Santa Monica might seem a strange place to seek world peace. I mean really, Santa Monica? Maybe some temple high in the mountains of Tibet or an ashram in Santa Fe, or even the UN building in New York but not Santa Monica. Perhaps I’m wrong-headed about this but Santa Monica seems more like a live for today for tomorrow we die kind of place. But yet, indeed there are people searching for peace in Santa Monica. Right down on the beach next to the famous pier.
Perhaps Kongo is just in a cynical mood but he doesn’t think a white board on the beach is likely to change the world much. Next to the Santa Monica peace white board are hundreds of red or white crosses in the sand symbolizing Americans or Iraqis killed in the never-ending war in South Asia. They call it Arlington West and its staffed by veterans who embrace the world peace NOW camp. Kongo is a veteran too and certainly hopes for world peace but thinks there might be more productive actions that could be taken to achieve these goals. Like maybe a coherent foreign policy. Anyway, enough of the philosophizing for one blog post. There was more to Santa Monica than peace in our time.
It’s been years and years since Kongo visited the Santa Monica pier. It hasn’t changed much. There’s the iconic Ferris wheel, carnival rides, booths, chain restaurants, people singing badly with a guitar and a bucket for spare change, and some optimistic souls who actually come out on the pier to fish. Like why not?
The amusements on the pier are all part of Pacific Park, Check out the live cam. Admission is free but it cost money to park. On Sunday Kongo paid $10 to park all day.
It’s a great beach and the whole area is a perfect place to people watch and get a glimpse of life in LA. In the winter, even on a day where the temperature was in the low 70s, it wasn’t too crowded. Summertime is likely much worse. Millions of people visit this pier each year.
The pier is also the “end of the road.” As in Route 66 which terminates at the pier. Or maybe it’s just the beginning. Remember that scene in the Forrest Gump movie where Forrest reached the end of his cross-country run and turned around and headed back for the East Coast. There’s even a Forrest Gump memorial bench just outside the Bubba Gump fish house (what else?) located on the pier. Of course there is! This is LA.
Underneath the pier is a different world. You’re really not supposed to go there — there are plenty of signs telling you that — but hey, Kongo is a rule breaker. It’s kind of a spooky place and the monkey would not want to be here at night but in the daytime it’s pretty cool.
Just south of the pier is the original Muscle Beach. It was set up by the WPA in the 1930s with a bunch of gymnastics equipment. Today there is another “Muscle Beach” in Venice but the original was in Santa Monica. They’re still really into gymnastics.
There’s this one spot where people practice holding each other up in the air. I’ve got to tell you, there’s not an ounce of body fat at this scene. Really. Both the men and women exhibit incredible strength and grace while they’re practicing. The monkey thinks they play to the crowd a bit too. Like why not? If you’ve got it, flaunt it!
One typical endomorphic couple stopped near Kongo to watch and the monkey couldn’t help but eavesdrop.
“This reminds me that I really need to start working out again,” says he.
This prompted a dramatic eye roll from his rubenesque partner. “No sh*t, big boy!”
There were also some tight rope walkers.
If Kongo were a Cirque du Soleil talent scout this is the place he would start looking for new talent.
For us mortals there were other things to do like bike riding, roller blading, or riding on a Segway. There were plenty of kiosks along the beach renting bikes and electric scooters and a great trail to zip up and down and watch the world.
Of course in the midst of all this fun stuff to do and enjoy there are always a couple of kill joys. They’re the ones with the loudest megaphones and that Old Testament determination to remind you that all of this pleasure is going to catch up with you some day. Hopefully not today.
Travel safe. Have fun!