When I first came to Los Angeles, two years ago, I only knew a few people here – and those were relatives or roomates. So when I was lonely, I would ride my bike along the Venice Beach path, just to see the lunacy down there. I loved that there were so many people there, from so many walks of life: the permanent nomads, the homeless, the street artists, the Midwest tourists, a melee of Eccentric America, in the California sunshine.
Now, the Venice Paper reports that the lottery system for boardwalk space has finally gone into effect. While Bill Rosendahl suggests that there may be alternatives to the lottery in the future, and has established a “Venice Beach Free Expression Protection Working Group” (that’s a mouthful!), what are the effects in the interim? Will the vendors be “squatting” to sell on the boardwalk still? Will Food Not Bombs still be able to distribute food on Sundays?
Last night, as I was on the elliptical trainer at the gym (I work out at the Gold’s in Venice, even though I am not a bodybuilder), I was watching an infomercial for an abdominal workout machine. The infomercial was shot within a few blocks of where I was cardio-izing away, at the beach. And there was not a homeless person or street vendor in sight. It was the fantasy of Venice Beach, the beach that the rest of America imagines when they think of the location. It wasn’t the real Venice. And I’m thinking – maybe the problem is that we’re trying to make the reality match the fantasy projection. Maybe we should include the some of the lunacy and the anarchy in the image of Venice Beach that has been established in the American collective consciousness. If that was the case, then we could keep the same crazy boardwalk that I loved so much when I came here.
It remains to be seen what the effects of the lottery system will be, or if it will even be enforced. I’m sure I’ll be reporting on that as the weeks go by towards high tourist season. I’m not saying that the lottery system wasn’t the right decision to make, especially for the rent-paying store owners whose businesses were affected. I’m just saying that it’s one more change to a community I call home, and a change that could make it a bit less interesting than the place that kept me company before I made friends in L.A.