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Blood is thicker than traffic as family awaits in Venice

Chris Erskine's obstacle course to Venice Beach

So, I'm stuck in Saturday traffic, just trying to keep it together. One of the measures in "quality of life" surveys ought to be how much time you spend with your foot on the brake pedal versus the gas. Because right now I'm about to stomp the brake pedal through the floor of the family minivan.

I'm on the 10, which used to be a freeway but more and more resembles a sketchy back alley. Incremental movement. Buttocks cramping. The little guy and I are on the way to meet his cousins, visiting from Chicago. They wanted to be by the beach, so our older daughter suggested Venice. That's convenient.

Why not London? Why not Prague? Because Eastern Europe would be more convenient.

To make matters worse, I am surrounded by Priuses, which are helmed by the worst drivers ever. Like L.A. mayors, Prius drivers always seem to be a bad cocktail of tentative and confused.

We have just entered a sea of them here on the 10, which explains in part why traffic is so slow. But it's Saturday, a marvelous one, and everyone apparently is headed for the balmy breezes of Venice Beach, the land that God forgot.

"Things can't always be perfect, Dad," the little guy says, trying to be encouraging.

"You're right, buddy. But this is sooooooo far from perfect."

Heavy sigh. Long day. Up at 6 to drag the baseball field, where I argued with some stranger who, despite the leash law, insisted on letting her dog run loose on the freshly groomed infield. Coulda killed her, had every right, but I took the high road and not-so-politely requested she not break the law and let her galloping gelding — one of those goofy too-big poodles — perform spin-moves on the perfect infield, which I got up at 6 a.m. to carefully prepare.

The only thing keeping me from an assault charge? My personal pledge to always take dignity to the highest level possible.

Highlight: When the dog owner's caffeinated little friend chimed in to defend the rights of the too-big poodle. It's moments like this I live for.

After that came the baseball game, then errands to pick up a few items for my visiting sister. Oh, and the engine oil was a little low, so we took care of that as well ... one thing after another after another.

By the time we hit the road at 3, I'm pretty whipped, pre-whipped, but looking forward to spending an evening by the sea with my baby sis and her family. A different kind of place, Venice, full of tattoo artists and shaggy skateboarders. Always think of it as the perfect setting for a dystopian revenge fantasy.

If only we could get there.

Now, in a perfect world, sarcasm would come in little yellow packets you could pour in your coffee. Hope would come in little pink ones. On any given morning, you'd have your choice: hope or sarcasm. Some days you might have both.

And I think that's what we've found here in Venice: just the right mix of hope and sarcasm, life's twin balms.

Insane, this beach traffic. Not a parking spot in sight. After circling for 40 minutes, we decide to drop the car in Santa Monica and Uber over to Venice. Only my Uber app tells me it needs an upgrade ... now ... the old app won't budge.

"Dad, gimme," the little guy says, taking over the phone.

It's moments like this I live for.

The Uber finally arrives and all is good, until midway through the ride our driver says: "Oh, someone canceled your trip," which means my lovely and patient daughter. She and I share an Uber account that she pays (long story). And while in Colombia for a friend's wedding, she has just canceled my Uber ride, thinking someone has hacked the account.

You have no idea how happy this makes me.

By now, the Uber — a Prius, of course — is sardined in stopped traffic anyway, so I drop some cash on the driver and the little guy and I jump out to hoof it toward the beach.

Have you ever tried that in Venice? It's a fetching place for a stroll, hemmed in by an ornery ocean on one side and 5 million sweaty people on the other. Given that, it seems to live a charmed and mildly intoxicating existence.

Hugs, hugs and more hugs — we haven't seen my sister and her family in ages. A little at a time, their vacation becomes our vacation, the mood lightens, thoughts of poodles, traffic and broken Uber accounts begin to dissipate.

Yep, their visit becomes our visit. And, like chirpy relatives in a mob movie, off we all go for dinner.

Next week: The $1-million sushi bill.

PART 2: Blood is thicker than traffic as family awaits in Venice

chris.erskine@latimes.com

Twitter: @erskinetimes

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