Another Fine Long Beach Day

by on May 7, 2024 :: 0 comments

photo "Worn Out Sun" by Tyler Malone

Ferlinghetti once wrote “Some days I’m afflicted with Observation Fever.” I can relate. Like today I walked on the beach and was confronted by angry gulls upset that I had disturbed them. I couldn’t have been that disturbing though since the place was loaded with people biking, rollerblading, flexing, jogging, fishing, sunning, and spiritually laser focused on their yoga, so I just kept going, making sure to step over and around the filth, the incessant garbage littering mother beach. It sadly doesn’t match the overall beauty of the place.

As I struggled from the beach up to the city, I saw bodies milling about the sidewalks. A Cambodian woman nodded to me as I passed, a rather unusual gesture for that group of immigrants, and as I headed toward 4th, I noticed a tough looking Sureno near one of the last banks on Ocean ironically looking like he was guarding the door to a bank. Likely a Varrio Longo 13, gang best to avoid, ‘cept I lived on about the worst street in the downtown area. The three toughest gangs claimed areas heading toward the 405 but were smack up against each other–the Eastside Longos, and their enemies, the Rollin 20 Crips, whose own greatest rivals, the Insane Crips, lived on the other side of them. Made for an interesting 25-block drive when I lived by the 405 and my girlfriend was on First. I just didn’t bother slowing at some of the stop signs on that drive. I would have taken the Long Beach freeway, but going through this war zone saved me nearly an hour. Which was only sometimes worth it.

I cut up to 3rd and found a porno shop and decided to wander in, stopping for a moment for my eyes to adjust. The video booths had signs on their doors saying Out of Order. Shut down by the city? But the hardcores were still cruising in the back and I tried to avoid eye contact while paging through mags, amazed at how the rags had gotten nastier over my lifetime. Sort of a deterrent for even buying any at all.

Not bothering to look, I grabbed a random mag and paid an aged Filipina behind the counter, and then leaving, I cut down a back alley, nearly running into some Black junkies I’d seen around before. Items exchanging hands and syringes littering the ground. One of them I’d talked to a few times nodded at me while the others glared. It’s odd how North Long Beach, Compton, Nickerson Gardens, East Long Beach, all had these seriously dangerous reputations, but it wasn’t limited to those areas at all. East LA and Watts were tough while Koreatown was deceptive, Wilshire Boulevard looked historically lovely while it sat smack dab in the middle of the two most dangerous gangs in the Americas – MS-13 and the 18th Street gang. Pick your poison. And while Long Beach had some beautiful areas like Naples and its canals, Belmont Shore and others, even the “safe” places weren’t that safe so much these days. My old poet pal, Will, was a Naples gondolier and picked up his bike to head home late one night after work. Two 14-year-old ESL13s shot and killed him when he wouldn’t give up the bike. Total freaking waste.

Anyway, I’d been wandering around and now it was three in the afternoon, so I sauntered over and into my favorite coffee joint close to Fourth and Junipero. It was dark and empty, and they were playing the Cocteau Twins. I sat down, coffeed up and broke out a Bukowski I’d read a dozen times. Three people who looked like they were approaching a burnout stage and should be up in Venice were admiring art on the walls, available to the public at conveniently low prices like $300 – $1,200. They’d put up a couple of my pieces once and I wondered if they’d ever sold anything on their walls. No luck with mine, but my expectations hadn’t been high. Not sure if that was a reflection on the establishment or my own artistic abilities.

Two girls walked in and sat down in overstuffed chairs beside me. I’d seen one of them around– no eyebrows, tats and piercings; breasts made all the more noticeable due to her disdain for bras, making me wonder about future back pains like had happened to my best friend. She noticed me and we stared at each other for a moment before I returned to my book. Bukowski might have done a better job detailing these scenes, but he was usually so hung over he’d have been just as likely to have missed most of what I’d seen so far today.

I suddenly realized I’d gotten lost in thought again but a hunger pain interrupted my daze. My stomach hurt but I could only afford one burger per day, so I’d have to wait. If my car was working, I’d cross Terminal Island to San Pedro and drop in on Hank, hoping for one of his sweating beers and his bipolar silent musings often turning to excitable chatter.

It was a new life for me and I looked forward to the rest of my day. I could smell the ocean and I wished my old friends from Tennessee were here. I liked my new home more than I had liked Phoenix.

It was warm out and I’d try to scrounge a burger later and I might hit a dive, somewhere that had dollar beers, see if anyone would spot me some darts or maybe go to Locklin’s haunt, the Reno Room, where I knew I’d run into some other writers, part of the Long Beach scene. Tomorrow morning I’d read the paper, drinking stark coffee in the morning sun. There was much to look forward to. Maybe I’d get lucky and make friends with some wandering seagulls.

editors note:

Here is the world: it’s all around you, but we pretend it’s behind us, stalking, and not out in the sun, casting shadows that cross our own. ~ Tyler Malone

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