Multiculturalism in Santa Monica is what makes us special, and life here so exciting. You can’t go across the street without bumping into someone of a different culture.
For example, Friday night I was taking the Big Blue Bus to the Third Street Promenade where I was going to have dinner with my heterosexual friends at T’s Thai. On the bus ride down, there was a gaggle of girls who looked to be in high school. They were speaking in some Asian language that I couldn’t identify. There was also a skinny little white boy rockin’ out on his iPod as he drummed on his skateboard, an elderly black couple, and me.
Dinner at T’s Thai is a staple in my life. Consistency is a great stabilizing force in my life, and almost every Friday night I meet up with Paul and we get caught up on the week’s insanity. We are both entrepreneurs, so for us, the weekly catch-up is like what I imagine most people do on a daily basis around a water cooler at work.
It’s important to make contact with people and have a connection in this world to keep you grounded and also to help you fly. Some Fridays I go in and after a hard week of arguing with other divorce or family law attorneys, I have to just spill my guts at how gross it all can be. Other weeks, he’s sharing about a problem at work. Often times we help each other find solutions because he sees things from a different perspective, and vice versa.
After dinner, as I was walking down the promenade checking out the usual suspects of religious zealots, musicians, and political protesters, I marveled at the diversity. Between the two Bible thumpers was the Islamic Student Group giving away free Qurans. I was reminded of a bar mitzvah I had recently attended at a very conservative temple. I was there because one of the parents is an old high school friend. Our table was an exercise in religious and cultural diversity.
My friend, the young man’s mother, is a flaming liberal feminist Democrat, there were her equally Democratic parents, me the religious-mutt-gay man, a single woman and a very moderate Islamic couple whose son is best friends with the celebrant. Looking around the table I was amused at the level of diversity. Of course the conversation eventually turned to religious practices and the differences between Judaism and Islam. The husband was expounding on the nature of his religion, in between quips from his wife, and as he related a laundry list of similarities, I thought to myself, “Judaism and Islam are two religions separated by a common ideology.”
It is that type of mashup of people and cultures that adds to each group’s understanding of each other. The exchange of perspectives is what creates peaceful, respectful awareness of another’s experience.
Having the opportunities on a daily basis to come in contact with those of another culture, or belief system, is what gives our city, and our state, the flavor it does. On Saturday I walked into Norm’s for breakfast and ran into my friend George. George is a black man who, as he puts it, “got out of Indiana as soon as possible” to experience more of the world. He’s seen a huge swath of the world, thanks to his time in the Air Force and his life travels, but he keeps coming back to Santa Monica. We spent about an hour chatting about why this city is our home. For him, it too was the melting pot factor.
George is a photographer, and he’s beginning a new project about the people of Los Angeles, and it’s the wonderful diversity that will make his project a success. As we were enjoying our endless cup of coffee, the parade of people in and out of Norm’s was like a character review from Cirque du Soleil. But they were just the regular locals. That’s why I love this place, and occasionally I wonder how I appear to the other locals, and what my zaniness seems like to them.
But in the end, it doesn’t really matter because we have room for it all: Jewish, Muslim, Christian, straight, gay, questioning, white, black, Asian, Latino. We all fit in this wacky city.
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 email@example.com or (310) 664-9969.