Marina del Rey, California
“Repent Sinners!” The man’s ebony face drips onto his baby-blue tracksuit as he stands on Pacific Blvd., admonishing mankind to turn from their wicked ways. The tanned blonde woman with the tutti-frutti bikini seems oblivious as she roller skates past him with her hot pink surf-board held loosely under one arm. Her fellow citizens look even less interested in his message.
I wait for a director to appear and yell, “Cut!” It’s all just too cliché. In this state of perpetual make-believe California fulfills all its stereotypes. But it’s at Venice Beach where the quirky and the bizarre go full out. Oiled up muscle-bound bodies working out in the outdoor beach gym ignore the elderly lady who has dressed herself – and her poodle – in head-to-toe shades of purple. Her sparkly hair clips sweep her long white hair into an extravagant up-do.
Dreadlocked young boys carry their boom boxes on their shoulders. The throbbing bass competes with the pounding of the Pacific flinging surfers to its shores. The chopped low-rider cyclist sports his leathers as he wheels his heavily chromed bicycle onto the basketball court. Doesn’t he see the neon sign above the Cow’s End coffee shop announcing the 94 degree temperature?
I wind through it all on my one-speed rental bike. I’m pretty sure they’ve found my bike from Grade 6. Apparently, it’s been waiting for me all these years. The skiffs of white sand obscuring the lines on the miles of bike lanes makes a satisfying squishy/squeaky snow-sound as my fat wheels roll through. I’m on my way to Fisherman’s Village in Marina del Rey.
I cruise down Admiralty Way, past my Marriott home for the next few days with its oasis-like pool and middle-of-the-lobby bar. I resist the temptation to imbibe and instead roll into the Jamaica Bay Inn with movie-mogul look-alikes sporting aloha shirts and cell phones lounging around the café deck. Maybe I’ll be discovered? I settle for a coffee and bagel in the hot sun instead. Further down the road, I stop again. At Edie’s Diner, I plug quarters into the table-top juke boxes and listen to the Beach Boys, Elvis and The Monkees. A cappuccino this time and now I’m really ready to fly. Riding by the crowded and popular Tony P.’s Grill, I decide on dinner that night. Later, I’ll find portions for giants and patio seating next to the largest man-made marina in the U.S.
I hear the entrance to Fisherman’s Village before I see it. There is a live jazz/blues band creating a funky atmosphere for locals and tourists on the edge of the dock. The smell of coconut milk and curry wafts from the Thai Garden take-out window. Can I possibly fit in a bowl of Panang Curry? With all these food temptations I’d better keep pedaling.
Marina del Rey is a short ride from the tie-dyed characters of Venice Beach but it’s a million miles away in terms of clientele. There are 6000 yachts in this marina and another 1500 up in dry-dock. I jump on Just Fun Stuff tours for a 40 minute jaunt amongst the rich and famous. Johnny Carson’s 14 million dollar powerboat Serengeti floats among its peers. By the size of the Flo, it looks like maybe the Brady Bunch paid off fairly well for Florence Henderson.
Tomorrow, I’ll drive down to take in the carnie-atmosphere of Santa Monica’s pier, listening to the Spanish-speaking fishermen and the singing homeless man before I sneak away for a soothing massage at Le Merigot Hotel and Spa.
But now, back on the dock, I decide to take a duck’s eye view of the marina. At Marina Boat Rentals I find my new perfect vehicle. The banana-yellow plastic kayak is easy to maneuver and gives me a whole new perspective of the volume of traffic zipping in and out of this huge watery parking lot. Besides, it’ll give my legs a rest. Time for the arms to take up the slack.
“Debbie!” A man yells at me from the deck of his yacht. I look around. Yes, he’s definitely talking to me. “I’m not Debbie!” I yell back, “But if it makes you feel any better, you can call me Debbie.” I’m closer now and can see his grin light up the boat. “Thanks, Debbie! That actually makes me feel pretty fine. But, you really should learn to relax a little.” I realize I’m lounging in my kayak like I’m on the chaise lounge back at the Marriott. I smile, wave and carry on, scooting past pelicans, under bridges and coming very, very close to those expensive, ritzy hulls.
And here, in LA-LA Land, the land where you can be anybody at all, it’s as close to being rich and famous as I’m going to get…even if I do decide to repent.