Don’t you think I should have a new appellation? Mr. Walker? Street Wise? Asphalt Andrews? Chargin’ Charles? Block Buster?
I’m referring to my quest to walk every street in Santa Monica. I started Jan. 1 and have now marked my map 69 times with my big bunch of colored Sharpies. Looks like I’m maybe two-thirds done. I think I can finish by the end of the summer.
I sometimes get in a last-minute quickie “not by the map,” but after covering my own neighborhood in short order I started driving to other parts of town I hadn’t yet traversed, to walk for 40 to 80 minutes. I’m using the Bike Santa Monica map I picked up at the Main Street Farmers’ Market. Good map. My back pocket companion and friend. I love maps, of any kind.
Am I weird? I mean, for doing this. I can’t claim it as my own idea. I stole it from legendary long-time Santa Monica High School teacher Berkeley Blatz, who is now working on his third go-around. But since he walks both sides of the street (I don’t), that’s equivalent to six of my walkabouts. Whew. Looks like we’ll finally have our long-postponed get together, where I hope to pick up some pointers from The Master.
I have to give credit as well to other walkers in my life, for long-gestating inspiration. My neighbor Suzanne has been hoofing it for decades, and my friends Tom and Barbara are religious in their walking regimens. My wife’s family boasts some hard-core walkers, and she used to walk a lot — until she got her electric bike. (Diane’s always ahead of the curve. The Pope just got one too, from Mercedes, and who’s hipper than he?) Most of the friends we made in Europe on our recent year-long camping trip walk almost everywhere, and I had some memorable one- to two-hour solo walks.
I’m sure there have been others in my life, but I wasn’t paying attention. Or was intentionally blocking it out. My theme song since moving to L.A. in 1980: Missing Persons’ “Walking in L.A. (Nobody Walks in L.A.)” (1982). I’d drive five blocks to the grocery store, three to the basketball courts. But now, I’m one of them, the walkers.
It may surprise you to find out that the no-walking-in-L.A.-thing is history. A lingering myth. A National Household Travel Survey taken in 2009 and used by city planners estimated that 17 percent of all trips in Los Angeles County are made on foot. In fact, Los Angeles ranks just behind Portland in walkability, according to Walkscore.
Maybe in Santa Monica we’re walking more because it’s getting impossible to drive here in the new Manhattan. I was going to give you my report on the promising Pier concert last Thursday, but I wound up not going. The week before, I drove about half way and parked on the street and walked the rest and that worked out fine. This week I was going to hoof the whole distance but was running a little late so decided to repeat the previous week’s game plan, but, uh unh. The super slow slog block by block took so long, with zero results, that by the time I found even a metered space available I was back about eight blocks from home, and walking at that point would have got me in front of the stage after the first act finished (the Record Company was the band I most wanted to see) and just in time to wait an hour before Meshell Ndegeocello. No thanks. Too bad.
When I first started walking, I was amazed at what I discovered within a few blocks of my Ocean Park home, things you simply can’t see from behind the wheel of your speedy car. No, not a pet dinosaur reserve nor a miniature Taj Mahal, but some really interesting homes and gardens, businesses, cars and architecture, and of course the people along the way. When you slow down to a walk, you get a completely different image of even very familiar streets and neighborhoods.
From time to time I’ll offer glimpses and insights of the Santa Monica I’m discovering anew, after 27 years here. Maybe it will inspire others, and I’ll have to complain about the sidewalks being as bumper-to-bumper as the streets.
Bakery takes the cake
A few weeks ago I threw out a teaser about my favorite secret bakery, weighing my duty as a journalist against my desire to keep it for myself. OK, Tony Hillerman, the journalist wins out.
You’ve probably driven by it hundreds of times. I could barely find it on foot, with instructions from two people who had been there. They created my recent, fantastically delicious birthday cake. So impressive it was we went back for a refill on Father’s Day, and it was even better: the tall, small footprint, chocolate mousse cake was wrapped in a thick wall of dense, rich, dark chocolate, with shavings of same all over the top. I’ll take it either way.
As far as what I’ve tried there, that’s the main thing I would go to them for. A baguette of bread was good but not special, and went stale too quickly. Maybe a one-off. Their croissants are really good, but not such a cut above others in the area. That’s all I’ve tried. They are tiny and have very limited retail offerings each day. But if that cake — it’s the only cake they make — is it, it’s chocoholic heaven for me.
The Red Rooster is on the north side of Pico Boulevard, between 10th and 11th streets, open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sundays from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Their menu online is extensive, and I’m sure you can order all that ahead. You’ll have to special order the cake.
It’s the bakery set up to supply all the outlets of our famous restaurateur Bruce Marder, which is why their retail offerings are limited (but so good). They also supply a handful of other eateries; I found out those delicate, slightly crisp and yummy hamburger buns at Pono Burger come from here.
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.