So now that I’ve righted all that was wrong with the basketball courts of Santa Monica, I can serenely retreat to my recliner chair for my favorite month of all: March, as in Madness. Yes, I’m one of those who will turn on the TV at 9 a.m. and still be there 12 hours later, a smile on my face, a glaze over my eyes, and 16 games under my belt, four days running.
No need to fear for my physical health. (Mental? — that’s another question.) I value my walking regimen I began on Jan. 1 too much to abandon it even for a few days, so I hit the sidewalks early, before the first tip-off.
One of the good things I learned on my family’s recent year-long camping trip across Europe and North Africa was the many values of long walks. I took a lot of 30-minute to two-hour walks there, saw and experienced a lot I never would have otherwise, and became convinced it was a key element of my dropping 30 pounds. Wanting to continue once I got back to Santa Monica, I knew I would get bored always walking the same blocks surrounding our home, delightful as I consider my Ocean Park neighborhood.
So I stole an idea from one of my daughter’s most influential teachers at Santa Monica High School, Mr. Berkeley Blatz. Mr. Blatz is known for many things, one of them being his crusade to walk every street in Santa Monica. No need to speculate as to whether he’ll succeed or not, I believe he’s on his fifth or sixth go-around.
Because I would like to do a profile on this Santa Monica pedagogical institution sometime before he decides that diving deep into his second quarter century teaching at the school his father attended before him is enough for any man or institution, I contacted him. He wouldn’t immediately agree to an interview, citing his well-known penchant for “keeping a low profile,” but we chatted about a few things and of course one of them was walking the streets of Santa Monica.
There are no rules, of course, but the man known for it has some guidelines.
“You have to hit every street,” he declared unequivocally. “The ones around the airport. The ones down at the beach.”
Yes, of course, I agreed.
“No alleyways,” he pronounced. “I don’t do alleys.”
I’m with him there.
“I go up one side of the street, then down the other,” he added.
OK, now we’re parting ways, because I feel I’ve walked the street if I’ve been down it one time. We agreed to take our separate paths on that one. Then I realized that when he says he’s walked all the streets of Santa Monica, he’s walked almost twice as far as I will have. Sheesh.
We agreed to get together later over a coffee and discuss it more. Why does he do it? What does he gain? I don’t yet know. He has a standing offer that if any student encounters him on one of his walks and waves and identifies him, they get extra credit in his class. Odd? You should hear some of the other ways students earn extra credit in his class. I will tell you in a later column about this outstanding teacher in this Curious City.
What do I get out of it, besides the exercise? I had no preconceptions before I just dove into it. I hoped I wouldn’t burn out from boredom. I haven’t. I feel I’ve already had a semester’s worth of observation education on architecture and landscaping, at least. Not to mention the characters, and the cars, and the businesses I’ve seen close up that you would zip right past in a car, or even on a bike. I’ll pass along some observations from time to time.
Since I’ve spent my entire adult life commenting on music, with friends, in print, on radio and TV, online, I won’t be able to stay away from that in this column. It’s the better part of my life. It defines my life, really, and that’s a very good thing. There is so much great and interesting live music available in L.A. that I’ll try to share that with you, with an emphasis on what’s available here in Santa Monica.
The Santa Monica Pier’s Twilight Concert Series is the crown jewel, one of the very best things about life in L.A. during the summer. Not what they used to be, but still offering gems.
McCabe’s is an institution, offering shows over the decades you couldn’t find anywhere else. Harvelle’s has been serving up great blues and other genres for decades, still does. And a stroll down the Third Street Promenade can sometimes be a musical delight — sometimes.
New places to hear live music are always popping up. Take, for example, Raw Star Café, next to Vidiots on Pico, where the old Flying Saucer used to be. A tiny narrow place, but even before it was the Flying Saucer they had live performers, wedged in a corner, off and on over the decades. Now (shameless wife promotion) they have music from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturdays, from Diane Michelle, international touring jazz vocalist, and her daughter Nicole. Lots of folk and pop chestnuts from the 1960s and ’70s. No cover charge. They also offer excellent, creative and yummy raw food dishes. (I thought I’d never write those words, but it’s true.)
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 27 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.