Two or three days a week I take off from yoga and “do” the Santa Monica stairs. I love the whole experience, beginning with the slightly uphill, 20-minute, warm-up bike ride from my house. Once I get to the stairs, I get off my bike quietly, lock it to the gate entrance railing (so convenient!) and start down. I immediately get into the endorphins.

So I don’t lose track, each time I get to the top I say loudly in my head, this is number one, this is two, three, four. I run the last section on the fifth. The bike ride home, slightly downhill along Ocean, is exhilarating. My brain is pleasantly mind fuzzed, and the wind drying off my sweaty body is delicious. It’s pleasure mixed with a tinge of guilt.

If it weren’t for the stairs, Adelaide Drive would be one of those real estate scores of the century. A cul-de-sac overlooking Santa Monica Canyon, with large, stunning homes. I’ve owned problematic real estate a couple of times. I’m sure many readers can relate. All real estate has some undesirable issue. But how many properties have an actual circus in their front yards 365 days a year?

The din and spectacle at the stairs is bad theatre that never stops (well, maybe in the dead of night). People pull up at 8 a.m., and many risk getting parking tickets by coming earlier. They are not content to just do the stairs. They bring free weights. People do push-ups on the curb. The workouts wrap all the way from the stairs down the street to the Fourth Street median. Sun salutations, boxing, handstands, jump rope. The actual stairs aren’t just people walking up and down. There are sprinters, one guy who carries two 111-pound kettledrums, parents with babies in carriers, too many people with teensy dogs and young kids (looking miserable), side-steppers, two-at-a-time steppers, buff elderly, and a dude who goes down those 170 stairs on his hands.

The irony is that these athletes are so disciplined with their bodies, but their mouths are out of control. All day, every day a toxic confection of noise jars what could be a tranquil experience. Mindless yackety-yack and locker room sports banter, juice fasting testimonials, (please, make at least that stop), people singing loudly off-key while listening to music from ear buds, trainers barking loudly and paramedics’ walkie talkies squawking cardiac arrest, congestive heart failure, man fallen and can’t get up.

Recently a group of celeb-looking guys with built bods decked out in brand new, weighted, designer athletic gear hung out in front of their rolled-off-the-lot Cadillac Escalade, talking really loud. Hmm, seems like you guys might have equally prime real estate where you could go and talk really loud and have your trainers yell at you.

You can tell that people are grateful for the stairs and there is a lot of laughing and having a good time there. I’m not trying to be a (Buddhist) nun with a ruler. I’m just saying that people live and have invested in homes there, and in the mindful community of Santa Monica it only seems fitting that people honor the privilege of having access to the stairs. If athletes have the kind of discipline you see at the stairs, they can definitely meet the challenge to shut up (in a Zen way), come and do their thing in silence. What about at least Friday, Saturday and Sunday so people in the neighborhood can have a break?


Nancy Deville

Santa Monica

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