Venice Beach After Dark
After 37 hours in transit, I was wrecked. Upon my reaching my hostel, all I wanted was to brush my furry teeth and go to sleep. Unfortunately, my oversized toothpaste had been confiscated from my carry-on back in Sydney, so I had to leave the comfort of my dorm bed to buy some.
The purchase was easily made at a nearby convenience store. My foot had barely stepped onto the street when I was approached by one of the many eccentric characters who parade up and down the Venice Beach boardwalk hustling for drugs, money, a record deal and who knows what else. I was simultaneously asked for cash, handed a business card and invited to drink with this fellow and his friends over in the shadowy park. Declining the offers, I parted with the change from my toothpaste purchase and excused myself, only to find another equally mischievous looking carny by my side a few paces ahead. I shook him off and cast my gaze to the concrete to make a beeline back to the hostel.
“What are you doing walking around by yourself after dark? It’s dangerous,” came a voice, once again, from beside me. The large blonde man dismounted his skateboard and fell into step with me.
“Uh, I just came out to get toothpaste, I’m heading back to the hostel now,” I muttered without eye contact, half-heartedly waving the Colgate to validate my story.
“Ah! An Awwstralian” he replied, as though announcing the breed of fish he had just reeled in. “I’ll make sure you get back to where you’re stayin’ without too many more people harrasin’ you, but first, do you like The Doors?”
I nodded unenthusiastically.
“There’s a tribute band playin’ in here, just come along for one drink.”
Against better judgment, mostly because I couldn’t see an easy escape (and also because I am borderline addicted to saying yes to random activities in case they turn out to be sensational), I allowed myself to be ushered inside.
It was exactly how I pictured an American dive-bar to look: seedy, ominous, and full of people who seemed like they all kind of knew each other, but didn’t particularly like each other (which was probably the case). My new friend got us beers and began to tell me about how he was only one career move away from being a world-famous skater. I estimated him to be at least 37, and began to question his sanity. When he explained that I would not be able to find him on Google because he has to frequently change his name due to being “too” famous, I became quite certain we were not living in the same realm of reality. Zoning out, I cast my eyes to the stage where the Jim Morrison wannabe was enthusiastically gyrating, much to the delight of an overly appreciative transvestite, who made up 100% of the mosh pit.
An elderly man dressed in leather plonked onto the stool next to me, so close that I knew for certain he had eaten something BBQ flavoured within the last six or seven minutes. He began speaking to me so inaudibly he may as well have been gibbering in the dialect of Teletubbie. His blackened teeth were on full display as he leered with unfocused eyes from beside me, concreting my decision to vacate the premises.
Blondie seemed quite disappointed about losing his new drinking buddy and insisted I let him walk me back which, despite fervent decline on my behalf, he did. I didn’t want him to know where I was staying, so when we were just a few buildings away I paused out front of another hostel, pretending it was mine.
“Well, goodnight,” I said, ignoring the disappointment etched onto his face. “Here’s my card if you wanna hang out tomorrow,” he offered, handing it over. I nodded politely, attempting not to wear an expression that betrayed the unlikeliness of me calling him for catch-ups. He disappeared into the darkness and I walked towards my real hostel, pondering why all these probably jobless folk bother getting cards made up, and how much business (or friendships) they actually generate.
My hostel was situated above the fish taco place that Jason Segal takes Paul Rudd to in I love you, Man, and there were a few people kicking around in there. A group of young gritsters were hanging out front smoking durries, and one of them said hello. I said hello back, and he gestured for me to join them, so I did. It had been such a weird evening and I was itching to speak to someone that may have been a little more on my level. We started to chat but mid-sentence, he trailed off.
“What was I saying again? Sorry… I’m really high.” He pulled some shrivelled brown plant matter from the breast pocket of his flanno and asked me if I would like to eat it.
“Sure,” I replied.
For the next three hours, he and I sat at the bar talking, laughing, drinking and tripping, due to both the shrooms and my jetlagged delirium. We were getting on fantastically, our bond only tightening when I showcased my dude-skills by peeing in the urinal alongside him. As a marker of our new friendship, we even traded shoes. Mine wouldn’t quite fit on his feet which, along with his degree of maggotness, impeded his ability to walk, so he spent the rest of the night dementedly shuffling around the bar drawing excessive attention to himself; so much so that some of the street-dwelling hobos congregated outside the window, laughing.
With a new outlook, thanks to the alcohol and hallucinogens, I left the bar to befriend the newcomers instead of trying to avoid them. Soon, one of the first guys that had accosted me earlier in the evening came rolling up on a unicycle:
“Hey hey laadyyyy!”
He greeted me with a big smile, which I returned as I was now, of course, rid of inhibitions and wondering why I didn’t befriend these legends earlier. In my boozy-blissful state, I no longer worried that they wanted anything from me other than to include me in the carnival-esque fun that was their everyday lives. Ironically, it was now that I did want their services that they were no longer trying to sell them.
Soon we were amongst a growing street party of hobos and hooligans, juggling and drinking and smoking and laughing. I was involved in many group hugs, and made a few new Facey friends. I could hear myself drunkenly promising to “hang out” or “catch up” the next day, which I knew would never come to fruition (making for one very awkward moment when I bumped into a cross-dresser whose message following up on our plans was still sitting unanswered in my inbox).
Eventually, though, the bar shut and the cops moved us along. The guy who had given me the mushrooms had recovered somewhat, re-mastering the ability to construct sentences, and asked if I wanted to crash at his. Although the partying was fun, I did the sensible thing and said I needed sleep. “Well, if you wanna hang out again, just let me know.” He handed me his card and walked off into the night. I walked upstairs to my room, collapsed onto my bed, and fell asleep without brushing my teeth.
Cover by Marco