It’s something I’ve had some adventures with.

Up until college I had really good vision. I tested 20/10 in grade school, when 20/20 was very good. I could discern the itty-bitty letters on the eye chart that were two lines past 20/20, and some on the third line. Oh, yeah.

Then Jane Fonda came to town, in May of 1970, to support the anti-war demonstrators at UNM in Albuquerque. But I can’t really blame Jane. We were going to have that march down Central Avenue anyway.

This was just four days after the National Guard killings at Kent State University (“Four dead in Ohio”), but unless you lived through that time, it’s probably just a footnote in ‘70s American history to you. But history was yet to be written, and the unthinkable seemed possible, at that moment. Revolution was in the air.

LBJ had been forced out over Vietnam, but Nixon escalated by invading and bombing Cambodia. At Kent State the National Guard opened fire on protesting students (and others), killing four and wounding nine (one was permanently paralyzed). This is crazy! The only nationwide student strike in our history ensued, with some 4,000,000 students at least partially shutting down 450 colleges. Bet you didn’t know that, or remember.

Five days later 100,000 people marched and rioted in Washington and the president was hustled out of town for his safety. “The city was an armed camp,” declared Nixon’s chief speechwriter Ray Price, “[it was] civil war.” Ten days later two students were killed and 12 wounded by police under similar circumstances at Jackson State University in Mississippi.



On May 8, 1970 it got up close and personal for me, as the acting governor called out the New Mexico National Guard. They were ordered to not load live ammunition, but were sent in to disperse the students with drawn bayonets, which are sharp as razors. Poking at people, they managed to stab 11, including a fellow student newspaper reporter, and a TV news cameraman – the bayonet missed his aorta by a quarter inch.

I was covering the march down Central Avenue to the federal building for the student newspaper, the Daily Lobo. The march went by Albuquerque High School, and the ROTC instructor there advised his students to “stop those dirty hippie Commie protesters.” They hurled huge rocks from the median high into the air, willy-nilly toward the peaceful marchers. Standing to one side to observe, I caught one square in the right eye.

Amazingly, I fell only to one knee before being grabbed on each arm by volunteer off-duty medics from the local military base (think on that) and dragged straight to an ambulance. When I inquired about the state of my eye, I knew I was in trouble when the medic did a lousy job of lying.

My surgeon, fresh from three years in Nam, said he had never seen a harder blow to an eye. I lost more than 50 percent vision in that eye but have since then considered it more an annoyance than a handicap. One eye’s enough.

But about six years ago I developed macular degeneration (and wrote about it), which makes glaucoma (which I also have) look like vacation. In my one good eye, of course. It’s incurable, a time bomb ticking on the edge of darkness. Lately I’ve jumped a stage to where all straight lines, peripherally, look bent. Forget about hitting those 90 mile per hour fastballs now. (I’m not looking for sympathy, I just think this is a good story.)

So I think about vision, but lately when I hear that word I think about it in a different way.



I was chatting recently with two neighbors I had never met, about why they declined to sign the LUVE initiative. “That’s no way to run a city government!” said he, and I agreed. But we’ve been forced to this point, I countered. His wife later appeared and agreed with him.

Somehow, Pam O’Connor’s name came up and he said, “We know Pam quite well, and Terry O’Day, and they’re not the bad people you may imagine them to be,” he said. “They just have a different vision of Santa Monica than you do.”

Recently someone I would deem a development propagandist (who insists on calling himself a journalist – Pravda, anyone?) quoted economist Paul Krugman as saying, “Limits on building height, in particular, prevent us from making more use of the most efficient public transit system yet invented – the elevator.” That sure sounds like a high-rise vision of Santa Monica to me.

Sometimes the clues are subtle. A Downtown activist recently posted an idyllic photo of happy children riding their bikes at the edge of streets filled with pedestrians, no cars in sight. A quote equates “many children [as] a sure sign of city quality.” But you could not see how tall the buildings were in this photo, to enable this urban scene. The notion that building more housing will bring down prices, a maxim of the higher-and-bigger crowd, I believe is patently absurd. We have an affordability crisis, not a housing crisis.

I used to see many “on the other side” as bought and paid for, with money, power or prestige. But now I’m inclined to think it’s 99 percent a difference of vision. As my neighbors said, they’re good people. But as we talk about the DCP and other guidelines determining our future, we must consider the vision of those we’re negotiating with, and judge whether there really is any room for them to move (so to speak).

I will always fault Obama for not realizing after six months that the GOP was not going to give an inch on anything. He could have accomplished so much more if he had.Take note.

MUSIC NOTES: Tonight! 7 p.m. Tune in ( to Nights At The Sound Table, a really fun forum of “people who love music, talking about the thing they love.” This month I return to the show, along with daughter Nicole. Find out our “favorite one-hit wonder of the ‘80s,” and much more!


QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Trapped in a box of tremendous size/It distorts my vision, it closes my eyes/Attracts filthy flies and pollutes in the skies/It sucks up our lives and proliferates lies/Trapped in a box.” – No Doubt

Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 30 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at