Friday, September 05, 2008

Traveller - Friday 9/5/2008

A guy walks into a North Hollywood diner at 5:15 a.m. and asks, "How far is it to Venice, California?"

"Twenty-five minutes," P answers brightly. "You just hop on the 101 to the 405 and if you do it pretty soon, it'll be fast." She goes to do some side work in the back.

"Do celebrities come in here?" the Traveller asks the remaining servers. His hair is white and a little wispy. His skin is slightly florid. He's trim. He's wearing a purple polo shirt and light gray pants, and he carried in a very old fashioned tan leather satchel that's now resting near his feet.

"A long time ago," says A. "Not any more."

"We had Carmen Electra not too long ago," V says. "And Kristie Alley." (She means Kirstie Alley.) "From Cheers." Also from Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan and those Jenny Craig commercials.

The Traveller asks V if she knows how to get to Venice, California. She starts to tell him, but finds out he doesn't have a car. "I think you can take the subway there."

She starts to tell him how to get to the subway station, then looks across the restaurant to me, "You can get to Venice on the subway, can't you hon?"

"No," I say over my cup of coffee, "The subway doesn't go anywhere very interesting, except downtown."

He asks about getting a room there, if it's under $80. None of us know for sure, but we're doubtful. We live here, we don't get rooms at the beach. A turns her back on him, rolls her eyes at me and releases a short string of profanities before saying, "If you travel all the way out here you'd better be able to afford a room!"

The Traveller comes over to my table. "How far is it to Venice, California, do you think?"

"As the crow flies, it may be only about 15 miles, but by road it's more like 25. If you're taking the bus, it will probably take you a couple of hours. I don't know which line you'd need to take."

"Have you been to Venice?"


"Is it quite a place?"

"It's interesting. More interesting on weekends. There's a lot going on down by the water." I shrug. "You might actually like Santa Monica if you're going down there. It's the next town north and it's got more to it...a pier with rides and shops."

"But Muscle Beach, that's in Venice, right?"


I advise him to go back to the Greyhound station. They should have information about connecting buses. He asks about Hollywood. It's on the other side of the Santa Monica Mountains from here. I tell him he might want to stop there on the way, but he seems really focused on Venice.

As he walks back to his seat at the counter, I notice that my forearm is stretched across the open pages of my bound notebook. It's an instinctive thing that I find myself doing in public places even if the person I'm talking to could care less about what's going on in my pages.

The traveler asks a busboy if he knows where Venice, California is. "It's right next to Santa Monica, right? Muscle Beach is there."

He only gets a shrug and helpless open palms.

I think he said he'd come from Atlanta.

I have a feeling he's been dreaming about Muscle Beach for so long that he expects it to be in black and white.

I hope he gets there all right. I hope he's not disappointed.

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Los Angelista said...

Wow, that's really something. How do you end up in NoHo if you're trying to get to Venice? So strange.

I tend to cover up my writing as well. I guess I don't want folks to know if I haven't given them permission to read what I've written.

Sundry said...

I suspect that he thought North Hollywood was within walking distance of Hollywood, at least! Hope he is having a good time by now.

A long time ago, when I used to ride the bus from the east side of Hollywood to Century City to wait tables, I had a run in with a guy who was trying to read my writing over my shoulder. Long story short, he ended up punching me in the throat and ending my love affair with L.A. public transit.

And still, I'm protective of my writing!