santa monica

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)

[069] Old Dog, New Tricks

I celebrated my 52nd birthday today under a big, blue sky in Santa Monica with my very dear friend, Lisë… who reminded me that the last time we were together on my birthday, I was 19. And it’s like we’re stuck in a timewarp. Haven’t aged an hour. Weird.



A day of firsts! including my very own henna tattoo, courtesy of Rozine at the Mindful Nest booth. I wanted to keep it simple on this initial foray into body art, so I chose a peace sign on my inner wrist. And why not? We’re both from the 60s. Photo on left is of the design with the henna paste still drying… Photo on right is next day, with all the henna flaked off and just the stained design on my wrist.

Henna tattoos are cool. You should get one.

And my first “personal” poetry slam… While Lisë was having her henna tattoo done (an intricate design of the Hebrew letters for her three kids’ names), I went back to the car to drop off some market finds (fruits & cheeses) and feed the meter. On my way back into the market, I bumped into Seamas (“Make sure you spell it with -as”) Navarro (“That’s with two Rs”), who introduced himself as a Beat poet. He asked me if I like poetry (yes) and did I want him to perform a 30-second poem (please) and he let me know that we was working his way from LA to Crestline, Colorado. It was a very soft sell. I told him I had $7 in my wallet and it was his – if I liked his poem, and could video him for my blog. Done deal. Et voilà:

Then Lisë steered me to my first raw food encounter at the extraordinary RAWVOLUTION



RAWvolution – NO dairy in these yummy desserts!

I wish I had taken food porn pix of the dishes we ordered before we tore into them. The two of us shared the California Crunch rolls (think large maki rolls), pad thai and a ‘burger’. Remember, this is totally vegan and totally raw. No meat, no dairy, nothing with a face, and no cooking. I’m a total noob, and couldn’t even pretend to understand what I was eating or how it was made. Lisë was a good guide, as she is (a) a foodie / food writer, and (b) a fan of veggie/vegan/raw. And Rawvolution knocked her hemp socks off! (She didn’t really have on hemp socks. I don’t think…)

But can I just tell you? It was amazingly delicious! And so inventive. The raw version of bacon is coconut jerky. Yum. Coconut water and milk and meat are used in many dishes, many ways to provide sweetness and/or texture. Whatever was (or wasn’t) in the ‘burger’ patty was awesome. The pad thai dish was so creatively done. But I could eat a thousand of the California Crunch rolls and never tire of them. They’re big, and messy to eat and soooooo goood! As with many other cuisines, god lives in the sauces. And let me just wrap this up by saying the peach cake/pie which is made with (I think) frozen coconut-milk yogurt and a graham cracker (ish) crust and fresh peaches… Sell my soul, I’ve gone to heaven! On a 1-10 scale, it was a 437. I can’t wait to go back, with either a vegan friend or another uninitiated type like me. Rawvolution is such a nice surprise, all around. If you’re in a hurry, wait till you’re not. This is not fast food, and the whole vibe in the room says sit and savor.

These five or six blocks centered on Main Street and Ocean Park is Santa Monica’s version of Abbott Kinney (which is just next door in Venice). It’s funky and fab and edging toward upscale with bars and restaurants, an Urth Cafe and some great shops and galleries… but it’s fighting to ‘keep it real’ in all the right ways.

Here are some other snaps I shot along the way on this beautiful day.


This ballerina-with-clown-head
adorns a CVS on Lincoln (or was it Main?)
and it somehow escapes being creepy.

I’m lying. It’s the king of creepy.

I have a hard time not photographing flowers and trees and skies.

Because it’s all just so ugly.





daisies.samo  parkinglot.bougainvillea.samo  greentree.bluesky

It was a good day to grow a tiny bit older. Thank you, Lisë!

Here are a few more recommendations I can happily make to you: – Rozine does parties and weddings!

Garcia Organic Farm – You have got to find Leticia Garcia and her organic treasures at the Sunday farmers market in Ocean Park. They offer fruits you have never seen or tasted, all grown in North County (San Diego).

Mindful Nest – Contemporary Artisan Gallery on Main Street (

Stansbury Collection – custom furniture store with extraordinary art on display… or is it an amazing art gallery with beautiful furniture?? Yes. They have a large framed grainy black-and-white photo of Malibu Pier from 1962 that I covet. And you can’t believe the images from Devil’s Churn on the Oregon coast, where the surf looks like heavy cream whipped to a frothy delight. I wish I could remember the name of the photographer… (


Day 069 #100happydays

[043] An Unmet Sunset

Yesterday, I tormented a friend (who is soldiering through the frozen misery of winter in New England) by mentioning my plans for a late-afternoon stroll on the beach to catch the sunset. I promised photos. (Note to self: Never torment a witch.) It was sunny and bright when I left West Hollywood, only to turn grayer and darker as I cruised down Sunset Blvd toward the sea, until this:

samo clouds

I was hoping for a last-minute save by Mother Nature. It would have been awesome if the sun dropped down into the ocean and set the underside of the clouds on fire! But this was not to be. Instead, it looked like someone kicked a leg out from under the cloud cover, sending its northern edge crashing down into Malibu. Run! beach celebs! Run!

moody sky

It was at this point I decided a walk on the sand was probably not mandatory. That would have required scampering down the steps 100 feet to the beach and (the main deterrent) 100 feet back up. Plus, it was already 60 degrees and threatening to plummet into the 50s. Suddenly seemed like the perfect evening to wander the park that runs the length of these palisades along Santa Monica’s Ocean Avenue. (There was a little splash of muted pinks and purples in the clouds out to sea, but that lasted about a minute. Then, fade to black…)


Funny thing. The cloud bank that lowered the curtain on the setting sun also draped the palisades in a premature darkness. I realized I’d never walked along here in the dark, and there was an interesting play of light and shadow going on in every direction. I meandered, camera in hand.

park lamp

The old-fashioned lamp posts are set far apart, letting stretches of the park stay deeper in shadow, here and there interrupted by pools of yellow light. The lamps, though, assault a camera lens like a solar flare. When I got between the lamp and the tree, the leafless ficus branches seemed more like coral than wood.


Then I began to stalk my photographic prey by letting the trunk of a palm tree eclipse the glaring light. Click. The spreading white limbs of a massive ficus took on the warm glow of a bonfire – with inky black silhouettes of towering palms standing sentry high above.

lit ficus under dark palms

Tilting the camera angle slightly up and away from glowing ficus branches… the willowy palms against the night sky took on a more sinister attitude, all black and blue and collars-turned-up cool. Like a gang of bad ass Gullivers surrounding Lilliputian me. Or those nasty aliens from War of the Worlds – fitted with giant Phyllis Diller fright wigs.

dark palms.samo

For one last look out before heading home, I walked over to the fence that keeps people like me from tumbling down the cliffs to an unhappy end on Pacific Coast Highway. Ocean and sky were now swallowed up completely in the impenetrable void. Only the lights on PCH gave away the curve of the coast north from Santa Monica, then west out to Malibu.

pch to malibu

Pushing my little camera/phone’s zoom to its limits, the distant lights of Malibu reveal the border between sea and sky, but the colorful blur looks to me like DNA test results. The ones lawyers show to juries to dis/prove paternity and other kinds of guilt.

malibu lights from samo

I didn’t get the sunset I wanted yesterday. But they seem to happen almost every day, so I’m not too concerned. And I got to discover a different side of a familiar place: after the lights went out. Nice way to end Day 043 of #100happydays.