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It's Hard Out Here for a Hippie: The Paradox of Venice Beach

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A year ago, I had just landed back in the First World after a round-the-world backpacking adventure. During my time traipsing through Southeast Asia or sharing a hut with rats in Papua New Guinea, I had no problem relishing in the hippie lifestyle. I never brushed my hair or wore makeup. I carried my life in a sack. I had no idea where I'd be the following week. Life couldn't have been easier.

But now I'm in Los Angeles.

Chihuahuas wear designer clothes and you're an oddity if you don't have a German-engineered car. Plus, my adult acne requires I wear some fancy foundation for anyone to take me seriously, and I was forced to buy some decent jeans due to my exhibitionist butt crack. So, I'm now feeling like 'one of them.' I'm a paradox, surrounded by industry types in Diesel jeans by day and meditating in lotus at night. A new colleague just paid $50,000 for a couch ('It is the focal point,' he rationalized), while some of my friends are struggling to raise $400 to send a year's supply of water to a village in Africa. Where do I fit in the mix? If I could, I'd sell that couch, pay off my student loans, and go to Africa to deliver the water myself. Does that make me a hippie or just some chick who wants to use charity travel as an excuse for never having to work?

I don't know. But the best part is that I don't have to know.

Because I live in Venice Beach, home to equal parts yuppie and hippie.

You could wake up in Venice Beach stuffed in a cannon. You could crawl out of that cannon and find an eyeless homeless man, a guy selling cotton balls and taser guns, and a jogger pushing twins in a five-thousand-dollar stroller. And none of this would seem weird. And you'd say to a man playing bongos, 'Excuse me, do you know why I woke up in a cannon?' And instead of looking at you as if you had five noses, he'd tap his friends on their leathery shoulders and they'd all help you find out why you awoke in this cannon.

All together you'd find a guy sleeping in the sand who remembers that you were at the local freak show (the one that features an assortment of two-headed animals) and that you volunteered to shoot yourself from the cannon after downing a magnum bottle of Opus One (bought for you by this Hollywood big shot at a bar down the street for $749 plus tax). And then you'd hear that the freak show owner stuffed you in the cannon but then ran from the fuzz because he's also the owner of the medical marijuana joint across the street that was getting raided. You know the one, next to American Apparel. And so you fell asleep in the cannon until now when you just awoke to the aforementioned plus a dude frying up worms on a pocket kerosene grill, not because he's homeless but because he's a shaman and these particular worms are from Tibet and will help him with his Tantric sexcapades, about which you don't want know -- trust me.

It's a strange place, this Venice. On the beach, it looks like a scene out of Rishikesh, India -- free yoga, dirty dreadlocks, street sleepers, seedy taverns, and marijuana. Lots of marijuana.

Four blocks over is where the hippies become pseudo. Here the marijuana is legit, the bars have bouncers, and the coffee shop baristas draw hearts in the latte foam. The dreadlocks on this side of Venice are professionally installed by a guy with thick plastic glasses and expensive skinny jeans. The yoga classes run upwards of twenty bucks.

It's strange, this paradox of lifestyles. But I love it. Because I'm neither nor. I'm not one but both. I am a daily contradiction. I like chocolate and bread pudding. I want it all. I'm every woman. It's all in me. And there's no point in choosing now. So, I'm going to ride my 400-dollar bike to the free yoga and meditate the day away with the drum circle crowd and a two-headed turtle. And then I'll go wash it all down with a plate of foie gras in truffle oil.

Venice is it.