A Southerner Looks At Venice

By Alexandra Howard

(Alex has been the Beachhead’s intern and is now returning for a new semester at Oberlin College.)

From the land of Jack Daniels, Confederate Flags, Country Music, and jesus christ to Venice Beach. You all must first and foremost realize the reality in which you are. You are a place to go for those who have nowhere else. That’s your history, that is what you still exist for today– despite those “Venetians” who think “homeless” is a scary term and RVs an eyesore. You all should disperse; the rest of the country will accept you. You are the ones polluting Venice Beach.

Me, I grew up in Nashville, Tennessee, idolizing the fantastical cultures and groovy tunes of Janis and The Doors. While the stories I heard from Nashville were surely dramatized and ridiculed, my soul tugged and I felt the energy from a young age.

The beat poets made my mind vibrate and my tongue articulate. Stacy Peralta and Jay Williams I could never stop crushing for. Venice was a place I admired from afar, and I suffered severe existential crises knowing, just knowing, that Venice or even San Francisco forty years ago was where I belonged.

You could say I came to Venice misplaced and, within context, misunderstood. From the moment I stepped on the boardwalk, I felt inspired and at peace except for the side of the boardwalk I was on. The swarm of tourists were fun to watch and funny to listen to, getting their medical marijuana prescriptions and peering through the imaginary glass at those who sit for hours on end hiding behind paintings and patches. It was those people dedicating each day to their art in whichever form it was in that I envied and wished to know.

The artists of Venice do not seem to succumb to the prevalent L.A. attitude, seeking out fame and the insane dollar. Art is created for and by the artist. It is pure, not suffocated by commercial America’s do’s and don’ts. Just like the beats, expression is practiced to admire one’s own conception of beauty, the natural world and its corruptors.

I have to say the purest expression of this I came across was the Sunday drum circle. It exists with no conception of profit, purely beauty and community. I came to know it as an individual and a group expression of the so-called Worship. If only those gun-loving, color-hating, stick-up the ass-ing folks from my lovely Bible Belt could feel the vibrations of a drum circle.

I am highly moved by the transcendence of it all, finding myself in the middle of the beat, surrounded by everyone giving out their pain, their frustration, their power, their powerlessness, their most foundational love. My body carried away by the joy of it all, my hands attempting to direct the energy: channel it and spread it around.

The weekly drum circle renewed my faith in Ra and the raw power of the drum. As I leave Venice behind—temporarily of course, my return is now surely inevitable—I am not looking forward to the Sundays to come. I grew to know and build an unspoken connection with the drummers; we all clearly felt the same spirit moving through us, directing the beat and our bodies to it. Never will I be able to recreate, but I will always remember.

Categories: Venice