Thursday, March 10, 2011

A gawker's Disneyland ...


LOS ANGELES -- Venice Beach has replaced our couch as my favorite place on earth. It's a gawker's Disneyland. We were immediately bombarded with people trying to book appointments for a mysterious doctor character who was now taking patients. Signs advertising medical marijuana. Adding a layer of authenticiy: A man dressed in scrubs rolled past on a skateboard: "Marijuana for sale," he said, skirting through the card.

It's a tossup. I'm not sure if he trumps a man with a 5 gallon bucket filled with Chicken Cacciatore. He was selling it by the paper plateful: A five course meal, he called it, for a dollar. Another guy skateboarded past plate heaping. He rolled up on some teenagers who were hanging out, playing guitar. "That looks good," one said. He pointed back toward the man. The teens scattered, jumping over shit and making for the pasta.

A guy's dog was wearing sunglasses. A man stood behind a cardboard cutout shaped like a TV. Henna tattoos and piercings. Another guy selling pot. Foot massages. A young girl with a sign indicating that she is helping improve the vista on the boardwalk. "Can I have 75 cents?" she asked some men who looked at her as they passed. Leather bands. Beaded bracelets. Iced Lemonade. Painters and spray painters. Tarot card readers. I could go on all day.

I've always thought that before I could write anything, I'd have to see everything. But then standing there gape-mouthed as I see everything also feels a little rookie. On the other hand, I'd hate to lose that thrill of seeing a man tanned to grilled perfection leaning against a building, not moving an inch.

"He's real," Chuck said.
I thought he was a statue.

Five minutes later he was on a bike doing figure eights, bright clothes and flowers, circling through the crowd.

On the plane between Phoenix and LAX we were sitting behind a woman who is going to be on "Ellen" today. She had been in the audience last week, and Ellen loved her. She made her the fan of the month, or some other 7-minute claim to fame. Flew her back out to be in the audience again. She talked about it to the man next to her for the entire flight. Whooping and giggling. It was her second time on an airplane. When we landed, she checked in with her family in Texas.

"I gotta go," she said into the phone. "The show's on the other line."

Her voice changed. Up two octaves and into a sweet purr.

"This is me," she said and began answering questions about where she worked and he names of her kids and grandchildren.

We are staying in Silver Lake this go-round. Just a few blocks from American Electric, the rival tattoo shop on "L.A. Ink." Chuck found a super cool ring for me in the street. Square, custom-made. A little too big. We ate at one of our favorite stops, Cafe Tropical. Hot pastrami and a Midnight Sandwich.

Last night we wandered around shops in Santa Monica and then went to a bar called Smog Cutter, where I exhausted my entire karaoke catalog. The entire "Footloose" soundtrack, some Madonna and Belinda Carlisle and Stevie Nicks. I met some boys from a local dodge ball league, whose claim to fame is advancing to the championship game at Staples Center last year. They dyed their ironic mustaches pink for the big game. They showed me their Facebook photos and asked me to judge who had more team spirit.

At the end of the night, Cath and I slow danced to something I can't remember.

I've had two modest celebrity sighting: A girl whose blog I've been reading for year's friend. I recognized her from photos and videos. She's a bit part actress. No big whoop. I also saw the kid who plays Dixon on the new 90210. I played it cool in both instances.

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