Last night we received a call from Mikey. Dude works at Smashbox with Zac and is from the east coast. People from the east coast seem to have an interesting presence, often bold and typically quite funny. Our instructions were to drive to Hermosa beach and wait for further instructions. So we gassed up the Ford Focus, loaded up Franklin (Zac’s dog), and rolled out. We took the 110 down the 105 through the 405 and down some other road. I enjoy how everyone out here says “The <freewaynumber>,” it almost makes it more personal. In Minnesota I can’t imagine someone saying “Take the 94 down to the 35, and we’ll get wicked drunk!” Perhaps that is just my own insanity, though.
The new Staples Center was open, which was pretty cool. You know those lights that they use to attract rednecks to casinos in backward midwest country? Well they probably had fifty of those things, mounted all over the complex shining into the sky. I must admit, it was as much excitement as one can have from a car. A few days ago, I was talking to Zac when he smashed into a curb outside where he worked. Apparently his front left tire has a gash in it. I’ve been too worried about it to actually go look…Which means that at 90 mph down the freeway (which is pretty common out here) one gets a bit worried about his or her impending doom…I digress.
As we tooled along I noticed there was a portion of freeway probably 500 feet in the air. Out here they tend to build these grand spiderous freeway overpasses and HOV lanes. It seems a bit odd in an earthquaked prone society to jack freeways in the air…however, when you are rolling down them its the closet thing you can get to a rollercoaster without building a gigantic slip and slide off the side of your grandfather’s barn. The air turned cool as we ran away from the city. It didn’t change, you could feel the particulate in your nose and you could see the evidence of a dusty and dirty city all around you still. The imagery turns industrial as you get a bit out and it is cold and a bit depressing. There is razor wire on everything out here, it prevents graffiti. I can’t think of any cause worthy enough to cut myself on razor wire, so it seems that I won’t be doing any graffiti out here, anytime soon.
Finally, after 20 minutes of driving we reached Hermosa Beach. Zac had to make a tinkle by this point, which is a freaking dilemma if anything out here. Homeless people really screw things up for the public. It took us quite a while to find a bathroom. Subway and other fast food restaurants don’t even have public bathrooms, but this is out of the city. Imagine being in Plymouth and not able to find a bathroom anywhere…it was weird. Finally Zac found solace at a Weinershnitzel (not sure of spelling there)…It was just as sketchy as anything else out here, but I was so used to it that I sat in the car with the window down listening to rap music and bouncing my head.
After a bit of traveling we found the downtown area near the pier. Wow! What a cool place. There are bars everywhere and dudes and chicks all dressed up heading out for a night on the town. Mind you, this is Thursday evening, not mardi gras. Even still people are ever vigillent down by the water to party every night. I digged it, in a big way. We picked up Mikey and Elaina and headed back to Elaina’s apartment. Pretty cool place, right on the water. She had four other roommates who weren’t home at the time. We ended up drinking beers and sharing stories for a while out on the veranda. Then all the sudden another dude stood drinking a glass of wine. Having no idea where he came from, I gave out the casual “Hey” and he introduced himself as Mikey…Just then the world stopped for a minute.
“Mikey?” I thought…How the hell can there be a group of people where there are two Mikeys? The weird thing is when they were both around eachother at the same time one of them fell back to just “Mark.” I wonder how that happened? Was there an ultimate fighting championship to determine the winner? Was there montage music playing in the background as they sparred back and forth like gladiators? Was it all for the love of a good woman and the comfort of a warm bed? Who knows, but it was funny. I started to imagine meeting another person nicknamed “Lunky” and how weird it would be to fight them for the honor of continuing the nickname…I’d like to think I’m fairly good at Ninja maneauvers.
Beach people are great, I thought to myself. This is where its at. Party every night and don’t have any real big cares about anything. Everyone is happy because there is reasons to be. Bicycle gangs (that’s right, like ten speeds) roam the streets hoo hahing and yelling at girls, and everyone is out and alive. Not in the way they are in downtown LA. No one looks afraid, no one walks with a cold stare, eyes hidden behind sunglasses blocking out the obvious world in front of them. It was refreshing. I could turn of my judgment for a while remove my convictions about how different my life was, and just exist.
I found myself in a living room abandoned for a minute. A girl looked up at me and asked me how I knew Mikey. I told her, “through Zac,” she smiled and asked who’s Zac? The exchange was very pleasant. We all became friends quickly and I even learned the California handshake (slide, bump technique, similar to Colorado.) I thought about how that same experience would play out in southern Minnesota…”HEY! WHO THE F*CK ARE YOU?” Zac’s friend, I’d say…”WHO THE F*CK IS ZAC!” See – evidence that people in Minnesota are depressed by the snow. Even though we have all this damn water in the state, it doesn’t even out the people who really need it, and when it gets cold everyone turns to the mean version of themselves…So unwilling to meet new people and have new experiences.
Perhaps I should live near a beach…I thought. Bleach my hair blond, get a surfboard, say things like “What’s up bra?” and get a convertible. Is that really me, though? Could I sustain that type of lifestyle? More importantly could I really live with five other people in a Real World-esque setting? Probably not. For the time, it was nice to visit but we must be pressing on.
I have to admit the drive back was a bit odd. Nervous the entire time I watched myself tighten back up and become more conscious of my surroundings. You can really let your guard down when you’re in the beach towns but as you come back into LA one can’t help but become a hardened shell of themselves. The city was warm, it keeps heat in well because it is shrouded from the ocean. It makes you realize how it is so good as sustaining the homeless. We passed the city streets on the way to Zac’s place and it was a blend of some great real estate and some sad faces. Homeless men collapse on the streets at night and make their beds on the sidewalks. You have to step around them as you make your way to your destination and everytime you do it a feeling of remorse seems to pass by. You think about what you could do and you realize there isn’t much you really can do.
In fact, the even sadder thing is you need to ignore some situations entirely, no matter how bad they seem. We turned the corner from Zac’s parking garage to walk street level back to the old hotel apartment. Just then a dude on a wheelchair who obviously was riddled with dimensia started hollering at us. He appeared to need help but there is always the worry you’re about to be accosted by a homeless person. Your heart and your brain compete for a fight of emotion versus logic and you decide to move on. All the sudden the man turns angry and starts screaming obscenities. That happened a lot so far, I thought to myself. There are plenty of stories out here about people getting into confrontations with homeless people and very bad things happening. I counted about five times that a dude was SCREAMING at an invisible foe on Thursday. It was weird. One cat in particular walked up to a sidewalk and started screaming “FUCK YOU MAN!” throwing his middle finger in the air and screaming, SCREEEAMMING. There was no one around him? What did he see? What was he experiencing? Who had wronged him? So many questions, and yet no way to ever find out. Even if I had asked him, I’m sure I would have only turned into his enemy and things would get much worse.
Sad. Considering most of my thoughts of California existed of the show Entourage on HBO. Whereby a rich actor and his posse roam around Los Angeles getting girls, partying, and having a good time all the time. Yeah right, I thought. Why would I expect that? My dreams, shattered.
So for now, I long for the beach. Back in Zac’s apartment listening to the sirens and the bustling city below. Every now and then I hear a homeless man screaming or a couple getting into a fight about who slept with who, where the money went, or where the drugs are at. Feared for my life? Not really…No one really is out here…You seem to get quickly used to the loud and insane.