Where a million dollar buys you nothing, many live who have nothing. Bums and millionaires stay, each on their layer of existence, once the tourist stampede has trampled by and the streets are empty after sundown.
There’s not enough character in this world to go around. Which is why a place that looks like Charles Bukowski has thrown up on is more expensive than Beverly Hills. The blinding street lights in chrome yellow and rust red allow deep shadows, and that’s where you find all the character you want, if you are ready to turn a blind eye to what tourists take for real.
Tourists are always thirty years behind the times. When they come to see something, it has long gone, and if it’s still there, it will be gone under their hooves. But at night, even the boardwalk is empty, and half the people you see after dark are out of their minds, if they ever had one.
The boardwalk separates the grungy, rotten houses and the designer houses shoe horned in between them, from the very deep and sandy beach. So deep a beach that you often can’t hear the waves breaking except at night, together with the whirr of bicycles and the rattle of skateboards.
At night the tourist crazies are gone, those fake crazies who dress up to be photographed, like the guy on rollerskates, wearing a turban, and playing an electric guitar as if he had put his finger into a light socket. He has a credit card machine, and arrives in a Lincoln Continental, and dresses up for the job as a true Venice crazy. Finally, when he’s gone with his fakeness, the real people come out of the shadow into the bleaching electric lights.
The young bum twitched when he saw my camera. I told him I wouldn’t take his photo. I hate street photography, a destitute declines of a once artform into disrespecting people and taking their dignity by stealing their image.
I felt bad for the young guy, who didn’t know what was coming at him. I asked him about how he came into this situation, and he told me, without the slightest tremor of self-pity, that this was the life he had chosen.