I almost always rise early in California. I woke at 7 am, something I rarely do on the east coast. Well rested and restless at the same time. Fog engulfed Venice Beach and the air was refreshingly cool. It would be my first run here in over eight years, and I was loving it. My legs started bouncing down the boardwalk to the tunes of Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance.
Muscle Beach was the first familiar sight with shirtless iron chested men lifting weights at the famous outside gym. The shops were starting to open. You can still get your name on a grain of rice and the tacky t-shirts are still ubiquitous. “I put ketchup on my ketchup,” and “I’m considered very large in Japan.” With a drawing of a well endowed stick-man. We all know the man wearing that shirt has been short-changed. Or how about two pictures of the men’s restroom sign, one says “you” with a small penis, the other “me” with one twice the size. Do men actually buy these?
The artists were setting up booths as they hauled their art to tables or simply placed them on the ground. The sidewalks are now marked with numbers for the assigned artist, something that didn’t exist years ago. Homeless men and woman wandered about and socialized. It was difficult to distinguish between the homeless and the artists, perhaps they were one in the same. Did it matter? Why do starving artists always have the best looking jackets? Long black leather seemed to be the popular style this year.
The smell of marijuana clouded the refreshing scent of the Pacific Ocean. It is the Venice Beach I remember.
Venice Beach clearly ended and as I crossed over to Santa Monica I had a perpetual smile on my face. It must have shown because everyone smiled back at me. Every step, every curve held a memory for me. Every building seemed familiar. I stepped back in time and I was going for my morning run. One so recognizable, enjoyable, and so me.
I turned around and headed back. The boardwalk was quickly filling in with locals and tourists. Almost everyone had a dog, even the homeless. Large dogs, small dogs, pampered and weathered, side by side. A reflection of the boardwalk in many ways. I didn’t recall that many dogs when I lived here, but then again I wasn’t a dog person until recently. I pictured my little diva on Venice. Memories of her horrible New York experience entered my mind, reminding me that she’s a country dog.
There are many famous boardwalks in this great country of ours. Many hold the same souvenirs, unhealthy food and characters. But nothing compares to Venice Beach. It is all of that and so much more. A great place to people watch, browse shops and have a few drinks with no agenda. My husband and I were lucky enough to find a great apartment for a few nights that allowed us to do this.