It’s like walking through a circus. California’s Venice is the meeting place for everything and everyone. From astounding trick bike displays, to sideshows of art and psychedelic creations, homeless beggars to men dressed in green hospital scrubs sprouting the praises of medical Marijuana. There is music blaring from the beach, the bars and the buskers. Then there is the crowd weaving through each other on the beach boardwalk, a tangled mesh of tourists and locals, beach bums and gangsters, hipsters and the devil. Yep, I even saw the devil at Venice, stumbling around carrying a big cross over his shoulder. The circus arrived at Venice… and never left.
My first visit to Venice was early on a Sunday morning. The police were just getting set up on their mountain bikes for the day, a few of the beautiful people had risen early to walk their dogs. The homeless were spread out across the grassy parklands, warming up in the sunshine, that had just risen above the buildings. The grunts and aggressive yells of basketball players and muscle men and woman floated along from the open aired gym and the smell of freshly made breakfast burritos warmed my insides as I watched a lone figure flow through a Tai Chi exercise. It almost seemed like a peaceful place. The circus when the main show is finished and the teamsters slowly rouse for the new day, enjoying the calm serenity, before the crowds arrive to see the show and the chaos starts all over again.
My following visit was two weeks later on a Sunday afternoon. This time I walked straight into the circus’ main grand finale it seemed. A growing gathering, at least fifty people wide converged on the beach. From somewhere inside the mass of bodies, drums beat together, their sound rising up like steam and vibrating along the beach. Later on that night, it would take five police SUV’s to break up the circle, so lost in the music and energy, that not even a two tonne car could separate the mass of bodies on the beach. Girls on roller skates, weaved in and out of walkers, joggers, skateboarders and cyclists. A staunch gangsta dude in his bright green Adidas tracksuits, walked his bull-dog along the boardwalk. And the whole way along the boardwalk, side shows of magic tricks, art work on skate decks for sale and homeless people asking for money for booze, drugs, food flooded the senses with things to try to take in. The colour, the smells, the sounds, it was a sensory overload, not knowing where to look next, which sounds to listen to or wanting to miss anything that happened.
The beauty of Venice is that the circus is not contained to the beach side boardwalk. Every side street contains something exciting to see. The sideshows continue the whole walk back to the car. Giant murals on buildings, a Mexican cholo street fight, pavement lifted by tree roots or earthquakes, but neglected and left to grow and morph in its own natural-urban way, there is always something to see, something happening. The circus never stops, it just keeps rolling on.