It had been years since I’d gone to Venice Beach, but unlike pretty much every other part of the LA, it’s oddly resistant to change. Same trendy-to-freaky ratio, same Scientologists offering Free Stress Tests, same incense and garlic rolls and ladies with pink hair.
It had been even more years since I’d roller-skated, but that too was pretty much the same, except this time I rented beach-girl brown leather skates. The last pair I owned looked like those Reebok aerobic shoes from the ’80s, with pink wheels attached. It was foggy, and that kept a lot of people off the beach and out of my way as I flailed. Soon I was clammy with cold-day sweat, but moving along smoothly, up the coast and through the cool, creepy wooden tunnels beneath the Santa Monica pier. I’d never seen them before. Beautiful. Like rickety old circus days.
All of this happened a few roller-paces behind my friend Sara, who used to be a figure skater, and can do that back-crossover thing on her rollerblades, and would have speed-glided up to Malibu if I hadn’t been cramping her style. She was nice about it, though, and caught me a couple of times when I started to fall.
In addition to figure skating, Sara knows how to do flower arranging and physics and archery. Each time I hang out with her, I learn something new and random about her. She’s like 30, but she’s lived at least 50 years worth of life. The new and random things come up casually, usually when she’s making a point about something fairly mundane. And I’ll just do a double take and go, “Wait, when did you train with the Hungarian Olympic fencing coach?”
Today, while on wheels, I learned that Sara has done search and rescue, and once sanded off the tip of her finger while working in a woodshop.
Mostly what I do with my friends is eat, drink coffee, talk and see movies. I like all of those activities. A lot. But it was also fun to take the Blind Date approach and do something. Like on Blind Date, I even changed clothes between activities. From shorts and a tank top on the beach to cargo pants and a T-shirt after lunch. ‘Cause I’m classy like that.
It felt so good, zooming through the fog low-impact style. Shopping for art supplies at The Art Store on Santa Monica and suddenly longing to sculpt (Sara paints and makes collages out of broken CDs). If I had taken the Free Stress Test, I think I would have fared pretty well.