When In Venice: Life Advice from Street-Strangers of Los Angeles

I love discovering secrets. Answers. Treasures. I love connecting with people– old friends and strangers– and searching deep into their past experiences to read empathetically into their present. And oh, do I like advice– really, any form of guidance– on this journey that is my wild, winding life.

My first time in Los Angeles was filled with many highs (think: riding the Santa Monica ferris wheel, sunset-dancing on a rooftop with new friends, recovery-Sunday brunching) but this spontaneous interaction with soul-strangers on the canal-backstreets of Venice Beach takes the cake. Good’s & Grateful’s, meet Leigh and Richard.


“Hey, before you all go, can we ask a favor of you?”

The five of us, recovering slowly from a luau-themed, June-gle joint-birthday-party the day and night prior, were about to trek back to the car to assess the debris-damage that awaited us back home. We had just mustered enough energy to cap off our sunbathing on the bridge of one of the euro-inspired canals in Venice Beach, California, when Leigh approached us.

“Can you take a picture of us, but make sure you get the water in the background, all right?”

The 60-something-year-old woman with soft, pixie-cut blonde hair and layered gold and silver necklaces handed us her phone.

Leigh and her husband, Richard, in an all-white denim ensemble with slick-tousled silver curls and a gold-link chain on his right wrist posed. They posed with the smiles and comfort of two human-souls who have lived out their own dreams and lives, learned lessons along the way and laughed years alongside each other in moments leading up to this very spot on the Howland Canal bridge in the culturally rich Los Angeles neighborhood of Venice Beach.

The duo stood to return the photo-favor with stylish, matching, double-shade sunglasses with the outer lens’ flipped up, and we decided that they were way cooler than we were and consented to be adopted by our new grandparents.

I got to talking with Richard as his beloved ran with energetic youth to the water below, throwing up two peace signs in pose for another picture.

 

With a kind, seasoned disposition, he told me that all of the jobs, experiences and chapters of his life in production design, film studios and travel led him to where he is now– where he likes to be. At his 70-something-year-old age, he’s just gotten into real estate and is learning the business side of all of his prior professional endeavors.

“I almost went to RISD,” he says when I tell him I hail from Rhode Island.

“I chose to go to NYU instead and I’ve often wondered how such decisions play a role in changing your life. You kind of wonder what could have been… it’s oh, well, though.”

The nonchalance in his voice expresses his contentment with the way his life played out. His “whatever” is genuine and soothing. Maybe it all being “whatever” at the end of the day really can be a beautiful thing.

By the time Leigh returned and had gone back-and-forth about living the L.A. life with our token local in the group, the curious journalist in me was arising.

“So, one piece of advice?” I started, my state of dehydration from the night before altering the emphasis on all of my syllables.

“One piece of advice for us? Alright!” Leigh said, sitting back and intertwining her fingers palm-to-palm.

“Oh no, no. I meant if you two could give us millennials one piece of advice…”

Leigh enjoys this.

“Oh, that’s good! Ok, here’s a good one.

“All those hang-ups or insecurities or feeling like you’re not pretty enough or fit enough, forget about them. All that thinking your thighs are too big, etc., throw it out. I remember lacking that confidence all through my 20s and when I look back at pictures of myself from that time, I was smoking hot!

“You are beautiful right now, embrace it, enjoy it while you have it. Because you won’t have it forever!

“And enjoy the ride down,” she tells us.

Save your money. Think about retirement early on. Calculate your risks and invest in something that will offer a safe financial return for later.

Richard chimes in in response to a, “What about you honey, what’s your advice?”

“Save money, but also remember that money isn’t gonna’ do it all. It’s not what it’s all about. Do something that you’re passionate about… don’t do a job you don’t like, just for the money. Then you end up miserable living in a nice house.

“I remember being young and not knowing what I wanted to do with my life. I was quiet and insecure and I didn’t talk too much. I didn’t know. I tried a little bit of everything, and I knew that whatever I did I wanted to be the best at it. And that meant working with the best.

“You know, there is value in formal education but start working different jobs, get your hands dirty.

“And travel while you can. Travel teaches you everything.”

Though the five of us had planned to trek back to the car more than 20 minutes ago, we are content.

“Thank you for speaking with us,” I say.

“This is the kind of stuff that I love. Maybe I should just keep traveling to new cities, interviewing people and write a book, after all.”

“That’s a great idea,” Leigh says, “write a book!”

Richard and his kind disposition laugh.

“Alright, your turn,” says the ever-spunky and ever-lively Leigh.

“What’s one piece of advice you have for us?”

“Never stop sharing your advice,” I say.

 

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Leigh and Richard on the Howland Canal, June 11, 2017.

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A special thank you to the collaborative dehydrated-brain-efforts of this crew for helping me recall all of Leigh and Richard’s amazing life-advice!

2 Replies to “When In Venice: Life Advice from Street-Strangers of Los Angeles”

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