HOORAY FOR THANKSGIVING!
For so many reasons. Family. Turkey. Health. Hoops (Lakers, Bruins, and my own miserable playground game). Peace. Sunny skies. Freedom. Mashed potatoes and gravy (that’s my girl).
And right in front of me — the opportunity, with this column, to dispel the myth that I am a curmudgeon, Negative Nellie, no-growth NIMBY whiner, fatalist cynic Santa Monica hater. I am not any of those things.
No indeed, I love Santa Monica and I love everybody. Everybody. Honest. Just ask God. But I rail against some of the very bad things those good people do.
Charles! I often hear — Why don’t you write about all the good things happening here? To read your CURIOUS CITY column, one would think Santa Monica is hell on earth.
Have you ever heard the journalism maxim: Dog bites man, not news, but man bites dog… Many of those good things about our wonderful beach city do make it onto the pages of the Santa Monica Daily Press, the paper of record for the last 20 years. But newspaper columns, especially politically oriented ones, are not made for cheerleading so much as the opportunity to expose the hidden, denied, dark underbelly of society, to try by exposure to right the wrongs. It’s not pretty work but somebody’s got to do it. (Thank you, Bill Bauer.)
SO MUCH STILL TO LOVE ABOUT SM
Tree lined residential thoroughfares (but we do need more green space), from the wide streets north of Montana to cozy Sunset Park. With many historic, century-old homes, north to south.
Palisades Park! What a gift, from our founding fathers. The view of the outstretched ocean, the unique landscaping. Not many like it in the world.
Our beach! What a beach! Wide and long, stretching as far as the eye can see. You could ride your bike the whole way, Malibu to Palos Verdes. The whole world comes to experience it. I don’t myself visit the water’s edge that often but when I do I love it, and it is always there, my front yard sandbox. Every time I drive home, up over the Ocean Park hill from Lincoln, I get a glimpse of that infinite blue Pacific, and I am thankful for that in my life.
Palm trees! I know they aren’t native but I love them. What wondrous creatures, stretching so tall and thin like green feather-topped sticks curving way up to the sky. Our little 10-unit condo grouping in Ocean Park is named Twin Palms, but we now have half a dozen.
After 40 years in LA I still remark to neighbors when I go outside to greet another gorgeous day, as though I just moved here, “I love LA.” Of course Santa Monica often has the morning layer but it burns off and out comes the sun, glorious sun. Having no air conditioning in both my home and my car is no big deal, in Santa Monica.
Many of us here, unlike in other areas of our sprawling megalopolis, feel part of a community, and I love living in such a place, that has a sense of place. And such a rich history, although many are not aware of it. Amateur local historians like Richard Orton and Marty Liboff do their best to inform and enlighten us. I’m thankful for them. In all areas of life, the more you know about what’s around you, the more you can appreciate it.
My daily walks have gotten away from traversing each and every street in SM — I did that once, inspired by the great Samohi teacher Berkeley Blatz, and almost twice before COVID hit. It’s such a great way to get a very different sense of Santa Monica, from the sidewalks. So now I stick close to home, and Ocean Park is a fine neighborhood to walk. It’s artsy, kind of funky. A strong sense of community. Scads of good coffee joints (a lot more, pre-COVID). Terrific restaurants, Michelin starred, no less.
The fascinating array of shops on Main Street though is rapidly disappearing, so get it while you can. Different and even unique, like jAdis gizmo shop. And we even still have St. Matthew’s Thrift Shop, a treasure, with the sky-high rents on Main Street. The 4th of July Main Street Parade!! Never miss it! Though all the concrete blocks and “parklettes” now clogging the street may make it impossible next July.
For a Gelson’s down the hill (bye bye), Vons, now 8-10 minutes up the Wall of Lincoln, and bye bye too), and Ralph’s just a zip up the freeway and Olympic. Just over the south border, we have a 99 Cent Only store still thriving next to an upscale Whole Foods. Go figure.
We have lost a lot of longtime, cherished mom and pop businesses, like Alex’s Shoe Repair, Lincoln Auto Electric and Vidiots, but we still have Bay Cities Italian Deli, so popular they cause traffic problems on Lincoln, and Sam Wong’s Precision Sound Service on Pico just off Lincoln (down the alley, hard to spot). Sam is an expert and a perfectionist who can tackle any electronic device, at reasonable prices. Sam emigrated from China as a kid many decades ago, and has some great stories.
I wish there were more venues here. We have such a great history. At My Place is sorely missed, the Ash Grove had a short reincarnation on the Pier, and of course we miss the decades of incredible summer concerts on the Pier.
Years ago, before my time here, there was the Aragon Ballroom hosting big name big bands, country sing gentlemen Bob Wills and Spade Cooley (well, Spade did murder his wife and died in prison), and later was home to the Lawrence Welk Orchestra. It became, from 1967-70, the amazing Cheetah Club, hosting all the big names in rock from the Doors to the Dead, Pink Floyd, Alice Cooper, Jefferson Airplane. (Marty Liboff did a painstakingly researched, complete documentation of everyone who played there, in the Free Venice Beachhead newspaper.)
But our rich tradition of live music is not just history, it continues, and I am so thankful for it! McCabe’s will be coming back the first of the year with more intimate, live acoustic concerts, notably Janis Ian on her End of the Line Tour in March. If you want to blow your music mind, go to their site and click on past concerts. Mercy!
And Harvelle’s, about whom I write frequently because they have so many excellent shows, of such variety, seven nights a week. They have been operating on Fourth Street for 90 years. Go.
Living in SM gives you easy access to a new venue, Venice West, booking some really good acts, just over the border on Lincoln. A short drive to LAX will give you superb jazz in a beautiful small room at Sam First. And don’t forget the nearby Cinema Bar, Culver City’s tiny country-Americana room with live music seven nights, no cover and cheap drinks.
I’m so thankful for the provocative theater that comes out of the Ruskin Theatre Group at the airport, and their monthly Library Girl spoken word series, so inspiring and valuable.
There is much more I’m thankful for about Santa Monica, but I guess I’ll just have to wait until next year.
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 email@example.com