I’ve always been indifferent to visiting the States, mainly due to the idea that television glamorizes the destination already. But when having to attend a conference in Los Angeles, I wasn’t going to look a gift horse in the mouth. I decided to open myself up to a possibility of discovering the City of Angels that isn’t spoken of. Or at the very least, experience the alternative intricacies that are.
After the conference, I had four days to explore the valleys of the U.S. West Coast. As a tourist, it was only appropriate to see the luminescent nightlife of Sunset Boulevard, paying homage to legendary venues, like Johnny Depp’s former club (and where River Phoenix met an unfortunate end) the Viper Room and Roxy’s Theatre.
Amongst the celebrity hotspots I found an underrated alternative in The Red Rock, where it was easier to converse with regular Angelenos. It was here that I experienced the international diversity of the city. There were the locals along with a diversity of European UCLA students and one particularly energetic Australian horticulturist consulting on crop growing of the “medicinal” type.
I was adamant on visiting Venice Beach from the onset. Contrasting the glitz of Hollywood, Universal Studios and the Sunset Strip, Venice Beach would be, I hoped, a bit more real. The boardwalk remains home to eclectic, counterculture. Tattoo parlours, medical marijuana shops and the expected, stereotypical bodybuilder with the tiny Chihuahua attracting the attention of bikini-clad girls.
Film shoots, Leather-skinned elderly in leopard-skin bikinis, the legendary Harry Perry inspiring optimistic musicians to push their five-dollar demos onto anyone passing the Muscle Beach Gym, make this one of the most colourful culture hubs in the world. On one side of the walk is a kaleidoscope of artists, performers and craft sellers. On the other Venice Beach’s staple transport rentals (i.e.: bicycles, skateboards and surfboards) restaurants and numerous gift shops.
Seeking hydration in the hot, sea and lotion scented air, I stopped at the Venice Ale House, for their craft beer and the best shrimp tacos I’ve ever had. With Sublime’s “Santeria” spilling out of one of the gritty surf shops, I came to realise that, though it’s nothing I hadn’t seen on some Californication episode, television only stimulates sight and sound. The real thing however, the environment and its momentary uniqueness, stimulate the heart and mind, turning the fiction into reality and a worthy experience.