I've been at Venice Beach the past few days. I love Venice for so many reasons. Mostly, because I can set up wherever I want without worry. The first day, I watched the cops nervously, holding my breath when they passed by me. I thought for sure they would stop and yell, "Hey! Where's your permit?"
Me, just like many others along these miles of boardwalk, set up without permits and peddle the hundreds of pedestrians that explore it. Finding the perfect location is a constant struggle. A spot may be perfect for now, but as soon as that comedy/ dancing troop nestles in across the way, you are doomed to be overshadowed. Trash cans aren't ideal because the homeless flock to them and dig out their contents, and also, they're trash cans. My biggest struggle is trying to avoid the direct sunlight for hours on end. I actually traded a poem with a man who was willing to stand across from me at sunset and block the painful rays. He also bought me an ice-cream and tried to convince me to go on a date. Worth it.
The first day, I accidentally set up in front of Zoltar, a crane game looking thing with a robot fortune-teller inside. He is triggered when people walk past and he yells things like, "Hey you! I know your fortune, and so can you." It is so unbelievably loud, it surprises me every single time. I felt like I was at a concentration training facility every time I tried to write a poem.
Venice has some of the best people watching I've ever seen. I'm usually not that busy, but I find that the time goes by quickly because I have hundreds of the weirdest humans on the planet to observe. The downside of this is that there is a large percentage of "Venice Beach locals." This type is usually homeless, ragged and for some reason, they leech onto me like ...well, leeches. At one point, I had multiple groups who appeared to be attempting to form a tribe in front of my typewriter. It's like cardboard signs are beacons for them. Constantly begging for free poems or trying to steal my drink, these people are like the ghosts of Venice. They appear out of nowhere and never go away.
The other type of person I have had to watch out for are the CD peddlers. If you've ever been to a big city, you know these guys and have probably purchased a CD. They scour sidewalks with fervent determination, cleverly inserting a CD up against your face as you pass them. Instinctively, you swipe at the foreign object, and at which point, with lightning fast speed, you find that you are now holding the CD and are face to face with a stranger who refuses to take it back. It's usually the demo for their hip-hop group and you fumble around in your pockets for a bribe, so they will leave you alone. Later, you play the CD, "just to see" and when your Tinder date gets in your car and turns it on, you have to try and explain yourself.
These guys love me. They don't even try to sell me CD's. Which makes me feel kind of cool, because that means i'm part of the vendor club, not a tourist. But, they are annoying and actually quite hilarious, nonetheless.
While I set up, they plop down in my empty chair and it begins.
"Would you like to be my friend?"
It sounds innocent enough. The non-monster, human part of me wants to say yes. But, the hard, street-life living, boardwalk vendor, new me knows better. I say nothing. You might think this is harsh, but I might as well have said, "Okay!". They continue, un-phased.
"What do you do? Where are you from? May I have a poem for free?"
Then, it takes a turn. When I refuse their right to a free poem, they unleash the crazy.
"But, I love you."
When I first heard this, I thought I was losing it. There is no way he just said that. He doesn't look like a crazy person.
"You what?" He repeats himself and asks, "Don't you love me, too?"
By now, I have decided on my plan of attack. "No."
Me: "Because, I don't know you."
"Ahhhh, but when women meet a man all the time she look at him and knows it is love at first sight."
I say nothing.
He stares at me and then finally asks, "Can I have a poem, please."
Throughout the day, he strolls past me. He often blows me kisses, to the confusion of those waiting on a poem.
Sometimes I can't help but laugh and shake my head. Sometimes the people laugh. It's all good fun. In a weird way, it makes me feel like I've got a little life here on Venice Beach. I'm the girl who sells poems near Muscle Beach and that was my very own creepy CD guy that just walked by and said, "hello beautiful" for the tenth time today.
Despite the crazies, or (who am I kidding), because of them, I love Venice.
I love walking towards it, carrying my gear. I love watching the sunset. I love the people I meet from all over the world and the poems I write for them. I love leaving at the end of the day with money in my pocket that I will use to buy a slice of pizza.
I feel like a real (poor) artist. I don't make a lot of money, but what I do make has such value to it, that I can't express.
But, if need be, perhaps, I can learn a few things from the CD guys.
I had a perfect day yesterday. The perfect day doesn't take much, but everyone knows when they've had one. Around sunset, it dawned (haha) on me what it had been. We drove out to Malibu, hiked to Jim Morrison's cave, where the skull he carved lays gold.
. The map above shows the location of the cave, if one were to want to find it.
Wil skateboarded down some of the roads and I followed in the car, behind.
We jumped a fence to get onto the beach and I jumped in, getting tangled in some bull kelp in the process. We watched the surfers for a while. The most memorable person was a lady strolling the shore, talking on her bluetooth ear piece and carrying a Disney Princess-style hand-held mirror that she would periodically use to check her reflection.
We grabbed some beers and Will skated a bit more. We watched the sunset from a point so high, Malibu looked like an ant community. It sounds so simple, but those are the best, right?
Visiting the place where Jim Morrison went and thought was "super chill", a.k.a. like totally amazing! I've been a huge Doors fan since age 15. It felt bizarre to be there.
Me and Wil invented a joke about Malibu Barbie which runs similar to the jokes revolving around Chuck Norris.
"Malibu Barbie always drives in the left lane." "Malibu Barbie got plastic surgery in Mexico and now she's Maliboo-boo Barbie."
The following writing is from a journal entry last night. I hope you enjoy.
Sometimes, I forget that I am lonely.
Then, I feel it with the force of a booming, canyon voice. It begins in the back of my shoulders and creeps over my arms like dark hands from behind me. The hands lay heavy against my chest and then are inside, ringing my lungs like wet towels. When I was younger, I would cry in this moment. I could not bear loneliness. My lungs would empty out of my eyes and my surroundings would enter inside of me. I could feel the air swirling in my arms.
Loneliness was once my boogyman. I hid for too long on men’s beds because I was too afraid of loneliness grabbing my ankles. I have wasted so much time with people because I could not bear to be by myself. One of the things that scared me the most about leaving Fairbanks and traveling alone was coping in those moments of loneliness. I imagined myself like a heroin addict sobering up, clawing at my covers in pure physical angst.
I have struggled with feeling deeply lonely as long as I can remember. I was alone a lot of my childhood. My parents say I was “self-sufficient.” I got used to it. But I remember feeling completely and tragically torn between wanting to be alone and wanting to be loved. The lack of love reeked havoc on me until I grew old enough to destroy myself.
Nearly successful, distant family I had never met took me in and saved me. They loved me. From then on, I was not lonely in the same way. They fed the little girl and taught her how to feed herself. From that point on, I was furiously independent. This is something I get complimented on. But, it is a skill that was born from emotional poverty. I had to work harder, but I was more determined to achieve independence.
I’m not nearly good enough at this to brag. I'm just excited that I sometimes forget to be lonely and I don't cry when it happens.
I make mistakes. I let people influence me, usually men. I fight those thoughts of “I just wish I had a partner” and “I wonder if the perfect person is out there?” I meet people and choose to see only their potential or how they make me feel right then. I put myself in situations that I know are not healthy for my heart and spirit. What keeps me optimistic and pushing forward, alone into the darkness is that I am determined to grow, to learn and to thrive. I will not be held down by anyone, including my own negative thoughts. I am self-aware on a deep level. I usually don’t make the same mistake twice, though I do seem to make many once.
Sometimes, I watch the sunset and I can feel the hands creep up my back. I feel the coldness of a solomn heart - a traveling loner sitting quietly with her thoughts. Sometimes I look to see if anybody is there. I touch the warm dirt or fiddle with a leaf in my hand. I close my eyes and thank the universe for providing for me. The universe whispers, “I love you, Rebecca. You are beautiful.”
I am thankful for my loneliness, because it beckons me to continue moving - searching.
I am speeding down a cliff in Malibu, behind my only brother, the person I love the most in this world. We are so young. We are in some ways, drifting around this planet like tufts of desert grass and for this moment in time, we are bound together. This thought fills those cavities in my body like warm syrup. As I watch him on his skateboard, freely living in his perfect way, I too, am perfect. We are here, as individuals, and as two people who were born together, forever bound by the tiniest and longest of strings.
We are embracing the scary and sacred infinity of being alone.
If you are human and like music, here is an album I can't stop listening to.
(Currently on top volume, right now.)
Colombia: October, 2015
Anyone who has gone on an epic journey through a foreign country knows that when you return home, sit down, and think about what to say about it, you hear yourself laughing in your head.
It's laughable to convey such a thing, like an alien abduction or an out of body experience. It seems to be made up of millions of vessels of emotion. These individual experiences form a web, an organism that comes to life like a human popping up out of a sidewalk.
Explaining it is like standing next to that human and explaining to someone what they are and how they happened.
Luckily, there is photography.
But, that is only the milk film. There is an entire glass below it. I was listening to an interview of a traveler and writer I admire. His name is Jedidiah Jenkins. He rode his bike from Oregon to Patagonia and used his Instagram as a kind of blog. He filled it with substantial chunks of deeply-crafted and touching contemplations. In the interview, he talks about what he discovered about his travel writing as he traveled. He found that what stays with him about these physical interactions aren't the physical details. He didn't remember the names of streets or cafes or when he did what. He developed this thing called "idea memory". The ideas, the contemplations, the veracity of a thought developing, these things that formed were what stuck with him. Riding through an elaborate farming community was remembered for the idea it triggered on an individual's responsibility and work ethic, not for it's majestic landscapes.
When I heard him say this, my eyes lit up and I knew I was the same way. For me, these scenes that I absorb are food for my brain. Traveling isn't good just because I want to see stuff. It's not what I'm seeing that leaves me in awe of humanity and quietly humbled. It's what they trigger in my brain, the ideas and thoughts that become, like raging waves, though my person.
My eyes saw more than I will ever be able to list or describe or draw. The pale face of the woman playing her tin instrument - they way she never looked up. The man carrying a 40 lb sack of bottles through the dark park plaza, his mournful song heard after he disappeared. The cathedral I snuck into, where I offered up prayers and tears of thanks. There were so many wists of images that run past your window in a taxi, so many people you catch these private glimpses of and think, "I came all the way here, just to share this moment with you". I felt overwhelmed with gratitude and hunger and the same time. I will cradle these things in my heart like tiny flowers.
So, I offer up these images to you. My heart is full. I am so deeply in love with Colombia. My body aches for the music of the streets,
and especially, the arepas (pictured below on my lap and linked here).
"Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better? Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them? Why look for friends or partners who will just shore up your self-esteem instead of ones who will also challenge you to grow? And why seek out the tried and true, instead of experiences that will stretch you? The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives."
Fran: The master Pizza woman.
Click on the photo to read the rave review on Bluebird Pizzeria.
This wonderful spot is run by husband and wife Ray and Fran. They hail from New Jersey and serve the best pizza I've ever tasted.
I've gained four pounds in one week. I joke that I'm turning into a pizza. My friend sent me a picture the other day of Audrey Hepburn hugging a giant pizza. It's getting serious.
Bluebird Pizzeria is a couple blocks from Trey and Kay's apartment. One of us helps out behind the counter almost every night. Some nights, all of us are here, from open until close. My first night, I washed dishes with Taylor. I was soon promoted to phones and counter. I get to interact with the people, taking orders over the phone and taking care of customers eating at one of the five tables. It's hard to describe this place. I have trouble finding the words.
People love this place. It was voted best pizza in the east bay. People wait anywhere from 25 minutes to an hour for one of these pies. Sometimes, we take the phone off the hook it gets so crazy. On a good night, they'll make somewhere around 70-80 pizzas. That's A LOT OF PIZZA.
After work, there is usually leftovers, or we just bake a new one. It's the kind of pizza where you eat one and start immediately craving more. They say some people come in every day. Everyone I had the pleasure of meeting had huge smiles and nothing but raves about the place. You feel like you're a part of something special here.
My first night, I was overwhelmed. Fran talks at a louder volume than most and they definitely don't baby you. You either have to quit or learn to toughen up. I find myself yelling across the restaurant at Fran and thinking of that first night.
Fran and Ray are amazing. Around closing time, Vicki, one of the many regulars will show up on her bike, eat a pizza, drink a beer and hang out for a while, asking me questions about my travels and debating any topic I can think of.
Jesús and his son Derick walk their dogs past the shop every evening and Derick runs around, collecting suckers, yelling "Hey!" at everyone and exhausting my Spanish skills. These people are treated like family.
That's the word that I'm thinking of...family.
Every night ends with a fresh pizza and all of us sitting around the tables with each other, laughing about the occurrences of the evening. You can hear yelling and laughter eminating out of the open door.
I've been lucky enough to meet some of the best people in the past month. From Midnight's Farm on Lopez Island, to Bluebird Pizza here in the bay area, I've felt so welcomed. Traveling alone can be lonely sometimes and it's easy to look around and feel like an outsider. But, It's also just as easy to look around and realize that you are your home and the world is your family and strangers are just people you haven't met yet.
I'm realizing that I am not alone at all.
Realistically, there's no words to describe what Bluebird is like. You just have to go there.
And order a 16 inch white.