Hall of Fame catcher (and amateur philosopher) Yogi Berra, once complained about a neighborhood restaurant, “It’s gotten so crowded lately that no one goes there anymore.” That’s pretty much how I feel about Santa Monica in the summer.
A perfect example is the Twilight Dance Series on the Santa Monica Pier. Last week, a personal hero, Joan Baez appeared there. Apparently she’s the hero of half of Santa Monica because there was a huge line to get in. You’d think they were giving it away. Actually they were, as the concerts are free.
I was with friends Bruno and Robin, the three of us being what I affectionately call the “AARP Mod Squad.” Bruno is Linc, not black but tall and tan. Robin is Julie, not blond but thin. And I would be Pete, whom I’m not sure ever worked again (nothing like referring to a 40-year-old TV show to attract a youth demographic).
We were in line for about 20 minutes without moving an inch. It felt like we were at the DMV. Finally, I went up to the front and was informed that the fire marshal wasn’t allowing anyone in until others left. “Bummer” as they used to say on the “Squad.” Offsetting our disappointment, however, in line nearby, was Graham Nash, which was very cool.
We could hear Joan singing but couldn’t see her. I suggested that we circle behind the stage for an improved vantage point. We did but while we could now see Joan we couldn’t hear her. Linc, I mean Bruno, proposed that we walk down to the sand in the hope that we could get a better view. Brilliant idea … in theory.
Amidst a beautiful sea of candles, there must have been 500 people on the sand, picnicking like a poor man’s Hollywood Bowl. Judging from the plumes of pungent smoke wafting in the air, I’m guessing 499 were enjoying pot. (I’m not complaining, mind you.) Everyone was laughing, chatting and having the munchies. But the concert felt like background music for getting high and eating Doritos, both of which beat standing in line.
So, a bit forlorn, we mid-life Mod Squaders trudged home, grumbling about how overcrowded Santa Monica has become. (Also wondering how great Joan and Graham looked as opposed to us. OK, maybe that was just me.) By the way, I discovered the sound system for Baez’s concert was dreadful. So, in a schadenfreude moment, I didn’t feel so bad having missed out.
Also crowded in the summer, especially on the weekends, is the beach. One pleasant change, iPods have replaced boom boxes. However, every other person has a cell phone, even little kids. It’s downright weird.
Also, why do people on cell phones talk so much louder than normal? It reminds me of my late Aunt Sadie who used to shout when on a long distance call. As a kid I overlooked it because she made killer stuffed cabbage.
My noise pet peeve on the beach are the police four-wheel ATV vehicles which are not only noisy but gas fume-stinky. But Chief Jackman, whose opinion I respect, insists they’re necessary to protect the millions of beach visitors we get each summer. Sometimes, however, when the ATVs are cruising the beach and helicopters are buzzing in the sky, it feels like a scene out of “Apocalypse Now.”
When the noise gets to be too much, I usually return to the solitude of my apartment building pool. Solitude? If the beach is “Apocalypse Now,” these days our pool is like a Chevy Chase “Vacation” movie. Everyone has cell phones and Blackberrys, texting and twittering, desperate to share vital information, like the horror of tan lines.
With all the kids playing Marco Polo, the pool noise can be worse than the beach. And management doesn’t send security to monitor the mayhem. But at least there’s no four-wheel ATVs. Not yet.
Part of the problem is that the Shores rents out a significant number of units to Oakwood Worldwide. (“The most trusted name in temporary housing”). Oakwood sub-lets to international vacationers for 30 days (though many families have told me they’re only here for a week). So of course they’re noisy. That’s what you do on a vacation!
Undercover, a la Woodward or Bernstein, I called Oakwood. Fully furnished, (including dishes and maid service, which might explain why the washing machines are always busy) two-bedrooms run $7,150, 1-bedrooms $6,000 or “$200 a day.” I asked why the “daily” quote and was told so I could compare it to hotel rates. Great! For nine months a year I live in an apartment building, but summertime it’s a hotel (and without a bed tax).
Reminiscing about years past, I recall lying by the pool, leisurely reading a good book. I still can, but now I need earplugs.
When he’s not avoiding cell phones at the beach or the pool, Jack can be reached at Jackneworth@yahoo.com.