops you simply can't find on Beverly Street in Staunton, Virginia. In addition to all the brick and mortar shops are the countless temporary stands set up by random vendors, some of whom are little more than pandhandlers. "Sir, do you want to donate a dollar for the Bible?" one semi-articulate huckster asked me.
Interspersed with all the businesses are the occasional stretches of condos and lofts. To live there and be happy, you have to love crowds. I overheard one older man sipping a beer telling his friend proudly, "I watch the whole world go by here."
Strangely, even when I'm not stoned, the beach on a crowded Saturday always reminds me of the Medieval concept of Heaven. I guess it's because everyone seems so happy while (like the souls of Heaven) they're so crowded together. And not far away, like the Earthly sky, is the endless blue sea, both threatening and calming at the same time. I wonder if the angels in Heaven still have any nervousness about the time human language had to be confounded just to keep a tower from being built up out of that blueness.
Speaking of Heaven, the other day in my forum the anti-evolutionist Maria made an interesting observation about the Big Brother house:
BTW - did anyone catch Curtis saying as he was ever-so-gently hugging and rocking Brittany, "Don't worry, she'll be watching over us".
I can just picture Karen as an omniscient guardian angel, smiling down upon them with her nicotine stained teeth.
This got me to thinking about the odd similarity between the situation of the people in the Big Brother house and the conventional Christian view of life spent on Earth. The "time" being done in the Big Brother house, you see, is like the time a soul must spend on Earth. Meanwhile, we, the unruly audience with our uncensored internet-enabled view of their life, are like the angels. Collectively, we even serve a godlike function with out ability to vote for the person who will be banished, the exact analogue of Christian death. And with banishment, the guest comes out into our real world (an analogue of Heaven) and finds out all the things we knew all along. The more I think about this, the stronger the parallel seems.
In the evening, I made a major score: a loveseat that had been set out in an alleyway only a block and a half away. It was close enough that I could carry it home myself upon my back. It was hard work, requiring careful balancing, but it was possible. The moment I got it home I scrubbed off all the stains I could find and then laundered the covers on all the pillows.
I'm still discovering the small nuances that make trash picking different in Los Angeles than I remember it being in less street-smart areas. Later tonight, for example, I found a window fan. It needed cleaning, but I just assumed it worked and when I got it home I started cleaning it even before testing it. But when I went to test it, it didn't work at all. It's almost as if the trash pickers who are my competitors had already tested and rejected it. In West LA, trash definitely tends to be more trashy than it is in other areas. And it smells worse too; most of the dumpsters smell like they have a pile of month-old abortions festering away at the bottom.
I watched a rather disturbing show on the Discovery Channel tonight. It was a documentary on parents who get surgery for their Down Syndrome children to make them look more normal. The parents featured in this particular story seemed like your typical middle American conservative Christians, almost exactly like the Flanders on the Simpsons. I guess when you're a Conservative Christian, superficial appearances are even more important than they are with other social groups. I mean, when you can't help but have terribly sinful thoughts just because you're human and you still think you're getting into Heaven, then you must rationalize that what happens on the inside really doesn't matter very much. Anyway, we were treated to the whole thing, including video footage of the surgery, complete with the insertion of bone fragments into the poor child's face in hopes of building up his nose and cheek bones. The background music throughout was the children's song "Round and Round the Mulberry Bush" (well, actually, the variant by Barney the Purple "Dinosaur" called "I Love You.") It started out with the conservatively-dressed mother coercively singing the song to her unfortunate child while rocking him in her lap. Then the tune was introduced as background music, almost joyful at first and then increasingly somber. By the end it had picked up a sinister atonal quality not many evolutionary steps removed from a melodic Slayer intro.
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