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Looking for Santa Monica: At The Pier:

Do you live in the city?

Mos def.

Do you work in the city?

What’s your definition of work? Bushels of homework? Then yes.

Day and time of your walk:

Sunday, April 10, 2005

12:45 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

How did you get to your starting point?

Drove.

Streets I walked:

Ocean Avenue between Broadway and Colorado, and the Santa Monica Pier.

Getting Around Santa Monica

1. Tell us what you liked/disliked about walking in this area:

There are few streets in the world that offer such beautiful views of the ocean and the beach as Ocean Avenue does. It’s fairly easy and relatively painless to walk there.

But portions of the pier deck are covered in a reddish, raised square pattern that is rather uncomfortable on the feet. Also, the pier ramp sidewalks are too narrow.

2. What has been your impression of driving and parking in the area?

I waited about five minutes for someone to leave a parking space on Ocean Avenue, but when I pulled in to the space, I saw it was only a 36-minute space, which wouldn’t suffice. I cursed to myself, moved on, and tried to park down by the beach, only to somehow end up on PCH by mistake. I practically went all the way to Santa Barbara before I could make a U-turn and head back towards the pier. Not a pleasant experience, although Santa Barbara is a lovely town.

Quality of Experience

1. What did you like or dislike about your experience?

Overall I had a pleasant experience. The sun was shining, the ocean was beautiful, and I even found a pretty decent two-hour parking space with ease (Santa Barbara ordeal aside, that is). Being a local in a sea of tourists was kind of fun. People-watching in the area is great.

On the other hand, many of the trashcans in the area were overflowing, and the air smelled like some strange combination of ocean spray and Philly cheese steak.

2. What were people doing in this area and how did it impact your experience?

There are all kinds of people in this area — tourists, little children heading home from the pier Arcade with huge stuffed animal prizes, half-naked beach goers, bicyclists (many of whom probably should not take off their shirts until they become a tad more built and tanned), homeless people, and joggers (who make you feel badly about not exercising as much as you should). There also seems to be a higher ratio of strange couples (boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife, etc.) walking around here than in other areas.

As I approached the pier, I saw a policeman sniff a bottle of liquid that a pedestrian was carrying, and then share a jolly laugh with him. Later on, as I waited at a light, a homeless man slowly crossed the street against the light. The same policeman arrived on his motorcycle and escorted the man across the street, averting disaster. I felt safe, knowing that there were police in the area ready to serve the general populace. However, a group of tourists pointing and laughing at the homeless man made me angry; I would have said something to them, but I wasn’t sure what language they spoke.

There were a lot of pigeons in the area cooing and getting in my way. I asked them politely to be quieter, but they proved to be rather rude and ignored me.

Neighborhood Activities

1. Do you like the activities available in the neighborhood?

This area has many interesting things to do. The Camera Obscura is a fun place to visit, and the pier has lots of opportunities for entertainment.

The Education Foundation’s For The Arts festival was taking place on the pier the day of my walk. Little kids were playing their musical instruments (which kind of upset me, because the fourth grade clarinetists play better than I do). There was a silent auction, and lots of little booths to shop at.

As I walked toward the west end of the pier, I noticed many fishermen, which confused me, as I would never eat anything out of our local waters. I watched one fisherman reel in a seemingly gigantic fish. The thought of there being actual fish in the ocean at our beaches made me vow to never swim in the water again. As the man reeled in his catch, I stepped back. A nearby tourist was not so insightful, and got whacked in the face by the fishing line. As it lay dying on the pier, the fish looked much smaller. I moved on, slightly saddened, as I recalled my pet goldfish, Dr. Jones, who recently passed away, bless his soul.

However, I was soon cheered up as I watched various performers on the pier. I saw a one-man band (who claimed to have been on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” in February), and a man who painted at an astonishing speed with both a brush and his fingers.

I also noticed that the water seemed really clear, unlike most days. Recalling a story about residents in the old days throwing pennies off the end of the pier and strapping young lads diving off the pier to retrieve them, I threw a penny into the ocean to see if the water were clear enough for me to follow it all the way to the bottom. Surprisingly enough, it was, and I watched the penny shimmer all the way down.

The music being played in the pier food court was a duet by J. Lo and Fat Joe. I approved, but I’m not sure how many other people enjoyed the selection.

Most of the dining establishments creeped me out, so much so that when I came across a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, I felt as though I had discovered a safe haven of gourmet practices amidst a sea of filth.

2. Are there any other activities or services that you would like to see in the neighborhood?

I can’t really think of anything else I’d like to see besides some sunscreen and instant anti-bacterial soap dispensers.

It would be nice to have bathrooms more visibly marked, and to have visitor information more readily available – though I didn’t actually need either on my walk,

Neighborhood Character

1. What is your impression of the buildings in the area?

There isn’t much fine architecture in this area, as all the buildings are mostly there for tourists. However, there weren’t any huge blights, and the carousel is a fine place. The Georgian Hotel is one of the more interesting buildings in the area.

I always wonder how sturdy the pier is, but I feel safe on it nonetheless (when I was really young, I was afraid I’d fall through the cracks between the boards on the pier deck).

2. What was unique about the area?

Um, I saw this guy with weird hair, but other than that, there isn’t anything truly unique here. There are the classic tourist attractions, chain restaurants, and a plethora of people that you can find anywhere. Nothing is really unique — except maybe the sign over the entrance to the pier and the ocean views, but the ocean is very large, and can be viewed from many other places, so it’s certainly not unique.

3. What did you dislike about this area?

I don’t like that on one side is a peaceful, serene ocean, and on the other side bustling traffic and noisy buses. If there were some way to remove traffic, or to reduce it, that would be ideal.

Visioning!

Tell us how you imagine this area to be in 20 years.

I wish I could say that I think this area will be some sort of happy land where nice people give out free ice cream all day long and no one litters and the ocean remains relatively clean and sparkly, but I fear that won’t be the case.

Santa Monica needs to take precautions in order to ensure that this area of town won’t become too developed. Ideally, in 20 years, it would be exactly the same as it is now – but with less traffic, less trash floating around, fewer shops carrying the same type of touristy items (“Santa Monica Athletic Department XXL,” “Lifeguard: Santa Monica, CA!!!!!!!!!!!,” “I Surfed Santa Monica,” etc.), and more unique restaurants and shops.

Tramer is the first of several students who will review a neighborhood for the Mirror

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