Venice Beach smells of piss and pot. It’s full of tarot readers, henna tattoo stalls and shops selling sloganned t-shirts. My friend (who lives here) calls it Camden on Sea; that’s not a compliment.
Yet my friend chooses to live here and I have gone out of my way to stay here on my last 3 visits to Los Angeles.
I should be staying in an airport hotel, the viewing facility is right by LAX. In the U.S. viewing facilities are often in the sprawl of soulless, low rise 80s architecture that surrounds airports. It’s convenient for clients to fly in, interfere, then fly home. I refuse to stay in airport hotels because they make me sad.
Venice is weird, along with the smells there’s always noises and colour; it’s a visceral place. Staying here provides an intense LA experience, albeit one that doesn’t leave me any closer to understanding the city.
Today Venice hosted the Festival of Chariots, a Hare Krishna event. From what I could see it involved a mix of Indians in traditional dress and white hippies dancing around, singing and smiling a lot. There were also floats with Hindu idols, and stalls providing veggie food to the many homeless people who live around the beach.
Alas, whenever a certain number of humans gather you always get a smattering of wankers. Today the wankers stood proudly under signs proclaiming the judgement of God (Christian).
As the happy-clappy and generous parade went by the thick set bearded wanker at the front got on the tannoy. Sadly he wasn’t preaching a warm, inclusive gospel of love thy neighbour. Instead his Christianity was a thin veneer for nasty, bullying racism.
He mocked Hinduism, India and the traditional dress of the American-Indians. He derided India as an awful place (I’ve been a few times, it’s amazing), and inevitably suggested that the American-Indians could “go home”. There were also pro-Trump slogans and, bizarrely, criticism of the feeding of the homeless. That was something that Jesus actually did too!
Personally I don’t find the Hare Krishnas’ much more objectively credible than the wankers’ but they’re infinitely better people. I’ve read a lot about Trump’s America and here it was, in California of all places. So angry, so cruel, so full of bitterness and bile.