When I visited L.A.’s Venice Beach years ago it seemed the very soul of SoCal youth culture. Pretty girls in extra-short short-shorts whizzed to and fro on inline skates licking ice cream cones. Skateboarders, cyclists, scooterers and sunbleached guys bearing boogie boards swirled around, lost in a breezy mixture of health, youth, hedonism and earphones jacked into their Sony Walkmen (a precurser to the iPod).
We dropped by yesterday to see how time had treated the place. Did Venice Beach still exude the old exhuberance?
Our initial elation — induced largely by our having just found that rarest of Venice treasures: a free parking place — wore off quickly. Pretty youth, it seems, had aged and relocated. In its place was the largest collection of fat — really fat — young people I’ve seen this side of a Minnesotan Oktoberfest. The bright colors had give way to various shades of black: dark black, faded black, Dorito-crumb covered black, taco-sauce stained black, black with kettle-corn bits. A passé hip-hop style defined the shambling crowd. A low-rent carnival atmosphere defined the wretched tourist-bait shops despoiling the promenade. If the minimum wage laborers of China wonder where all their massive output of skull-insignia trashware goes, they can find the answer here on Venice Beach.
Even Rip Cronk’s famous Venice Beach mural, Venice Reconstituted, has been ravaged, but not only by time; mostly by the spray cans of addled Venetians. Once emblematic of the unbound spirit of the place, it is now disappearing. Twenty years of sun and sea exposure pale the upper portion. Vandals have obscured the bottom. Even the Venice Venus’s inline skates are gone, buried under layers of idiot scribbling.
I’m glad I hadn’t brought my cameras, so I couldn’t yield to the temptation to take pictures of the awful awfulness of the once-merry playground. I’m sure you have awfulness aplenty within commuting distance of wherever you live and hardly need another memento mori. Besides, I’d rather remember how Venice Beach looked in more innocent days.
Deflated, we made our way back through alleyways to our lucky parking place — which immediately filled as we pulled out — and left the animated corpse of the 90s behind us. We would have been bummed if the word were still in use.
Fortunately the day was saved as we hurried home via Topanga Canyon Road. Topanga Canyon is a stasis field of grooviness. Age cannot wither it, nor custom stale it. Here the Age of Aquarius has refused to give way to the Age of Capricorn.
We pulled a death-defying U-y and screeched into the dirt lot of the eternal 70s style Froggy’s Fish Market & Restaurant. All distressed wood, dim light, industrial windows, and frog-themed decoration (see the picture at the top of this post). Dress code: beyond casual. A couple of mahi-mahi tacos later and our cheer was repaired.