I’m a morning person, one of the people who can get up at 4:30 a.m. regularly, without an alarm clock, and by 4:35 a.m. be ready to hold a conversation, plan a ski trip or make breakfast for 20. I’ve never been that guy who can stay up to 2 a.m. and be all bright and shiny. In college, by 11 p.m. I was crashing for the night.
It’s not a moral issue. I’m not a living example of that old saw “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man … ” because I’m certainly not wealthy and I don’t feel particularly wise. I just wake up.
And I’m quite grateful for this early morning rising. Santa Monica is a different place at 5 a.m. while I’m walking my dog. We like to cruise through new neighborhoods and along the Third Street Promenade in the early morning solitude, just us and the quiet world, except for the cooing, cawing and crowing of the birds.
Santa Monica has so many different slices of life, and I get to see them when I expand the circle of my life. Lately the dog and I have been walking the promenade in the early morning hours. It’s such a different experience for both of us than the usual daytime mayhem.
The absence of crowds allows for a more enjoyable walking experience. For my pup it increases the odds of finding some dropped piece of a Wetzel’s Pretzel or the occasional pizza crust as we cruise by Stefano’s. For me the quiet that is the promenade at 5 a.m. is what astounds me. It is so peaceful and calm. It seems like I am in a movie where I’m the last man in the world.
As we walk along, there is the occasional camper who has staked out a piece of land for their nightly rest. They will stir as the sunlight begins to break, and then wake to the buzz and hum of the street sweeper as it makes its way up the promenade confiscating the pizza crusts that my dog hasn’t found.
We cruise over to Palisades Park where we get to do the dog meet-and-greet as I silently commune with all the other morning people. Most of the time we pass each other with a sly smile and a nod of the head, neither of us really wanting to engage in the phony social conversation that will be required in a few hours.
Mornings in the park have a reverence about them as dawn breaks to the east. People stop to look at the “rosy fingers of dawn,” as Homer the Greek poet would put it. This time of year there is still some cloud cover for the sun to paint and the flaming reds and vibrant pinks are exceptionally beautiful.
In the park are the regulars, the homeless who have made camp for the night under some palm tree. They simultaneously trigger twinges of compassion, gratitude and annoyance. I feel for people who have it so rough. I’m grateful that I have all that I do, and I’m annoyed that we as a society have let so many fall so far.
Many of those in the park are in need of assistance. Help in the form of medicine, regular psychiatric care and a good shower. It is a sad statement on what our country has come to, that we let so many of our countrymen go without, while we destroy and rebuild other countries.
At the city level there is only so much that we can do, and I understand that. Property taxes, sales taxes, business taxes, “rental fees” for the sidewalk cafes, these are all limited in how much the city can raise before they become regressive and there results in a drop in income, which would only serve to put more people out of work.
Even at the state level, there is a limit on how high taxes can go before businesses are shutting down and fleeing to safer havens. At the federal level, we could do more. I believe that the federal government could do more to help. But the homeless in the park don’t generally vote. They don’t generally make their needs known, and they don’t generally have staunch supporters.
On the one hand they don’t get many of the benefits of being a valued member of our society, on the other, they get to wake to the sounds of the morning birds, and have the rosy fingers of dawn as their alarm clock.
David Pisarra is a family law attorney focusing on father’s rights and men’s Issues in the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (310) 664-9969.