There’s something about the magic of Venice Beach, California, that’s intoxicating. Although parts of the sleepy, laid back town can be annoyingly touristy (hello, boardwalk) or sketchy after dark (hello, boardwalk), there’s so much history and artistic inspiration there that it will forever be one of my favorite places in the whole wide world.
When I first moved to Los Angeles at just 22 years old, I was pretty young and pretty lost, but I somehow knew in my heart that California was where I belonged. And so I immersed myself in the culture of the west side, because that’s the be-all and the end-all of California, right? Now that I live far east in Silver Lake I rarely make it across the city, and my time spent by the beach has dwindled down to only a handful of times a year. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have intense nostalgia or the most vivid of memories when I think about dreamy Venice.
The Mamas and the Papas wrote “California Dreamin” specifically for the feeling that SoCal encapsulates, which is why I also still listen to the Beach Boys — because “that feeling” is universal and classic. Except now, Best Coast is thrown into the mix. I always listen to her jams a ridiculous amount — especially when summer is in full swing. While the Beach Boys wished that all girls could be California girls, Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast sings about California nights and how they make her feel so happy she could die. All signs point west.
I’ve collected, lost and broken my fair share of $5 sunglasses (the boardwalk’s selection is ALWAYS amazing), stared up at the Venice sign’s lights right before the orange sky launched itself into a pink and purple sunset and danced at the drum circle on Sunday nights. I’ve had fish tacos at James’ Beach because of “I Love You, Man”, posed for pictures in front of the Jim Morrison and “Starry Night” murals and stood for hours at the skate park in awe of the Lords of Dogtown-worthy talent flying through. I’ve read one of my favorite books at the canals and was ALMOST in the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ music video for “The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie” with my sister (but was extra happy to see the legendary Harry Perry make a cameo with his roller blades and electric guitar). I bought handfuls of feathers to wear in my hair from vendors on the boardwalk, got henna tattooed on my hands during Abbot Kinney’s First Friday and rode beach cruisers along the sand before jumping off of graffiti art installations nestled under the towering palm trees.
And finally, I’ve sat on the beach, staring out into the Pacific, thinking to myself how lucky I am to live in California at all. This sparkling, bohemian place sure knows how to tug on my heartstrings, and whenever I visit Venice in particular, I’m always a little sad that I never got the chance to live there…but then again…never say never.