Sunday, July 29, 2007

Down at the Santa Monica Pier

The Santa Monica Pier is one of my all-time favorite places. I used to walk there in the morning once a week when I lived in Santa Monica. Wednesday mornings were calm and peaceful on the pier--a great way to meditate and reconnect. If you're lucky, you can sometimes spot a school of dolphins frolicking in the surf.

Now that I'm not living as close, I still try to make the pilgrimage weekly--but it can be sporadic. Sundays are best. Street parking is free and if you get down there around 10 am, it's fairly easy to nab a spot. You still get a bit of crowding and a lot of tourists, but if you go early enough it's not bad. On the way to the end of the pier, you pass all sorts of beachy kitsch. The arcade. The guy selling stuff made from sea shells. Caricaturists. Your name on a grain of rice. (Why? What is the purpose of that? At least the clocks made from miniature surfboards are somewhat useful...)

Then there's the little amusement park--Pacific Park--on the pier. It boasts a giant ferris wheel and a little rollercoaster and other assorted "thrills." All of which appeared to have been renamed to cash in on the current "Pirates" craze--"Kid's Cove,""Buccaneer Boats," "Pier Plank Plunge"--you get the idea...

Along the way, various performers create a peculiar cacophony. It should be noted that said performers are notably less talented than those setting up shop on Third Street Promenade. There's the guy playing the steel drums--he's not so bad. The pan pipes dude is only nominally annoying. The worst is the guy who dangles a marionette to pop songs playing on his boombox. The puppet is usually "dancing" on its knees. It's really sad and pathetic. There are various guitarists--including one who performs a 60s/70s repertoire of folk songs sounding a lot like Bob Dylan. I call him "Guitar Guy." He and the guy I've named the "Piano Man" often vie for the coveted end of pier location.

Piano Man is an attractive, affable black guy with a pleasant voice and adept keyboard style--and horrendously banal and inane lyrics. His songs are relentlessly simple and upbeat--thanking God for the day and singing of love, angels and sunshine. I haven't heard any songs about puppies or unicorns but that's about the depth of his "poetry." He's a big hit with the Asian tourists--they buy his CDs, pose with him for pictures, get his autograph. Me, I last about two to three songs before the cringe-worthy sentiments send me into a sugar induced coma. I'm kidding. But I do generally leave after I've heard enough of his music for it to be irritatingly stuck in my head for the rest of the day...

Today no Piano Man or Guitar Guy at the end of the pier. Just the usual fisherman and tourists. The fisherman rarely catch anything bigger than 5-6 inches. Bait, really--to catch more 5-6 inch long fish. There were a couple of kayakers in the water, a handful of boats, planes dragging banners overhead, kids tormenting the pigeons by chasing them. I met up with my friend John and we hung out and got caught up talking about random stuff. It was warm and sunny and peaceful with a gentle breeze. Then a karaoke type performer trundled by and started to set up. That was our cue to leave.

All in all, a perfect way to spend a Sunday morning...


  1. perfect indeed -- I had a great time! Now I'm paying the price for no sunscreen my bathing in aloe. For my inner pain, there's always haagen das... yay :)

  2. Ouch! I can't believe you didn't slather on the sunscreen my fair-skinned friend! Hopefully you feel better today...