CURIOUS CITY— THEY USED TO SAY, LONG AGO, THAT YOU DON’T TALK IN PUBLIC ABOUT SEX OR RELIGION. Maybe also politics. You didn’t want to take a chance on your standing in the community, or revealing too much about yourself.

Boy howdy has that changed. Now we are awash in the cult of Me. Forget 15 minutes of fame, we’ll take 15 seconds, and reveal anything and everything about ourselves to get it. “Trending” is the new heaven.

The mid-’60s came along and the public obsession with sex exploded, and hasn’t yet reached its … well, peak. Politics got pretty heated too, and now we’re bombarded with it 24/7. In between the sex programs and sex commercials, that is. (I still don’t understand how matching, separate bathtubs are a prelude to getting it on. What happened to showering together, especially during a drought? That’s not a bad pick-up line, you know, altruistic and all.)

Poor old religion is bringing up the rear, making the news and getting talked about but too often for the wrong reasons by the wrong people, who seem to recall only selected parts of their holy books. I mean, really, what kind of god would create some of its children gay then hate them for it? Or treat half the population like chattel? That’s a mean trick! Some would cite scripture to tell you the Prince of Peace today would be a card-carrying NRA guy. I have my doubts.

But what about here in Santa Monica? We like to think we’re a thoughtful, socially responsible and moral lot, progressive, compassionate. Do we go to church/temple/mosque?

I don’t think we go to mosque, in Santa Monica, because I couldn’t find any listed. But we have a lot of other choices, somewhere between 55 to 80 plus houses of worship within our borders, 7 to 10 per square mile. Pretty good, I’d say, for Hedonism by the Sea.

Christian Science, Soka Gakkai, First African Methodist Episcopal, Bahai, Salvation Army, Coptic Orthodox, Chabad House, Latter-Day Saints (Mormon), Pentecostal, Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Friends (Quaker), Buddhist, Scientology, Unitarian Universalist and more.

When I go (not often) I jump in my car for the short drive to Culver City, to Agape, the most rockin’ “church” you can find this side of the Mississippi Delta. Do I go only for the music (Stevie Wonder, Ben Vereen, the 100-voice choir, and a stream of kickass soulful performers of every stripe)? — well, partly, but more for the message, an intellectual amalgam of wisdom through the ages. I’ve taken atheist friends who dug it. I started going 27 years ago when it was just starting, in the basement of the Miramar hotel, and followed it as it grew and moved.

But my Ocean Park neighborhood is rife with spiritual opportunities. More often, these days, I’ll walk a couple of blocks to the Church in Ocean Park, at Hill and Second. It was re-opened in 1973 by Rev. Jim Conn (mayor in the mid-’80s), whose social activist background transformed not only that United Methodist church but, many say, all of Santa Monica, not the progressive bastion in the early ’70s that it is now.

The church has no altar, pews, prayer books or hymnals, but music has always been an important part of the mix. I dropped in one evening and who should show up and perform but Ry Cooder. They have a monthly music showcase called Sanctuary, a great resource where people of all ages can hear or perform good original music, alcohol-free and no cover charge. An exceptional folk singer named Tom Brosseau has adopted Sanctuary and usually performs there when he’s not on tour. The acoustics in the wood-paneled, high ceiling room are to die for.

Last Sunday was Massage Sunday, three tables/massage chairs going during and after the service. You heard me. Now that, is a ministry, body and soul. Rev. Janet Goilery McKeithen is following Jim Conn’s path and expanding it.

Mt. Olive Lutheran, up Ocean Park from me, is also an interesting place, big on music (Interfaith Jazz, Classical Series), occasional home to the Santa Monica Democratic Club, and repository of the fought-over Nativity displays. I should visit Bob Dylan’s synagogue (he doesn’t just go there, he owns it), next door to his coffee shop on Colorado, and I’ve been told they dress up and swing a heartfelt service at the Phillips Chapel “By the Sea” at Bay and Fourth. I might have to hit all the houses of the holy, along with my second round of walking every street. (Or … not.)

SPEAKING OF GOOD MUSIC, AND A GOOD HEART — you don’t often find that mix at your neighborhood dive bar, but that’s what Lincoln Boulevard icon/former eyesore The Trip has become.

Hard to say how long it’s been there. The bar, under various names — the Bitter Red Head, Big John’s, Nocturnal Bar, the Loop — and sundry paint jobs (some pretty off-putting), has been around maybe 50-60 years, guesses current owner Jon Stevenson. “I grew up here, went to Samohi, and it was old then,” he told me. “I remember them always having live music, but it was never known for that.”

It is now. I’ve lived in the neighborhood for nearly 30 years and would drop in very occasionally and never once heard a band that was worth staying for. Until a couple of years ago. Stevenson said John De Coster took over four years ago and started booking decent bands. Stevenson and his partner Hans Goplen, business consultants (Capo, Broadway Deli, Cora’s, Wally’s), bought it in October of 2013 and continued that emphasis but also made cosmetic changes to make it more appealing.

Check their calendar for some good recurring acts, but dropping in anytime is likely to prove rewarding. Oh, the heart part?

My wife took a bad spill on her bike nearby, and limped in to get some ice for her bad boo-boos. A bar’s got ice, right? Not one that’s only wine and beer. But while manager Shane poured her a bit of Irish tea from his thermos and sympathized, Stevenson sent someone down the block to buy a bag of ice. He didn’t need ice, but she did. I love this town.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “And in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make.” – JL-PM

Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for almost 30 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. You can reach him at

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