chapter 11 excerpt

 
I jumped out of bed at 7:00 a.m., and drove to Brentwood. About a hundred or so runners were warming up and joining their groups. I saw Patricia and recognized a few others in my running group, including the tall, lanky blond who was rumored to be a famous actress on a popular TV show. I only watched a few shows on Discovery and the History Channel, so I was clueless.    
    
“Hey Cali, you’ve been MIA for a month or so,” said Patricia.
  
 “I’ve been busy with school and traveling,” I responded while stretching my legs.
  
“Really, where to?”           
  
“I went to the Channel Islands a few weeks ago and then to Palanque, Chiapas. Other than that, I’ve just been too busy to get up so early on a weekend. But I plan on still doing the marathon and training with the group when I can. What do we have today? Fifteen miles or something crazy like that?”          
  
“Yep. Two weeks ago we did thirteen and I thought that was hard,” she said while jumping around.     

The faster groups were already bouncing down the street. Our group leader announced our departure with a quick “Let’s go!” Patricia and I ran side by side for the first half, then the group shifted and she moved up to talk to someone else. The run along the boardwalk was beautiful, with views of the deep blue ocean off to the right. Then we entered Venice Beach, with beach bums stirring about and venders setting up their booths for the day. Plenty of t-shirts, plain white socks, cheap jewelry, incense, and henna tattoos. The vegetarian activist was setting up his booth. “Meat kills! Stop the torture and killing of animals! It’s destroying the planet!!! Do your part now by becoming vegetarian.” I had met him once while rollerblading on Venice beach and stopped to talk to him. His name was Jingle and he gave me a jingle bell so that I wouldn’t forget it. He showed me pictures of slaughterhouses and of rabbits being tortured. He was a bit too extreme for me and I couldn’t bear to look at the photos. I was already a vegetarian and had been since I was a teenager. I certainly didn’t want to look at pictures of animals being slaughtered.      

Across from Jingle was some guy putting up signs about the coming of the end of the world. Excerpts from the Old Testament and, in bold, handwritten letters, THE END IS NEAR. SAVE YOURSELF. It didn’t look like he was selling anything. No Bibles or reference to any religion. I guess he just wanted to warn the world.                                 

What a sorry soul, I thought. Venice Beach definitely attracted the strangest people in America. The sad thing was I actually liked Venice Beach, and I visited it on a weekly basis. Did that make me strange?

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