Silicon Beach

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Anyone remember that part in BACK TO THE FUTURE where Marty goes to the future and finds that creepy sign in front of his neighborhood? Remember that feeling? Like the aliens had moved into his neighborhood and taken over? Well- that’s kinda what I felt like when I saw this sign on the way to pick up my friend at the airport.

Silicon Beach, eh? Has a nice ring to it, I must say. So, why does it make me feel so icky inside? If you’ve lived in Venice in the last 10-20 years, you may understand why I might feel this way. If you haven’t, then you’ll have to indulge me as I go on my little rant.

Some of you may have seen that Google, Snapchat and Hulu as well as many other tech companies are taking over much of the westside including, the famously eclectic Venice and until now, the pretty boring Playa Vista. You may have not known this because it doesn’t really effect you one way or the other. But it is happening. And it’s happening in a big way. It’s affecting the Venice culture in a way that one can’t ignore while walking down Abbott Kinney Blvd, now called “the most famous block in LA.”

Today, the ROOSTERFISH, a local gay bar (THE gay bar) announced they will be closing in May due to increased rent. Although it is a gay bar, I used to hang there with my friends on the patio. They had cheap drinks and a local vibe that I liked. In fact, almost all my old haunts are closed now. The only one still standing is THE OTHER ROOM, but unless you’re there on a Monday early evening, it feels way too shiny and doesn’t have  the neighborhood vibe it used to have. I had to face a very harsh reality today. VENICE IS OVER, kids.

I mean, I knew the end was near after the NIKKI’S incident. My friend and I were watching football at NIKKI’S on Market street a few months back and I went outside to make a phone call. I went across the street because all the windows were open and the football fans were being their rowdy selves. I attempted to the make the phone call, when I kid you not, two people (one man and one woman) came out of an unmarked door wearing all black and asked me to “hang up the phone and leave the premises.” I was so confused.

me:

Leave the premises? I saw a bum sleeping right here where I’m standing last week.

woman in black:

This is private property, I need you to get off the sidewalk.

me:

I’m sorry, who are you?

man in black:

Ma’m, I need to you leave. You’re leaning on the wall and you’re making our alarms go off.

Right then, I realized that my right foot was touching the brick wall behind me.

me:

Um- this building is vacant. I can see right through the windows.

woman in black:

that’s our building too.

me:

who do you work for?

woman in black:

I can’t give you that information. I need you to leave, now or I will have to call the cops.

me:

Am I being punked?

At this point, they both stepped closer to me to intimidate me. I could see that they had tiny flesh colored ear buds in their ears. I relented.

me:

ok, dude. I’ll leave. But I don’t think you know where you are. This is Venice. The land of hippies and artists and you’re telling me on a Sunday that I can’t make a phone call on a public street?

man in black:

This is private property.

In unison, they walked back into their unmarked door.

I went back into Nikki’s and told my friend what had happened. The owner came by and told us that the building with all it’s windows covered and the sketchy security personal was that of SNAPCHAT. Well, well, well. Now it all makes sense.

Three months later, Snapchat bought up NIKKI’S for it’s employee cafeteria. Such a bummer. The whole Silicon Beach this was becoming a reality. It wasn’t just a fancy slogan on a billboard. I was wrong. It was the land of the hippies and artists no longer.

HAL’S is gone too, and the cool vintage stores on Abbott Kinney. Now, millennials walk down the street in their flat brimmed hats and buy salted ice cream and LUCKY jeans. What a travesty. The rents have been raised and the diversity is sucked right out of it. The only thing still cool about Abbott Kinney is that Robert Downey Jr. has a house there. Or maybe he moved too…probably to Brooklyn.

I know… whah whah whah. But this means something to me! When I moved to Venice twelve years ago, I felt as thought I had found my peeps! People WERE cool, they were’t trying so hard to BE cool. And I’m allowed to be nostalgic about a place that made me truly happy. A place where you could ride your bike and run into friends and not feel like you’re breaking the bank just to grab a bite and maybe day drink a little. Or a lot! Shit- we did that and it was FUN. I even remember going to barbecues at a house on Abbott Kinney full of non- white, not so rich people. It was pretty great you guys. Promise.

I used to be so proud of my crazy little community and the collaboration that came with having so many artists in the same place. I dare say it was magical. I remember one night twelve of us went surfing when the full moon was out and we rode our bikes home in our wet clothes. I remember when they weren’t snobby at GJELINA and Isaac would let us into THE OTHER ROOM on a Friday night in our pajamas. But that’s all done. Now, it’s the man and woman in black demanding Venice locals to get of their “private property.” Terrible. And sad for the community.

But I guess you gotta grow up sometime and move to Mar Vista. Ha.

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