There are no streetlights in Baywood. No sidewalks. The only public light sources are the Alehouse, the Merrimaker and the laundromat. Locals hear the surf crashing on the sand spit a mile away across the estuary and complain, the way one might complain about the freeway noise back in Los Angeles, where the over/under starts at $100,000 year.
Baywood is where you retreat when LA doesn’t work for you anymore but you want to stay in California. It’s where the life you wanted to have in Van Nuys or Echo Park is re-booted.
It is where you park your RV in your friends driveway and figure out your next move. And where you go when you close your bike shop, once named Best in the City by the LA Weekly, after 11 years.
Where you break out the wrenches and drill set, and turn the RV into a mobile bike base camp and solar-powered graphic design suite. Where you simplify things by designing your own escape pod.
LA being LA, the bike shop lives on as the filming location for a Netflix escapist fantasy called Flaked. The show is set in Venice and centered on a guy named Chip who owns a store hawking hand crafted three legged stools of his own design, but has no apparent customers yet manages to stay afloat. Chip also lives rent-free by the beach and dates women half his age, and spends much of the first season perambulating around Venice on his bicycle, unencumbered by adult responsibilities like a monthly nut, or a business plan. Flaked, by objective measurement, is not a quality show. The verisimilitude problems are impossible to get beyond. But I binged on it as a secret vice, the way Mrs. U watches the housewife shows. Punching a clock in the Valley, who wouldn’t want to live the life of Chip?
The world is smaller than we think it is. Fate not long ago placed one of the Flaked co-stars not named Will Arnett in the backseat of my Uber and he would spend the ride home trying without success to court, Chip-like, a much younger female passenger. After she exited the car without yielding a number, he laughed about it with me. He agreed with my assessment of the show. The lie it was telling about Los Angeles was his livelihood. He couldn’t have been nicer or more gracious.
The real life Chip is more more athletic and better looking. Also un-entitled and self-effacing and responsible. As he packed up his store he found letters to his workers he never sent, some dated five years ago, listing all the reasons he could no longer keep it going. Owning a business is not like a regular job. You cant just flake. He employed 15 people and spent years working with the city to open up bike lanes and paths. Now he loads up on packets at the hamburger stand to take back to the RV as he waits to hear from unemployment. Ask him if he’s bitter and he says no. He’s put in his time in LA. The only thing he misses about it is being faster than every car on the road when riding his bike.