I’ve never been a great Los Angeles fan, since trying to visit the aquarium a few years ago and discovering that there wasn’t a pedestrian entrance. This really is a city made for cars. But recent visits to Santa Monica and Venice beach are making me re-evaluate.
The beach and the sea is what makes this place. On Sunday I arrived, tiredly, from New York, but was gently refreshed by a few hours of lounging on the sound. Behind my a ragged collection of beach bums and California hippies held a free-form drumming sessions, while my eyes were glued to the sea where a pod of dolphins were playing under a blue skies and little white fluffy clouds.
Six days later and the beach helped me relax again before the long flight home for Xmas. This was a quieter experience, with only the sea birds disturbing me while I read Kerouac’s ‘The Dharma Bums’, a book I last enjoyed sitting on a farm in South Dakota twenty years ago. I stopped at a beautiful passage where Ray/Kerouac eulogises about his mountain climbing dharma buddy, Japhy:
“This poor kid ten years younger than I am is making me look a fool forgetting all the ideals and joys I knew before, in my recent years of drinking and disappointment, what does he care if he hasn’t got any money: he doesn’t need any money, all he needs is his rucksack and his little plastic bags of dried food and a good pair of shoes and off he goes and enjoys the privileges of a millionaire in surroundings like this [atop the Matterhorn]. And what gouty millionaire could get up here anyway?”
Small World Books (1407 Ocean Front walk, Venice)
“An unusual purveyor of literature dedicated to the principle that the book you want is the book you should have”. What this means, I know not, but it’s a great little shop with an emphasis on local authors and themes.
Rawvolution (Main Street, Santa Monica)
A nice little vegan cafe that makes the most amazing smoothies of the chocolate and coconut variety. The food is great too and I savoured a nut burger that came with kale chips and coconut jerky
The El Rey (Willshire Avenue, Los Angeles)
Getting anywhere downtown from Santa Monica takes an age of stop / start driving, so I haven’t sampled much of the LA gig scene. But a tour-ending performance by Jagwar Ma pulled me out to the El Rey and I am very glad too. This is a glorious art-deco venue, complete with chandeliers, great acoustics and good sight-lines.
The Townhouse (Venice, behind the Erwin Hotel)
I believe this kind of long, thin booth bar is called a speakeasy. It’s a misnomer if so, as the main design feature appears to favour lone drinkers squatting on stools in a row at the bar. But that’s suited me just fine up to now, as has the basement music venue where local bands gig most nights.
Abbott-Kinney (Venice, off Main Street on the way to Santa Monica)
This street is a kind of posh Dalston with sun, full of shops that make you want to buy expensive things you don’t need. Lovely for a wander and on a Friday night the roads are packed with quality fast-food vans.