Mate, now the only reason I had LA on my round the world ticket was so I could go and shoot some hoops on Venice Beach. After watching White Men Cant Jump in my teens and American History X a bit later – and what an intelligent film that is!!! – I always wanted to get there, but I never thought I would….. but I’d bloody made it!!!! I was fucking there!!!! And fucking hell… what a place it is!!!!
Now, the best way I can describe Venice Beach is by saying that it’s like Camden Town by the sea!!! Or to put it another way, if Camden Town was by the sea… it would be Venice Beach!!!! What do you mean you’ve never been to Camden Town either… well there aint much I can do about that is there… you’re fucked then!!! You’ll just have to imagine!!! 🙂
You’ve basically got every kind of people you could ever think of there….. all mixed in together… with none of those people giving a damn about where the next person comes from. There just seems to be this attitude of – You’re here and I’m here, so lets just show off who we are and let the rest of the world go fuck itself!!! It’s a real Poser’s Paradise… but without the “look at me look at me” bollocks. It’s more like – “Well, you can look at me… but if you don’t, don’t worry about it… because I enjoy looking at myself!!!” 😉 . It’s a place that’s says “I’m cool… and I don’t need anyone to re-affirm it…. because we’re “all cool” here!!!”
And all this occurs by the beach in a place where the sun never stops shinning!!!
Anyway, I clocked the b-ball courts and headed down there, and I was absolutely buzzing… the place was pukka! There are a load of courts and I saw a bunch of guys playing full-court on one of them. I didn’t think I’d get in on the game, but saw this Spalding sitting by the side of their court, and me being me, I’d thought I’d be cheeky and ask to use it!!!
So, I waited for a break in play and when it came I called out “Excuse me, does anyone know whose ball this is?” while pointing at the Spalding. Now, the group were predominantly black, but culturally diverse, and when I called out they all stopped dead and looked at me…. and then one of the black guys replied “Yeah, it’s mine.” So I looks at him and goes “I couldn’t borrow it could I please squire, just to play ball on the next court?” He eyed me, a bit quizzically, took a quick look at the rest of the guys, then stared back at me and said, a bit reservedly , “Yeah, sure.”
“Cheers bud… I’ll just be over there” I replied while picking up the ball and pointing to the hoop I intended shooting at!!!! Top drawer!!! I was buzzing!!! I got the sun, I got the beach, I got the courts…. And now I got the ball!!! Life was certainly looking up for the Limey geezer!!!! 😉
So I bowls over to my intended destination and starts bouncing the ball and popping up the shots! I tell ya… it felt soooo good! Along with Ayers Rock this was another one of those places that, growing up, I’d always dreamed of going to… but I never dreamt I’d ever get there!!! But I was there and I was loving it large man… I was absolutely loving it large!!! And the thing is, when you get there, you realise that everything you’d heard about the place is true…. cos that wind, that comes in from the Ocean, messes with your shot like there’s no tomorrow!!!
Blimey… I dunno about 6-12 inches, but some of my shots were being blown off course by 15!!! It’s mental!!! And there’s nothing more disheartening than shooting an air-ball that you know full well should really have been a swish!!!! But I was learning and adapting pretty fast… and quickly realised that just before you take your shot, and the ball leaves your fingertips… you have to compile a quick weather check in your head and analyse the strength of the wind, its direction and how much it may or may not affect the flight of your ball. And with all that information correlated and compiled…. You’re free to flick your wrist!!! Swish!!!! 😉
It’s got to be the only basketball court in the world where the norm is to score a curler!!!!
The other thing that is so cool, about the courts at Venice Beach, is that there are these bench type stands, dotted around, for spectators to sit on. There was one just to the right of my basket and after only about 5-10 minutes of me shooting up a group of “Brothers” came to sit upon it! They weren’t aggressive, but they did appear to be coming over to “check me out”. I thought “Hello” and then I thought “I better start making some good shots!!!!”…. what else are you meant to bloody think!!!
Anyway, they looked at me and gave me a nod and I likewise did the same back. Then they just started talking amongst themselves and I just continued shooting hoops. After about 20 minutes or so, the guy I had borrowed the ball off of came over to them and started talking (they were his crew!!!) and then after another 5 minutes or so he called out to me “Hey, you wanna play?”
“Fuck yeah” I replied… well not exactly like that… first I thought “Fuck” and then I said “Yeah”!!!!! 🙂
So he strolls over, we shoot for possession and then it was: “Check-ball”. And I couldn’t adam it!!! I’m playing one on one with an American, at Venice Beach, in front of a crew of Brothers!!! What the fuck was happening in my life!!!! This weren’t just top drawer… this was on top of the drawers… and I was well up for it!!!!
So we’re getting into this game, and it’s really nip and tuck, he had a much better inside game than I did, but lucky for me I was pulling off some tough moves and hitting some good outside shots. It’s strange, but at times when I haven’t played sport for a while, I can either be a bit rusty or completely outstanding, and it never appears to be anything in between… and the thing was, probably because I was buzzing so much… and I’m sorry if I have to blow my own trumpet here… on this day I was completely fucking outstanding!!! So much so, that I appeared to be winning the Brothers over and they seemed to be enjoying the spectacle of this strange white guy, with a dodgy English accent – it’s called Cockney!!!! 🙂 – taking their brother to the wire!!!! They were supporting me!!!! And little by little the jovial digs at my opponent… their own brother!!!… began to ensue!!! It was fucking amazing… totally unbelievable… if you can believe that!!! 🙂
21-19… to the Cockney Boy!!!! 🙂 And this guy was vexed!!! “Another game” he insisted, as his crew were giving ME big-ups!!! “Fuck yeah” is what I thought… “Ok” is what I said… as I wasn’t sure where this was going!!!!
Now the thing is, my game, in any sport, is mainly based on running and it’s my endurance that enables me to perform well most of the time. In fact, the longer a game goes on for, the more I want to run, and this guy didn’t have the fitness. 11-7 this time and he was even more vexed!!!!
His crew had lost interest by this time though and were moving on, but the guy, whose ball it was, just couldn’t leave it there and insisted on playing again. And I actually wondered if I should take my foot off of the gas and play more chilled for a bit… but there’s something of the Australian in me when it comes to sport – you play your very best until the very end… no matter what!!!! And I wish the English were a bit more like that at times… then we might have won a few more World Cups!!!!
So it was into game three, his crew had gone and it’s just me, him, a basket and a ball, and of course… Venice Beach!!!! And I was still buzzing!!!! 11 -3 … game over. He was too tired to be vexed this time. He just gave me respect, took his ball and departed. He was a really nice guy and, to be fair, was a better player than me. I’d only won because I just run him into the ground – and now I’m back to being English again!!!! 😉
But as I watched Paul walk into the distance, leaving me standing there by myself, it was a bit of an anti-climax. “Maybe winning wasn’t everything” I thought to myself and I suddenly felt a bit sorry for him… for fucks sake!!!… and that’s the worst (or maybe the best!!!) thing about being English… is that you care about other people… even more than you do yourself at times… and if you don’t… then you’re not fucking English… you’re just a cunt!!! Sorry, but that’s just the way I see it.
That moment could well have been the worst moment in all of that geezers sporting life… losing to a Cockney geezer from the East End of London, in front of all his mates, and yet it is probably one of the most treasured moments that I shall ever experience in all of my sporting life… beating an American from Los Angeles, at basketball, on Venice Beach. That moment was probably his worst nightmare and yet it was my greatest dream. How’s that for a polarity?
But the overwhelming feeling I have, until this day, is that I wish I lost the last game we played. And I don’t care if that feeling is wrong or if it’s right… I just feel it’s that feeling that makes me human.
Lots of Love,
P.S. I know the tune I’ve posted with this adventure is East Coast, but the adventure is about Venice Beach, a place where anything goes and everyone is welcome. Halleluiah, Hiphop Hooray. Peace.
P.P.S. The Academy came after my “time”… but so pleased it manifested!!! Much Love 🙂