At first, I didn’t like the place. I was eight years old, so everything looked bigger, and sounded louder than usual. It felt as though I had walked into the Twilight Zone. So many different sounds and things to see. Venice Beach was just creepy. Making sure to keep a tight grip on my mom’s hand, I observed the gypsies and the psychics, the Bob Marley look-a-likes, and the huge Hulk looking body builders. I thought “Oh my god. Where the hell am I?”
As we walked through the crowd, something caught my attention as a circle started forming around a group of men. I pulled my mom’s hand and we joined the crowd. I couldn’t see a thing, so my dad lifted me onto his shoulders. As I fixed my gaze to the middle of the circle everyone had formed, I was amazed. There were ten African- American men holding each other up in a perfect pyramid. It felt as though I was in a circus ring. The audience cheered as the men held themselves up in a perfect balance. I actually felt scared for the man at the top, but he looked comfortable as ever. He then shouted, “Stand back everyone.” Doing as he said, we took a few steps back, anticipating his next move. As I clutched the back of my dad’s head, he began his countdown. “5…4…3…2…1!”
Leaping from the two men below him, he did a complete somersault in mid-air. When he reached his highest point, I remembered him eclipsing the sun perfectly from where I was. Astonishing. He landed perfectly on both feet and the crowd went wild. I cheered along with them. As we started to walk off, I turned back and watched the men creating some other configuration to amaze other kids like me.
After the acrobatic show, we continued to walk down the boardwalk. As I inhaled the fresh beach breeze, a curious smell entered my nostrils, and I wouldn’t recognize the smell until my teen years. We took a detour into this tattoo parlor, and as my parents talked to one of the tattoo artists, I observed all of the lines and pictures on the walls. They were like ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, and I smiled at the beauty of it all.
The next thing I knew, I was handed a tattoo book and my parents told me to pick any one I liked. I thought, “Wow! A real tattoo.” I choose some sort of flame design. As I sat down for my tat, my parents smiled at me and I smiled back excitedly. As the tattoo artist put the ink to my skin, it felt cold and wet. I watched as he steadily moved the instrument up and down, curved to the right, curved to the left in my forearm. I chuckled when he was finished and looked at my arm in the mirror; I felt like I was the coolest kid on the block. Little did I know, I would find out a week later that the “tattoo parlor” had really been a Henna Shop, and the tat was fake.
After getting “inked,” we strolled down a little farther and came upon a souvenir shop, filled with kick- knacks, hats, and shirts. I remember walking to the sunglasses section and trying on almost all of the shades, giggling at my reflection in the little mirror. It looked as though the walls were colored by a pack of Crayola. When we wereheading out the doorway, I just couldn’t stop smiling.
As the day was coming to an end, we grew hungry. So we bought some pizza and walked down to the water and sat on the sand. As I bit into my pizza, I watched the waves form, crash and tumble. The cool breeze on my face, and the palm trees blowing in the wind. When I first arrived here, I was terrified. And now I sat in peace and satisfaction.
Almost ten years later, I still visit Venice Beach at least a few times a month. It’s the only place I feel totally comfortable and relaxed. I just kick back at the handball courts or sit in the sand and think about the time I was introduced to this place. It’s so peaceful and fun there. A place to get away. It’s home.