Yesterday we spent several hours with a friend at the Venice Beach Boardwalk. If you've never been to Venice Beach, it's a touristy LA thing you really shouldn't miss. The Boardwalk is the natural home of every tacky pair of sunglasses ever made, weird outliers of the human species, and the ravening spirit of the predatory entrepreneur, buyer very much beware.
The people-watching is extraordinary, even on a gloomy, overcast and somewhat cool Saturday. The skinny old guy who wanders about wearing a very very VERY brief Speedo had goosebumps. Not that I looked, or anything. Everywhere are vendors hawking their own CDs, very cheap jewelry, much of it made of feathers (to the point that you wonder where all the naked birds are), or Bob Marley/ganja/rasta goods. Oh, and the per capita distribution of psychics (for people or pets), palm-readers and massage artists seems quite high.
Speaking of high, many of these folks seem like they washed up on the shores of the 1960s and never got back in the swim. There are medical marijuana clinics with sexy costumed "nurses" outside, trying to recruit passers-by like strip-show hawkers in Times Square. This, between the Freakshow barker and the Phoenix House addiction treatment center. Seems appropriate, somehow. And scattered all through this, on the fringes of the crowd, are the homeless. They're mellow, most of them, Venice being one of the better places to be homeless for the winter.
And, of course, many of the vendors/artists are absolutely unique. There's a sand artist, and another shop filled with small to larger-than-life sculptures made entirely from hardware bits, most of them of movie-monsters like the Alien or Predator. Big hit with the guys. There was a half-pipe skateboarding competition taking place while we were there, fantastic to watch. Of course, there are always the street performers, some of whom are amazing, funny, or both. Or loud. The musicians are generally good, but every shop also pumps out music, so the few stretches of quiet along the boardwalk are welcome.
Pick your spot, and you can get quite good, or very very bad food. We had a decent lunch at Figtree, though the menu was surprising in that it didn't have any red meat on it at all. Semi-vegetarian, kinda. I tried the bread pudding at Shultzies, but found it somewhat disappointing. To me, proper bread pudding is custardy, and with some texture of the bread or pastry used still present. The raspberry pudding I tried was just...wet. Dense, served cold, and with no egg flavor at all, it was more like refrigerated milk-soaked bread than pudding. I can make better myself.
So how is this related to beading? Certainly the acres of $2 bracelets from China or India or whatever are dreadful and offer nothing to the real beader. Some of the vendors have interesting (or weird, depending on your viewpoint) goods such as insects, scorpions, or sea-life embedded in resin, or cut stones. So I found one vendor with a bunch of unmounted cabochons for sale, and bought three of them. The good thing about buying here is that the dealers are amenable to drastic bargaining over the price. You do have to be really careful of the quality. But I got three agate cabs for not much money, so they'll be joining the stash.
The creative beader can find materials anywhere!