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March 08, 2007

Homesick

Last weekend David and I rented American History X, a film about a former skinhead who tries to prevent his younger brother from following in his footsteps. It was a little simplistic but the basic message of the film -- hate doesn't get you anywhere -- was true enough.

From the very first shot, I could tell that the movie was set in Venice (or Venice Beach, as the film referred to it), California, one of my hometowns. The movie portrayed Venice as an actual city, but it is really just a neighborhood of Los Angeles, the part that borders Santa Monica to the south. Venice got its name from its developer, Abbot Kinney, a tobacco millionare who wanted to replicate Venice, Italy in California because it was his wife's favorite city. He did a pretty good job, too. There is a gorgeous system of canals flanked by posh houses, and when I went to Venice, Italy, I found myself in a piazza surrounded by buildings just like the ones on Windward Avenue in Venice, California. It was surreal to visit the original after having lived in the replica. Venice is probably most famous for its boardwalk, the strip along the beach where you can ogle all manner of humanity, purchase drugs and cheap sunglasses, participate in a drum circle, get a tattoo, have your tarot cards read, or receive an acupuncture treatment.

My mom and I moved to Venice in January of 1996. I was sixteen years old and my mother had just divorced my evil stepfather. We moved into an apartment in the now-infamous Lincoln Place housing project. Originally built in the late 1940s to house returning GIs, these were gorgeous, high-quality apartments, located about a mile from the beach (we called it "the beach house"). We had a light and airy second-floor apartment with windows on three sides. You can see a picture of it here (click on the third thumbnail photograph in the top row -- ours was the center building, upstairs left unit, behind the tree). We lived there until 2000, by which time I was in college; my mom moved out just before we would have been evicted for a massive renovation that has turned these affordable apartments into luxury dwellings.

I loved living in Venice and watching American History X made me amazingly homesick. The theme of the movie, however, puzzled me. It was about disaffected white kids in Venice who form a skinhead gang and go around terrorizing and victimizing Venice's black population. The film centers on Venice High School, and I really can't comment on the racial politics there because I never went to Venice High: my mom managed to exploit some loopholes in the districting system to keep me at Santa Monica High (affectionately known as "Samo"). So maybe I just missed something or had my head in the sand, but I really don't remember a whole lot of racial tension in Venice. And the film was made in 1998, which is when we lived there. This isn't to say that there aren't ghettos and gang feuds in Venice, but the movie just portrayed the whole city as a war zone, which it certainly wasn't. Overall, I feel lucky to have been able to live somewhere with such a notable roster of current and former residents, but Venice's glitz and notoriety probably helped contribute to making it such a desirable locale that the owners of Lincoln place could get away with evicting 795 middle- and working-class families to build luxury housing.

Posted by eklanche at March 8, 2007 07:37 AM

Comments

Hi there,
You don't know me from eve, but I remember that movie. It has been a while, but it was pretty radical...okay actually the only reason I even bumped into your blog was because I was searching online for a business called "TEAM". My fiance' and I were visited tonight actually about this opportunity. Until I ran into your blog, I was going to fork over $270.00 to do this. And after reading all the information you provided, I seriously think I'm going to hang on to that money. Anyway, thank you. I would love to hear if your friend has progressed anymore in the business or not... please feel free to e-mail me. Thanks!

Posted by: mirandasmom@sbcglobal.net at March 9, 2007 12:07 AM

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