Sunday, September 11, 2011

VENICE BEACH, CALIFORNIA: "The Corner Of Ocean Ave. & Linnie Ave." (Or, "An Ideal Place For Stream O' Consciousness Experimentation")

It seems like only a week ago that I returned to Phoenix last Sunday from my vacation in Los Angeles.

As my many dedicated, loyal readers [Cough!-Cough! Choke!-Choke! Gimme the naked Heimlich Maneuver!] will remember, a couple of times in the past I have made mention on this blog of the stream of consciousness love letter that I wrote to my old friend Terrill back in 1983.

I long had the idea to write a totally and legitimate stream of consciousness piece. I figured that step one was to get completely alcoholically-laminated so my sober consciousness could not interfere, and then I’d just sit down at my manual typewriter and write whatever came into my mind, mistakes and all.

I tried several times in the “Bay Street Daze” but it never worked. Two problems: either 1) I was not drunk enough to keep my conscious mind from self-editing, or 2) I was too drunk and passed out before I could make it to the typewriter to write.

Looking back these nearly 3 decades later, I realize that I did, in fact, accomplish my goal, unbeknownst to me at the time. Thing is, when I wrote the one and only stream of consciousness piece in my life, I was NOT drunk but hungover.

It worked perfectly because my mind was weirded-out enough to really let loose and just spill onto the page, yet I was not too intoxicated to sit up straight at my typewriter and stay awake.

Looking back on it 28 years later, I consider this the most un-jailed my mind ever was while I was in the process of writing something. I was sober, but I felt totally free to type any damn thing that came into my mind; I was acting 100% spontaneously – I was like a Jazz improvisor - free from all restrictions and expectations, just saying entirely whatever I thought to say. To this day, I consider that crazy love letter to Terrill to be the best thing I ever wrote. Kind of ironic that I signed it with someone else’s name.

Following is the first two paragraphs of that June, 1983 letter:

Wow, I am SO hungover.

Doug and MD are in Palm Springs. Last night, Twinkie and me and Lynth went out and got so drunk. I feel OK except I keep getting these fast bizarre thoughts. I have nothing to do so I thought I’d write, right? (Write, Right…that’s almost like Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman or New York, New York.) I’m at the corner of Ocean Ave. and Linnie Ave. in Venice. It’s about 4 or 5 blocks from the beach. I’m sitting in the bed of my truck with my 500 pound non-portable typewriter. I am so hungover. I don’t know why I’m doing this. I got drunk last night. It’s something I’m good at. I’ll bet I’m…I’ll bet I can get drunk better than you. Terrill, I’m worried about your drinking! I like Southern Calif. Out here, you can type in your truck by the beach ‘cause you feel like it and nobody cares. Now if I tried to take my typewriter down to the beach in, say, a state like Texas, I’d probably get arrested for disturbing the peace.

[If you wish to read the rest of the letter, click HERE and scroll down to it, or click the link at the end of this entry.]

Why are so many strange people called or pulled to Venice Beach, California? “I think I know the reason but I can’t spell it” (but the big Doors fans understand).

During my recent trip to Los Angeles, just after the ‘Bitter Brothers Bitter Breakfast’, Nappy and I strolled down to the Venice Beach Canals and then we went to the corner of Ocean Ave. and Linnie Ave. so I could take a couple of pictures of the location where decades ago I wrote what I still consider to be perhaps the best thing I ever composed.

Here’s where I wrote that insane letter 28 years ago:

Alright, let’s talk about the music of Venice Beach . . .

In early March of 1992, seven months before I moved away from Los Angeles (for the first time), Rhythm Safari Records released a compact disc of various Venice Beach buskers [thanks, AlliAllo, for that useful British word!] titled “SPIRIT OF VENICE, CALIFORNIA”. I bought it then, probably at the defunct Penny Lane Records on Venice Beach, or at the defunct Tower Records in Westwood Village.

Over my many years of moving from place to place, I eventually jettisoned the CD, along with a lot of other Rock CDs (let’s face it, the most intelligently cool people gravitate toward Jazz music, not Rock).
But my recent trip to L.A. reminded me of that ancient CD, and I learned from my old friend F-in’ Lelly, now a member of Slavin’ David’s ‘Loose Gravel’ band, that the CD was re-released by Stone Mountain Entertainment in 2002.

When I got home, I purchased online two copies - one for myself and one for my music-loving friend DiscConnected. He doesn’t know it yet, but he’s probably learning it at the same time you are. [Despite his 18,000 compact disc collection, I’ll bet he doesn’t already own THIS one! If he does, see if I ever buy him another CD again!]

There are a number of surprisingly good songs on this Venice Beach compilation! Below is a collection of article excerpts I extracted from the Henhouse Studios and the CD Baby websites:

People-watching along Venice Beach is something to put on your "things to do before you die" list. Think of the scene as a Bohemian-Mardis Gras-Beach Blanket Bingo-Circus. If that doesn't make any sense, well, neither does Venice and that's the charm. Every summer day and every weekend, join the parade of humanity strolling amongst amazing and bizarre street performers, obscenely bulging body builders (at Muscle Beach), eclectic shops and street vendors, panhandlers, and beautiful, scantily clad, people desperately seeking attention. Go ahead and stare at it all. That's the point.

For years, California’s Venice Beach has been a haven for iconoclasts and for misfit souls that don’t seem to fit in anywhere else; a stomping ground for a vibrant cross-section of street musicians, performers, artists and all-around general characters and weirdos, historically roamed by the likes of Jim Morrison, Henry Rollins and countless others.

Folk and rock guitarist-vocalist Peter Demian of the Street Smart band says he loves Venice “for the freedom, the weirdness of it all. This is the last street on the western continent. To me it means Open Freedom Walk.” It’s also where “the debris meets the sea,” he says.

…“The Spirit of Venice,” a record that will be available in stores this week [March, 1992.] … is the first-ever collection of some of the performers who, over the years, have given the Venice Boardwalk its wacky and wild melody. “We are giving the world a document of a real interesting part of California culture,” said Hilton Rosenthal, president of Rhythm Safari Records, the label that is marketing the recording.

This collection, recorded and produced by Venice resident/street performer Harlan Steinberger at a nearby (Topanga Canyon) recording studio, is full of charmingly eccentric performances. Contributors include the cryptic folksinger Sonny (a homeless man known as “the King of Venice”…), “spontaneous rapper” Dr. Geek who makes dog sounds that fall somewhere between a bark and a howl, and Limpopo, a Russian folk group whose use of trombone and accordion gives the music a bizarre Dixieland twist.

Producing a record album is an inherently difficult task, with raising money, negotiating contracts and dealing with temperamental artists only a few of the pitfalls.

But producer Harlan Steinberger of Venice had a highly unusual set of problems. He wasn’t working with musicians who refused to answer their phones. Some of his artists didn’t even have a phone – or a home, for that matter.

The same spirit that moves the artists seems to have touched producer Harlan Steinberger.

Steinberger, himself a wild-haired drummer, tried to keep the recording sessions in sync with the world of his artists. He found a studio at the top of a mountain in Topanga Canyon “where you could step outside and see the stars.” He gave the artists, some of whom had never set foot in a recording room before, herbal tea for their nerves. One of his most difficult tasks, he said was persuading one of the artists to leave his cart full of possessions for a few hours.

Special sounds, said Steinberger, are as much a part of the boardwalk as the sight of musclemen and girls on skates and the smell of churros and suntan oil. So in between the songs, he has included the beat of bongos and boomboxes, the cries of children, peddlers, and sea gulls, and the roar of the tide.

Uncle Bill Crawford - one of eighteen street musicians represented on ‘Spirit of Venice, California’ - has been singing the blues at Venice Beach since 1946. Janis Joplin and Rickie Lee Jones, among others, sought Crawford’s tutelage early in their careers. As Crawford and his harmonica-playing partner Dave march toward their allotted performance corner on Abbott Kinney, Crawford shyly enjoyed his status as local hero.

Crawford, who says he taught the late rock star Janis Joplin how to sing the blues, acknowledges that he has “never been mistreated in Venice.”

Also featured on the album is Sonny “The King of Venice” Zorro, who played his first gig here in 1969 at the Venice Pavilion.

Sonny was the ghost writer for the Jimi Hendrix song, Purple Haze. Janis Joplin saw Sonny perform the song in a San Francisco coffee bar and approached him because she was so knocked out by it. Sonny wrote the song out on a napkin for Janis who passed it onto Jimi, who later made it one of his signature themes. Sonny was not turned on by the city life of San Francisco and headed south to Venice Beach. He became friends with other Venice locals, such as THE DOORS, and spent many hours jamming with them on the Boardwalk. The lure of Hollywood and the thought of fame and fortune has never interested Sonny. He believes that the unity of the Venice street musicians is what makes the Boardwalk so special. Every year the authorities try to do away with the performers and every year the performers rise victorious.

Another boardwalk regular is Daisy, an 80-year-old woman who came to Venice in 1980 from Springfield, Illinois.

Inspired by Mahalia Jackson [STMcC: I-freakin’-love Mahalia Jackson!], Daisy plays gospel music, clapping and singing the Lord’s Prayer and other numbers. Daisy says she enjoys seeing all the people on the boardwalk, and adds, “I’m looking to catch me a boyfriend down here.”

“Slavin' David” Breitman, “the white Chuck Berry on the boardwalk,” grew up in Venice and played with such bands as the Venice Canaligators. He moved from the street scene to club work in 1988, emphasizing that “12 years on the beach was enough.”

“It’s a great place to grow up,” Breitman says. He recalls the “hippie invasion” of the 1960s and then the roller skating craze of the late 1970s that helped make Ocean Front Walk an international tourist attraction, said to rank second in popularity behind only Disneyland in Southern California.
You can buy “Spirit Of Venice, California” from CD BABY (Click HERE!)

[L.C., I already ordered it for ya.]

Below is the link to an interesting VideoPromo for the “Spirit Of Venice, California” CD. Click It, Click it good :

OK, now comes the best thing of all time:
I’ve found that the ultra-cool SmallWorld Books store, a business affiliated with The Sidewalk CafĂ© on the Venice Beach Boardwalk (one of my favorite L.A. restaurants), sponsors a live 24/7 Venice Beach camera located at the top of their book store . . .
Click HERE, and then click on the “Venice boardwalk” link in the second paragraph. That will show you what is happening on their portion of the Venice Beach Boardwalk any time of day or night. How California-cool is that?! [You might see love-making or life-taking at any time. Check it out!]


1983 Stream O’ Consciousness Love Letter To Terrill
[Scroll down to it, Dudes & Dudettes]

~ Stephen T. McCarthy

YE OLDE COMMENT POLICY: All comments, pro and con, are welcome. However, ad hominem attacks and disrespectful epithets will not be tolerated (read: "posted"). After all, this isn’t, so I don’t have to put up with that kind of bovine excrement.


Lyle Flynn said...

All that of Venice and you don't even mention that it was the boyhood home of the Pooh. Quite frankly I am insulted. Good stuffs nonetheless.

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

Since when was "the house at Pooh corner" on Marine Street - at the opposite end of the block from my grandparents' house - in Venice?!

Dude, I was separated from Venice by nothing more than Penmar Golf Course. YOU, on the other hand, were separated from Venice by MY HOUSE AND by Penmar Golf Course!

Now, had you said something like, "You don't even mention that it was the workplace of the Pooh" [meaning Seamus Liquor Store on Venice Blvd. in Venice, CA.],then - THEN! - you would have had a legitimate gripe.

"In the ba-aaa-ck ro-ooo-m!"

Regardless, what is undeniable is that we are both “Dogtown” dudes.

...And Pooh, that's not all... I REALLY miss those daze!

Love ya, man [JW!-JW!].

~ McStephen

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

“No Valleys!”



~ DogtownBoy
‘Loyal American Underground’

Lyle Flynn said...

Mr. McCarthy,
I will have you know that I did spent my boyhood days in Venice, CA. I was born at St. John's in Santa Monica but rushed to Grand Canal where my parents rented an aparatment, then we moved a half block away and rented a house on 28th avenue, and then we move another half block and bought a house on Dell Avenue. It wasn't until 1973 when we moved on up to the upper east side of Santa Monica where I spent adolescence, post adolescence and failed to grow up at all at all. Where by chance, or was it perchance to dream, we met and changed each other's lives forever while filling the coffers of the acoholic beverage companies.
I miss those daze as well. I remember you telling us about writing in Venice and I remember Terrel as well, what if I told you I loved her?
Love (JW),

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

PoohDude ~
Man, that was a lot of moving around in Venice! To borrow a line from Cheech Y Chong: "You mean you got kicked out of the projects, man?!"

>>...It wasn't until 1973 when we moved on up to the upper east side of Santa Monica

Well, "LOOK, MA-AAA-N" [meant to sound like Jeff JoyBoy], nice try, but everyone knows that we count time beginning from when Curtis Mayfield released the song "Superfly", and that, MA-AAA-N, was in 1973.

So all them years of getting kicked out of the projects in Venice don't count fer nuttin'!

Still, I'm glad I could straighten out your life... between beer-guzzling and vomiting (sometimes ya just gotta make room for mo' suds).

>>...and I remember Terrel as well, what if I told you I loved her?

Ha!-Ha! "LOOK MA-AAA-N"! If you loved her, you ought to at least spell her name correctly. Try "Terrill". UHP!... Yer a...____ [what?]

(Do you own the Bob Dylan album 'Blood On The Tracks'? I can't listen to that without being reminded of her.)

We were the wildest things we'd ever seen!

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

Lyle Flynn said...

Okay, I will give you Curtis Mayfield as the begining of this epoch.

"If you loved her, you ought to at least spell her name correctly."
You know I have loved so many since her it is a wonder I remember her name at all. (And I cannot truly be held accountable for what is said, alhtough it was deep from my sub consciienceness, when I am a least a 6 pack and a half-pint to the wind.) Hell, there are even mornings now and then that I do not recall my own name. Not to mention the St. Patrick's Day at the Sun Spot where we all changed bodies for a few moments.
"We were the wldest things we'd ever seen." ...

From a not quite completed poem:

Give me a beeheehee and an aight
We are the things that go bump in the night


Stephen T. McCarthy said...


>>...Okay, I will give you Curtis Mayfield as the begining of this epoch.

Ha! Yer pretty dern soulful fer a very White Irish m***erf***er.

>>...Hell, there are even mornings now and then that I do not recall my own name. Not to mention the St. Patrick's Day at the SunSpot where we all changed bodies for a few moments.

Your comment inspired me to mention that to Nappy and he cracked up, having forgotten about it. But, of course, it really pertains to him, since it was he who temporarily thought he was Cranium. (Now that's a BIG-TIME, SERIOUS hangover!!!)

>>...Give me a beeheehee and an aight; We are the things that go bump in the night

..."...that go bump and barf in the night".

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'