(* Not in any way political.)
As a change of pace from my rest-of-the-week exercise regimen, Saturday mornings, weather permitting – and I mean who are we kidding it’s Los Angeles – I take a relaxed but aerobically steady walk at the beach.
I head down the four blocks from my house to the Walking Path paralleling the ocean (traversing the Bike and Skateboarding Path at my peril.)
Once there, I am immediately confronted with “The Question”:
Which way do I walk?
“That’s what this is about? I direction?”
It makes a world the difference, impulsive Blue Words Italics Person. That’s what this is about.
“Straight ahead” is not an option. That’s “Norman Maine Country”, he said, referencing the suicidal actions of a lead character in A Star Is Born made in 1954 and later in 1976. You’d walk straight into the ocean. (George Costanza executed a similar maneuver, rescuing a whale from an implanted golf ball.)
I am thus left with two viable alternatives:
I can turn left.
Or I can turn right.
Seemingly unpremeditated, Ocean Park Boulevard, the street I descend to arrive at the ocean is the unofficial “Dividing Line”. Depending on which way you proceed – left or right – you enjoy two entirely different experiences.
To say that one is “Light” and the other is “Darkness” is to engage in preferential judgment (as well as literary hyperbole.) I am not here to make judgments. (Although judgmental “seepage” is inevitable.) I will simply describe the difference.
I turn left, and I walk down to Venice – well, not to Venice, that’s too far for me to walk – let’s say I walk down towards Venice. And depending of my energy level that morning, it is either a long or abbreviated “towards.”
What do I notice walking left?
I notice – my walk begins around seven-thirty in the morning – clusters of people already gathered on the beach path, who are already gathered on the beach path because, the night before – and numerous other nights as well – they have been sleeping at the beach.
I pass oversized “Boom Boxes” – if they still call them that – tales of graphic sexual activities “hip-hopping” into my ears.
I notice beachfront emporia, like “The House Of Ink – Tattooing and Piercings.” The name catches my attention because in Chicago, my late mother-in-law rented a building to a tattoo parlor with exactly the same name. I am tempted to inquire if they have relocated to Los Angeles. But they are not yet open, sparing me the need of an exiting explanation, the best I can currently think of being,
“I was just asking for directions.”
There are people talking to themselves,which we are used to these days, except that these guys don't have a phone.
It would be going too far to say there is a sense of danger going left. (Although local authorities might disagree. “He went left”, they might say with an explanatory shrug, indicating questionable judgment by a felonized pedestrian.)
You might, however, equally accurately say turning left offers a sense of excitement and unexpected possibility. Let me simply say, without fear of contradiction, that the experience of turning left is not at all the same as the experience of turning right.
Where I see:
Dads on roller skates, wearing headphones, pushing babies in strollers bondingly down the Walking Path.
Cohorts of “L.A. Marathon” preparers, running and blabbering, retirees trotting beside young females, certain they have a legitimate shot with them.
The Santa Monica Pier Amusement Playland, its celebrated carousel (See: The Sting and Hannah Montana – The Movie, among other movies), just opening for business.
Wooden tables with painted chessboards adorning their surfaces, available free of charge to anyone interested in a casual game. (See: Harry and Tonto.)
A path-adjacent food stand, its overhead loudspeaker emiting soothing standards by Frank Sinatra and Rosemary Clooney.
Are you noticing a difference?
Besides the disproportional police presence?
It’s remarkable. North of Ocean Park Boulevard, south of Ocean Park Boulevard –two demonstrably different experiences.
Which one do I prefer?
Temperamentally – the right. But I frequently tire of “mellow and predictable”, opting instead for “unscheduled excitement”. Not too much excitement… but a little. It’s human nature, I think. Despite one’s temperamental preference or natural proclivity towards self-preservation…
You get bored following the same direction, feeling a subliminal craving for the other.
I’m just happy there’s two of them. I would hate to face a Tapioca Terrain no matter which way I turned. On the other hand, if both directions mirrored the left one…
I would probably walk someplace else.
(Note: I was going to include the new song the invisible Mariachi band at the ocean surprised me with on my last visit but I shall save it for next time. How’s that for a reason to return?)