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Nobody Leaves Venice



Novelists, Journalists,
Screenwriters, Directors, Actors who live or lived in Venice

The Christmas Ladder

Reminiscences by Moe Stavnezer

Jack Ibarra

Carol Biddulph Dickinson reminiscences



Through the Veil

© Hillary Gross

i. LA roads hate me. They want to eat me up and spit me out. One fucking hour to go 10 miles because of "construction," when there wasn't even equipment in the closed lanes. I hate LA. I'll never find Shangri La. This sucks. GRRR!

ii. Hey, look, I'm at Deb's timeshare! Yay, but still ::stressstress:: We hug and exchange presents and I try to be all cognitively pleasant but really, still grr. Stupid LA. I made us matching Crow/Girl barrettes, complete with shinies. She gave me matching crow mirrors, and a CD, and a skull. Hurray for prezzies, but underneath, still grrr.

iii. We pile in the car, arranging water and CDs and maps. The car is the last place I want to be, but I promised to be a tour guide. Traffic is weird, but mostly OK. We manage to find Venice Beach only asking for help once. We park by the boardwalk, paying a small extortion for parking. I should get used to this, driving around LA. Did I mention the grrr?

iv. Ew, this bathroom is soooo yucky. It's cracked and nasty, but Deb gets a good picture of herself in the mirror.

v. OK, we finally get onto the beach. We take our shoes off. I'm kind of cold cuz I left my sweatshirt in the car. I try to say hi to Mananan, but I'm not getting any of his energy off the ocean. I feel curmudgeony. I ask Deb if I'm being a rainy parade person, and she says she'll let me know. Not so much grr now as blah.

vi. We amble towards the boardwalk. There's a sectioned- off area with all sorts of exercise equipment and a sign that says, "Muscle Beach." I giggle wildly because I thought that was just a place that sold Hot Dog On A Stick and lemonade. There are real, actual, oiled guys doing exercise for their bimbos. I will never have the body of a classic beach bimbo, but I'm OK with that. Usually.

vii. I'm cheering up, but I'm still sorta blah. There's our first street performer, a guy with more patter than ability who eventually says he'll be glasswalking, but after five minutes, he seems no closer to it. We've seen William Dark, who is utterly fantastic and amazing, and this glasswalker does not impress us. He's not even cute. The next performer, a contact juggler, is over-oiled and over-muscled and not as good as William Dark, either. He smiles and beckons for money, but I'm not feeling generous. The living statue is OK, too. I've seen those before. ::sigh:: Is Venice Beach just like Seaside Heights, but crappier? That would be so, so sad.

viii. We're looking for a place to eat, but nowhere strikes out fancy. We do see some religious freaky people, though, so we feel a bit better about our prospects for an adventurous day. We pass a half-constructed building on our right and a bathhouse on our left. In retrospect, this is when we went Through the Veil, though we didn't realize it for a time. All we know is that there is lots of religious freakery on that corner with all sorts of bizarre billboards (On one, the Black control the media, on another, the Jews do. On a third, women's orgasms are the key to power.). We decide to eat in the corner restaurant, sandwiches and chili fries and a giant sickly pink lemonade, no danger of ingesting actual lemons here.

ix. After lunch is when things begin to get interesting, aside from the billboards, which we skim. We come upon this gaggle of homeless waif kids. There is a beautiful crow boy selling palm leaf animals by himself. He is situated next to a bunch of kids calling out for us not to bother buying their art because they'll only spend it on drugs and stuff! (They are kidding, and I like their spirit, but I like the crowboy more.) I stop Deb after we walk past and I say, "How can you pass him by? Don't you want a palm leaf rose?" And she is blushing and ducking her head, embarrassed to be caught out. "You noticed him, too." "We should buy something," says I, the secret communist. "But I don't think they're all homeless." "Your crowboy has dirt in his lips. He is homeless, and beautiful, and we should buy something." "But, ::whines about being in New York mode::" "We're not in New York anymore. Here we can give money to homeless people." And we turn around.

x. She is blushing and ducking her head as I try to pick something out. "How much for the bouquets?" I ask Deb's new lovegod. "Well, I'm asking a dollar a flower, but in reality, it's as much as you think they're worth," he replies endearingly, sweetly, no self-pity but a frank statement of him not kidding himself. I see why Deb loves him. Gods, he has great eyes. I shove my four loose singles into his collection bag and hand Deb her bouquet, still on my knees. We leave before she swoons.

xi. We walk further down, and the magic is upon us. A shopkeeper eyes us suspiciously, as if we'd steal the clothes that don't fit us from his discount rack. We find gypsies. They are drumming and dancing madly, and they have RVs with political stickers on them to Roma around with. I dash up and put quarters in the jar. Deb shyly, finally does the same, but she wants the album. She doesn't pursue it, though, and we head on.

xii. We're nearing the end of the boardwalk, giggling and rollicking, and there's another homeless vendor, a jewelry maker. A large crow catches my eye, so I swoop down. It's only $10, but it's clearly regalia and I don't think I'll be channeling crow anytime soon. I pick up a plaster feather I will paint black. But then Deb immediately snatches up the crow bauble and pays for it. She says, "That's just like Coyote, to feign interest in order to get me to buy it." And then we gasp, because it's then we know:

xiii. WE ARE GOD DRUNK!!! Coyote and crow swooped in when we weren't looking and look! I have ears! And look! Her hair is in wings! (You can see it in the picture linked above) And we giggle and enjoy it and say "Being friends is so much more fun than not being friends!" "Yes! We should keep being friends!"

xiv. She wants to buy me something from the palmleaf crowboy, but all she has is a twenty. We go in a cheesy little tourist shop and she buys a lip balm with the twenty, telling the terse sales assistant she has nothing smaller. I look in the mirror, and I am totally Coyote. I am wearing a gray men's T-shirt which flows down my curves and my sand colored pants are rolled up to the knee and I'm still barefoot from the ocean and my hair is down and wild and in my mind's eye, my ears are pushing all the way out of my head and twitching mischievously. I look like a coyote. And Deb is wearing her winged pigtails and a black sweater and dark jeans.

xv. She buys an album from the gypsies, via my encouragement. We are approaching the crowboy, and I say, "You luuuurve him! You want to have ten million of his crow babies! You want to make love on the beach and his crowbabies will fly our of your uterus!" "Yes! YES! I love him! I can't even look at him or I'll want to stay forever on the beach with my crowboy." And she shyly takes his picture from the distance. We get closer and engage him some more. Even my wild coyote heart melts, and I know Deb wants to be swallowed by the earth at this point. She picks out a lucky palm cricket for me and I look him dead in the eye like she can never do and ask, "Can we take your picture?" "Sure," he replies easily, confidently, beautifully. She does, but she doesn't get his eyes. She says she did, but she didn't. She says if she had, she'd keep wanting to run away with him. He is that beautiful, even with dirt in his lips.

xvi. We are nearing our bizarre billboard veil, but we don't want to go back. We know crossing it will mean the end, and we're not ready to let go. We're buzzing-high-goddrunk, and I don't think either of us have been like this before, especially not with the other (Crow and Coyote are famous friends, even with the tricks they play). Deb says, "Let's go on the beach! We must go on the beach!" So we dig our toes into the sand and traipse towards the ocean.

xvii. But it's much better than the ocean here. There's a huge drumming circle in the middle of the beach. The gypsies! are in the middle, but also lots of other people, and tourists around the edges. And I worry that Coyote won't be able to dance in a girl body and he scoffs, "Silly mortal, gender is totally a human concept. I can move this body!" And he does, and we dance wildly and weirdly and with belly dancing moves and with slo-mo moves and this man...This big man in teal, homeless I think, old, comes over to us, and he pulls us in for a hug, and any other time that would be skeeve-o-rama, but this man is NICE and his hug says (he uses no words), "We are here, together, humans, this is great. Keep dancing, keep offering up your energy." And we do.

xviii. And there's the middle of the circle and I want to go in, but our shoes and our cameras and our purchases are all with us, and I am too paranoid and too capitalist and too Jersey to abandon them to go inside the circle. And then I laugh and I/we say, "We're too tied to our material possessions to go in the circle!" But that's OK, because we're not perfect yet, and we're having a good time on the outside.

xix. And I want to take my shirt off and bear my lion to the world! But my Hillary voice says, "No, bad idea, even for us. We could do it if everyone else was, but not by ourselves." And so I/we don't, but I feel slinky and sensual anyway with my hips swirling and my breasts free and shaking and my wild, wild hair, dancing to the beat that we like best.

xx. But all good things must come to an end, and I see this photographer, this girl, and she looks like a girl I knew in college who I didn't like, a girl who lives in Southern Cal, and I have to go find out if it's her, and I come out of trance a little, and maybe that's what I needed. Because my spirit is willing but my body is tired.

xxi. And I sink into the earth - THUNK! I dig in my fists, and I feel the beat, and it's different down here, earthier, obviously, but still grand. And finally Deb sinks with me and we pant and pant and we know we have to go soon. The sun is setting all purple over the ocean.

xxii. And I vaguely think...ok...so we need to come down...that means salt...and there's this ocean right here, so..."Hey, let's drink the ocean to ground!" "Hill, you have the best ideas!" So we gather up our stuff and frolic to the ocean's edge, and it's all blue and purple and beautiful and goddessy and suddenly I understand - it's Yimiya's ocean! That's why Mananan wasn't there when I looked for him. I've never met her before, and I'm a little shy. But Deb isn't, and she dives right in, and she says it tastes good so she has to stop. And I get in to the edge and I almost forget what I'm supposed to be doing, but then I remember and scoop some up, but I'm a little slow and she totally soaks my legs, but that's OK, because ocean god/desses are tricksy like that.

xxiii. We regretfully retreat. I say we have to come out the way we came in, so we need to head a bit backwards to the bathhouses. I go to the bathroom and when I come out, Deb is shoeing herself and she says, "We need to leave by sundown." The sun is even purplyer now. "Why?" I say. "Because if we don't, we'll never leave!" It sounded so fairie tale, it must be true. "Do we have time to put my shoes on, or do we need to leave NOW?" "You can put your shoes on, but we mustn't dawdle on our way out." "OK, I can do that." I put my shoes on.

xxiv. We go out through the veil, and we're coming down, and the world gets a little blurry, like when a movie camera runs fast so that all the light runs into itself. We keep getting distracted so we lock hands and we are almost running, escaping the fairie realm lest we stay forever.

xxv. We get back to Muscle Beach all discombobulated and dehydrated, and Deb buys us a water while I buy a kitty sticker from a vending machine at exactly the same time. We return to my car and we try to remember how everything goes, the key, the trunk, where to put the water down, where to put the sticker on my car. We eventually remember how to do things. She says we have to get in the car while she smokes a clove, and she promises one cigarette won't stink up my car for ever and ever. The clove doesn't ground me, so I only take the one drag.

xxvi. It takes me a bit, but I remember how to drive. We rehash the day driving back to Anaheim. By the time we find a restaurant, I feel very ill and twisty inside. This is why we ground, I suppose. She reikes me and says there's weird shit where my third eye should be, and do I want her to suck it out? I say OK, and she gets lip gloss on my forehead while we do stuff in the car which would be funny caught on camera. As she sucks, I feel my ears almost physically POP back into my head. I am fixed, and now all I need is food.

xxvii. We top off the evening in the hot tub. We eat chocolate and drink pomegranate wine, but a bit unenthusiastically. We have had our Francesca Lia Block day, and now we are exhausted and curled up in our jammies and talking and watching the Disney Channel in the background while her mother and sister sleep in the next room. We both manage to sleep, which is about as happily ever after as our days get, so it's a good way to end this story.

And they slept happily ever after for the night.

The End.

© 2004 - 2012 Pat Hartman
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