ARE WE ABOUT TO LOSE FACE ON MAIN STREET?
It’s a face you don’t forget.
“I’m ugly, and now I’m old, but the ladies still come in and make a fuss,” Ignacio told me in 2013 when I profiled him and his funky Alex’s Shoe Repair shop on the north end of Main Street. Nearly 40 years in Ocean Park, he began just around the corner, up Pico, south of Samohi, in the ’70s.
I would dispute the ugly – it’s a face with a lot of character – and the old, since he’s younger than I am. He’s a family man so the ladies’ man claim is made with a twinkle in his eye. But that’s what you get from Alex besides expert leatherwork: great stories, told in his thick Michoacán accent. Almost as thick as his enviable head of hair. Oh, that hair. Maybe that’s what gets the ladies.
His baptism name is Ignacio Alejandro Benevides Corona (“too long to sign on a check,” he chuckled), but he goes by Alex – also because that’s easier for gringos to pronounce, he admitted with a slight smile.
Jack Neworth wrote a column Dec. 26 on Ignacio’s eviction plight, of which I was unaware. He had a court appearance date Jan. 5 but when he showed up he found out the hearing had been continued. Nobody told him. Maybe he’s got a great lawyer (but I don’t think he can afford Perry Mason), or maybe he needs a local high-minded hot shot specializing in landlord-commercial tenant law who’s willing to go pro bono and who has a passion to save a Santa Monica institution.
I know, business is business. Main Street is gentrifying like a tsunami of money hit it. It’s the peril of capitalism, to become obsolete. But can’t we do better here in our small enclave of Santa Monica? Can’t we have rules that sometimes favor history, tradition and real working people, over the “progress” offered by big bucks and shiny new storefronts everywhere?
Ignacio’s 40 years of hard, dedicated, quality work at one business, and his large loyal following, reminds me of some of the employees of the half-century old Norm’s that was at Lincoln and Colorado. They got tossed aside because our zoning and other regs did not allow for a thriving business with a history that was valuable to so many Santa Monicans to remain, when there was an out-of-state developer offering millions for the site.
Why would anyone be able to pony up $13.5 million for that Norm’s? Because we would allow them to build a five-story, 78,000 square foot retail-residential development worth a whole lot more than that. Can’t blame Norm’s or the developer. That’s on us. And the City leaders we elected.
Ignacio laments that none of his four sons are interested in taking over the business. He’s not getting rich, that’s for sure. But he planned to keep working there as long as he could, and lock it up only when retirement inevitably came, which can’t be too far off. There must be a way to keep him in business, or we’re all the poorer for it.
I would urge his friends, loyal customers and anyone interested in preserving some of the real community benefits of Santa Monica to drop me an email (address at bottom of column) saying why Alex’s Shoe Repair needs to remain in place on Main Street, what a great asset to our town he is, how long you’ve been going to him, etc, and I’ll collect them and see that he gets them. It might help. Thanks.
SUCH LOVE FOR THAT FREAK DAVID BOWIE!
Why? I’ve been asking myself, and others, of all ages. I was taken aback at the magnitude of the outpouring after his unexpected death Sunday.
But pleased and comforted by it, since I’ve been an ardent admirer since Space Oddity, his second LP. I found many people named an album or especially a song in particular that touched them, often profoundly.
I’ll never forget that moment I learned of his passing, immediately shocked and saddened when I read the news late at night on Facebook. This one did not appear to be a hoax. I read that social media exploded with 20,000 tributes per minute just afterward.
A most extraordinary life, ended extraordinarily. It seems almost no one outside immediate family and his longtime producer and friend Tony Visconti knew he had been battling cancer, and losing, for 18 months. Even longtime friend and collaborator Brian Eno said he had exchanged pleasant, funny emails with Bowie a week before his death, and hadn’t a clue.
Visconti knew because he produced Bowie’s final album, “Blackstar,” recorded in three sessions in early 2015 but delayed for release until the end; as it turned out, on his 69th birthday, two days before he died.
I used to think I had a pretty unusual and musically awesome way of celebrating most of my birthdays since ’81, with my infamous magical mystery tour club crawls (no, nothing like the drunken excursions that sometimes go by a similar name). Mine were all about music. But nothing tops Bowie’s last birthday. Nothing, ever, in the world of art. Visconti said it was intended as a gift to his fans.
Bowie had a different image of himself than most would imagine. He said he felt he was a mediocre musician, but rather an artist who used music as a vehicle. So many considered him such an innovator but he proudly considered himself a thief, stealing ideas and personae and trying them on until they fit him just right. That was his genius. Every artist “steals.” There are only so many notes in the universe. Bowie was the Master Thief. We’ll never see his like again, I’m afraid. You must watch his final video, “Lazarus.” Chilling. Perhaps, his greatest work of all.
Few really stayed on board for his entire ride. He went through so many changes. That’s why the vast numbers of people he touched, I think. He wasn’t just a rocker or an actor or a dance king or tech prophet. He strained at the very limits of gravity. He was in a way really not of this earth. A starman. For the ages.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Fame itself … doesn’t really afford you anything more than a good seat in a restaurant.” – David Bowie
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 30 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. You can reach him at email@example.com