Community Voices IMG_3335

Published on February 7th, 2014 | by Greggory Moore

0

Long Beach Through the Eyes of a Longtime Frequent Visitor

Typically Long Beachers have plenty to say—good and bad—about the city we call home. But what impressions does it make on others, particularly those rare individuals who have both spent a lot of time in Long Beach and have a lot with which to compare it?

The thought came to mind while speaking with Jimi Vesely at the end of his recent four-month stay with us. A native of the Czech Republic who attended university in Edinburgh and has traveled throughout the United States and Europe, the 26-year-old Vesely has stayed in Long Beach for at least one month nearly a dozen times since 2000.

The bottom line is that he loves Long Beach. But he’s seen it change for both better and worse and finds as much to criticize as to praise.

Long Beach was not Vesely’s first experience of the United States. He lived in Claremont (for which he retains a fondness) for two years in the mid 1990s. When his parents split up towards the end of the decade, Vesely went back to the Czech Republic, while his father purchases a house at Orange Avenue and 2nd Street. Thus did Vesely’s first strong impression of Long Beach center around the ocean, which was only a couple of blocks away.

“Even though I’m not really big on water, going to the beach, enjoying the sand and the waves….”

At this he catches himself and laughs. “You don’t get many waves here because of the [breakwater],” he continues. “But still, for someone coming from Europe, you have the ocean at your fingertips. Even if you’re not big into water, at first it overwhelms you. You’re like, ‘Wow, this is amazing.’”

He recalls that when other children heard where he lived, they would refer to the neighborhood as a “ghetto,” a perception that puzzled him even then. To him the side streets were a playground, with he and his brothers often bicycling and roller-blading all throughout the immediate area.

The feeling of freedom to roam stemmed partly from the people here, who evinced a qualitative difference from the people in his homeland.

“I find people in Long Beach, and maybe in America [as a whole], quite friendly and open,” Vesely says. “When we were kids going to the park, we frequently interacted with the people there, and we never really felt threatened by the adults or the kids. [Everything] was [undertaken] in a friendly way—the small talk, the chatter—which is an experience you definitely don’t have in the Czech Republic. There is a great public-transportation system in Prague, but you will never really talk to anyone on the metro or the tram because they are strangers, and if you can avoid contact with them, you do. That’s just the way it works there. But in Long Beach, and in America in general, the people seems to be a lot more open and want to communicate, to connect a lot more.”

As far as local attractions, Vesely recalls Pine Avenue as being a big deal.

“Back then, Pine Avenue was the experience,” he says. “We were like, ‘Oh, we’re going to Pine!’ Because it was the place you had to walk like 15 or 20 minutes [to get to], and it was the place where everything happened.”

One of Vesely’s criticisms of Long Beach is how Pine-centered the city remains and how development of other areas has been neglected.

“On the one hand, it’s really great to have everything concentrated in one place, because you know where to go,” he says. “On the other hand, you walk [beyond] Pine, and it can be really hard to find another [highly activated] place. There are a lot of projects [underway] to make Pine look even better. There are new trees here, and they have a long-term plan for what to do with the street. And that’s great. I love that. But at the same time, it would be great to take some of that attention and apply it to a different part of Long Beach, or maybe expand it a little bit so it’s not just one street. […] There are things happening [elsewhere in Long Beach], like on 4th Street, but I don’t think the City gives attention to those places. The attention is all on Pine. […] It would be great to expand that, or maybe find a second place so there is more diversity for someone who comes here as a tourist so he can go to two different places and not just one.”

When asked to single out what he likes best on Pine, Vesely’s answer may be surprising: the bar/restaurant Taco Beach.

“I would say Taco Beach is one of the mainstays of Long Beach,” he says. “We used to go there back then, and we go there quite often now. It’s a really great place.”

Equally surprising is the high marks Vesely gives to the area’s public transit. He calls the free Passport service downtown “an awesome thing [that] you don’t see that very often in any city around the world,” although he was disappointed to hear that since the Passport’s free east-west service was discontinued in August 2012. Even so, he praises the convenience of local bus service and the Blue Line.

“And that’s coming from someone who comes and visits, so obviously I don’t have my own car here,” he says. “Perhaps a lot of people who live here locally might not use the [public transit] service as often because they have a car, but I think [public transit] is an integral part of making a lively city.”

For Vesely, the most memorable change in Long Beach is a negative one: the loss of Acres of Books.

“In the early years that was a big part of the Long Beach experience for me, and it’s gone now,” he laments. “I really loved that place. It was amazing. When you stepped in, the smell overwhelmed you. It was perfect. I loved to go there and buy something or just sit down for a little while and read something. […] I was actually here during the time they were closing it down; I was here on the last day it was open. That was kind of a sad experience, feeling that that is going away. It makes it even more bitter walking past that place today because the building is still standing there. The [façade] is still there. They said they were going to build something there, but they haven’t. They haven’t torn the building down; they haven’t built anything new there. That’s a sad thing that happened here. This amazing place disappeared.”

The loss of Acres of Books is one aspect of a problem Vesely feels plagues Long Beach and much of the United States: poor long-term planning.

“Walking down the streets in Long Beach—and […] in L.A., as well—it just seems like everything is put together cheaply,” he says. “It feels like things were built to last just long enough but not much longer. Whereas in Europe things usually tend be made to last a really, really long time. […] I like the place. But compared to some aspects of Europe, you can definitely tell it’s a much younger place that hasn’t been grounded as much.”

Considering that poor long-term planning brings Vesely back to the wasted opportunity that is the Long Beach beachfront.

“You’re staying in a city that is on a beachfront, and you might say, ‘Oh, that’s amazing!’” he says. “But I feel that if you really want to live on a beachfront, you usually want the waves—which you won’t get here. […] If I wanted to live by the beach, and that was the deciding point, I would probably give Long Beach a glance, but then I would move somewhere where the waves are bigger. Long Beach is not just about the beach; there are lots of other things that make Long Beach worth it. […] But for someone who is looking for a beach-centered place—and [in Long Beach] ‘beach’ is even in the name—the beach isn’t a selling point.”

For Vesely, Long Beach’s main selling point is the people, including the inclusiveness within the community. Such inclusiveness has shaped Vesely’s very alignment toward his fellow humans.

“Long Beach is quite known for being a place where there are a lot of gay people,” he says. “[Here] was one of the first times I really came into contact with something like that at that scale. Meeting all these great [gay] people, I realized you can’t judge someone by their sexual orientation. I was maybe 15 or 16 at the time when I was thinking about this and making this discovery that, ‘Wow, these are just really nice people. […] They’re just like everyone else.’”

Considering that Long Beach has a higher population than Atlanta, we ought to expect our city play on the level of the world’s international cities. With such a lofty goal, it is probably worth keeping in mind how our home appears not only to us, but also to those who visit us from afar. An international city needs to attract people. Through Vesely’s eyes we can glimpse some of what Long Beach has, what it has lost, and what it has failed to develop. Perhaps such glimpses can help guide us into becoming all that we might become.

Tags: , , , ,


About the Author

Trapped within in the ironic predicament of wanting to know everything (more or less) while believing it may not be possible really to know anything at all, Greggory Moore is nonetheless dedicated to a life of study, be it of books, people, nature, or that slippery phenomenon we call the self. And from time to time he feels impelled to write a little something. He lives in a historic landmark downtown and holds down a variety of word-related jobs. HIs work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the OC Weekly, The District Weekly, the Long Beach Post, Daily Kos, and GreaterLongBeach.com. His novel THE USE OF REGRET was published in 2011. To be notified when a new Greggory Moore piece is published, send an e-mail to GreadersLB@yahoo.com.



Leave a Reply

Back to Top ↑
  • Like Us On Facebook!

  • The Guide to Fine Dining

    The Guide to Fine Dining
  • Calendar

    May 2015
    S M T W T F S
    26

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: CommunityFarmer’s Market

    Category: CommunityWalk Cabrillo

    Category: ArtOpen Studios at Angels Gate

    Category: ArtQuilt Show

    Category: CommunityQuilt Show

    Category: ArtLos Angeles Artists Propose Solutions to Human Trafficking Through Art

    Category: TheaterBye Bye Birdie

    Category: EntertainmentSuburban Showgirl

    Category: ArtLA Philharmonic

    Category: EntertainmentLos Angeles Philharmonic

    Category: CommunityAbilities Night

    Category: EntertainmentOil Boom, Sir Madam, the South Hollows

    27

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    28

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: ArtLuminous, Transparent, Realistic Watercolor Workshop

    29

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: CommunitySan Pedro Kiwanis Club

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    30

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: CommunityFarmer’s Market

    Category: CommunityOpen Mic Nite

    Category: ArtPlacas: The Most Dangerous Tattoo

    Category: TheaterPlacas: The Most Dangerous Tattoo

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    1

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: ArtPlacas: The Most Dangerous Tattoo

    Category: ArtBach’s Lunchtime Recital

    Category: EntertainmentPiano Nights with Rob Klopfenstein

    Category: TheaterHP Lovecraft Film Festival San Pedro

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    Category: TheaterBye Bye Birdie

    Category: EntertainmentTadic, Manring, Garcia

    Category: EntertainmentClive Farrington

    2

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: ArtPlacas: The Most Dangerous Tattoo

    Category: CommunityFeria de Dominguez Adobe Brunch and Tea

    Category: CommunityFriend Fest

    Category: Community5th Annual Fashion Extravaganza

    Category: TheaterHP Lovecraft Film Festival San Pedro

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    Category: TheaterBye Bye Birdie

    Category: EntertainmentScott Henderson Trio

    3

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: CommunityTarget Free Sundays Cinco de Mayo Festival

    Category: CommunityBully Prevention Extravaganza

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    Category: EntertainmentElizabeth Pitcairn & Louise Thomas

    Category: TheaterBye Bye Birdie

    Category: TheaterHP Lovecraft Film Festival San Pedro

    4

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    5

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: ArtLuminous, Transparent, Realistic Watercolor Workshop

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    6

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: CommunitySan Pedro Kiwanis Club

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    Category: ArtMeet the Grunion

    7

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: CommunityFarmer’s Market

    Category: ArtLong Beach Museum of Art Auction XVI

    Category: ArtFirst Thursday Artwalk

    Category: ArtGabriel Figueroa: The Collection

    Category: ArtVisualizations: ​Art and Science​

    Category: ArtVisualizations: ​Art and Science​

    Category: CommunityOpen Mic Nite

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    Category: EntertainmentKlezmer Juice

    8

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: ArtFirst Thursday Artwalk

    Category: EntertainmentPiano Nights with Rob Klopfenstein

    Category: TheaterReel Rock Films: Don’t Look Back (1967)

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    9

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: CommunityGuided Nature Walk at White Point Nature Preserve

    Category: EntertainmentMusic Under the Guns

    Category: EntertainmentJosh Nelson

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    Category: EntertainmentAdal Ramones Tour Monologues

    Category: EntertainmentFrank Unzueta’s Jazz Trio

    10

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    Category: EntertainmentFred Schreuders Talk Story Trio

    11

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    12

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    13

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: CommunitySan Pedro Kiwanis Club

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    14

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: CommunityFarmer’s Market

    Category: ArtLong Beach Museum of Art Auction XVI

    Category: TheaterThe Iron Giant

    Category: CommunityOpen Mic Nite

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    15

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: ArtLong Beach Museum of Art Auction XVI

    Category: CommunityBarley Forge Tap Attack

    Category: EntertainmentPiano Nights with Rob Klopfenstein

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    Category: EntertainmentDick Weller Trio

    Category: EntertainmentThe Good Foot!

    16

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: CommunityThird Annual Tour de Carson

    Category: CommunityExplore Anacapa Island

    Category: CommunityImpressions Family Nature, Art Workshop

    Category: CommunityThe Amazing Race: Long Beach in Lincoln Park

    Category: ArtLong Beach Museum of Art Auction XVI

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    Category: EntertainmentTizer Quartet

    Category: EntertainmentFartbarf, Kim & The Created

    17

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: Community5k Lupus Awareness Walk

    Category: ArtLong Beach Museum of Art Auction XVI

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    Category: EntertainmentThe Orchestre Surreal

    Category: EntertainmentPrism Tats and Fernweh

    18

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: CommunityToastmaster’s Open House

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    19

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    20

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: CommunitySan Pedro Kiwanis Club

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    21

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: CommunityFarmer’s Market

    Category: ArtLong Beach Museum of Art Auction XVI

    Category: CommunityOpen Mic Nite

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    22

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: ArtLong Beach Museum of Art Auction XVI

    Category: CommunityPOLAHS 4th Annual Green Festival

    Category: EntertainmentJeff Hamilton Presents Akiko with Graham Dechter

    Category: EntertainmentPiano Nights with Rob Klopfenstein

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    23

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: ArtLong Beach Museum of Art Auction XVI

    Category: EntertainmentGrupo Folklorico Orgullo Mexicano

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    Category: EntertainmentAlan Pasqua, Peter Erskine, Darek Oles

    24

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: ArtLong Beach Museum of Art Auction XVI

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    25

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    26

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    27

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: CommunitySan Pedro Kiwanis Club

    Category: EntertainmentNeutral Milk Hotel

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    28

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: CommunityFarmer’s Market

    Category: ArtLong Beach Museum of Art Auction XVI

    Category: CommunityOpen Mic Nite

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    29

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtJohn Elgin Woolf: Master of Hollywood Regency

    Category: ArtLong Beach Museum of Art Auction XVI

    Category: EntertainmentPiano Nights with Rob Klopfenstein

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    Category: EntertainmentThe Syncopaths

    30

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: CommunityLong Beach Human Library

    Category: ArtLong Beach Museum of Art Auction XVI

    Category: ArtVisualizations in Art and Science

    Category: ArtHouse of MOLAA: Art + Fashion + Culture

    Category: EntertainmentHydrogen Jukebox

    31

    Category: ArtVarnette Honeywood

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtLong Beach Museum of Art Auction XVI

    1

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    2

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    3

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: CommunitySan Pedro Kiwanis Club

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    4

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: CommunityFarmer’s Market

    Category: ArtFirst Thursday Artwalk

    Category: CommunityOpen Mic Nite

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    5

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: ArtFirst Thursday Artwalk

    Category: EntertainmentPiano Nights with Rob Klopfenstein

    Category: TheaterAbigail/1702

    6

    Category: ArtMOLAA Presents Fantastic Mexico

    Category: EntertainmentHydrogen Jukebox

  • Take a Trip to Havana

    Take a Trip to Havana
  • Join the RLn Network

    Subscribe Today:


    Options


  • Get Home Delivery!

    Get Home Delivery!
  • Reset The Net: Protect Your Privacy

    Reset The Net: Protect Your Privacy