Thursday, September 3, 2009

Santa Monica does have some nice stuff I guess

On Sunday I read this article in the New York Times about this public pool run by the city of Santa Monica. It's on Marion Davies' old beach estate, it's made of marble, and it only costs $1 to get in on Mondays ($10 all other days of the week). So the next day we got down to Wilshire and 720'ed it all the way to the coast. The 720's great if you can avoid rush hour crowds. It gives you a tour of downtown, Koreatown, Mid-Wilshire, and Beverly Hills. Sure it bounces as it thuds along Wilshire's pockmarked face, but the air conditioning can't be beat on a really hot fiery day like we've been having in LA.
We took our bikes along, and rode along Ocean Avenue when we reached downtown Santa Monica. Ocean has a bike lane, and fairly low traffic. I didn't bother to write down the address of the Annenberg Community Beach House where the pool is located, so we rode around confused for a bit. Then I thought to look over the cliff at Palisades Park and sure enough, far below along PCH, there sat the modern additions to the estate that I'd seen on the internet.
There's a café included in the estate complex, so we had lunch there before heading to the pool. Since it's a popular spot, and Mondays are probably a busy day because of all the bargain hunters like me, we had to put our names on a list and come back later to see if we could get into the pool. Fortunately we were on a beach, so we went swimming while we waited to go swimming.
All that remains of Marion Davies' once-sprawling estate is the long, narrow, marble pool and a guest house that's open for tours. The raucous parties I've read about in Kenneth Anger's Hollywood Babylon books are echoed now by the screams of children whose parents bring them to the pool in droves. I couldn't help but think how strange it was to see petted little spoilt ones bobbing about in the marble pool that was built for the drunken frolics of stars and starlets.
Continuing our tour of Santa Monica, we rode to the public library. It's airy and light, really nice in comparison with downtown LA's library, which suffers from a postmodern addition that turned its gaze inward rather than allowing patrons to read by windows. Anyone who has a California ID can open an account at the Santa Monica Public Library. They even have a café. It's not as much of a "statement" library as the Seattle library designed by Rem Koolhaus, but it still forces the visitor to recognize that libraries aren't just about shushing and card catalogs anymore.
Since Bobby was on the verge of a job interview, we also visited the Third Street Promenade to get him some non-pastel-colored socks. I expected it to be like The Grove, LA's hideous homage to Main Street, USA, complete with a slap-in-my-face trolley ride through the fiberglass promenade for people who wouldn't dare set foot on an LA bus. Third Street did have some of the same simulated nostalgia, but since it crosses city streets I also saw a lot of insurrectionary pedestrian behavior. At least it allows people to interface with gridded street traffic on foot, something the Grove avoids. The only streets you can cross there lead to the giant parking garage that looms over the consumption zone.
But it was good to escape Santa Monica, with all its homeless and bossy rich people! It's a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't exchange it for Central LA.