{ Pawning off the Homeless on Leonardo Dicaprio }

alOha : )

  This story takes place on the Venice Beach boardwalk, as do many of the stories I have locked away in my head. This was towards the end of my few-year stint of setting up as a street vendor and selling my novel to the throngs in thongs and greasy-pizza-chewing bystanders of Venice.
   Standing around behind my book booth, with the ocean view at my back, I was both performer and captive audience for anyone who came along and engaged with me. I talked with travelers, professors, carnies, hobos  and bums. And the later seemed especially drawn to me .. wanting to tell me their stories or barter for a book to pass the time. And most times, I was happy to have their company and stories from the road.

   And on this particular day, I remember feeling tired and business was slow, and to top it all off, I was setup in an area of the boardwalk where I’d never had much luck.

   And just then, a young homeless guy, maybe 20 years old, comes walking through the crowd, with people parting as he bee lined for my booth. And when he reached me, he just stood there in front of my open briefcase of books, shivering. His teeth were chattering, and he was wrapped in a dirty alley-found comforter with a floral print. This was all odd because it was full sun and the middle of the summer.

   “Hello,” I said.

   “Yeah .. HI,” he said.

    He picked up a book and looked at the spine.

    “This your book?”

    “Yep .. I wrote it based on a nightmare I had.”

   The word nightmare seemed to trigger something in him, and he went inward. His mouth was hanging open and lips were cracked and pasty, and just from the few words we’d exchanged, he was really slobbering. (I wasn’t used to seeing this out there) I have a thing about spit and fluids and wetness, and wondered how I might prompt this guy to ramble on ..

   I forget exactly what he finally came out with, and although I know it’s a terrible clich√©, I think it was a story about aliens. I don’t remember exactly, because I was watching his mouth so closely (this is something I do for some reason .. even when people aren’t slobbering.)

   He was spitting all over the book in his hand, and I told him he should just keep it .. my gift : ) And I thought he might be happy with this, and stroll off to read the patterns between the lines or exchange it for something else .. but he just tucked the book into the waist line of his pants, below the flowing flowery robe on his back, and now that we were friends, talked even more excitedly with his hands. Pointing at me, and at the books, and talking about life.

   As I mentioned, business was slow, and the vending spot was not great, and I was hungry … not literally hungry anymore, with all the spit flying in my direction, but I needed to get rid of this guy. I could feel the last drops of my energy being sucked through my ears and eyes.. 

   During the time that he was there, I’d noticed a few groups of people slowing down and reading my sign, “Does Anyone Read Anymore?” and “Pretend I’m Dead, and Read My Book.” … or maybe they were just wondering what the two of us could have been talking about …

   And while I was looking out into the crowd, knowing that nobody would approach the booth until I was alone and available, I saw a group of people, maybe 6 heads, that were all walking faster than the crowd.

   This caught my attention.

   They were young-ish and stylish .. movie people? They seemed to be rushing around, and they were each carrying a white piece of paper. It dawned on me what these people were up to, even though I’d seen it only a few times on the boardwalk – a scavenger hunt.

   Normally the people who put these things together will find icons of Venice, like the guy in a robes and turban who’s been roller skating and playing a guitar for the past 20 or so years (harry perry) or the Van Gogh wall .. and then these groups, normally some company team, will race around snapping pics and chasing clues.

   And I noticed a guy at the head of this group, and something made me pause on him for a half second. He looked to be in hiding … dark sunglasses, ball cap pulled down low, and he was even wearing a sweatshirt with the hood pulled up.

   I was looking over my visitor’s cloaked shoulder at this guy, and then without knowing I was going to do it, I verbally identified the man behind the glasses. 

   My friend was in the middle of another wet sentence when I pointed over his shoulder, and said, “Hey – that’s Leonardo Dicaprio over there.”

   I was kind of talking to myself .. it’s a surprising thing to see a star out there in the daylight, and I figured this guy was quite mad and wouldn’t know Leonardo Dicaprio from the man on the moon, but at that very second, he stopped talking to me, turned on his heal and walked straight over to him.

   I was relived to see him go, but some part of me felt bad for sicking him on Leo (yes .. we’re now on a first name basis.)

   The scavenger team had veered off to a tattoo shop across from my booth … I think they were getting somebody to draw something for them, and Leo was sitting out front on a stool with his face hidden and gaze set into the shop.

   I smiled as the guy came over and tapped him on the shoulder and began talking. They were eye to eye .. in fact, the human sprinkler was a foot or two above his seated position. And just for that moment, the super star and the struggling artist were living a parallel existence. I feel you, brother .. ha ha ha.

   The team walked off, now with a new 7th member, and I got back to the books. Later that night, when I’d return home to the Winnebago, peal off my pants and socks, and tell juwels about my day, I said, “Work was slow .. and I was accosted by a crazy homeless guy who spit all over me and my books .. but I pawned him off onto Leonardo Dicaprio.”

Only in Venice ..



    ... here's another new blog I posted today : ) 

  { Magic's Final Trick - Onward } 

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