Heart of Darkness Pt. 2

—————–Day 4—————-
I woke up feeling pretty good and went for another run identical to the last one, but minus the tree climbing. Afterwards, Lorenzo, Edward, and I had a fun little bluegrass jam together. Buffy listened as she studied her sign language flashcards, and clapped for us after. After breakfast I decided that the dreaded time had come to update you all on my goings-on, and sat down at the computer begrudgingly. Several hours later I was finally done. 
After spending the better part of a day ‘blogging’ (sorry but I can’t bring myself to legitimize that word), I was so restless that I basically stormed out of the house with no plan. I ended up at Marina del Rey in a little park on the docks, just as sunset hit. The crowd was eclectic; yuppie couples walking their lapdogs, mid-life crisis victims smoking cigars, a Filipino mountain-biking posse, teenage lovebirds, some bums having a sort of bum party/cookout under a pagoda with a loud stereo blaring from their overloaded shopping cart. There were also some young latino kids fishing down on the docks. I went to ask them how the fishing was, and saw they had a litte shad or something hooked on the line but made no effort to reel it in. They informed me that they were “just taking our pet fish for a walk, at the fish park, you know.” I’m not sure if these kids were fucking with me or what, but they kept talking to this poor dying fish like it was their pet. Either way, they have a wicked sense of humor.
Soon the sun set, and yuppies and bums alike stood together to take in the beauty. Right when the colors hit their peak, a rowing team paddled by out of nowhere.

After this I decided to try some dumpster diving in the area. I went around to a few places, but most used compactors, which you’re not supposed to jump in because they can kill you…..have you seen Star Wars?
After a bit I ran out of time and went to meet EA at another anonymous gathering. After that, I decided to try Hollywood for dumpster diving. Figured I could find some good stuff, with all the upper class organic markets and such. This proved even more disastrous than the Marina. Apparently in Hollywood they take their garbage VERY seriously. The first was underground under a parking garage (?!) so the dumpster was inaccessible  Another had a large spiked fence around it. Never easily discouraged, I jumped the fence and stealthily evaded the employees out back, only to find the dumpsters were individually padlocked.
I saw a Trader Joe’s across the street and figured it was a safer bet. NOT. Not only was there a slanted and spiked fence around the dumpster, but fucking razor wire around the top. These people have spent time and money making damn sure that no one can eat anything they are throwing away. Most things that are wasted are done so out of convenience. It’s easier to throw away than to reuse. Which is still selfish and stupid, but this took it a step further. Apparently in Hollywood it’s not enough to waste several metric tons of perfectly good food every single day on account of rich and picky customers. You have to guard your trash to ensure that nobody disrupts the delicate cycle of consumerism. They literally are spending money to ensure that what they toss out will rot and be poured into a landfill. And the best part is that these health-food stores are considered ‘progressive.’ Progressing towards what? Disposable iLife? Honestly I didn’t even need the food. I was just doing it for fun. But the jail-style dumpster security I found was so unbelievable that it bothered me. 
I gave Hollywood a solid middle finger and drove home in disgust.
————–Day 5—————

I woke with a start to my phone ringing. I was supposed to have met Kimba at a diner 17 minutes ago. I rushed over and found her staring disapprovingly at me over a cup of coffee. Notice her “Kim Book.” Full of witchcraft and hexes, no doubt. 
My friend Mike told me about a place in Griffith Park he refers to as, “the Batcave.” We decide to visit it. Along the way I see this sign. How many different ways can LA spell it? Time will tell.

We get to Griffith Park and start hiking. I’m immediately taken with the landscape. It’s easy to see why so many people migrated here and turned it into a sprawling metropolis. The ironic part is that the city has expanded so much that it has nearly eradicated the natural beauty that made it a destination to begin with. The meta-circular nature of this begins to make my head spin.

what LA looked like before humanity ruined everything.

read on the internets that many episodes of Star Trek were filmed here.

We come to the promised Batcave and walk through. Apparently it’s so named because it was used as the Batcave in an old Batman movie, presumably the original.

Alfred was nowhere to be found.

Upon emerging from the cave, we were in an interesting and pretty canyon. Hard to believe that this is smack dab in the middle of one of the largest cities in the world.

I felt compelled to take this picture, just to prove that we were still in LA.

maximum worship pose

 I ran up a steep trail gleefully, but Kimba kept slipping and sliding, and had to resort to a less evolved position to get up. I turned around just in time to snap a picture, much to her chagrin.

grovel, wench.

pretty high

Eventually, at the very top, we were greeted with an amazing view of the entire city. Even Kimba, a Los Angeles native, was stunned by how far you could see from the hilltop. We were in Hollywood, and you could see all the way south to San Pedro and Long Beach, as well as Downtown, Santa Monica to west, and Venice to the southwest. I made the picture huge so you could kind of get the effect. Scroll over to the right to see the whole thing.
 To the right was another great view of the Hollywood sign, so I disrobed and welcomed the rapture of the Christ, Lord and Savior.

praise him.

After this, we found ourselves craving cold refreshment, so Kimba directed me to a painfully hip but interesting Hollywood establishment called the “Bourgeois Pig.” It was right next the the Upright Citizen’s Brigade theater, which I wanted to visit, but they only do shows at night. Inside there was an assortment of colored lights and awkwardly dressed high-class indie-swag hybrids drinking $6 lattes over their MacBooks. Of all the times I have been called a hipster in Prescott, I felt distinctly classless and unrefined in this temple of hip-ness. I looked down at my pants. Even though they were black, they looked dirty. I realized I hadn’t washed them in at least 2 weeks. They passed a quick sniff-test, however, so my fear quickly dissipated. Near the back, we found an extremely dark room decorated like an enchanted forest. We found a spot, sat down and unwound for a while and soaked in the bewitched atmosphere.

After our decompression, we headed over to Amoeba Music, the world’s largest record store, apparently. On the way we stopped at a German sausage bar and got some “currywurst” which is German street food. The gay German cashier did an enthusiastic and stupendous job of explaining the menu and the food was pretty good, though the portions were small. I learned a valuable lesson about paying gay Germans for their sausage. Afterwards we headed to Amoeba, which was, as promised, enourmous. They had sections for everything, ranging from outlaw country cassettes, to black metal vinyl, and everything in between. There was even a stage where bands play for free. And not just local bands either. Apparently I had just missed Yo La Tengo play there the day before I arrived in LA. Bummer. I tried to take pictures, but my phone died. I stole one from Google just so you can get an idea:

a Costco of music

After this the sun was setting and I realized I was supposed to be in Long Beach hours ago. So Kimba and I said our goodbyes, I rushed over to Lorenzo’s, gathered my belonging, said my goodbyes there, and left him a 6-pack of one of his favorite beers, Fat Tire Ale, in gratitude.

I headed south to Long Beach to meet my next host, Wesley. I was arriving much later than I thought, and he wasn’t going to be home again till much later. He asked me if I liked dodgeball, and in the interest of adventure, I said yes. He told me to meet him at ‘Cesar Chavez elementary school’ instead.

I arrived after sunset and put on my running shorts and shoes, and walked in to the bustling gym to find quite an unexpected scene. There were people wearing “World Dodgeball Society” shirts, knee pads, elbow pads, gloves…..some guys even had their fingers taped. These people meant business. They had regulation size proprietary dodgeballs, team/league names, warmup drills, the whole nine yards. I walked up to a friendly looking guy to ask him what the hell was going on. He introduced himself as Mike, and then wailed the ball at the wall so fast that it curved in the air like a baseball pitch, before smacking loudly against it. I immediately feared for my genitals.

I saw a manic young Vietnamese woman who appeared to be running the show. She was checking the pressure in the dodgeballs and meticulously adjusting it to regulation when I approached her. She explained the rules to me and I asked her if she knew a “Wesley”. She pointed me to young man with a red bandana over his face. I introduced myself and he smiled and informed me to warm up.

Eventually the game started and was about 10 times as intense as elementary school recess ever was. Balls flew at me at speeds in excess of anything safe. I proved to be somewhat nimble in dodging, and pegged a few of the opposite team, but this combined with my large stature quickly made me a target. They waited until they had several balls accumulated on their side, ran up to the line, feigning in random directions, then drilled them all right at me at the same time. I didn’t stand a chance.

After I got over the trauma of being completely shellacked by several asian women in kneepads, I got pretty into the game and had a lot of fun. Eventually though, I screwed up my elbow from throwing a light object so hard, so many times. I sat out for the second half of the night and took the opportunity to take a picture:

Wesley is on the left with the purple shirt and the red bandana

After the madness subsided, Wesley jumped in my car and directed me to a local eatery called “Hole Mole.” Disappointingly, I found that it’s actually pronounced “Holy Moly.” Wes strongly recommended the fish tacos, so I got several. They were only $1. What came out of the kitchen on that tray was absolutely the best taco of any kind I have ever had. In fact, I have been craving more for a full 24 hours as I am writing this. 

After recovering from the awe of the tacos, I noticed that the atmosphere in Long Beach was noticeably different than in LA. There is just as many people here as in LA (way too many), they just move at a more natural speed. There was a much more eclectic crowd, and a generally relaxed demeanor that was entirely nonexistent in LA. It was refreshing. To give you an idea of this, I took a picture of this matter-of-fact sign under the cash register:

the fact that they have to designate this speaks volumes about the attitude in Long Beach. 

After my taco revelation, we spend about a half hour trying to find parking, but finally landed a spot. Wes informed me that I was extremely lucky to have gotten the spot so close. I was surprised, being that we were 7 full blocks from where he lived. After a short walk he showed me into his apartment, only a few blocks from the beach.

Once again, I was blown out of the water by the generosity and caring spirit of these CouchSurfing folks. He showed me to my “couch,” a queen size bed in a spare bedroom. He even had tacked up maps all over the walls to aid travelers. It appears that this guy has an extra bedroom just for travelers like myself. Even though he had to be up at 6am, he sits up late with me pointing out places on the map. Then to my surprise, he hands me a set of keys to the place, just like Lorenzo. Unbelievable. I fall asleep bathed in good karma.

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