Wednesday, April 13, 2011

parking tickets, hipsters, and the armpit of Los Angeles.

I got a parking ticket in Venice Beach yesterday morning. I worked there about five years ago. I didn't like it then; I don't like it now.

Nothing good ever happens in Venice Beach.

The trophy wife, Penny, and I were in Santa Monica for an optometrist appointment. After the check up, we found ourselves craving some over-priced beverages from one of the plethora of nearby coffee shops. We chose the Coffee Bean, mainly because it was the only place that had available parking. That should have been a sign.
Before parking my car on the street, I remember passing one of the Department of Transportation's meter maid-mobiles. This three-wheeled, glorified golf cart is truly a sight to behold. Falling lower than the ice-cream truck on the vehicular food chain, this electric shame trolley is less intimidating than a tandem bicycle.

To be fair, I actually feel sorry for the meter maids - or "Parking Enforcement Officers" as they seem to prefer. I'm not sure what would compel a person to seek a career in parking enforcement. They are reduced to performing only the very lamest duties of a Law Enforcement Officer without experiencing any of the fun. But it is a hard job nonetheless. Meter maids are civilians, not Police Officers, so they don't carry weapons, aren't trained or authorized to use force - even in self defense - and they all work alone.
That creates a problem when you consider literally 100% of their workday is spent angering everyone they encounter. To make things worse, everyone knows that they don't carry weapons and have no real authority outside the confines of their little ticket book, making them an easy and convenient target. Everyone hates meter maids.
I parked on the street in a spot that appeared to be legal, evidently missing any signage that warned of parking restrictions on Tuesdays for street cleaning. I'm not fully convinced there was such a sign; it wasn't until I got back on the 405 freeway that I noticed the bright white parking ticket tucked under my windshield wiper, and I don't plan on venturing all the way back to Venice just to see if I was at fault or not. Right or wrong, I got the ticket and nothing I do now is going to change that. Still, I'm not sure what's worse; the $68 fine, or getting owned by a forty-five year-old man who wears short shorts and drives a three-wheeled go-cart.

It's one thing to get a parking ticket doing something you like. It's far worse being fined for being in an area that already feels like a punishment in and of itself. The three of us had made a quick stop in the Coffee Bean that couldn't have lasted more than three minutes. I'm guessing three minutes because that's the amount of time I estimate it took the hemp-clad barista named "Earth" to take my order and ask me a series of increasingly specific questions about my daughter's birthday before ultimately declaring that Penny is an Aquarius.

"Oh.... " I said.

I never know how to respond when a total stranger decides to reveal to me that they not only believe in the zodiac, but that they have memorized the cutoff dates for each particular sign. I glanced back at the line behind me expecting to find a row of impatient customers eager for "Earth" to lay off the astrology lesson and finish my order. Instead, I found a line of hipsters so absolutely fascinated by the conversation that they literally began discussing each others Horoscope and the various implications it has on their futures.

"Check, please."

The trophy wife and I got our drinks and quickly retreated to the safety of our illegally parked vehicle. "I felt gross in there," the trophy wife so eloquently said. I felt the same way; the place was full of hipsters.
Hipsters are people who look like 1987 heroin addicts but have never used heroin and weren't alive in 1987. This is a group of people, mostly college-aged or younger, who will spend $300 at a trendy clothing store on an outfit, the equivalent of which could easily be obtained from literally any thrift store in the country for $3.75. I suppose that statement could be said about a lot of trends in my lifetime - the difference is this particular $300 outfit is specifically made to look like it came from a thrift store.
Hipsters are twenty year old guys who listen to Dylan exclusively on vinyl, grow long hair and mustaches, and wear skin tight jeans with pointy shoes in a misguided attempt at social protest - as if rebelling against your dad is accomplished by looking and acting exactly like he did in the 70's. Everything about the hipster lifestyle is carefully and meticulously constructed to appear as if they just don't care; proving without a doubt that they do. The mindless hypocrisy is staggering.
"What has happened to Venice Beach," I began to ask my wife, before realizing the inherent absurdity of the question and abandoning the thought altogether. Venice has always been a breeding ground of annoying people; to pretend that anything had changed would be an exercise in delusion. Ever since the 60's, when hippies took to Venice Beach like termites to a tree house, that part of town has become the final resting stop of every counter cultural movement in America.
Venice Beach, California is the only place in the world you could see a hipster riding his bicycle past a Bohemian painter selling crystal meth to a tattoo artist who just pierced the nose of a vegetarian cross-dresser. A few feet away is a body builder who tries to impress a Wiccan who would rather just watch the nearby snake charmer who is drawing onlookers away from the Hari Krishna dancers. All this gains the attention of a passing rollerblader who is chain-smoking outside the vegan market, which is owned by a palm reader who probably should have anticipated the street artist who vandalized the side of her building, which just so happens to be the very spot where Charles Manson recruited Squeaky Fromme. Across the street, a parolee picks a fight with a hacky sack enthusiast for interrupting his Haiku recital he was performing for a group of Minimalists who have grown tired of traditional Bikram Yoga now that the hipsters have embraced it. The circle of stupidity is complete.
Literally every annoying trend of the last half century is represented in Venice Beach; it's like a stationary carnival of pretentiousness. In a place where the counterculture is so celebrated that it becomes mainstream, the only true social rebel is the square in the button down shirt, out with his family getting coffee.

Nothing good ever happens in Venice Beach.