Reflecting on Community While Happily Quarantined

I’ve been thinking a lot about gratitude and how to write about it without sounding like every other knucklehead in Los Angeles clutching their mala beads or exploiting this sacred practice to peddle premium kombucha. A perhaps cynical segue into self-reflecting on all the things I’m grateful for that seemed so trivial a few short weeks ago, but sarcasm is one of my greatest coping mechanisms and, if I do say so myself, gifts.

I’m a loner at heart, which always seems nuts to my inner tribe because I can be very outgoing amidst close friends and family. But if I don’t know you, I won’t go out of my way to engage, so all this social distancing is sort of a dream. While sarcasm is one of my gifts, embracing isolation may be my superpower. There have been periods of my life where I’ve spent months alone wandering the globe, and most recently pausing my career for 9 months to focus on writing. If it weren’t for my dog getting me out for walks and that nagging voice in my head that forces me to hit the gym, it’s fair to say I would have inadvertently been in self-quarantine before this crisis ever christened our shores.

Despite my leanings towards introversion, I do appreciate a sense of community. And in our neighborhood, that may be what defines it against other LA county enclaves. I miss our Sunday midday-to-sundown drum circles on the beach. I miss watching our local roller dancers and skateboarders entertain the crowds. I miss the usual boardwalk characters, who make a living by simply being a bit offbeat. I miss watching – and participating in — the weekly electric bike parade from Venice to Santa Monica complete with mobile DJs and boom boxes. I miss people watching and stealing snippets of an overheard conversation or a look between lovers to add color to a character in a script.

I miss live music, almost desperately. Nothing represents community to me more than the communal pleasure of people coming together to let go and revel in something that’s sole purpose is to evoke a sense of joy.

But more than anything, I miss the dark and eerie bar I write in. I miss my bartender who calls me Mrs. McDonald (my married name, something only he and my mother would do). I miss the smell of whiskey and bitters and freshly sliced citrus. I miss the regulars and the tourists who stumble in off the beach by accident and are delighted by her history. I miss my favorite doorman who’s always reading hyper-intellectual novels while he passively cards patrons as they pass through the door. I miss the entire ritual, something I’ll never take for granted again.

Look, LA has admittedly rubbed off on me. I have a symbol tattooed on my wrist that is meant to be the universal marker for gratitude, for fuck sake. But I’m a spiritual person and have always engaged in daily gratitude rituals. In this moment in time, though, they feel more meaningful than ever.

Venice Beach Drum Circle

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The Beat Goes On

Venice is in transition, a time where gentrification is altering the DNA of this historically diverse community. A neighbourhood built by immigrants from all walks of life. While a quick stroll down the boardwalk might suggest that diversity is still a cornerstone in our quirky part of town, more and more you see it’s storied past fading away. Except on Sundays, in the hours leading up to sunset, slightly north of the skate park on beautiful Venice Beach.

Around midday, flags from every country begin to appear, planted in an inviting V-like formation in the sand. The Venice Drum Circle is open to all, regardless of color or religious creed. Boy and girls, young and old. Whether you have mad rhythm or can’t maintain a beat, everyone is welcome. It’s a celebration of inclusiveness, community, joy and unabashedly getting a boogie on with complete strangers.

In a time where the US feels so divided, the drum circle is a welcome reminder of the warm, tolerant, loving people who make up this great nation. Despite what the media clings to, I refuse to believe the majority of Americans thrive on hate. I won’t accept that everything is red or blue, left or right. The United States is a country of immigrants. And while there are still barriers to burst, stigmas to eliminate and glass cielings to shatter, an event like the drum circle represents what the US is all about: a sum of all its beautifully eclectic parts.

Happening every Sunday, from noon(ish) until sunset on the beach where Brooks Ave meets Ocean Front Walk. Bring a bongo, maracas, your best dance moves or any other percussion instrument. See you there, friends.

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