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Boardwalk

Pacific & Windward, the Center of Venice, California

If you squint hard when you look at the above picture, you can see the set of the Mexican border town in Orson Welles’s Touch of Evil (1958) in which Charlton Heston plays a Mexican drug enforcement officer—one of his weirder roles.

Now it’s just ground zero for one of Los Angeles’s main tourist attractions: The Venice Boardwalk. The boardwalk runs roughly between the Santa Monica Pier and the Venice Pier. It’s only when you cross the border from Santa Monica into Venice that the fun begins. There are scores of tattoo parlors, cafés, tourist junk shops, fortunetellers, psychics, and handcrafts. including a lot of dubious art. The Midwestern tourists who come by the busload see what they think is the “real” Los Angeles, whereas what they see has been created largely for their benefit.

I sort of enjoy the tatty atmosphere of the Boardwalk, but I mainly go because it contains one of Los Angeles’s last surviving bookshops, Small World Books. Today I picked up a copy of James M. Cain’s last novel, The Cocktail Waitress, and a book by Alan Watts about Buddhism. Then I had a slice of pepperoni pizza from Rey’s and trundled back to my car, which was parked at a confusing intersection of streets a few blocks away near Electric and Abbot Kinney.

If you go a few blocks south on Pacific, you will find the bridge over the Venice canal that was the scene of where Joseph Calleia plugs Orson Welles’s corrupt Captain Hank Quinlan.

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