Daytrippin’ in Venice Beach, California
A Middle-aged Hippie Reclaims Her Inner Artist & Explorer
Fancy, my friend who lives in Venice Beach California, rolls a joint with coconut-flavored paper and offers me a dry hit. “Blue Dream; it’s a hybrid strain.”
She explains that Sativa is good for cerebral, high energy people, perhaps like a film industry post-production person who works long into the night and needs a creative high. The Indica strain, she tells me, is good for her clients who suffer chronic pain or maybe cancer.
“It’s heavier in the body,” she said, sparking up the joint with a Bic lighter and taking a long hit, then exhaling. “Want some?” I gladly accept.
I am here for the weekend experiencing Venice Beach for the first time. My guide is Fancy, who’s lived here for the past 15 years. An entrepreneur at heart, Fancy owns a medical marijuana collective with a twist — she offers a home delivery service.
She’s been street legal for the last year, her “for non-profit” status rubber stamped by the Golden State of California, but has been in business for the last eleven years.
In her work, there is no website advertising her service; it’s simply word of mouth, underscoring my belief that pot is one of those commodities that simply sell themselves.
Through the magic of Facebook, Fancy and I reconnected after 25 years. We met when I was a waitress at the Orange County Hamburger Hamlet and she was a hostess. Our affinity for one another grew over the course of three years, our common bond being the love of Hawaii, the music of Bob Marley, and the quest to smoke lots of pot. I remember this magical time between junior college and university as luxurious, carefree, and mind expanding — an 80’s version of a hippie dream.
Fancy hasn’t changed; she’s still fun-loving and excitable. I’ve grown rigid and stodgy, stuck in a predictable routine much like the state politics of my Sacramento home for the past 20 years. I’ve exchanged the artist and explorer part of my personality for stability and routine.
Now that my two children are both in college and I’m divorced, the structure I cling to is losing its hold. I’m ready to shake loose of my self-imposed discipline and allow my inner hippie to emerge. Who cares if this flower-power love child is now middle-aged? Not me, and certainly not Fancy.
Eyes of the World
The late afternoon sun casts a long shadow on the kitchen table. “Let’s watch the sunset,” I tell her, antsy to move.
“We’re outta here,” she says. “Gone.”
We ride our bikes to Venice Beach on Abbot Kinney Boulevard, past little boutique shops and markets, my favorite being Flake, a cereal bar with a selection of 40 types of breakfast cereal — served all day long.
As we cruise along the Avenue, rushing to watch the sunset, Fancy points to an apartment building with the word Castaneda etched in bold print. I shrug my shoulders and pantomime, what about it, when she yells, “Carlos, yeah!” and gives me the thumbs up sign. Only then does it click: Carlos Castanada, our favorite author: The Teachings of Don Juan, A Separate Reality, Journey to Ixtlan—coyoteshamanistic shenanigans, alive here in Venice. Who knew?
Now that I’m riding on my bike, high on weed and possibility, I want more than anything to break free of the chains that bind me to structure, routine, and stability.
I am looking for the lost part of myself that I gave away a long time ago — that groovy, in-the-moment young woman who wanted nothing more than to be a free spirit in the world.
My insides want to burst because right now, in this moment, I am reclaiming my birthright to be an artist and an explorer. With this recognition burning me up alive, I realize that this trip to Venice Beach kicks some serious ass.
It’s exactly what I need. “Right on with your big right on,” I yell to Fancy at the top of my lungs. “Rock on with your bad self, little sister.”
Keep On Truckin’
The new way to eat in Venice is from the mobile lunch trucks. These cheap and hip, controversial trucks line trendy Abbot Kinney Boulevard offering nouvelle cuisine twist to old favorites like hot dogs, tacos, and cheese steaks. Much to the chagrin of brick and mortar business owners, there’s only one regulation in place that controls the trucks—they must have an agreement with a permanent business to provide a bathroom. Locals claim these trucks take away precious business and leave a lot of trash behind.
Undaunted, Fancy and I are led nose first to the intoxicating smell of frying garlic and onions. Our destination: the Dosa truck, featuring East Indian food whose motto is “Ommm Good.” We split a Shiva-Shakti dosa—a freaky hybrid of burrito and French crepe filled with two kinds of pureed potato: sweet and spicy.
Next, we wander over to the Kogi truck where a line of 20 people wait with their dogs and strollers for the Asian-infused Korean barbecue morsels. Thinking that all these people had ordered and were waiting for their food, we stumble to the front of the line.
A low rumble not unlike the sound a tsunami might make before it hits dry land soon erupts at our boorish behavior. Never stand in the way of Venetians and their food truck.
“Hey, the line is back here.” Yikes. File this social gaffe under “Duh.” Waiting our proper turn in line, we order three tacos: pulled pork, chicken, and short-rib beef.
The helper asks for my name and I tell him Mary Jane — a drug reference that only a true stoner would appreciate, but he gets it and without a skipping a beat says, “Hey, Mary Jane, I hear the IRS is looking for you.” Fancy and I laugh our heads off.
Taking a bite of the short-rib Kogi taco, I understand why Venetians flock to this truck — Kogi delivers. The infusion of barbecue sauce, pickled onions, kim-chee, on a corn tortilla with a zest of lime is that winning combination of savory and sweet — my taste buds come alive. I’ll cut in line anytime for this divine morsel.
Fancy and I are at the home of Daniel and Sofia to soak in the Venice art vibe. I asked Sofia what brought her here to Venice.
“I like the nice width of it here. I could explore the spirit of mental space to be who I am without judgment which was congruent with me. When I arrived, I felt I belonged. Everywhere else, I was weird and different. Here I was normal.”
Daniel takes Fancy and me on a tour of his art studio and shows us The Sum of Ethnicities. “I combined and cross-sectioned the muscular structure of men from the Black, White, and Asian races,” says Daniel. “Some people call it the Beef Jerky Man.”
In front of me is a six-foot tall framed image not unlike what you might see in a high school health class. I remain enchanted with the term conceptual art and examine the image at closer range. “This is really trippy Daniel — what’s the medium?” I ask, stumped. “Beef jerky,” he says. “The whole thing is made of beef jerky.”
Simple Twist of Fate
In the morning when everything is new and the chance to begin again presents itself, I drink a cup of Colombian coffee and look around the room where I’ve spent the last three days.
The décor in Fancy’s home is East Indian — the Hippie Trail. A burgundy gauze scarf is draped over a mirror. Daylilies and snapdragons rest in a copper vase. Pillows on the bed and floor, ready for meditation. Daylight gently streams in, full of hope.
Venice Beach is only 15 minutes from the Los Angeles airport, a portal to anywhere in the world. A huge part of me wants to avail myself of this gateway and take a flight to Paris or Florence, both cities of art and renaissance.
Why not? I’ve got a Visa card and a long line of credit. I’ll write my memoir at Café de Flore in the City of Lights. Or better yet, I’ll make big art right here in Venice — how ‘bout a wall-sized map of California made from orange peels with lemon blossoms representing each city?
A camellia for Sacramento and redwood bark to outline the state. Fancy knocks on my door, ready to take me to the airport. “All set?” she asks. I pause for a moment and consider the possibilities. “Yes,” I tell her. “I’m good to go.”
Ingrid Hart, the Divine Daytripper, makes her home in Rancho Cordova, California
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