Saturday, March 27, 2010

A Venice Without Canals

In a crazy twist of fate, I have ended up in Venice.

O.K. So I didn't end up in the delightful Italian Venice, but I still have some pretty decent memories of that time. It hasn't, quite yet, faded into obscurity. I'm sure that time will come, and when it does I won't even notice. It's the blessing and the curse of forgetting things – once forgotten, you can't remember that you ever knew them.

Before jumping on the Big Blue Bus and paying my 75 cents to ride down to Venice Beach, I made my way out for some food. Food today would be McNuggets: Om nom nom nom. I have not eaten McNuggets in a long time. I can't even recall when it would have been – years. But I remember loving them. I think I had them once when they switched to “all white meat” and I decided that the flavour was lessened. Mind you, I'm just recalling that now as I write. As I ordered them I think I still expected them to be as delicious as they were in my pre-teen memories.

But come on now, five bucks for 20 nuggets? That's a steal.

There are all number of new sauces to have too – now they have probably been around for years, but they're new to me. I grabbed Ranch, and my go to BBQ. Ranch? It had potential were it thicker. As it is – fail. But BBQ sauce, oh the stories people could tell you about me and McBBQ sauce (and crunchy things) for I loved it so. And as I bit into my BBQ sauce drenched nugget all I could think was – they did it... They finally did it (again, it could have been done ages ago.) What did they do? They changed the sauce. McBBQ sauce worked because it was unlike any other sauce on the market. But now they've tried to make it a smokier flavour, something that you'd almost have with chicken strips. But they have failed to match this flavour, and it the attempt they have moved away from what they once had, that worked so well. Sigh. 20 unsatisfactory nuggets... They are only as good as their sauce. On the other hand, there was enough to fill my belly which is something Mackers so rarely succeeds in. And truth be told, there are many more sauces out there waiting to be explored.

Also – before I am chided once more for eating at such a restaurant I want you to step back and take note: this is the one time you can say nothing, nothing! When people go to China they eat Chinese food, in Peru they eat Peruvian food – well I'm in America, and there is no food more American than that served by a creepy yellow clown. If anything, you should be chiding me about eating Sushi yesterday.

O.K. With that justified, on the bus, and off to the beach. But wait – it's not that simple. First there was the crazy guy talking to the people at the bus stop. If there's one thing Santa Monica is not short on, it is crazy people. Oh the crazy people there are here.

This one was talking to – sorry, talking at – the two ladies waiting for the bus about how crazy people always come up to you and talk to you while you're waiting for the bus. He said he normally would smack them down, and do other such things. The ladies nodded and tried to deflect conversation, to no success. This went on for a good seven minutes, at which point the man left – much to their relief. Out of nowhere a boy stepped forward adding, “you log onto X-Box live, and you'll see even more immature behaviour!” With his piece said, he faded back into the populated landscape. With the women stlll reeling from this new addition, the original crazy man came back, picked up a terribly flat, and now red, road-killed pigeon, and walked right past the staggering pain, dropping the ex-bird in a trash bin.

Then the bus showed up, and all was forgotten.

Thirty minutes later, and I'm stepping off into a strange and delightfully new place. To be exact it looks like something out of the second Tony Hawk video game when they got the level design down, and were now experimenting the all the various bright colours they could get going.

In front of me was a Graffiti park, where concrete pipes, walls, and surroundings had been constructed as an outlet for the art style. Permits were required for painting, and I hope that anyone could obtain one if they wanted. I didn't look into the specifics, but if it was reserved for a certain class of artist, that would hurt the integrity of the art form as I see it. Some of the murals were not all that artistic, which leads me to believe that skill is not a must – which actually is somewhat reassuring as it allows all levels to participate.

As I began to photograph the pieces a gaggle of five fourteen year olds girls in their crop tops and their open fly shorts over the prerequisite bikinis rolled up, digital cameras in hand. One seemed to be the boss, or as Lindsy Lohan has taught me, the Queen Bee. She directed her flock to stand on the wall, which they did, jutting out hips, hands raised above their heads, and all sorts of other things which I can only assume they thoughts models would do. Snap, snap, snap, each time a new pose. The girls continued to snap away, moving in front of every wall, and every piece. Each time scandal and giggle ensued.

Now, I have no problem with the youth being the youth, and to be honest graffiti makes the best backdrop for any basic full body portrait – but... well, you just wanted to tell them that they were shooting against the sun, and all the colours would be muted, details lost, and backdrop washed out. You felt for their lack of understanding that, if they just turned around, superior shots could be their. On the other hand, this left all the images worth shooting free of their clutter, and let me finish my own photos before moving on.

They were still dancing around in the sand doing their thing as I walked away, off toward the next sight in interest – the skate park. There were children here, and adults that refuse to grow up – not in a Peter Pan sort of way, but in a Tony Hawk kind of way. But without the multi-million dollar video game contract to help them keep the faith. These are true man-childs.

Riding the concrete waves they pulled off combinations of stalls, flips, transfers, and grinds that I didn't actually think were possible in real life. Some were by themselves, skating for themselves, others were being followed by friends holding digital video cameras.

On the sides were characters just as interesting as those taking centre stage. Couples watching, with clothes from a Cindy Lauper video, and ridiculous individuals, no doubt creating reel for their upcoming independent film that will be released just as soon as all sorts of terrible random happenstances come together, recording the events on their hand held movie cameras. I know it must be neat to use film – but, really? Just go digital folks. Give in.

And from the the skate park I headed to the promenade, checking out tattoo shops, t-shirt sellers, little art areas with painted mousetraps, and no less than three “cannabis doctors.” They seemed to indicate that marijuana could be bought from within – but I have no idea what I was really seeing. It couldn't be, could it? And no sting operation would have so many fronts.

I shrug – California.

For an hour I wandered, being sure to photograph the graffiti Starry Night, and the cute stylized critters on the wall across from it. Eventually I head back to the main street, and wander the “historic” section. This seemed like a reach to me, as it was just shops – and none all that lovely. But, you know, there was a bus stop on the other side of this area, so I wandered the full strip – yawn. And then grabbed the bus back to the hostel.

I was content with my hostel time, but as I surfed the internet I was overcome with that feeling that life happens outside. I often say it, and often feel it – if you're inside, nothing will surprise you. Not unless an airplane engine falls on you from above. But, if you step outside there are so many forces and ideas working on you that who knows what mysteries you will be exposed to?

I headed outside. Should I watch Alice? Grab a burger? Oh – I know, I should go look at iPods and pretend that I'll but one, even though I feel I must wait for the next generation of them to come out. Still, lots of games to play. Into the Apple Store I go.

What's this? The creators of LOST giving a talk to all those in attendance? You see – random events becoming quite impressive. For an hour I watched and for an hour I was amazed that this just happened to be going on. I wonder how many things like this I miss by walking away too soon – a burger, or a movie, would have removed this from my day. I'd have not even known it ever happened. Now I also felt overcome with the urge to catch up on the episodes I'd not yet seen this season.

Feeling my day was complete I headed back to watch some LOST. However, when I returned I saw that Serenity was being played in the hostel. Off I went to watch that. I love Firefly, and it's my love of that show that has always made me hate the movie as it's just so different. Now, however, removed from the show, I watched the movie in a different life. And unexpectedly, I quite enjoyed it.

With that experience under my belt, my day had reached a natural conclusion. I had enough material to write about, and felt as if I did enough. Good for me. Off to bed. Oh good, the people are snoring.

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