Magic In The Air

There are days when I wake up and my first thought is: the beach. And that pretty much settles it. Sometime before dark, I’ll be walking the sand. Feet in the water. Looking for rocks. The rhythmic crash of the surf in my ears. Warm sun and a cool breeze on my face. The only decision to be made is which beach to hit.

Well, it’s all just one endless beach, really. From border to border: Mexico to Canada. But each stretch of LA sand has its own vibe, creatures and scenery. There’s Dockweiler State Beach which spreads out under the end of the LAX runways (here’s an earlier post on Dockweiler)… or Venice Beach with its skaters, tourists and muscle boys + girls (Just Add Water)… there’s Santa Monica with its pier and a ribbon of concrete “boardwalk” winding through the sand, past the beach volleyball courts (where that game was invented)… and there’s Malibu, which is fun to do when friends visit: lunch on the seaside deck at the Malibu Beach Inn, and then a stroll along the platinum sands of Carbon Beach. Massive postcode envy.

Yesterday, it was Santa Monica. I was aiming for Will Rogers State Beach (see Essential Ingredients), on the northern end of SaMo – but I was daydreaming and missed the turnoff for that parking area. Continuing on PCH, I pulled in to one of the next lots, at the Annenberg Beach House (–which needs its own future post). As I stepped onto the sand, I saw a sign celebrating the Beach House’s 5th anniversary. Fun was being had. There were colorful flags and banners flapping in the constant sea breeze.


And then, I looked up.



Wow! KITES! But not just any old kites. These were amazingly creative… unique… and huge! They formed an airborne armada, flying in formation above the Beach House, the boardwalk and the beach volleyball courts. I started snapping pictures wildly, but a bit blindly. It was one of those days with bright sunshine behind me, with high wispy clouds overhead, when trying to see the camera screen through my (non-prescription) sunglasses is a constant struggle. So all I’ve got to share here are some not-so-great photos of these truly great kites.

I put more distance between myself and the kites, trying to capture the spectacle of all these ghosts and birds and ribbons and animals in the sky… and eventually I was drawn away, down the beach, by the gravitational pull of the water.

A couple of hours later I made my way back to the Beach House. There was a sudden lull in the onshore breeze, like a power failure. And the kites began losing altitude, especially the bigger ones.


That was the first time I realized that people weren’t flying these kites – each one was tethered to a heavy sand bag on the beach. A giant insect was falling out of the sky right in front of me, so I did what I haven’t done in a very, very long time: I grabbed the kite’s string and pulled on it until it had regained some loft. And let me tell you: a kite’s string is a time machine that takes you straight back to your childhood!

I was doing pretty well with it, too. But then the giant insect got tangled up with a giant something else, and they crashed to the sand. I tried freeing the kites from this indignity, but they were too big for one person to maneuver. I wondered, Who do these kites belong to, and where are they?! The answer to my question appeared in the form of a woman with a great gray scarf tied around her neck, who let me know in the nicest way that while she appreciated my help–she would not mind at all if I stepped away from her kites.

I struck up a conversation with the kite lady, who is Melanie Walker from Colorado. She and her partner-in-kites, George Peters, made many of the flying artworks gracing the skies of Santa Monica yesterday. (I think it was an ‘invitational regatta’ as part of the Beach House’s 5th anniversary celebration.) While we were talking, some kids came up and asked if they could fly some kites. Melanie let them down easy. Honestly, I had completely forgotten the kids-and-kites link. It’s powerful. Anyhoo… turns out that Melanie and George are artists of some renown and partners in Airworks Studio – which creates sculpture, architecture and other public art installations in addition to these spectacular kites. I learned all of this only after I got home and Googled “Melanie Walker”. I borrowed their photo of the kites against the blue sky (above), because I wasn’t able to get a very good shot of ‘the whole enchilada’. (A click on that photo will take you to the Airworks Studio website.)

Here are the snaps I shot of these kites. Melanie told me a few of the names… others I found on the website… and the ones marked with an asterisk I just made up.

KatMan.DotMan.UnknownMan^ Top-to-bottom: Kat Man, Grinning Man* and Dot Man


^ Kat Man


^ Dot Man.
Or, as Melanie referred to him in yesterday’s failing winds, Crash Man.


^ Sky Birds and Bee*


^ Dress Kite – High Fashion
Melanie Walker’s creation and the loveliest kite in the sky.

^ Sea Turtle* and Eel*


^ Sky Birds soaring with High Fashion


^ And here’s Bug Man*, who fell to earth on my watch – but he introduced me to Melanie. To give you an idea of scale, those people on the volleyball court at lower right are not far away. And my photos only hint at the vibrant colors and absolute magic of these kites!


^ Kites flying in formation above these banners in the sand
– part of a colorful, fluttering installation that is aptly called Wind Garden.

What a great afternoon. I left the beach and took the Incline, which gets you from the sea-level PCH up to Santa Monica at the top of the Palisades. As I waited for the light to change at the top, I glanced in my side mirror and was reminded for the millionth time that day what I love about living here.

mirror image

The End (so far)


  1. Those are some stunning kites. They made me think of Dr.Seuss, then Tim Burton and Keith Haring, that kind of world, a bit scary but irresistably wonderful. Gorgeous photos, Steve, at a beautiful place on a beautiful day!


  2. Steve – another great job that made me feel as though I was there. The colors and the artistry that you captured reminded of NOTHING from my childhood kite flying except perhaps the strings. Thank you for sharing.


    1. Thanks, Chris. These kites were as far removed from those I flew as a kid as a stealth bomber is from a paper airplane. But it’s all in the strings, I guess. Hey – let’s fly a kite down in Newport this summer!


  3. Absolutely ACE post, Steve ! – I cold feel your retrospective joy, I swear. And your pic.s ain’t too shabby, you must know: just perhaps not sufficiently WIDE. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I will. But I can’t see it happening. That was just a man deriving absolute joy from sumpn linking him with his childhood. However, I think I must be a tad less nice than you, as I would probably have said something very rude to whatsherface …

        Liked by 1 person

        1. No, Melanie really was very sweet. And those kites are incredible works of art. No harm, no foul. But you still might be a tad less nice than me. 🙂


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