A crowd is drawn to boardwalk performers in Venice Beach. Thanks to a marine… (Luis Sinco, Los Angeles…)
At Jody Maroni's Sausage King, the man behind the counter never runs out of something to say.
"Ladies, if you want happiness, let your husband have a sausage!" he shouts. "Free samples! You've been denying yourself all year, give in!"
The owner of the joint, Jody Monkarsh, has spent a good chunk of his 58 years at Venice Beach. He opened the restaurant in 1979 and moved into an apartment upstairs. When he was a boy, his grandmother taught him to swim in these waves.
A local if ever there was one, Monkarsh lives for the tourists and the Fourth of July weekend, when they descend on the beach en masse.
"We wait all year for this," he said. Tourism is his stand's livelihood, but he says it's more than that.
"People don't mix on the Third Street Promenade, or at the Grove," Monkarsh said. "This is really the only place where the whole city meets."
On Sunday afternoon, thousands of people thronged the Southern California coastline despite overcast skies and a gentle breeze.
Streams of beachgoers ambled down the boardwalk, past weightlifters, skateboarders and storefronts flaunting services that might be taboo anywhere else: Tattoo Addiction, Botox on the Beach and medical marijuana "evaluation centers."
Teenagers bobbed in the ocean and college kids splayed out on towels, hoping for tans. Little girls built mud castles and boys buried one another in the sand.
Over the crash of the surf, a world of voices could be heard, speaking Russian, French, German and more.
Yanko Roman, a 25-year-old who immigrated to the United States from Cuba seven years ago, chatted in Spanish with his friends as he pulled a sweatshirt around his shoulders. While thermometers elsewhere in the Southland reached 100 degrees Sunday, hitting a high of 106 in Palmdale, temperatures at the beach hovered in the high 60s, thanks to the thick marine layer.
"In Cuba, you don't need a jacket when you go to the beach," said Roman, who drove from La Puente.
Like any pilgrimage, a trip to the beach is as much about the journey as the destination.
Venice Beach, with its swirl of incense vendors, foreign tourists and guitar-strumming sidewalk musicians, rewards those who battle freeway gridlock and the exasperating hunt for parking with a spectacle rivaled only by Las Vegas or Times Square.
But some people, like Devin Chambers, are purists who come simply for the thrill of the waves.
The last time Devin, 2, went to the beach, he stayed on the sand. But this time, under the watchful eye of his uncle, he spent the afternoon thrashing in the water.
Afterward, as he sat wrapped in a towel on the shore, his uncle asked whether he had enjoyed himself. Devin nodded wordlessly. He could not stop looking toward the sea.