Rant N Roll: California

Venice Beach is festooned with skateboarders, homeless people, cafés, sun, sand, the ocean, tourists, street musicians and plenty of places to buy pot. Signs saying “THE DOCTOR IS IN” are all over the place and for $60 you can get a medical marijuana card no matter what state you’re from. This not only gives you the right to buy some weed but also legally permits you carry it around with you in your pockets and in your car and, of course, at the concert.

Having developed an old-age asthmatic wheeze, my throat and lungs do not like smoke of any kind. I quit tobacco in February. I must admit to harboring a curiosity about eating pot, rather than smoking it. I walked into a back room and noticed cookies, lollipops, brownies, and assorted baked goods.

I had been told that Cheap Trick was performing with a full orchestra and choir at the Greek Theater in Los Feliz. Oh Baby!

Venice Beach proved beautiful, the sky and sea coalescing into a dreamlike vision of peace and serenity. It was a weekday and not too crowded. Problem was, getting back to my hotel was a nightmare. I was told go on the Santa Monica Freeway to get back to my room in Sherman Oaks. But nothing was moving. I was sitting still for far too long so I found an exit and with a friendly voice on the phone to guide me, I tried to get back via Sunset Blvd. up and down and through all kinds of mountainous canyons. This move was even worse. At one point, I turned off a side hill and drove to the top only to have to drive back down since every through street said no access. I made it back to Sunset having wasted a half hour right smack dab into the same jam. (A word of warning to prospective drivers in Los Angeles: Stay on the damn road and wait it out. You’ll get where you’re going eventually.)

Although I was dressed for the beach, there was no time to get back to my room now. I had to go directly towards the Greek in an effort to pick up my credentials. Now I’m slightly in panic mode. I was dangerously low on gas. I didn’t know where the fuck I was and everything was starting to get real surreal.

Waiting on a light, I noticed a homeless man on the corner, short, stooped, long gray beard down to his chest, long, long hair, a strange glint in his eye. He was standing right outside my driver’s side window and it looked like he wanted to join me. My window was closed, air-conditioning cranked and Satellite Radio’s Springsteen station blasting. I paid him no mind and tore off at the light. As I made my left, I bumped into something small and hard and it gave my rent-a-car quite a jolt. I pulled off to the side of the road to see what kind of damage there was when the homeless guy came up behind me and handed me my hubcap.

“Here, I think you lost this.”

I got out of the car and that’s when I noticed the flat. Whipping out my cell to call AAA, the homeless man said, “It’s going to take them over an hour to get to you. Hell, dude, it’s Friday night. Let me do that for you.”

I stood in stunned silence as this vagrant, looking for all intents and purposes like a George A. Romero zombie, whipped out my jack and changed my tire. I maybe could’ve done it myself (I’ve done it in the past) but the jack was a totally new contraption that he actually needed oil from the motor of the car to use. I’ll admit when he told me to pop the hood (I couldn’t even do that), and took the oil dip stick and inserted it into the jack, I thought he didn’t know what he doing.

“I was a military mechanic and fixed helicopters,” he told me. “This is a piece of cake.”

When he finished, I gave him a $20 but said no when he asked if he could go to the concert with me.