On Fridays I have dinner with my friends Downtown. Usually we’re either at T’s Thai or P.F. Chang’s. Occasionally I can talk them into some place different, but it better be good Italian for that to happen. After dinner I end up walking down the Third Street Promenade to either catch the bus home or grab my car that I’ve left at the Loews Hotel after working out.

Friday nights on the promenade are an interesting mix of religious zealots, animal rights activists, performers and beggars. I imagine it’s what a televangelist on acid would experience.             

Some days there are the PETA people dressed in costume to mimic what a butcher does to animals. Other nights there may be a monkey on a leash picking up dollars. Almost always there is Louis with a grandiose display on why his church is the one and only way to salvation, along with a condemnation of all that is Islamic. Down the street there are usually one or two groups of Muslims giving away free Qurans, and steps from them, where the promenade meets Santa Monica Place, is a man with a microphone explaining why we are all sinners and going to burn in hell.              

The performers like to be up a block or two, away from the anger and hostilities that the evangelists breed. They tend to be in the middle block, where the acrobatic dancers perform gymnastic gyrations to the music of Michael Jackson. They compete with soulful crooners who are trying to break into the big leagues.

I enjoy the variety of acts, and the people watching is awesome. It reminds me of my time as a young man when I would go with a group of friends into San Francisco and we would explore Fisherman’s Wharf and Ghirardelli Square. The tourists from all over would be buying keychains and sweatshirts as they took in the stunning views and smells of life in “The City” as we call it.

Here we are not nearly as snobby. Perhaps it’s the beach culture that pervades our experiences, but generally Santa Monicans tend to be laid back and casual. This casualness is something that I have grown toward, but still not fully embraced. My pre-law days in Annapolis, Md. were certainly alcohol- and drug-laced, but I still wore wingtips to work at a law office. When I would go to the governor’s mansion I had to be dressed properly, even if all I was doing was dropping off documents, or more likely a package for the governor’s girlfriend.

I’m still a fairly formal guy since as a divorce and child custody lawyer I have to dress for court often. But I have my days of relaxed attire, especially a weekend like this past one, where it was 75 and gorgeous out. It’s appropriate to be walking the promenade in shorts and a T-shirt. And so long as the restaurants like Bravo Cucina or Yankee Doodles allow a person to come in to their establishment in a spaghetti strap T-shirt, like I saw yesterday at one location, life will be good. I don’t expect that they will tighten their dress codes any time soon, after all, they have monthly rents to pay that would choke small countries.

So if you are looking for something fun to do on a date or with your family that doesn’t cost a ton of money, I highly recommend the free Friday night show on the promenade. Or next weekend when it’s projected to be a brisk 60 and gorgeous, come on down and see some great performers. Maybe my buddy Josh Vietti, who’s been travelling the country, will be back and he’ll serenade you with his rocking pop violin.




 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 dpisarra@pisarra.com or (310) 664-9969.

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