The Freaks at Venice Beach

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by Bob Sparrow

Venice-CA-1913-winwardave

Venice Beach circa 1905

On July 4, 1905 tobacco mogul, Abbot Kinney dug some canals, opened a few shops and launched ‘Venice of America’ next to Santa Monica Beach, hoping to ‘recreate’ Venice, Italy and attract lovers of art, music and culture – it did not.   Being the ever-astute businessman, he quickly scraped the idea of bringing the Renaissance to America and instead brought in exhibits, amusements and freak shows that attracted young counterculture artists, poets, and writers. I don’t know about artists and poets, but I’m here to tell you that the freaks have definitely survived – I was one of them last week, when I made my first visit to Venice Beach.  With summer drawing to and end, the usually packed boardwalk had thinned out, the freaks were fewer in numbers, but no less freaky and it seems that even some of the homeless people had gone home. What I noticed was a lot of older guys walking around taking pictures – I guess we were the freaks.

Muscle Beach

“Stop, no wimps allowed on Muscle Beach!”

In the heart of the Venice Beach boardwalk is ‘Muscle Beach’, where guys can workout in the open air on the sand. I thought it would be fun to drop in and do a workout, pump some iron, maybe throw in a clean and jerk. I was stopped at the entrance and told that I would give ‘Muscle Beach’ a bad name if I took off my shirt, and was admonished that if I tried to enter the workout area, a ‘jerk’ would certainly be part of my future.

Psychic

“Most of your future is ahead of you”

Curious about what my real future looked like, I moved on to a nearby Psychic Fortune Teller.  I knocked on the door to the psychic’s office or séance room or whatever it was, and a pregnant young lady, with a cell phone to her ear, appeared.   She whispered that she was on the phone with the water company, who was threatening to turn off her water, and asked me to sit down. As I sat there for about 10-15 minutes I got to thinking, didn’t she know I was coming,  and, do you really have to be a fortune teller to know that if you don’t pay your bill, they’re going to shut off your water.?   I may be parsing words here, but isn’t it an oxymoron to have a pregnant psychic woman ‘expecting’ – shouldn’t she ‘know’?

cookie

Chinese Fortune Cookie

With some trepidation I paid to have both palms and my face read. She examined my palms and told me, I was married and had 2 to 4 children. I think my wedding ring gave her a clue to my marital status and I’m guessing 80% of married people my age have between 2-4 children. I wanted to play along to see what other amazing revelations she had in store for me, so I said, “That’s unbelievable!” She smiled knowingly and droned on for about ten minutes, giving me such gems as, “You’ve had some conflicts in the past”, “You’d rather give orders than take them”, “You will travel somewhere” and other phrases she had memorized from Chinese fortune cookies. The only thing I really remembered hearing was “You’re going to make a lot of money next year” – I think that one was accurately divined. After rattling off hackneyed phrase after phrase, she suddenly stopped, got up and walked out of the room. It was like the meter had run out and my time was up, or she suddenly looked into her own future and saw the guy from the water company at the side of her house preparing to turn off her water. I left and walked down the boardwalk with a little more spring in my step, comforted by the thought that I was going to make a lot of money next year.

Venice canal

There’s canals here???

I asked about 10 or 12 people on the boardwalk where the canals were, and mostly I heard, “There are canals here?”  I started to explain the Venice connection, but no one seemed really interested.  I finally found the canals inland about two blocks off the beach. There are only six canals left, there were about twice that many originally, and they are only deep enough to accommodate very small boats and kayaks, but the homes around them were small, but quite nice.

If Abbot Kinney were alive today, he might be a bit disappointed that poetry and art are found on tee shirts, the music comes from homeless street musicians and the culture does not evoke the Renaissance, but the business man in him would probably appreciate the fact that millions still comes to see the freak shows every year.

Rolling guitar

A Renaissance Man?

 

Homeless piano

One jar for tips, the other for his 401(k)

 

AMAZING FAMILY!

suz linda

Suzanne & Linda

by Bob Sparrow

     Who has a better sister and wife than I do?  NoooooooooBody!!  At the risk of beating a dead horse, or at least an old horse, for our readers, I must revisit my 70th birthday celebration and thank a number of people who made it such an AMAZING event.  My first thank you goes to my lovely wife Linda, who orchestrated a weekend of surprise after surprise.  Granted when you have a husband who is totally clueless, it’s easy to pull off surprises, but nonetheless she did a masterful job – a week after the event, I still don’t suspect anything!

      With the ‘Big One’ approaching, Linda asked me how I wanted to celebrate the conclusion of my 70th trip around the sun.  I said I didn’t want a big party, just something with the FAMILY.  That was the end of my participation.  Several days later she told me that she’d booked four villas in Palm Desert at the Marriott Desert Springs, where we love spending a week every April at our timeshare.  Perfect, just the kids, grandkids and us.

Jackalope

Cocktails at Jackalope in the desert

     Late Thursday afternoon, while grubbing around in the yard, the doorbells rings, Linda asks me to get it.  I come to the door in tattered jeans and dirty t-shirt; it’s my brother, Jack and wife Sharon, I greet them with the warm welcome of, “What the hell are you guys doing here?!”  They responded with a Happy Birthday and that they are going to Palm Desert with us.  I’m thrilled.  Later that evening (I did sneak in a shower and change of clothes) the doorbell rings again and, still clueless, I go to the door and there are four couples of our good friends, Mark & Kathy, Jack & JJ, Bob & Marge and John and Judy – they’re standing at our front door singing Christmas carols that turn into Happy Birthday.  When we’re all seated at the bar in our family room, Linda brings out a small box and asks me to open it.  It is a brochure for a 12-day trip for two to Kathmandu, Nepal, which includes a 5-day trek through the foothills of the Himalaya!  My jaw drops!!!  She says, there is no way she’s going, that the trip is for my brother and me.  All I can say is “AMAZING!”

photo (9)

Jack, Suzanne & me

     By mid-day Friday we’re checking in at the Villas in Palm Desert.  When we got there, there is only one villa that has been cleaned and available, so we walked over to the hotel and had some lunch at poolside in perfect weather.  Upon our return I walked into the one villa we had and I see a man, with his back to us, sitting out on the deck, and assume I went into the wrong villa.  Then one of my favorite people and one of the funniest I know, turns around and wishes me a Happy Birthday – it’s Matt Sparrow, my nephew – Jack’s son.  Fast forward to mid-day Saturday and I get my annual birthday phone call from my sister, who always calls me and sings Happy Birthday the way Marilyn Monroe sang it to Jack Kennedy.  As I’m standing there listening to her, she walks in the door – she had just flown in from Scottsdale – AMAZING!  Later that afternoon close friends and ‘practically family members’, Mark, Kathy and daughter, Kristin (best friend of our daughter, Dana) arrived to celebrate the occasion.

joe dana

Joe & Dana

One last surprise remained.  I was told to stay in my villa as preparations for ‘the party’ Saturday evening were taking place in Joe & Dana’s villa.  When I was asked to ‘come to the party’ I was blown away.  Dana and Joe had decorated the villa with pictures at ‘food stations’ they’d created representing a number of the places we’ve visited, Italy (Meatballs marinara, Fried cheese, beef Carpaccio with lemon arugula), Africa (Moroccan lamb kabobs with Tzatziki sauce, veggie couscous, roasted plantains), Japan (Ahi and Yellowtail crudo, crying tiger beef skewers, garlic and chili edamame) and Hawaii (Kalua pork sliders on Hawaiian rolls, grilled pineapple, Ahi poke). All the food was AMAZING! There we also ‘drink stations’ from Ireland (beer and Irish whiskey), my Dad’s famous martinis at ‘Poppin’s Grotto’ and ‘Klappers’ (cheap rum and diet cola) named after my dearly departed best friend, Don Klapperich.  The birthday cake, in a ‘travel and music’ theme had a quote from me about traveling and seeing things a little differently than most.  Dana then gave me a box decorated in the ‘travel and music’ theme that she had put together, containing 70 individual birthday wishes from friends and family (you saw my sister’s in last week’s blog) – they were AMAZING!  A huge thank you to those who took the time to write something nice and send it back (for some I’m certain it took quite some time to find something nice to say).  Seriously, I am was touched and am blessed to have such wonderful friends.

3 kids

Stephanie, Jeff & Dana

Thank you to an AMAZING FAMILY, especially those who made this an unforgettable (even for a forgetful 70 year old) experience – Stephanie, Jason, Dylan & Emma; Dana & Joe, Jeff, Jack & Sharon, Suzanne, Matt, (Mark, Kathy & Kristin) and especially to Linda whose dedication to FAMILY is unsurpassed.  To quote Lou Gehrig, “I am the luckiest man on the face of the earth”.

    OK, enough with the birthday stuff, I’ve got some really interesting places to take you next year – hope you’ll enjoy them vicariously ‘from a bird’s eye view’.

HOPE YOU AND YOUR FAMILY HAVE A MERRY CHRISTMAS AND AN ADVENTUROUS NEW YEAR! 

DUMB ACTS

Headlines:  Maybe the Alzheimer’s test is in order.

Rick Perry had a stumble at the debate the other night,

His fumbling and his stalling suggest his brain has taken flight.

If you have three things to remember and you can only recall two,

Then perhaps the job of President is not the one for you.

Money:  If it’s Thursday the market must be up.

Who the heck can plan their budget in this age of market swings,

Never knowing from week to week what stock prices will bring.

If it isn’t Greece, it’s Italy or some company’s fallen flat,

We need to have a Ouija board – is there an app for that?

Sports:     No, football is not the most important thing…even in Happy Valley.

JoePa’s out at Penn State after sixty-one years,

Resulting in reactions from rioting to tears.

He was a  great coach in his prime but this should be understood,

He didn’t have the courage to stand up when he should.

Life:  We hear Kim Kardashian is available.

Piers Morgan has decided that he will quit his job,

On the “America’s Got Talent” judging panel mob.

His replacement will no doubt need to agree to certain terms:

Humor Sharon’s ramblings and don’t give Howie any germs.

The holidays are approaching…why not give someone a redposey?

www.redposey.com