I have a soft spot for Santa Monica. In 2011, after the last MLA interview I’ll ever do, Tony and I celebrated his Sunday birthday by getting a bus from downtown LA, where we were staying at the Biltmore, to Santa Monica. The bus, which was beautifully shiny and new, cost about a dollar, and took an hour or so, winding through Beverly Hills, Rodeo Drive, and past all kinds of shiny monumental buildings, before letting us out by the sea. It was cold then, but not cruelly so, and we walked along the waterfront and the pier – I seem to remember we bumped into one of my former Columbia students, incongruous in his sweatshirt among his childhood friends, who did a double take on seeing me too. One of my favorite photos of T and me, me in a black coat and red lipstick, we took here amid the birds of paradise.
We walked along the pier and bought tacky Route 66 fridge magnets, and I thought about the end of that road and how unimaginably beautiful this place was, and yet how relatively unassuming, a little faded, unafraid of the places where it was showing its age. Dinner was at the supremely cheesy Mexican restaurant at the end of the pier, sitting outside near the fire pit, serenaded by Mariachis, but of course even the mediocre, tourist-trap Mexican places in LA have cold beer, outstandingly fresh guacamole, and do what they do well.
On this trip we went back to Santa Monica for only a couple of hours before flying home, and I realized how deeply it had touched me although it was only, again, a brief visit. I insisted we go, instead of lazing around the beach house in Orange County where we’d been staying the weekend, and I couldn’t explain why–just said, trust me. The houses are pink and blue.
This time we walked along the pier with our friends, and part of it was under construction– the guys working seemed to be having a pretty good time under the blazing blue sky, laying planks down, waving at the kids. California. We ate lunch at the Misfit, a glorious place, with an interior (the patio too hot) of vast high ceilings, dark, lit by globed lights, leather seats, a towering mirrored bar stocked with excellent whiskies, a cheerful dispenser of obvious but excellent kale salads, tuna burgers, cocktails for five dollars in a happy hour that lasted all afternoon.
I get it, California.