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STREET SCENES : VENICE BEACH

Frenetic, pungent

The sights, sounds and smells of the Venice boardwalk have long been magnets for tourists and locals alike. L.A. officials have tried to tame the unruly scene, with mixed results.

June 02, 2008|Deborah Schoch

Stand still in the crush of sticky, sun-screened bodies on the Venice Beach Boardwalk, and you'll experience a feast for the senses.

Listen for the lilt of Caribbean drumming. That's how you know that the Calypso Tumblers are back on the boardwalk, fresh from New York or Texas or wherever tumbling took them. Ease past musicians, artistes-turned-vendors, and the man with the shock of white hair wearing an "Impeach Bush" T-shirt. Look at the Buddhas, the sunglasses, the gauzy skirts. Gaze upon the tattooed beachgoers.

Move through the bands of odors: incense, candy, something fishy and fried, salt air, cigar smoke, more sunscreen.

The boardwalk, also called Ocean Front Walk, is an L.A. attraction whose popularity soars during the summer. Officials estimate that last year more than 3 million people walked among pamphleteers, musicians and chain-saw jugglers between Memorial Day and Labor Day. The scene remains eclectic, frenetic and thoroughly undomesticated.

So far, no one has tamed the Boardwalk, certainly not the city. A new ordinance is supposed to divide sidewalk merchants into a "p-zone" and an "i-zone," but what's to stop a Calypso tumbler from somersaulting right into the wrong zone?

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-- Deborah Schoch

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