The end has come. After some 35 years of repairing Santa Monicans’ shoes, jackets and anything leather, and telling long wonderful stories in his Michoacán accent as thick as his gray hair, Ygnacio Alejandro Benevides Gaona (there: I finally got it right), el hefe of Alex’s Shoe Repair at 1921 Main St., is throwing in the towel. He’ll be locking the door on July 31. (So take him all your repairs, now! And pick them up, and pay him.)
He’s had health issues. A heart attack last fall that gifted him with the pacemaker under his chest skin, and a recent blocked intestine that hospitalized him. When I spoke with him by phone Tuesday he was in “the clinic,” waiting for some tests, but was not forthcoming with any further info.
He’s had legal issues. His landlord, who claims he’s 10 months behind on his rent (Alex agrees, with explanation), is making a second try at an eviction. He started out there 28 years ago at $900 a month and is now up to $2,000, but on Main, that’s cheap. The little place next door to him will become a barber shop, paying more than double that.
I spoke with the owner’s daughter, Debbie Fitusi, and she seemed forthcoming about the backstory, with nothing personally bad to say about Ygnacio, but claiming that having the rent (“We barely raised him, for 20 years”) on time was an issue for the last 10 years. She said they depend on that building’s income to pay for her 95-year-old mother’s 24/7 care after a stroke.
He’s had fire inspection issues. His last annual one warned he would finally have to make a couple of changes or be fined some $600 by last Friday. Alex said they have not returned, so far.
“Charles, I won’t be able to find anything!” he lamented. He said that of all his annual inspections, only this one was coming down hard. But I spoke with Fire Marshal Eric Binder, who said he was familiar with this case, and he said “it’s been going on for years and years” and they’d been giving Ygnacio “a lot of latitude, but it’s gotten worse and it is a significant safety hazard.”
I dunno. I did give myself a behind-the-counter tour last week and was a bit surprised at the volume and height, and it certainly is a fire hazard, but from in front of the counter it looks about the same, the whole 25-plus years I’ve been going to him.
But Alex has reached the end of his rope now, and last week decided to call it el fin. Many will sorely miss him. I sure will.
BLOOD ON THEIR HANDS
A strong accusation. Diluted by inappropriate use. It’s sometimes thrown about as a melodramatic way to make a point.
But there are Republican senators and representatives — most of them — who cannot dodge the bloody badge. Many in the GOP have for decades been ranting about the “gay agenda,” the gay threat to “the American way of life.” Family values, they intone. While getting caught in bathroom stalls. (Even the Speaker of the House, “a serial child molester.”) They have shown it in the discriminating legislation they propose, and the equalizing bills they block. Many agree it is an agenda fueled by strong religious beliefs.
The GOP crusade against gays is long and nasty. And now they have a presidential presumptive nominee who continues to urge his followers to commit violent acts against those who think differently. That same candidate, along with many Republican leaders, also implicates all followers of Islam (“a temporary ban”) as a threat, a strategy which is bound to create anger in the Muslim community both abroad and here at home.
Six months ago the GOP blocked a bill that would have denied the ability to buy guns to those on the FBI Terrorist Watch List. The Dems reintroduced it but the GOP blocked it again. You can’t fly on a plane, they said, but go ahead and buy all the AR-15s and truckloads of ammo that you want. Because, as part of “a well-regulated militia,” that’s your Second Amendment right. The Orlando murderer was on that watch list.
Add it all together and what do you get? The slaughter in Orlando. Don’t give me your thoughts and prayers, Marc Rubio and all you others.
There is blood on your hands.
HERE’S A QUESTION
If we have a housing crisis here in Santa Monica, a jobs/housing imbalance (because years of city councils approved massive office and retail projects without housing, but never mind); if to fight the worsening traffic we must build, build, build so much more housing here so people who work here won’t have to drive in and out every day — I guess that’s solved now that the light rail is here. Right? Build, build, build anywhere along the routes and people who work in Santa Monica can live there and hop on the train for work. There are plenty of places along the train corridors that are much less dense and with cheaper housing prices than Santa Monica. Whew. I’m glad that’s settled.
I love Big 5 but I hated opening Sunday’s paper and seeing their ad offering, on the front page, a pistol-grip pump shotgun with 5+1 capacity, and a John Wayne Peacemaker (!!) pistol — an air pistol yes, but let’s start them early. Eleven more rifles and pistols were offered inside, including another six-shot pump shotgun, a Marine tactical shotgun and an automatic rifle. One of the BB pistols is a Baretta, and Smith & Wesson offers an air rifle that looks authentic and dangerous enough, including a very large clip, to get you gunned down by police if you carried it on the street (well, if you were the wrong age and color). We do indeed have a gun culture in America, and it’s not healthy for children and other living things.
International Make Music Day is Tuesday, June 21. Go out to find our local musicians playing in the parks and other public places. I hope next year our city staff can offer the kind of promotion and support we see from so many other cities, like L.A. We have tons of talent residing in Santa Monica and as a city we should be supporting it, especially on this one day.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “The most interesting information comes from children, for they tell all they know and then stop.” —Mark Twain
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 email@example.com.