My favorite store along Retro Row has to be the Hangout (2122 E. 4th St. Tel: 562- 676-6810. www.shopthehangout.com), a combination clothing store, café, home goods emporium, men’s barber shop and nursery. The place is a perfect ten on the hipster scale (they even have swings inside the shop), and the product curation is fantastic. I’m back on my scooter moments later, but a few blocks down the road am slamming the brakes when I pass plantbased vegan ice cream shop Hug Life (2707 E. 4th St. Tel: 562-343-5991. www.huglifeicecream.com). I decide to beat summer’s sweltering heat (which in coastal Long Beach is only 77 degrees) with a scoop of mango chamay ice cream in a cup, but of course I also sample flavors like Thai Tea and Green Goblin. Yum!
I continue aboard my scooter all the way until I reach the neighborhood of Naples which actually consists of three islands (including an island within an island) that spill into Alamitos Bay. Not only does Bay Shore Avenue boast a legit packed beach, but Naples is famous for its nod to Italy including ritzy homes crafted in Italianate style and romantic gondola rides through the narrow canals ringing the islands and steered by gondoliers in striped shirts.
Using Naples as my turnaround point, I start slowly making my way back downtown via 2nd Avenue which cuts right through Belmont Shores, the most happening ‘hood in Long Beach. I arrive in Belmont Shores at that magic Southland hour when the sun is waving goodbye to the West Coast en route to Asia and Southern Californians pull on their hoodies to beat back the “chilly” temps. The restaurants, student bars, cafes, skate shops and clothing stores along 2nd Avenue are buzzing. I see two silver foxes dining al fresco at casual New American eatery Saint & Second (4828 E. 2nd St. Tel: 562-433-4828. www.saintandsecond.com), and young people cramming into gatropub Simmzy’s (5271 E. 2nd St. Tel: 562-439-5590. www.simmzys.com). I end up seated at the bar at Roe Seafood (5374 E. 2nd St. Tel: 562-546-7110. www.roeseafood.com) where I snack on fish tacos, bacon-wrapped mahi, and a phenomenal seafood chowder. Two stools down from me, a nattily dressed daddy is spoon feeding his twink boyfriend a shrimp ceviche.
My nighttime ride back to downtown takes me past Ocean Boulevard, a ritzy, waterfront-facing street anchored by Villa Riviera (800 E. Ocean Blvd. Tel: 562-437-6703), a registered historic French Gothic condo building where Liz Taylor once lived. Clark Gable and Rock Hudson had mansions on this strip as well. As I zoom toward downtown where a pre-bar disco nap awaits, I spy the Queensway Bridge lit up in Pride colors (it’s n ot even Pride Month). I love this town!
Pro tip: Take a ride share to the bars. I t’s a given that you don’t want to drink and drive, but a parking spot near the gay bars is harder to find than a WeHo top. Mineshaft (1720 E. Broadway. Tel: 562- 436-2433) is slamming tonight. Did they round up the cute men of Long Beach (and more than a few hot lesbians) just for my sake? On the box, a glistening go-go boy in army fatigue briefs, a harness and chun ky glasses wiggles his booty while the middle of the bar is taken up by two pool tables, one of which is lorded over by a s h a rply dress ed trans w om an w h o appears to be handily whipping her opponen ts. I love this bar; this is definitely one shaft I’d go down again and again.
At The Brit (1744 E Broadway. Tel: 562- 432-9742. www.thebritbarlb.com), a queer bar that wears its Anglophile affectations on its sleeve (picture a red phone booth, Union Jack flag, and a framed portrait of the Queen), I meet Andrew and it’s infatuation at first sight. Andrew pays way too much attention to me (a sign I’m definitely no longer in LA) and it’s appropriate that a song by the Killers is playing because he’s killing my heart. Bartender flirtations are meaningless, but who cares. Between gazing into Andrew’s pretty eyes and jukebox jams by the likes of Madonna, Scissor Sisters and Robyn, I declare this bar another winner and decide to call it a night.