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Goddammit Babies, You've got to be [Nice]

My new phone autocorrects Venice (as in the beach) to “be nice.” So when I was trying to tell people where I was going I kept giving them this instruction, these two little words, or changing the going to something I would do. Tomorrow I’m going to be nice.

There’s a name for LA’s grey days, the June Gloom. It was a deeply grey day when we decided to take the train out to the beach. Everything just faded into these concrete skies. But concrete is more certain than this, June Gloom in its full force just swallows all of it, makes it all transluscent, as if grey is behind everything.  The city is complicit in its slow disappearance, the city drowns silently.

The gloom is not, as I thought, smog, but water vapour, low lying clouds, like clothes, like the city has a hood up.

Santa Monica pier is a teleportation device.

It sends you right back in time and if it wasn’t for the way we’re all glued to our glowing hands now, you’d hardly know when you were. I think it’s the people screaming on the amusement rides, that universal joy, and the boards of the place, and the levels of the pier, all stacked, connected by slow stairs, all of it pointing out towards a sad sea who knows what it feels like to lower the sun down each day but doesn’t know what years are.

A old skateboarder at Venice Beach decided to tell me and Andrew his story as we walked past. Apparently the faded, cushioned turf that runs alongside the boardwalk is no good for skating, especially after you’ve just skated 700miles to be there. He had just arrived, yesterday. Raising awareness for cancer, for his mother, he told us, while rolling, he did it for his mum. He went through 4 decks, 5 pairs of shoes, 3 pairs of pants and 2 sets of wheels. His skin was sun-dark and worn.

Don’t skate on the soft stuff.

The sun came out as we hit the beach. Gonzo and I tried on sunglasses, pair after pair, looking over them at eachother to weigh them, to get the size right, the colour, to use each other as mirrors. Gonzo must have tried on 40 pairs but he didn’t buy anything. I guess it’s like the way we all play with the fidget spinners on the way past the little markets, engrossed for too long, stopping at each stand to test the different styles (and then asking why anyone would buy such a thing).

What interests me about the boardwalk is that somebody had to decide when to stop. At some point, as the concrete veins of the city spread outwards, someone literally had to draw a line in the sand, and say – this is it, this is where it ends. How do you decide how deep a shoreline should be? How do you tell the beach who to be, how wide and how long? What lies beneath LAs grey bloodlines? Is it sand? Does the shorefront just seperate one ocean from the next? Is the desert drowned by an ocean on both sides?

The more I think about it the more I think LA is the same as the Pacific. I think, from space, on a June Gloom day you could barely distinguish one from the other. If New York is a concrete jungle (where dreams are made) then LA is a concrete ocean (where dreams drift). The whole place is a big spread of islands and the cars, the cars, the cars, the cars, millions of cars move between them like boats. When you walk you are wading (through the heat, through the smog, through the jetties that street dwellers set up to float on the footpaths), when you walk you are swimming.

Is there anything as wide and vast as the Pacific Ocean?

LA is the deepest, vastest ocean of them all.

Ruta told us how excited she gets when she escapes reality like this, but then reality will text her every so often just to remind her it’s still there.

Her boss calls her Ruta, Wireless Ruta.

At the last minute, as everyone was pulling away I went for my first swim this side of the Pacific. It was rough and deep and tugged right outwards.

There’s a moment, right after you dive into a wave, where you might be the only person to exist. Everything goes quiet and dark. The great white turning foam of the wave, shaken like soda, creates a kind of white noise that even the sun can’t get to. It makes a space so round, so smooth, the sun can only break itself against the surface. To exit that space too early is to push back through the groan of the wave, the ocean’s lovely sad pain, and roll backwards, swallowed whole. Sometimes the sea will hold you up, sometimes the sea will wear you down.

Venice has canals like the “real” Venice and there we got ambushed by angry wasps while we imagined what our lives could be if we occupied these little houses. I had two caught in my hair and the buzzing wrapped me up completely. I got stung on the head which was pretty funny but mostly uncomfortable and put me in a daze while we wandered the Abbot Kinney Boulevard and got ice cream.

Andrew and I both had the olive and goats cheese ice cream. It was good for about 30% of it.

Then it was a battle.

And that was Venice [Be Nice].

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