On the Road: Looking at America Through a Layer of Filth, Grime and Bug Guts

Santa Monica Pier

Los Angeles: The Afternoon
After a few hours sleep and a shower I was ready to accompany Wendell on an exploration of L.A. Wendell came back from Melrose Ave. with a new stylish Hollywood "hep cat" shirt. We called a few friends over and went out to a taco stand for a bite of lunch. Over a couple of bean burritos we all shared our stories of the trip and what was on the agenda to see in LA. First we headed to Santa Monica for a walk around town and on the beach. Downtown Santa Monica has the closest thing to a small town walking district that you can find within a 40 mile radius of Los Angeles. The place is called the 3rd Street Promenade, about 4 city blocks closed off to automobile traffic. It's basically an outdoor mall, but with a lot more local shops. Of course you have your standard mall shops like the Gap, Border's Books and F.W. Woolworth's, but you also have a big variety of vintage clothes shops and record stores and places that will take your picture and place it on somebody else's body. Now if the outdoor mall isn't your cup of tea and you long for the more traditional fluorescent light environment to shop in, you only have to walk down to the end of the street and there is a great big indoor mall for you.

Since it is a public street and not owned by a corporation that wants to keep everything clean and uniform, you get a wide variety of folks just hanging around on 3rd Street. Most malls have a list of "undesirables" they try and keep out of their stores. Let me ask you, where do you think all the punk skate board kids, runaways, mimes, street musicians, henna tattoo artist and homeless people are gonna do their holiday shopping? Right here in downtown Santa Monica, that's where. Okay, so most of these folks don't do a lot of shopping here. The local kids mostly sit around, hang out, smoke cigarettes, chew celery sticks, perform stunts with their skateboards and make the tourist keep one hand on their cam-n-corders and the other on their wallets. There are a good number of homeless folks and panhandlers looking for spare change and trying to catch forty winks on the park benches. Then there are the crazy homeless. These folk carry around bags of trash and talk to imaginary people. Then again, maybe they're talking to real people and none of us are listening. I'm not too sure. Street performers are another common site in this section of town. Singers, comedians, jugglers, and artist. One act was a couple of guys dressed and painted in silver pretending to be robots. They had the motions down real well, but the best part were the whistles they had hidden in their mouths that made authentic robot "whirling" noises. They had taken the mime schtick and updated it for the new millennium. Sometimes mimes are entertaining, I don't care what those clowns have to say about them.

We left the promenade and went over to the Santa Monica Pier which is just around the corner. It's mostly an amusement park, arcade and food court. Wendell and I bought tickets for the roller coaster. After the ride we wished we had opted for the ferris wheel. We thought the roller coaster would be exciting and fast and daring and thrilling, it was none of those. I've ridden the kiddie coaster at Six Flags and was more thrilled. As we walked around, the "ring the bell by smashing a hammer against a plank" game caught Wendell's eye and before we knew it we had a competition going on. I don't know who won, which should tell you that I lost. Who ever forgets the victories, especially over a bigger brother?

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