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On Thursday evening, feeling parched and unnerved by the last hot breath of the Santa Ana winds, we decided to take a nice drive down to Venice Beach.

It was either that or revel in the air conditioning at the Hollywood YMCA, perspiring under blasts of cool air while pedaling a stationary bike through the muraled walls depicting the Hollywood Boulevard scene just up the street. It was still too smoky for an actual bike ride past the real faux-Egyptian and faux-Babylonian structures of Hollywood Boulevard. Malibu also seemed too potentially smoky. But the real outdoors seemed compelling, and as for the exercise - well, when asked recently to list his favorite exercise, our great-uncle responded "walking." He's still quite spry at 86, so maybe he's onto something.

We arrived on the Venice boardwalk for a 5:30 pm stroll. The winds were still warm, but the haze looked milky, full of ocean mist rather than wood smoke. We strolled along, munching a slice of pizza and then an ice cream cone, looking out over the gray ocean and watching passersby and street performers. Teenaged boys zoomed by on bikes. Locals walked dogs two at a time, a leash in each hand. Tourists photographed each other. A street performer played the guitar while two waifish women who looked like they had spent a lot of time on the beach or at outdoor festivals starting with Woodstock tried to think of songs befitting the mood of the day. "Come on baby, light my fire!" "Ring of Fire!" Then, as the guitarist strummed, they leapt about, singing, "I fell into a burning ring of fire." We inhaled the salty, bracing ocean air, turned back along the boardwalk, and felt calm and in tune with Johnny and June Carter Cash's old love song, reminded of why we fell in love with Los Angeles in the first place.