We've been enjoying the weekend in true weekend fashion, especially those of us who didn't have to work any of it at all. But even Leah had plenty of time to enjoy. The highlights:
1. I thought I'd seen alot of people on Santa Monica beach before, but when I went down there on Saturday afternoon, why, I was just amazed. It was quite warm--not to say hot--and sunny, and it was staggering to see how many people were out there. Especially since most of them were clustered towards the pier and the parking lot, so when I came over bridge to where I could first see the beach I couldn't believe it. And when I got down there I couldn't even find a place to sit: it took four or five minutes walk before I got to a spot where the crowd cleared out some (admittedly, I was walking rather slow).
2. We went up to Corral Canyon or Solstice Canyon or whatever it's called this afternoon, to go visit the waterfall there and take pictures and bathe ourselves the waterfall's life-giving coolness, because it was sure hot everywhere else. It still is, in fact. But we found the only cool place in the entire greater LA area and spent a very enjoyable couple hours there. And there wasn't crowded at all, though Pacific Coast Highway on the way back was a different story altogether.
Actually, no one could call what it blew today cold, but it was pleasantly cool at least, especially in comparison with yesterday, when it was too hot to live. It was also too hot to turn on the computer most of the day, and apparently into the evening as well. Both days I tried to escape the heat by running to the beach (not litterally running, of course), and even today the coldness of the water was much appreciated, even only up to my ankles. Actually, more like up to my knees, but the plan was for ankles only. Just a few waves caught me a bit by suprise. My phone doesn't seem to have taken any damage, however.
I know not all the audience appreciates my constant discussions of weather, but it sure was hot yesterday. How hot was it? It was so hot... I mean. I asked Leah, 'You know what it's too hot to do today?' But she knows me too well, and instead of asking 'what?' as per the script, she prempted my punch line by saying, 'Anything!' But she was right, too.
The Red Sox finally won another game today, and the weather cooled down nicely. Things are good again. Also, we got the first fresh corn of the season from the Farmers Market, and ate it for dinner, and it was delicious. Well, in the interest of truth I have to confess that it might not be the absolute first; for all they know they have corn all year round here. But I never particularly noticed it before, and like they say, if you've never seen it it's new to you.
The date of our big move back east is rapidly approaching, and we're not quite sure that we're ready. That is, ready both physically, in terms of packing and things, and mentally, cause there's a whole lot of nice things going on here that we'll miss. The Farmers Market is one of them, and the beach is another. Those are my top two anyways; Leah has others, but maybe she'll want to write them herself.
So the problem with living someplace people go for vacation--and I mean real vacations, not tours to see the historical sites--is that it's nice out all the time. When you're on vacation that's what you're looking for; you'd even be unhappy if one of your precious days were spoiled by rain or ugly people. But while that's fine for four days or a week or whatever, it's less wonderful to those of us who are stuck here for a longer time-span. All those gray damp days in Massachusetts? Give you time to relax and unwind!
What I mean to say is, beauty, in weather and surroundings, demands to be enjoyed. If you're not enjoying it, you're wasting it and wasting your opportunities! 79 degree weather with a nice breeze off the ocean? How come you're not at the beach?! Driving up PCH with the sun setting orange over the ocean (and/or mountains, depending upon the curves of the road)? You can't just drive along on your ordinary way, you have to be actively soaking up that beauty! Oohing and ahing is practially required.
And it's hard to keep up for extended periods of time. You feel bad for not spending the nice days outdoors, or else (and this describes the long-time LA hands) you expect everything to be beautiful all the time and ignore it most of the time. Now that's not a proper attitude towards beauty, is it? Our New England forefathers teach us the beauty has to be suffered for! Doled out in measured doses and appreciated ('are you appreciating? I don't see you appreciating!) to the last drop. Otherwise how do we ever deserve it?! I'm enjoying it as much as I can, me, but it will be a relief to get back to the land of the puritans, where folks think more like I do.
Which is to say, today was a nice day.
The nicest times of day here are morning and evening. The air is cool and calm, and the calm and cool lets the smell of the flowers come through the strongest, and they sure smell nice. There are a bunch of kinds around, but so far as I can tell the type that scents the air so wonderfully is a sort of ground cover with small white blossoms. The middle of the day can be nice too, but it gets awful hot in the sun, and the wind gets up every day; while that makes things sometimes fun and interesting, it isn't the same sort of pleasant.
The other thing you see in the morning is folks watering their plants, which I guess is needed if you want to keep all those flowers in bloom. But I was just noticing this morning, man do they water. You forget you're in a desert to see the emerald lawns everybody keeps up between the street and their sidewalk, and the hedges and flowering shrubs blossoming hither and yon; but all of this topiary is reliant on water pumped in from, oh, thousands of miles away. And they spray it out like it's nothing: at least now, in the spring, I see people watering far more vigerously and unconcernedly than I ever noticed back in Massachusetts. Of course, it also doesn't rain here, so that may be a factor... but still.
That's not to say, though, that it isn't nice to walk down the sidewalk between a freshly watered lawn and a dripping wet flowering hedge, morning or evening; and since I'm leaving soon and won't have to be around for the water shortages and droughts I don't mind a bit.
Since today was Saturday downtown Santa Monica was packed with humans and cars; more so than usual, even, because it was quite a nice day indeed. All sorts of musicians were also out playing, but there was one missing: one fewer than there should have been. I know because I found out today the sad news that James Mitchell Jr, a singer and guitar player, died in March. Now I didn't know him at all, except to listen to him play a bunch of times and think his was about the best public music in town, so I can't claim to be personally affected, but it's still a sad story. He was only just short of his 62nd birthday, so he should have had lots more years of music-making.
His partner Mel, who joined him on electric guitar (Mr. Mitchell played rhythm on the acoustic), is still playing on Saturdays and it was him who told me the sad news. I have two of James Mitchell's albums, so let me know if you want to hear a track or two; or buy one of them for yourself from this site.
So after all these days of going to the beach, I finally brought my swimsuit and went in the water, and I had an ever so fun time. It wasn't what you'd call warm out, but since before swimming I'd biked, oh, some number miles on the path along the back beach I was ready to be cold. And the water wasn't that bad at all, once I got used to it. Best of all there were very nice waves; most of them were breaking further out than I dared to go, but even after they broke they were coming in three feet high or so (the big ones anyways) so they were still great for riding. So that's what I did. I had a fun time. I want to go back tomorrow.
One other thing worth commenting on: I didn't notice on the way down to the water, but as I was heading for home I couldn't help but note that the beach is filthy with trash. All those millions of people sunning and swimming all weekend left enough rubbish that, now that it's been distributed evenly by the wind, there's a large section of beach with a piece of trash about every two feet or so, in a two-dimensional grid. But luckily all the trash down by the waterline got washed out to sea or something, so no one has to look at it when they're swimming.
Also, a final note: we have sharks gathering offshore here in Santa Monica. Folks saw a couple of them off Will Rogers beach, where I biked to but didn't go in the water there; but I'm sure they make their way down to the Santa Monica city beach too from time to time. But that's not why I didn't dare to go in deeper. The five or six foot waves and the unknown power of the undertow was enough for that.
Today I went swimming and watched baseball under the palm trees and ate fresh strawberries straight from the farmer's truck (I didn't actually take them off the truck myself, but I bought them at the Farmers Market so close enough). There was a brass band playing on the Promenade when I drove by, and I could have stopped and listened; I would have except all the dirty dishes from dinner were still out all over the place. I bought that band's recording the other day, though, so that's alright.
So nobody'd better say there aren't things I'm going to miss about this place. There are tons, and maybe later I'll write em all down. Topping the list, though, are clearly beach, Market and street music (or at least, the ten percent of street music that's not... horrible). And the beach is first.
We're going to need to change the title of this blog by the time I get to post next, because--for the time being anyways--we're leaving California. All our furniture is already packed up and gone, and Leah's just now taking off to fly back east and start training for her new job. I took one last trip to the Farmers Market and one last look at the beach, and now all that's left is to clean up and load up the car for the next adventure, driving it back across the country.
We're not done with California: I still have lots of stories to tell about this place, and we can't imagine not coming back at some point. But for now, this is it.
In summary: a little bit sad about the place I'm leaving, a little bit glad about the place I'm going. And no new entries for a week, probably.