I step out from under the dirty brown awning of my three story apartment building. The grey cracked concrete walkway to the street is littered with a soggy, muddy old copy of LA Times, pages falling out of the flimsy string holding it together. An empty Starbucks plastic cup (tall) rolls over brightly printed car wash coupons, charred cigarette butts sneak from under the sun baked yellow grass, dead bougainvillea flowers sit degenerating into pulp in the crevices on the sidewalk where the rain water has collected and a faint odor of dog poop hangs in the air. A steel sprinkler half-heartedly sprays intermittent jets of water over the small yet lush green garden next door. The low lying jasmine hedges that line the street are in full bloom creating an illusion of white and green lace. Yellow and purple wild flowers spring out of gaps in the tiled sidewalk.
I turn right on to Keystone Avenue and walk north. A battered IKEA loveseat, once navy blue, but now an unknown color, lies abandoned on the pavement. A dark spot stains the seat covers, the arms are worn out to the frame and the foam filling has sprung out from the bottom is falling out to the pavement.
Up ahead, a young Asian couple walks out of the Keystone University Apartment building. The girl’s dark hair is streaked with neon blue, further accented by the matching pashmina scarf she has thrown around her neck. She wears no make-up and Aviator sun glasses hide her eyes. Her mauve paisley print dress flutters in the slight breeze blowing through the street. The boy’s tumbled dry hair and unshaven beard hints that he may have just fallen out of bed. His blue and yellow UCLA t-shirt is paired with khaki shorts. His loafers are untied and the strap drags behind his heels as he walks down the street.
I pause to let two teenage boys on skateboards rush past me on the sidewalk. Headphones in ears, caps pulled low over the ears – both are dressed alike with front open shirts and shorts sitting low on the waist. An old balding man hunched over the steering wheel, turns his shiny red and white Volkswagen Beetle into a covered driveway.
On the intersection of Keystone Ave and Venice Boulevard, small wooden cargo boxes are stacked up to four feet and placed on the payment. “On Sale” sign is stenciled on alternating sides in charcoal black paint. On top of the stack is a white cardboard placard with a hand drawn arrow pointing to the auto repair shop at the corner of Keystone Avenue.
Outside the shop is a public payphone that hasn’t seen much use in a while. A tattered LA directory hangs from a metal chain scraping the ground. The phone is off the hook and the receiver dangles in mid-air. The booth itself is covered in fluorescent graffiti with no hint of the original paint. “You suck!”, “peace y’all” and other important messages are scratched on the metal frame.
I take a deep breath and smell the familiar salty tang of the evening sea breeze that has just begun to flow inwards from Venice beach, which is three miles down the road. The sky darkens and stretches of pink, violet and orange paint the horizon. It’s time for sunset and the crimson red sun, barely visible behind towering city buildings, disappears slowly from the view.