Day 18: "Dogtown"

19/07/2008 //

Venice Beach

Our last day in LA. A long trip was drawing to an end. LA, as stated, is far too big to really get to know in a few days (try years), but we had to see Venice Beach, at the very least. We strolled out of the hotel slightly later than anticipated, but after the previous night’s drinking session, we were both in a weakened state. So where better to head than Venice Beach?

Venice Beach is but a walk from Santa Monica, although we were lazy and took the bus with a gaggle of other tourists and an angry, drunk guy who yelled at the bus driver after she’d failed to stop when he didn’t signal for her to stop: “I don’t give a fuck, let me off the bus, bitch!” She did, after an evil look and driving an extra block to show who was boss. He stumbled away.

Venice Beach is the place you always see in movies and on TV shows: where the beautiful people go to be seen, where stars are discovered, where Pamela Anderson saved lives on Baywatch and so on. It’s often portryaed as paradise, and barring the bums, the hawkers, the pickpockets, the overpriced foods and the drug busts, it can seem like it.

Either way, it’s legendary for surfing and for revolutionizing skating back in the day, and there’s still a ragged exuberance there to tap into, despite the commodification of the place. We first went to Muscle Beach to watch the mutants lift scrap metal and show off their pecs and abs. Sadly, there was only one guy to be seen, and compared to the juggernauts I saw on my last visit, a downright scrawny one at that. (He probably couldn’t have benched more than a few hundred pounds.)

But still, the beach was rife with people and there was some sort of basketball game going on. There was a stunning girl on rollerskates holding a mike, and it turned out it was some sort of amateur game for the HipHop channel or something like that. We watched her, I mean the game, for a few minutes, then headed out for hot dogs.

If you like T-shirts, Venice Beach is the place for you. I bought a ridiculous amount of t’s on the trip, and most of them I got in Venice. Lynyrd Skynyrd, Pac-Man and a bunch of other bullshit. It really is t-shirt heaven.

Now, one of the other attractions are the women. In the movies, they’re always running around in pastel bikinis, their assets bouncing in the wind and their pearly white smiles always extended, even to the pale, potbellied furry tourist from the great North. There were a number of cute girls around, but as always on the trip, the stunners just weren’t there. Believe me, we looked.

We headed back after a while; on the bus, we passed what I believe was the old Zephyr Skates shop, where people like Stacy Peralta and Tony Alva got their start. It looked closed and someone had spraypainted “R.I.P. Heath” on the wall, I assume out of respect to the late Heath Ledger, who played Skip Engblom in The Lords of Dogtown (rent Dogtown and Z-boys instead).

We spilt up to see if there was anything we needed, and I went hunting for some things I’d forgotten to pick up, but the one thing they don’t seem to have in the area is a drugstore. So that was that. We figured we’d drive up to the strip on Sunset to check out the lights; it was important not to drink too much, because we were leaving the next day.

Getting the car from the valet was a nightmare. The traffic was insane and it took nearly half a hour just to get the car. The valet was embarrassed and declined a tip, on grounds of it taking too long. But we hardly blamed him; we could see how insane it was. It then took another good half hour to get five blocks and out of the worst of it. Stig had bloody murder in his eyes, and I could see a Death Race 2000 type situation in the works.

Finally we made it out. Driving around L.A .takes time, and at long last we made it to Sunset. It was sort of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it. A couple of clubs, and that was that. Not terribly exciting. And it was too early for the crowds to come out. They did on the way back, though. Getting back was equally insane, and when we handed the keys to the valet (different guy), he looked like the saddest guy on the planet. I think we ruined his evening. Sorry, pal.

…and here, the tale ends.