This march was on Wednesday May 1, 2013 (May Day). I marched from Venice Beach Pier to Santa Monica Pier to Westwood and UCLA then to Beverly Hills. This at once a boring and yet interesting march. I met hippies, artists, potheads, tourists, street poets, vendors, and college students. This doesn’t include the homeless, skeeves, geeks, Greeks, and nymphos. Oh, and Chris.
Elegance and Lace. And Peacocks.
At 9:30 am, I parked in a lot right near the pier. I had spent the previous two nights at the home of Tracey and her husband, Greg. I knew Tracey over thirty years ago in high school (ah, the glories of the Internet and Facebook… ). Tracey and Greg are of the more politically-conservative stripe, and offered me a place to stay when I was in their area. Their home is an impressive one; located in the exclusive hilltop community of Palos Verdes.
Their home is appointed with slate-trimmed touches, a magnificent backyard with pool, patios, poolhouse, and fruit trees. And peacocks. I thought Tracey was kidding and having a peacock, but, on my first evening there, I saw one strutting on the back lawn. That night, I listened to him call out to the other wild peacock that roam freely across the pennisola. They were introduced into the area by one of the main landowners of the time, and, not having natural predators around to limit their population, the peacock have since proliferated.
Greg is a spine surgeon and Tracey is a pharmacist. They are an interesting couple; each with their passions. One of their passions is watching musical theater. On their walls are autographed stage production posters, as well as framed animation cells from cartoons. Greg and Tracey take their health and fitness seriously, and cooking fine cuisine is part of that. Greg cooked a delicious meal on my second night there: roasted chicken, asparagus, baked cauliflower basted with duck sauce, small seasoned potatoes, and a hot baguette.
The Merchants of Venice Beach
As I gathered my things together for the march to Hollywood and Vine from Venice Beach, I looked around at the architecture of the nearby buildings. There all sorts of styles; as eclectic as the denizens of the area I walked through that day. The very first person to greet me was a pastor visiting from Hollywood, Florida. He and his wife were walking along the boardwalk near me when he greeted me as his brother, and then asked me where I was going with the flag. After explaining my goal, he prayed for me.
After we parted, I walked by the beach to get a view of the Pacific Palisades miles north from where I was. I continued toward Santa Monica.
I passed vendors in beach shops, as well as artists selling their crafts and paintings, etc. Several were selling traditional painted skulls, others were selling handcrafted jewelry, and others, clothing or dreamcatchers. There were many homeless people about, lying on open cardboard boxes, or sitting on the park benches. They seemed to regard me with suspicion; perhaps because of the flag I was carrying and because I stopped from time to time to take pictures with my cell phone.
I passed by a Marijuana dispensary called, The Green Doctors. Not once, but three times along the strip. The Green Doctors looked suspiciously like pot dealers dressed in pastel green scrubs who were standing outside their “clinics,” hawking their wares. Gathered around each of these places were homeless drug addicts, overaged skateboarders, and surfers.
I stopped by an older black lady who was sitting on a fold-out chair singing into a microphone. Next to her was a CD player and speakers. She sang with such style that I had to listen. I bought her a bottle of water and gave her the only cash I had left: $2 and change. I asked a woman sitting at a cafe table to video me swaying with Starla as she sang. The woman told me to ask her son, Lukas. He videoed Starla and me and when I got the camera back from him, his mother asked me about the website address on my tee-shirt.
I explained why I was marching and what I hoped would happen. The woman had a Scandanavian accent, and spoke as if rights were very important to her. Her mother was sitting across from her, nodding. Lukas listened as we talked. The woman asked me if I had eaten lunch yet. I wanted to accept her invitation but I had arranged to be picked up in Hollywood by my friend, Tracey at 7 pm. So, I declined, gave them my card, and continued on.
Steampunk and Punks Who Got Me Steamed
I spoke with an artist about his Steampunk art pieces. When I return from this march, I am interested in finding Steampunk craftsmen and arranging to selling their wares to collectors. So, I got his phone number, gave him my card, and walked on.
That’s when I heard two men off to the side call out to me.
“Hey! You with the flag. Why don’t you shove that pole up your ass?”
“Ya,” chimed the other, “Why don’t you burn that f’ing flag!?”
I stopped walking, the smile I had on up to that point was replaced with a grimace. I turned and walked up to them. I have been ignoring offensive comments as best as I could during my marches, but the flag burning comment was too much. I planted the flag pole beside me and looked them each in the eye. The two men sat back down on the stone partition thy had been standing in front of as I had passed by. Their bravado drained away. I was ready to kick ass and they could see it.
“Now, WHAT can I do with flag pole?”
Johnny B., a tall angry-looking black guy, suddenly wasn’t so eloquent. He rambled on about what the flag stands for, and how humanity is nothing more than parasites.
“We consume and consume. We are a danger to the universe.”
He continued on, ranting, and I could smell the pot they had been smoking. Beside Johnny B. was “Trip,” a husky heavy metal ogre: shaved head, missing teeth, tattoos, and leather wristbands. He was an interesting counter to Johnny B., who kept interrupting him, and who gave him a hard time when Trip told me that he would rather be called, Andrew. Johnny B. was pinching the tiniest joint I’ve ever seen.
Deciding that these two melonheads were baked, I smiled, introduced myself, and, after a Comical and hard to follow conversation, I wished them well, and moved on.
End of Route 66
After walking for an hour or so, I reached the Santa Monica Pier. Along the way, I was passed several times by a Suicide Girl who was jogging back and forth along the walkway. She had jet black hair, fair skin, tattoos, and makeup. Another young woman dressed in a black bodysuit rollerskated by. She had a headset on, and she was loudly singing; but her voice was not very good at all. Still, she was having a good time, so I just smiled.
A long-haired man on a bicycle asked if he could take apicture of, and liked what I told him about my march. A t the Santa Monica Pier, I took some photos, and looked at the restaurants, shops and attractions as I walked through. I then walked several bklocks to the Santa Monica Promenade on 3rd Street. It was bustling with tourists, local shoppers, and street performers.
My Old Alma Mater
From there, I headed to Westwood. As I was walking there, it occurred to me that not one car had honked in the two hours since I was walking. I was on a thoroughfare, and no one seemed to see me or care. I thought that was interesting. As I continued walking, I started thinking about how each march I undertook seemed to teach me something new; something I needed to learn at that time. It was exhilarating, walking all day, going to new places, and meeting new people. I started wishing I hadn’t let my Diabetes take over my life for a decade. It’s time I will never get back; years of adventures and experiences that could have been.
I was feeling regretful when I looked up and saw a billboard that read, “By 2020, the number of 100 year olds will double.” In two weeks, I turn 49. I realized that if I take care myself from here on out, I could still have many good years ahead of me. Thinking this, I marched on, smiling. Until a woman in a shop I passed by yelled, “Viva Mexico!”
Several cars gave me honks as I approached the UCLA/Westwood area. I also received enthusiastic waves and praise. I crossed Wilshire and encountered Willy, a young black man wearing silver-colored pants and a dark hoodie. He was reading a notebook as he walked. As I passed by, he asked me if I were a flag carrier in the service. I explained who I was, etc, and he told me that he hoped I succeeded. He read me a poem he wrote, reciting it with the cadence and delivery of a slam poet. It was very good. I gave him my card and asked him if he could sent it to me so I could share with you. If he ever does, I’ll post it.
Walking into Westwood, I noticed all of the changes made to the village; unfortunately, many were not for the better. Many storefronts had “For Lease” signs. There was a general garishness to the store fronts; one decades-old fixture there, Elysee, was overgrown by ivy, almost obscuring the sign. Headlines, a diner my wife and I used to eat at when we went to UCLA and were dating, was still there.
I walked up the street, toward my fraternity house. I had sent two e-mails to the president, but never received a reply. It had been my hope to get several brothers to march along with me through the campus. When I walked up the stone stairs to the front door, a college kid was tapping in a keycode for the door. introduced myself and asked him to let the president know that I wanted to come and look around. I showed the kid my ID and was let in.
Inside, I mentally noted what changes had been made over the 24 years since I had last been there. I asked for water and was offered dinner. As I ate, I told two brothers there about the time I tried “rescuing” a pledge class brother of mine from yaving been “captured” during a Pledge-Active event. The story involved a lot of sneaking up two flights of fire escapes, hanging on to a 3 story rooftop, and then, outrunning twenty Actives; including one on motorcycle.
Ah…. Good times… Good times…
After I ate and also told them about the march, I walked to the dormitory area, then down Bruin Walk to campus.UCLA has a stuent populace of 30000. Not a single student asked me about my flag and shirt in the hour I walked on campus. I walked down Sorority Row, took a photo of my wife’s old sorority, and left Westwood to reach Beverly Hills.
The buildings in the interceding area were high-value condos and apartment buildings. It was 7 pm by that time, so I knew I would not go further than Beverly Hills that day. My ride was coming. I texted her my location once I reach Santa Monica and Wilshire.
Tracey drove me back to my car, and I ate at an Italian restaurant. Then, I drove to the 24 Hour Fitness in Hollywood so I could shower. I decided that I would continue the last five miles the next day. Once Ifinished my nightly ritual of organizing my car, taking my medicine, and making sure my cell phone was off, I went to sleep fairly early.
The next morning, I set off with the flag and walked to Hollywood and Vine. From there, I headed east, toward Beverly Hills.
There were a lot of people on Hollywood Blvd. When I reached the Chinese Movie Theater, I saw tour buses dropping off foreign tourists. One such group was comprised of teenaged tourists who wore the same American Flag caps. They were foreigm but I couldn’t place their accents. I asked one of them to take a photo of me standing next to a replica Marilyn Monroe. After I made it through the crowds, I continued down Hollywood Blvd.
I then walked south to Sunset Blved. As I did, a taxi cab driver with a Russian accent, waved and gave me the thumbs up. He was parked along the street, reading a newspaper. When I turned west on Sunset Blvd, I came upon a McDonalds. I was thirsty and it was pretty hot. A homeless woman was sitting on a staircase, eating a sandwhich. Near her was a shopping cart full of bags. I offered to buy her a drink and she was happy about that.
I came out and sat next to her. I gave her the drink and a bag of french fries. We talked about politics, and she was really aware of what is going on, nationally. Debbie told me that she believed in America and that she thought something needed to be done to save the country. I didn’t ask her how she came to be homeless. Instead, I just spoke with her as if she were just another human being. She thanked me for the food and I got up to keep limping a long.
I eventually passed several landmarks I used to visit when I had lived in Los Angeles as a UCLA undergrad: Samual French Bookstore, The Roxy, and The Comedy Store.
I continued down Sunset Blvd until it started going into Beverly Hills. I took a side street toward Santa Monica Blvd. That street took me along beautiful homes that one would expect to see in Beverly Hills. They were 1920’s, ’30s and ’40’s era houses with nice lawns, flower gardens, and fences. The only people around were maids, gardeners, and contruction workers making repairs or restorations, or building additions.
Once I reached the fountain on the corner of Santa Monica and Wilshire, where I had left off the day before, I rested for ten minutes as a nearby park.
I returned back to Sunset Blvd via Doheny. It had quaint cottages and older homes. As I was walking east on Sunset Blvd, I was stopped by a homeless man named, Chris.
Chris was bare-chested, with an open, sleeveless blue plaid shirt, shorts that were rolled up at the waist and at the ends, purple socks, and colorful body paint. On head was a wide brimmed straw hat, and he wore aviator glasses. Around his neck was a pink necklace. He was quite a character.
Chris offered me orange juice. Then food. Then drugs. He even offered me the use of his bare mattress, which was lying on one end of the parking lot he was busy sweeping. The mattress was on the asphalt, under the shade of a pepper tree. Nearby, was his “pantry:” An open wooden cabinet he had salvaged, and in which he had placed several cans of food, and his hooch bottles.
He kept fussing over me, offering me this and that, including sunflower seeds he said he personally harvested and salted. I was tired and hungry, and it was nice having someone cater to me after the past two weeks of travel and marching. Despite Chris’ siren song of homelessness and parking lot luxury, I resisted the temptation to remain and become a fixture along the Strip. Besides, I already have a wife.
There were several piles of fallen leaves, trash, and dirt along the corners of the lot. Chris was quite the hospitable urban domestic. He wanted me to put my flag pole within the piles of clothes he had stacked up on a rickety wheel chair. I hestitantly complied. This was his “house,” and I was his guest. So I went along. I took a photo of him and posted it to FB. During all of this, he asked me about my flag, and then about my march.
When I stood up to leave, he looked down at the ground, thought hard for a second, then told me to come back once I had reached my car.
“I will go with you,” he announced.
My inner voice screamed something about having just acquired a second wife, and to run. I smiled, thanked him for his hospitality, and limped off.
The rest of the walk back to my car was uneventful. Except for being asked by a strip club owner, “What the hell is all this about?” He was a stocky Greek man with a big stogey. He was standing outside of his club, flanked by two “dancers.” He was pacing around, waiting for someone or something; like a mob boss impatiently waiting to hear about a hit. I told him what I was doing, and he was immediately disinterested. He resumed pacing and looking down the street.
One of the two strippers came up to me, touched my flag pole, then ran her hands down my back. The other stripper smiled nervously. She thanked me for carrying the flag. Another stripper came out of the club, saw me and laughed. The touchy stripper invited me into the club for a lap dance. The third stripper, who looked like she was about to perform, came up and grabbed onto my left arms. She started pulling me in, but their boss barked at them and said Iwas busy.
I took that as my cue to beat it.
An hour or two later, at my car, I dropped off my flag and got things together to shower at the gym.
I then bade Hollywood good bye, and got on the 101 to drive toward Ventura.