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There’s No Place Quite Like It

Today I took a walk along the Venice Boardwalk. I could swear that I actually heard a couple of people speaking English. There was French, German, and something that sounded vaguely Slavic. And that was in addition to the frequently heard Spanish.

My destination was Small World Books, near the corner of Pacific and Windward (under the Venice sign above). If you’ve ever seen Orson Welles’s film Touch of Evil (1958), you will remember the colonnades meant to be a sleazy Mexican border town. Except now it’s all tattoo parlors, T-shirts, surfboard and bicycle rentals, food take-out places., and Hippie paraphernalia.

When I first visited the Boardwalk, I was put off by all the Hippie associations and suggestions of violence. After all, the Manson Family was in residence there in the 1960s. (But them, so was Jim Morrison of The Doors.) That’s still part of the Venice scene, but I’ve come to terms with it. If anyone tries to sell me a rap music CD recorded by a local garage band, I’ll just answer pleasantly in Hungarian and continue on my way.

Venice was the creature of a developer named Abbot Kinney who founded the community in 1905, complete with canals, gondoliers, and bath houses. And there was also an amusement park jutting out on a large pier (Pacific Ocean Park), Some of the canals still exist and are another pleasant walk,

At Small World Books, I bought books by Roberto Bolaño and Salman Rushdie.