I have officially left the beach.
Sunday morning, I loaded up my car, stocked up on supplies from the 99 cents store, returned some borrowed Harry Potter books to a friend and took the 10 interstate out of Los Angeles. I missed it immediately. Once again, I found myself in that familiar place of bittersweet departure. There is a piece of my heart on the Venice boardwalk.
On Saturday, I commuted one last time, found my usual, secret (illegal) parking spot and carried my heavy suitcase, chair and sign across Main Street, Pacific Avenue and finally, down the boardwalk until I found an opening.
The gravity of it being my final time doing all these things weighed on me. I didn't mind. I wanted to soak it all in. There were all the familiar faces there. The man selling handmade frames with flowers inside, the painter, the old musician, who never stops smiling, the homeless kids. They all greeted me warmly as I passed. Even the CD guy made an appearance and we had one final debate over whether I would give him my love or not. I think I'm going to miss that guy.
It turned out to be my busiest day at Venice, ever. It was hard to tell people that it was my last day.
At sunset, the police drive down the boardwalk, and if anyone is caught still selling or busking, they are ticketed. So when the sun started to set and I had three people all waiting for a poem, I got a little nervous. I finally had to take my sign down, to prevent people from approaching me while I typed the remaining poems.
The sunset was warm and vibrant. I buckled my typewriter in one last time and headed to the car. I suddenly realized I had forgotten something. A guy named Derrick had asked for me to write him a poem titled "A Karaoke song you can grow into" and leave it at his apartment right off the boardwalk. I am a man of my word, so I sat in my driver's seat, typewriter on my lap, and typed out one last one. I folded it and put it in his mailbox.
My time in Los Angeles was complete.
My traveling companion from Alaska and I drove straight for the Mojave Desert, which is in between L.A. and Vegas. When we stop at places and talk to people, they are always extremely interested in us Alaskans. It's funny how quickly I've forgotten this since I've been in L.A. It is really fun to now be part of an Alaskan gang. It's not just me.
We hiked the Kelso sand dune, (he went all the way to the top). I kept hoping to see a roadrunner, but was excited when at sunset, I spotted a coyote running across the road.
That night, when I was laying in my tent, I heard footsteps and am convinced a coyote (that same one?) was checking me out.
I've never spent much time in the desert. (Cold girl for life!) So it was a new and weird experience to wake up in the middle of this desolate, brown world. I felt like I was in an old Western movie.
It was almost down to freezing temperatures that night. By the time I woke up around 8am, it was blazing hot again. Of course, I decided to wear all black and became the number one target for the sun in the desert that day.
In the daylight, we realized we were surrounded for miles by Joshua trees, which are famous for their abundance in this part of the world. Turns out, we were camped right near the largest concentration of Joshua trees in this desert!
We walked out into their midst and explored. It was the strangest forest I've ever been in.
Hotel rooms in Vegas are known for being dirt cheap. We got a room right on Fremont St. for $21. It's one of the oldest hotels and casinos in old Las Vegas, right next to the Golden Nugget and the Plaza. The only thing is you have to pay a "resort fee" at these places, which adds another $20 or so.
The Fremont strip is kind of like the Venice boardwalk. It's covered, light up and there is a zip-line with people flying down the line above us. There were dozens of bars, strip clubs, tourists and buskers. I've seen a lot of crazy in Venice, but I stopped dead in my tracks at the site of one man with a tower of cardboard signs with religious insults, draped in the strangest hodgepodge of red clothing, standing on top of a wheelchair scooter, silently. He didn't even move. Then I realized he was watching a street performance. Some men were rapping into mics. There was one standing behind them all, like he was in charge. He had a heavy, floor length white fur coat and was puffing on a cigar. Perhaps, he was their busking pimp?
I didn't know the rules, but there were homeless people with cardboard signs everywhere and it looked pretty laid back. Right as my butt hit my chair, the man pictured below approached me with a very serious face. Maybe it wasn't as laid back as I thought. He immediately began engaging me about what I did. It was hard at first to tell what he wanted.
Then we started a role-playing. "Let's say, I come up to you and we start chatting and I want you to write me a poem about butterflies. What do you do?"
"I write you the best poem about butterflies you've ever read."
This was not the answer he wanted. It became clear that what I was doing was considered commerce and would require a special permit, unlike those attained by artists and people asking for spare change.
I then spent the next few minutes, trying to convince this guy (Brian) that I was an artist! This was an artistic challenge for the audience! I take donations! I will be writing poems whether people come up to me or not!
Eventually, he came around. Though I did need to go get registered at the kiosk (free) and he would "talk to the city council" about whether it was considered commerce or not. I didn't care. I'm out of here tomorrow!
Once I finally got registered and set up, I was busy. So busy, I had to take my sign down so I could finish and leave. Occasionally, crowds of people would surround me and I couldn't see anything but people. A young couple from Colorado waiting for a while only to come up to me and sing me a limerick, that they wrote for me! It was incredibly touching! A woman, who I wrote something titled "lovely reunion" for, cried. It was pretty loud and I had to yell, but I'm pretty sure another guy hired me to do some writing work? Whatever that means.
Oh, and Brian came back. Also, the guy that worked at the registration kiosk.
Overall, I was (once again) overwhelmed and surprised by the positive reactions from the average American, walking down a sidewalk.
It never ceases to amaze me.
The purity of it all.
It's hard work. Especially when I write non-stop. Sometimes I can hardly look up. It's been a lesson on how to be a one-person show. I am the restaurant, the hostess, the server and the meal. That metaphor is a little odd.
It was REALLY nice to have someone with me to help engage people while they waited and take pictures! I look cool!
Oh, and I found a new sidewalk boyfriend. Sorry CD man!
Leaving L.A. was hard. I miss my adorable friends and my goofy brother.
The more I do this, the more I realize this is something special.
The more I give, the more I get.
I can't wait to see what the rest of the country has to offer. It's going to be hard to beat Vegas.