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Venice Pianoman


venice_piano
Originally uploaded by aghrivaine.
This weekend I got a call from an old friend - the old roommate of The Hobbit when he had ventured to Baltimore for a few years. Paul was visiting another friend who lived in Playa del Rey, and wanted to know if we could get together?

Well, it's convenient that he was walking distance away, so we agreed to meet at the Sidewalk Cafe on Venice Beach. Sunday was a perfect day for brunch, and I set out al ittle early to go look at the ocean, and generally freak out about "holy crap, I live in a place with palm trees and a beach and an ocean and strange sidewalk art!" I like freaking out like that. I hope I never stop.

While I was waiting for Paul, I saw that a street musician had actually dragged a piano out onto the boardwalk right next to the cafe. He was a big, burly guy with hands like ham-hocks, broad shoulders, and a gnarly pony-tail. Despite looking like a roofer, he was pounding out an astonishing classical piece when I walked up. Unless I'm mistaken, it was extemporaneous, too - because in the midst of the sturm-und-drang of the crescendo, he would gradually slide into a honkey-tonk blues riff that was an improvisation on the theme of the original piece - and then fade back to the classical piece. He spared not a glance for the passing crowd, the seagulls, the surf, the other artists plying their trade along the boardwalk. I was flabbergasted and glad to just stand and listen for a while. I'd have paid to see him perform. That's Venice for you.

When Paul arrived we sat, had coffee and cinnamon buns and caught up. Paul was jealous that I lived so close to the action, though of course its not without its compromises - parking, apartment-size, rent price, etc. But still - as he pointed out, Venice is the only place where the freaks sit on the side and watch the normals walk by.

Venice. Venice! Always something astonishing.

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