That cherished Muir Woods Mural, an iconic part of the fabric of our city for more than 40 years, could this week get the death sentence, tossed aside for “something new.”

Or, almost over, a successful six-year fight to save it, and then the exciting planning for restoring it through repainting, with all the unique teaching opportunities, the beginning of a new era that would speak volumes about what Santa Monica really values — art, the environment, our history, a city run for the benefit of residents, not outside interests. Are we really progressive, inclusive, good world citizens, or is that just lip service for politicians’ resumes, when you look at our record?

I’ll get back to it, but first I feel compelled to write what’s in my heart, heavy in my heart.


As I ruminate and write this on Monday, inevitably it will become less immediate by the time you read it Wednesday. But when we have genuine moments of insight and clarity that touch our hearts and souls, I think it’s important to preserve them, like fossils in amber.

Sunday was quite a day for me. Feeling the pressure of an unusual workload, I nonetheless committed to an important family dinner across town for my nephew Joseph, returning on the US Navy aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln from a tense 10 months in an unstable Middle East situation. I had also committed to the LA Philharmonic performance that afternoon, of a Beethoven program, featuring the renowned pianist Emanuel Ax.

And then that morning came the hard to believe news that Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter and others had perished in a helicopter crash. As anyone might suspect who knows me as a hardcore, decades-long Lakers fan and a sports fan who pays attention only to basketball, it was devastating, as it was for so many others. My Facebook credo has always been, “Music is life, basketball explains it.” No, I won’t try to explain that to you but it makes perfect sense to me.

I certainly did not expect all those elements — family, music, basketball, the fleeting preciousness of life — to intersect in the middle of the Piano Concerto #3.


The great Beethoven generally avoided them but this program was all minor keys. I wasn’t thinking of that as I sat enthralled through the powerful opening Carolan Overture, nor as the grand piano was wheeled out for the Concerto, and out strode the venerable Ax (thank God his surname didn’t persuade him to take up the electric guitar instead).

I remained enthralled through the first movement, then shortly into the second, the Largo (large, broad, slow, stately), Ax struck a single note that struck me deeply, intimately. It was so sad, that note. And then I listened carefully to the slow continuation of the largo and it felt like an elegy, that day, an elegy for Kobe. Such poignancy.

(If you think I’m overdoing this sentimentality for an athlete I never met, I won’t offer a long defense but will point out that I am not alone, especially in LA, and even around the globe. In so many ways he was much, much more than simply one of the greatest basketball players ever.)


With a new consciousness I heard the music move from the deep aching sadness of loss to build slowly to a more hopeful realization that an extraordinary life reverberates past its corporeal end.

And then… I realized this was also singing an elegy to me of my departed son Chris, gone two years now. Both men were intense, focused, hard workers, perfectionists to a fault always seeking better ways, unshakeable in their moral beliefs, in their desire to do more, to do large things for the world at large, and both were prickly at times, full of big smiles and beloved but not always liked or even likable. Our heroes are always flawed.

When you lose someone, their essence clarifies and remains, who they really were in their life lived, beyond successes and failures. If the greatest part of their life was positive and perhaps even heroic, that carries forward and inspires those left behind. Overall, was he someone who stuck to his principles and did his best to leave a better world? Yes, they both did.


Write to your School Board (they have the power of yea or nay on that mural so be nice, be persuasive), at, and show up at the community meetings, Thursday evening at 7 at SMC, Student Services Center, 1900 Pico, for a discussion of public art with the mural’s artist, Jane Golden; moderated by Mike Myers and Phil Brock of our Arts Commission. Then Saturday morning 2/1, 10-noon, there will be a final forum to hear community input, at the mural site at 721 Ocean Park Blvd., and Lincoln. Both are important to attend if you are intent on saving this mural.

And ask yourself: who loves this mural, and who could hate it? What is so compelling about disappearing it? Who stands to benefit? Who loses?

Speak up now or say your farewells to a remarkable 41-year resident of Ocean Park.

Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 34 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *