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Just Exploring Venice Beach

Last week, Gabe had to attend exactly one day of a seminar in L.A., so I took off a few days to join him on an extended, though brief, California visit. Since we only had two non-travel, non-work days, we decided to skip trying to see the L.A. sites and just spend our time at the beach. I love ocean-swimming, and I blew off temperature warnings. I’ve been in the Gulf in December and a St. Louis pool in November, and I relish the shock of diving headfirst into cold water and swimming until my body acclimates.

But oh, man. The Pacific Ocean is COLD.

Me in my granny swimming suit, trying to work up the courage to get in the cold water.

Me in my granny swimming suit, trying to work up the courage to get in the cold water.

Between beach-time, we saw a bit of Venice by walking around our neighborhood, looking for food and drinks. We stayed a few blocks off Abbot Kinney, named the “Coolest Block in America” by GQ in its April issue. There is little I can reasonably afford on that street, apart from food, and even that’s pushing it ($9 juice?! You get to take the jar it’s served in with you, and it’s very good, but $9 juice…). Between this hipster strip and the beach, there is the lovely, wild California plant life taking over sidewalks, and there is the Venice Boardwalk, full of vendors, tourists, homeless people, and just… strangeness. My most memorable Venice Beach characters include the large, dreaded man in an oversized purple, plush top hat rapping about passers-by; a turbaned man rollerblading while playing electric guitar; and at least two different men singing their requests for money so they could buy marijuana and booze (to the tune of “Jingle Bell Rock”: “Jingle bell, jingle bell, help me get drunk.” Not even seasonably appropriate.) 

Hip bike in front of a hip store on the coolest block in America.

Hip bike in front of a hip store on the coolest block in America.

On Friday, we avoided the boardwalk mayhem by renting bikes from J’s Rentals. For $20 each, we got to keep our snazzy beach cruisers for the day (until 8 p.m.), allowing for a leisurely bike ride to Santa Monica. The madness of the boardwalk stops right around where the boardwalk ends, although it picks up again at the Santa Monica Pier. It’s mostly just tourists there, though. We biked up to the Annenberg Community Beach House, but turned around without visiting, opting for the ocean instead. What we really wanted was a Mai-Tai, but sadly, there are limited bar options right on the beach in Venice and what we saw of Santa Monica. You can find beer, wine, and champagne, but no real beach bar. And by real beach bar, I mean plastic chairs and wooden tables in the sand. There is none of that, and instead of Mai-Tais, we had ice cream in the shadow of a ferris wheel. That was good, too. It’s a bad idea to drink and go swimming in the ocean.

Just before we left to go home, a friend and her husband drove us around the Venice canals. Abbot Kinney, the guy who developed Venice, created it with the original in mind, so there are canals and homes squished in around them. You can walk along the water, and if you can get to that neighborhood without a car, do, as parking looked to be a nightmare.

Other Venice/L.A. randomness:
-the bus costs A DOLLAR

-motorcycles drive between lanes while the cars are stopped in highway traffic. This seems like a terrible and dangerous idea, motorcyclists

-LA likes Selena. I heard 3 Selena songs in less than 24 hours. This is good, because I like Selena, too

-Want an amazing donut? Drive out to Glendora and visit the Donut Man. Get the strawberry donut. I was skeptical. I was wrong (here’s a photo gallery from the LA Times)

-The most bizarre CVS I’ve ever seen:

I will have to get back to L.A., though, because I saw next to nothing of it. Seriously. Not even the Hollywood sign. But I got my beach on.

A Summer Swimming Wish

I think it’s safe to say summer has arrived in Louisville. Despite the fall-like temperatures last week, I’m looking at temperatures in the high 80s and 90s for the next few days. I don’t mind the heat if I don’t have to be anywhere looking presentable, and I usually don’t. But if I’m walking around in it, I start craving oceans, lakes, rivers — any body of water. Given the geographical location of my current home (and the drugs and sewage in the Ohio River), a pool is really the best I can hope for without driving too far. And while I have at least one pool connection, I am after one particular pool — the Lakeside Swim Club.

Melissa at Loueyville.com voiced this desire last year: “Lakeside has become my Xanadu. My Dulcinea. My Holy Grail…I want to be invited to Lakeside just to see it.”

She’s right — Lakeside IS the Holy Grail of pools. When I first moved to Louisville, I was in good swimming shape. My Peace Corps roommate was once a swim instructor, so he helped me with my form and taught me a few tricks. I love the water, and I wanted to figure out where in Louisville I could practice my recently acquired flip-turn skills. So I turned to Google and learned about Mary T. Meagher and some Y pools. At the time, I was jobless and carless, so getting to these places often seemed like too much of a commitment. If I had the money to buy a membership, I didn’t have the time, and vice versa. I briefly read about Lakeside, but wrote it off quickly after taking in their membership requirements.

Later that year, I was in the Highlands Kroger when I saw this aerial photo of a pool surrounded by high rock walls. It looked beautiful, and unlike any pool I’d seen. I determined this had to be Lakeside and that I had to go. I mean, the club is built out of an old rock quarry. There’s a pool, a “lake” with swimming lanes, and a float area. Last year, Melissa and I visited the quarry in La Grange. No memberships required there, just $8 (maybe $9?) and a float. But it has creepy fish (minnows but also monsters) and pond scum (quarry scum?). Lakeside has chlorine. I don’t just want to see it. I want to swim in it.

But again with the membership. You have to be a member to get in, and to become a member, you either have to live in the neighborhood surrounding the pool (certificate membership) or be sponsored by a certificate member (associate membership). Members can bring guests, and that’s where my ticket is. But as far as I know, none of my acquaintances are members. But this is a small town, right? Who do I have to buy drinks for in exchange for a guest ticket to swim in that “lake”? I only want to go once. I promise I won’t abuse your connections. We can swap stories about fabulous places we’ve been swimming.

If you don’t know anyone with a sweet connection, at least leave me some other suggestions about fantastic swimming holes — anywhere in the world.

This one's nice, but it's in Ghana

This one's nice, but it's in Ghana