When I was living in Venice Beach, during the end of the 20th Century, my address was on Boccaccio Avenue. I used to joke with friends that, having one of the most simple last names in the world – Martin – I was gifted with an address that had to be spelled out for everyone.
Boccaccio was an Italian author from the 1400’s, known for ‘The Decameron” a collection of stories supposedly told by a group of young people feeling the city of Florence to escape the plague. Most of the stories in the Decameron are about lust and love, the relentless drive of humanity, just being human.
After the Black Plague took out a third of the population of Europe in about a decade, it was a very different place.
Venice Beach was also rather well known for a poet named Jim Morrison, a graduate of the film school at UCLA. Morrison’s iconic rock band, The Doors, did a song called “Love Street” that some longtime Venice residents took as a tribute to Boccaccio Avenue. I do know that the city of Los Angeles put up a plaque on Laurel Canyon Boulevard, deeming that spot to be ‘Love Street’ near a house rented by The Doors, but Morrison’s love of literature (and lust) leaves me leaning towards Venice Beach.
When the student revolution of the 60’s and 70’s subsided, Venice Beach was a different place.
While the current coronavirus crisis is a once in a lifetime event, I’m reminded that this is just part of a long cycle of illness and immunity that Mother Nature rotates with the human race. Human lives are so brief, we rarely get the chance to understand how it all ties together. That is why I read history, read poetry, read news.
While my current Culver City address has none of the literary chic or epidemiological history of Boccaccio Avenue, I’m seeing a lot of ‘love street’ with the parents pushing the baby strollers, the people on the other end of the dog leash and the folks ambling along with their aluminum frame walkers over the sidewalks.
Rarely has a smile and a wave of the hand meant so much.
I’m hoping that this is the plague that comes before the (next) renaissance, that we take this moment to create the changes that will help our society and our culture overcome the limits that have stifled us for so long.
Maybe we do need it spelled out; how we come through this will be the result of everyone’s individual choices. We can linger long on love street – and wait and see what happens. But we will look up at some point and realize we are in a very different place.