What To Do When Chased By A Man With A Snake

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Dear Blue,

Today, your grammy and whatever it is we’re going to call your grandpa are coming into town to see you. I thought it would be a nice time to continue with my little vignettes of your family, so that you can see the sort of experience you’ve inherited.

Your grammy is a very funny lady. Often times, she intends to be funny and hits the mark. This is not when she is at her best, however. As with most people, your grammy is at her most uproarious when the funny happens TO her.

Rewind to 2004. Your grandparents are visiting and want to go to Venice Beach. Venice Beach is…well, I don’t quite understand why anyone would want to make a repeat tourist stop to Venice. Sure, you HAVE to see it one time because it’s so iconic, but then when you’re actually there, you also see that is so, so dirty. We’re talking dudes pooping on palm trees, syringes in the sand kind of dirty here, Blue.

Going to see it for a second time when visiting LA is like going to a really fancy house and spending all your time admiring the plumbing in the bathroom.

That said, there is quite a bit going on there. I recall vividly the time I was walking through a seemingly empty plaza next to a bustling restaurant when a man burst out of nowhere, carrying with him two large paint buckets and a couple of sticks. He plopped them both down in the middle of the walkway, sat down on one, and then began furiously banging on the other with his two sticks. For a minute, he did nothing but stare straight ahead at nothing and bang away. Then, with the fury of a man possessed, he began yelling repeatedly, “GIVE ME A DOLLAR! GIVE ME A DOLLAR!” at the top of his lungs. By the time a sizeable crowd had formed around him, he abruptly stopped, sneered at everyone, and then slinked off into a nearby alleyway. Years later, I still think about that guy and get the nagging feeling I saw something important happen there. I’m just not sure what.

My larger point still remains. Venice has color.

On this particular day your grammy visited, it also had a dude wearing nothing but a leopard skin thong and black shoes with white crew socks. To accessorize the look, he had an albino boa constrictor draped around his neck. Classy.

And costly. Like any good eccentric wandering around the boardwalk, snake man knew he had goods people wanted, and a picture with him cost precisely $1. He would gently wrap the head of the snake around your shoulder, and you, snake man, and the snake would squeeze together for a nice glamour shot. A Venice Beach keepsake.

Your grammy, she hates snakes. HATES them. We’re talking on the level of Indiana Jones here, Blue. Yet she had a dilemma in front of her, because she also loves keepsakes. She didn’t want to go near the snake, but she desperately wanted a picture to show off back home. There’s something in that, isn’t there? People like to make adventures out of their lives, to continue stepping out of the boundaries of what’s normal when tbey’ve already started. To say to everyone back home, “Look what I did that you didn’t.”

Nervously, she began creeping up to the small crowd around snake man. She fidgeted with her camera, turned nervously to your grandpa and said, “I’m going to get it.”

Your grandpa, seeing the danger, tried to warn her. “No. Don’t you do it.”

She stiffened her upper lip, summoning her courage. “I’m going to do it.”

From about ten feet away, she slyly snapped a picture of snake man and his pet. As she turned to walk back towards us, a sharp yell rang out.

“HEY! You owe me a dollar!”

Snake man came charging toward her as the crowd around him parted. Your mother, all the blood draining from her face, gave a quick, sideways glance, said, “Aw, hell no!” and began power walking/terror jogging away in the other direction. Snake man gave chase, his well oiled hamstrings glistening in the California sun as your grammy opened up an insurmountable lead. I’m not kidding Blue. If that one block dash was an Olympic Qualifier for Race Walking, your grammy would have won gold.

Seeing the lead widen, snake man wisely gave up, knowing that he was wasting prime dollar making real estate. We eventually caught up with your grammy, who was hiding away in a t-shirt shop.

“Is he gone?”

“I just didn’t think he would do that, you know.”

Let that be a lesson to you, Blue. She just didn’t think he would chase her down the street for a dollar because SHE would never do something like that. Never expect strangers dressed strangely to act normally. That is why they are called strangers.

Your grammy expected something normal out of something strange, and for a brief moment of flight, she paid the consequences. People are unpredictable out there, and never assume your actions have the consequences you assume they will have. Also, just stay away from Venice. Except for when your grandparents visit. It’s worth it then.


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