..[Los Angeles without a car, work permit or superpowers]

Monday, January 31, 2011

On the Boardwalk

- You gotta dawg you can bring him in. We gotta dawg with five heads and you can PET him,

calls the Freakshow compere on Venice Beach boardwalk. I think I might like to see this, but my husband clarifies that it's a dog with five legs, not five heads. He also reminds me that seeing The Smallest Horse In The World at an Italian streetfair in New York was a disappointment. (Save your $5: it was a young Shetland pony viewed from a raised platform.)

Nearly everyone's gotta dawg on the boardwalk today, and crossed leashes and nose-to-nose greetings are slowing our progress to the pier. Dr Strangename has no patience with hot crowds and tries to drag me off to the sidestreets, but it's better to stay near the beach in Venice. The sidestreets are full of seediness they can't get away with on the tourist-and-loon-packed boardwalk, which is saying something, since pot, botox and piggy-faced vegan militants are openly tolerated. Amongst the foot-traffic and stalls there's the odd idling police car.

- They lookin for you, man,

says an old, skinny white guy to his doppelganger on a bicycle. Both are selling feather charms, sage and good vibes. Nearby, a man in a polo shirt pretends to study a vendor's tarantula paperweight while his bulldog craps profusely all over the sidewalk.

- Clean up after your dog,

says an enraged hippy, emboldened by the support of the crowd. There are Japanese tourists, kids on pink pushbikes, shirtless surfers, girls in hotpants, rastas on rollerblades, professional stoners and junior thugs all complaining as they step around the steaming patch. The bulldog looks embarrassed.

Dr Strangename and I conduct a pointless debate about some missing parcels as best we can, pausing every few steps to make way for a skateboarder or to split around a dawdling couple. It's the end of January, and two Christmas gifts sent to us from England still haven't arrived.

- It's not our fault,

says Dr Strangename, inexplicably belligerent.

- I'm just saying that it's awkward.

- I don't see why it's awkward.

We debate whether people taking the time to send gifts you never receive is awkward. I mention Wrapit.com, the wedding list company that went bankrupt, leaving guests without their money and newlyweds without their gifts, and which presumably engendered some tricky thank you notes. Dr Strangename enquires, with apparent sincerity, whether we had a list with Wrapit.com. We didn't. Did you not notice we received wedding gifts?

- I wasn't sure whether you were using that as a comparison because it also happened for us. Or if it was just a general comparison,

says my husband, as a man with a THE KUSH DOCTOR IS IN sign tries to sell me some medical marijuana.

- There's a dude there with turtles,

says a girl beside me to her friend.

- Oh, ima get a turtle. Cute ones?

- Yeah, cute, but I don't know.

- No?

- Don't they have like diseases you can get?

- Salmonella?

- Well, I'm not gonna lick it.

We all skirt around a solitary woman doing a deranged, jerky dance to no music, everyone avoiding her eyes lest the Medusa gaze of insanity lock us in stone, or a difficult confrontation.

- ...fucking fuckers don't know me, fucking know me, fuck,

says the woman to no one, her fingers flickering to the sky, as the LAPD helicopter passes overhead.

Dr Strangename and go to Island Burger for bottomless Cokes and nachos, because we're classy like that. On the way back to the beach, fizzing on caffeine and aspartame, I rant for several minutes about the poor design of the restaurant's bathrooms.

- Well, don't let it get you down,

says my husband, sarcastically. This from a man whose passionate views on throw cushions* have ruined whole evenings (*that they have no place in civilized society, or on our sofa).

Twenty minutes to sunset. We walk down to the end of Venice Pier to watch the surfers. The water is a choppy black, and it's looking like the twenty-seven-day run of sunshine in LA is ending. But there are still scores of surfers, bobbing like seals in their wetsuits, waiting with apparently infinite patience for the right kind of wave.

- How does a seagull get that fat?

asks Dr Strangename, his attention elsewhere. He's a scientist, so, of course, this is not a rhetorical question, and we discuss the finer points of avian diet on our way back to the bus stop.

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