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.