Much like any other day, it began as I awoke unassisted by an alarm into the dark and early morning. Unlike most other mornings, the bed against which I rolled and stretched was in Southern California. I was to attend a business meeting at a swimwear manufacturer that morning at 8:30. The high pressured shower at the Embassy Suites pounded the jetlag from me with each steaming hot drop and twenty minutes later I met my colleague in the lobby ready to head out to the meeting. As you may or may not be aware, I currently work in finance. As you also may be aware, I loathe my job more than any words of mine could ever express. And as I am certain you are not yet aware, it is largely related to the person for whom I directly work (as well as to the pressure to want to be as rich as possible, hate social welfare programs, and love the Fox news network). Not only is he generally incompetent, he also resembles a horrifying coupling of Skeletor, Frankenstein, and Christopher Reeves. He is 6’5”, slightly hunched, has a lisp that sounds like he is chewing on cotton balls, and spits near constantly when he speaks. After two years of working for him, I have trouble even making eye contact with the man. This is the man who keeps a spreadsheet of what time I come in and how often I am late. This is the man that presents my work as his own. And this is the man who accompanied me on this trip. Considering this, it is understandable why I was reluctant to fly out to LA on Monday evening, drive an hour from LAX to Tustin, attend the meeting, and then head back to the airport for two connecting flights back to Charlotte with him. As an appealing alternative, I booked myself on the 10:45 P.M. non-stop redeye back to Charlotte out of LAX, and dropped him off at Orange County airport immediately following the meeting. By 11 A.M. I was speeding solo up the four-oh-five back towards Venice Beach with not but twelve sweet hours to spend with one of my very best friends, Eve.

After the hour long drive up the crowded speeding freeway, the quaint side streets of Venice welcomed me to California in vibrant flowered vines crawling over distinctly Californian houses from modern to classic stucco. I parked my rented Rav-4 down Flower Ave. and walked up to meet Eve and see her new life in Venice. The long-haired, olive skinned beauty welcomed me with a long and over-due squeeze and we headed up to her apartment. She gave me the quick tour of her small flat and we stood in the kitchen chatting as she made us some fresh tomato avocado turkey sandwiches on delicious Hawaiian sweet rolls. California had decided to give us a perfect day and we accompanied our sandwiches on the balcony with a glass of cool white wine and sparkling water. Eve and I both assiduously single; we spent the first hour recounting tales to one another of our most recent prospects and how incredible it is to be independent again after so many years we both spent in long and hard relationships. Just while sitting out on the balcony, Eve introduced to me four of her neighbors, all funky, chill, seemingly interesting characters, who all shared the same immediate and unquestioning warmth. At this point I am already in love with Venice. Once we finished our refreshing sandwiches and wine, we stopped for an amazing cup of coffee at the local favorite Groundworks, and headed out towards the boardwalk in the warm and early afternoon.

The Venice Beach strip is an organism, growing and contracting with each pulse of humanity that surges through its brick veins. The boardwalk is lined with merchants and artists pedaling their rainbow of fares, from standard t-shirts and incense to local art, and I found myself pleasingly overwhelmed with the wealth of characters and sounds swimming through us as we walked. Everything in Venice seems to be designed to please the eye and the colors tumble forth from each and every shop in attempts to attract its myriad locals and curious visitors. Medicinal marijuana appears to be sold in almost every store, whether it be a head shop or a massage parlor and Eve and I rambled down the boardwalk, stopping to browse the local art, or buy a t-shirt, or a pair of sunglasses, for an hour or so until we reached the end of the strip. We decided to have a cocktail on the beach and stopped to get a couple of styrofoam cups, two Miller Lite twenty-fours and a bottle of Mountain Dew. A curious treat by which Eve swears, I settled for it, and we spread out her Kenyan shuka on the sand and watched the sun glinting against the cobalt sea.

Colors of Venice Beach

Colors of Venice Beach


Coolest T-Shirt Stand

Coolest T-Shirt Stand


Los Angeles Art

Los Angeles Art


Bum Pissing

Bum Pissing


Beltssssss

Beltssssss


The Strip

The Strip


I want to go to there.

I want to go to there.


After relaxing on the sand with our beer and Mountain Dew, it was time to continue on our tour of Venice Beach. As we walked away from the beach, Iva began to tell the story of the history of this town and its grand plans to be the “Venice of America,” the colorful boardwalk, amusement park, and few remaining canals a testament to Abbot Kinney’s early 20th century dream. We strolled along the canals, drifting between talks of boys and friends, and admiring the continually eclectic architecture lining the shallow waterways. Bridges cross the water periodically and as we walked I realized that our day had been all journey so far, and so little destination, a fact which made me smile from the inside out. Our adventure continued as we left the canals and crossed into yet another fascinating piece of Venice. We walked along the sidewalk in our summer dresses and watched as bicyclists weaved in and out from the sidewalk and the street. The roads in Venice are different, as they belong equally to the bikes and the cars; the sidewalks different as both trash and recycling are provided on every corner; and the people different in a way I haven’t yet been able to describe.

Beach Cruisers

Beach Cruisers


Iva admiring the canals

Iva admiring the canals


I want your house.

I want your house.


Bridges

Bridges


After forty-eight ounces of Miller Lite and sixteen of Mountain Dew, Iva and I were both in desperate need of a bathroom. Stopping into a small and intriguing furniture gallery on the street named for the father of Venice, we asked to use the restroom. As it turned out, the man sitting in the shop was the twin brother of a man from whom Iva bought her vintage Schwinn. Though I am still not sure how, after exploring the shop for a minute or two, this man offered to smoke us out on the vintage purple suede day bench Iva had been eyeing on the back patio. He meticulously rolled a joint in those clear papers made of plant cellulose as he bitched about all the hours he had been working lately, and as he rolled, he passed around a great green and orange bud, as dense and fragrant as anything I had seen before. Once the joint was ready and we settled outside to enjoy the sweet, sticky herb he began explaining to us that he was licensed to grow up to six plants, and this was his own untreated outdoor bud. While smoking, two girls walked into the store and I carefully tucked the joint into my hand and held it behind my back, nervous for them to discover our little secret. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when, after a few minutes, the girls were seated out on the back patio getting high with us as well. I’m not sure I could have asked for Venice to get any better.

Love this store.

Love this store.


Roosterfish

Roosterfish


As we made our way on down Abbot Kinney, we passed a turquoise establishment bearing the enigmatic moniker: Roosterfish. Eve suggested we head in for a drink and began to tell me a story of the time she took her parents here. Looking around the bar, I couldn’t tell exactly why it was such an inappropriate place for a parental cocktail, until I caught the series of early twentieth century penis drawings on the wall. Apparently, Eve had inadvertently taken her parents to Venice’s most famous gay bar. Regardless, the bar had a nice energy and we grabbed a couple of Heinekens and drank them on the back patio. The conversation lulled a bit as the long afternoon of beers and walking settled into stoned and hungry. Now a little high, a little more buzzed, and famished, we continued on to our next destination: Jin Patisserie. We entered through the gate into a small Asian-inspired garden terrace and took a seat in the shade of a tree, the sunlight filtering down to the table as the breeze soughed through the leaves. After several minutes of perusing a delectable selection of cakes and pastries, Eve and I settled on the afternoon tea, which came with an assortment of finger sandwiches, quiche, and unfathomably delicious cakes. The delicate treats and hot tea with milk was exactly what both of us needed to shake us out of the beer/joint coma that almost swallowed the rest of our afternoon. At it were, we left Jin refreshed and headed back towards Eve’s as the sun hung low in the late afternoon sky.

Afternoon Tea at Jin

Can't  remember the name of this delicious tea

Can't remember the name of this delicious tea


We gonna rock down to - Electric Avenue

We gonna rock down to - Electric Avenue


Sadly, we knew the day was winding down, and our walk back to Eve’s after lunch was mostly silent as we strolled, and as I contemplated quitting my job and hitting the road to California with nothing but my Jeep. As the sun began to set, autumn crept into the air like a thief and we arrived back at Eve’s apartment just in time to change into some warmer clothes, grab the bikes, and head back down to the beach before nightfall. The now chilly night whisked through my hair and on my skin as we sped towards the Pacific Ocean. As we finally approached the beach, we turned onto the bike path, sinuously stretched along the coast and rode on as we watched in awe, the sun screaming fiery in the crepuscular sky. We laid our bikes on the sand and looked out over the never-ending ocean as it swallowed the great orb in hazy clouds of vibrant orange, silently overwhelmed with all the beauty in the world.

Palms over Pacific Sunset

Palms over Pacific Sunset


It was now just after seven, and in the cool late-September night in Southern California, Eve and I stopped for some German beers and a truly giant pretzel with a perfect Bavarian mustard. This was the last stop we made before heading back to her apartment, and I headed on to the airport. We talked about Venice, about the West Coast, and about life. Eve begged me to move out there with her, and even offered a place for me to crash for a bit. The night grew colder as it wore on, the warm bread pretzel a saving grace in a night that belied the warmth of the afternoon. Eve and I ate as much of the pretzel as we could manage, finished our beers, and made the quick ride back through the brisk night air. The familiar sorrow that envelopes me at the end of every trip began to sink in once we got back to Eve’s place and I placed my packed bags by the door. At the end of the most perfect day I knew I was only a four hour flight and three time zones away from being back at my desk, and wondering when my next adventure would take place, and where. Well, here I am. Sitting at that very desk, ignoring the work I have to do, about which I have lost the ability to care, and telling this story: the story of my wanderlust, the story of my best friend, the story of Venice Beach, and the story of my life.