As 2015 winds down, I am aware that Santa Monica has made great progress in becoming a city of the future, moving from our past of sleepy surf town to super popular shopping destination. We’ll soon have a Metro station that delivers the big city to us, and us to the big city — Los Angeles.
The years of traffic snarls as construction trucks drop off materials and equipment are coming to an end, and one hopes that there will be an increase in movability about town and city. The curmudgeon in me, and many of my friends, is skeptical about the future of the city — but that is more from a sense of nostalgia than reality.
I remember when The Boulangerie was still in operation and the development plans were being circulated and there was mass disgust at the loss of a landmark, and the ensuing retail and residential building monstrosity, as it was often called, was being debated. Today the building that occupies Main Street between Bay and Bicknell is home to very popular restaurants, M Street and Stella Barra pizza, a beauty salon, and new residents.
Nostalgia is a powerful emotion; it recolors the past, deleting the parts we don’t like or want to remember, and leaving us with only feelings and foggy memories of what once was. When we give in to it, and we all do at times, there is a strange sense of comfort that comes with the memories.
Whether we want to or not, we all recolor our history. We do it to ease the pain of time lost, and to make the present pains sting less. But the truth is, except for a few notable years during wars, the present is generally better than the past.
I am a fan of the past, I love music from the ’30s and ’40s, I adore art deco design and think that some of the most beautiful buildings in the world were designed and built in that era. Since I’m only 49, I don’t have any personal knowledge of what life was like then, but I know some things. Ice was not readily available. Neither were phones or elevators. Indoor plumbing was available but not universal, as in fact it still isn’t. Air conditioning was not even a thought.
On the other hand, people dressed more formally. Manners and morals were focused more on the community than the individual as they are today. Politeness was valued. But so was racism, xenophobia, being judgmental, acting and looking superior to others for purely superficial reasons.
Today we have elevators that take us 50, 60 or even 100 floors up in buildings that were inconceivable 80 years ago. Saudi Arabia has announced plans to build a tower that is a kilometer tall; that’s 3,280 feet in the air. The technology to do that is astounding.
I am in Mexico at the moment and I have friends in England and Dubai that I have been regularly communicating with by Skype, cell phone and email. This column is being written as I overlook Lake Chapala on a laptop that will wirelessly email it to my editor. When I Skype with my friend in Dubai we use video that allows us to speak and see each other, as if we were in the same room.
Last week I recorded a podcast with Jared Easley, via Skype. He was in Florida, I was in Mexico, and it will be available globally when I release it on iTunes through my website on MensFamilyLaw.com. I am shooting videos this week that will teach men about family law for free on my website.
I communicate with men from across the globe, literally daily. I receive emails from men in Australia, South Africa, and Russia who found me via the internet. My books are sold all over the world from Peoria to Punjab. This could not happen in the 30s or the 40s without great expense, effort and not nearly as great distribution or ease of access by the common man.
The past is glorious, because we RE-create it that way. The future is always better than we can imagine, because our vision is limited by our single-mindedness, but collectively there are many more possibilities seen and built.
As the year winds down, let’s enjoy the nostalgia of what was, and be mindful of the greatness of what will be.
David Pisarra is a Los Angeles divorce and child custody lawyer specializing in fathers’ and men’s rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 310-664-9969. You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra.