“american upbeat”(welcome home”
How many more times will I come back to this town? Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy coming back. I will say, when I leave, I enjoy that too. This place, you just got to get away sometimes. Most times in life, you can never go back, here, it’s expected. People drift back in all the time, something draws them in. 1968 I first rolled into Venice on a tram. For a quarter you could ride from the pier in santa monica, through Ocean park, past the pier, and into Venice. I had heard they were feeding people in Venice. Things were working out pretty good, sure I missed my family, but this was excitement. I had been on the West Coast less than a day, and already I had my apartment.——————— ——————————- It had taken me a while to figure it all out. Girls are already on the beach, I hear the sound of the waves, I had slept good. The night before, I hadn’t realized how nice a place this was. I stood up, looking through the glass, the oceans 20 yards away. So where’s the boardwalk? Lying out on a small dune in the sand, topless, one of the girls from the night before waves me down as she fumbles with her top. Well, you know I’m conflicted. On one hand, I mean DAMN, i’ve never seen that before! On the other hand, I don’t know what to do, a bit beyond my skill set, I’m a 15 year old kid. So there’s a little fascination on both our parts, her with this kid hitch hiking cross country, and me with that top. Well my speedos were a bit much for her, I’d have probably done better with nothing, besides, she was all wrapped up with this guy out surfing. I heard all about it. Moving on, I asked about boardwalks, and people hanging out. From her, I get the lay of the land and head South twords Venice. I get a ride to the Santa Monica Pier, and start looking for the boardwalk. I find boards on the pier, but nowhere else. No matter, you know its pretty nice, crowds of people walking up and down this alley in the sand. Volleyball, bikini’s, California. I run into this guy Mike. I remember his name, having run into him 4 more times in my life, sometimes thousands of miles away. He was a tall guy, about 19, surf blond hair to his shoulders. We start talking, me telling my story. I’m asking about crash pads, trying to figure what to do from here. Sorta the “now that you have it, what are you going to do with it. Its strange these people who pass through your life, out of nowhere, time to time. Were talking, leaning up on a retaining wall, out by the beach. He tells me about this other guy, who has an apartment in the building were looking at. The guy got picked up by the cops the night before, and would be gone for a while, something about an out of state warrant. Mike hands me a key, tells me, the rent is payed for the month. California Living! This all happening at about 12 or 1pm, quickly, I check the place out, drop my stuff, and hit the beach. I’m feeling a little tired from my trip, yet relieved, taking the afternoon, to enjoy my situation. Theres a little food left in the apartment, but it needs to be cooked, something I know nothing of. I burn a few eggs, make lots of smoke, open some windows, then leave defeated and hungry. All I have in my pocket is loose change, hardly enough for a meal. I see Mike, he’s busy with girls on the beach. Before he even hears me ask, he says every night around 7 the people in Venice get fed, and I should go down. Today as I think back, I am amazed at how in tune with me, this guy Mike is. I wouldn’t be surprised if tomorrow I ran into him again. It has seemed, from time to time, as our paths have crossed, he,s just checking in, making sure I’m good. I hop the tram to Venice, “where the debris meets the sea”. The burnt remains of the Ocean Park Pier marks the gateway. Later in my years I would discover a very close friend, homeless at the time, called this pier home. I guess he just thought he was homeless. Today as he talks of those times, he remembers them fondly, although to be difficult. Well I found the banquet, people taking care of their people. This was, and continues to be, the spirit of Venice. This old friend, who at that time, made a home at the pier, now lives in a second floor flat. He overlooks the place where that pier stood. There is a photo of him, on the balcony of his flat, looking out to where the pier had stood. Find “the Boys” on the EDMARK site and he is easy to spot. Although we did not meet for 20 years, most likely our first meals together were at these gatherings at the Venice Pagodas. Each time I come back to this beach town, I am greeted with a WELCOME HOME,the same as I,m greeted arriving at my family home.