I thought Hollywood Boulevard was an assault on the senses. In comparison to Venice beach though it was a gentile stroll dressed in 1900s garb, gently twirling a parasol.
Venice beach is an experience. And I write this with the disturbing, yet oddly compulsive, images fresh in my mind.
It’s hard to know where to begin, should I start with the guy holding a sign saying ‘will work for marajuana’ (his pitch was a very simple ‘marajuana – a little bit goes along way’), or should I start with the ‘stall’ – and I use the term in the loosest of ways – selling hobo signs, signs written by hand on scraps of card a la genuine homeless person style with phrases such as ‘hungry hobo’?
Or maybe I should start with the guy holding the sign saying ‘donations for penis reduction operation’ and loudly shouting that donations would be a service to womankind, or possibly the guy selling magic wands (twigs with stones glued to the top).
No, wait, it’s got to be the guy inviting people to tuck dollar notes into his dog’s bikini. I am reliably informed by his handwritten sign that you can find his dog on YouTube by searching ‘Lisa Venice beach dog’ should you care to view this spectacle remotely.
It’s crowded, it’s hot, it’s dirty, it’s smelly, it’s noisey and the likelihood of being pickpocketed feel way above average; yet it’s car-crash tourism, and I just can’t help looking.
I go one step further, I go into a freak show. Having thought these were condemned to the annals of history, I am surprised to find one on Venice beach. Although if there was going to be one, I couldn’t think of a better location for it.
Inside I find pickled corpses of various animals with more heads / legs / faces than they should have, accompanied by a woman with a beard (she’s alive, not pickled), a ‘wolf-faced man’ with hair over his whole face, and a dog with 5 legs, all of which are very much alive and kicking.
A fellow customer yaps excitedly about ‘a six-legged cow’ she’s seen on their TV show (apparently a series about the freak show is the most watched reality show on a TV channel I’ve never heard of), then pushes to get a view of the human freaks as close-up as she can get.
A short show where a man does hideous things with sharp objects, and a couple of other peculiar demonstrations and I’m herded back out, blinking in the bright sunshine and wondering what the hell just happened.
Enjoy is not a word I’d use to describe my Venice beach visit, but it’s certainly an experience unlike any other.