Laying Down on the Job

Laying Down on the Job
The Santa Monica Easy

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Swinger's in Santa Monica

I love Swingers.  It's been one of my favorite Santa Monica eateries since the first time I ate there, shortly after it opened.  It's fun (there's a juke box and 60's-70's ambiance), the wait staff are always awesome (chatty, hip and always seem to get my order right), the food is lucious and fresh and the menu is lengthy. 

Friendly dogs are welcome -- they're not allowed inside but the long, narrow patio affords responsible dog owners the opportunity to have their dogs stay by them while they eat, talk, drink, laugh, meet and enjoy the experience of including their dog(s) through the day.  The wait staff will even bring a container of water for your beloved pooch. It's wonderful seeing several dogs curled up on the sidewalk by the patio tables where their humans are seated.  Recently, new bike posts have been installed on  Broadway next to the patio area so cyclists can secure their bikes to something sturdy rather than a parking meter. 

I stopped at Swingers Saturday afternoon after a couple hours of walk-about errands.  I was super hungry and I had to pass Swingers on the way home. I ordered my "usual": a burrito from the breakfast portion of the menu.  I sat at a patio table and within 15 seconds I was asked what I'd like to drink. Coffee and a glass of iceless water (that's the way I like it) were delivered in less than a minute.  BTW: their coffee is really good; I drink it black.  Minutes later I placed my order and settled in to read the "Santa Monica Daily Press".  By the time I was ready to read page two, the burrito arrived.  I'll admit the place wasn't that busy but even so -- that's fast.  I snapped the photo below and sent it with a text message via Loopt then dug into the warm, flavorful burrito awesomeness.  

Buried inside the whole wheat burrito are quinoa, spinach, black beans, some tomato-based sauce and really interesting flavorful spices.  There're probably more ingredients inside but I don't know what they are -- other than divine. The topping is the most delicious chipotle sauce I've ever tasted (garnish of spring onion tops). 

Swingers offers breakfast, lunch, dinner and late night nosh. The menu has plenty of interesting and delicious food for omnivores, vegetarians and vegans.  Many of my non-vegan/non-vegetarian friends now love Swingers.  If you live or work in Santa Monica and haven't eaten at Swingers... you really should.  Bring your out-of-town guests -- they won't forget the place and they'll probably want to go back every time they visit. 

The only drawback eating there, right now, is this view of the building across the street (NE corner of Broadway and Lincoln Blvd.)

Yep.  Another of the too-many, look-alike boxes being built in Santa Monica.  Fortunately, it  rained earlier so there was no construction cacophony and I could enjoy my burrito in relative quiet. 

Friday, November 11, 2011


Besides being a really awesome palindrome (no, that's not the name of Sarah Palin's country home), 11/11/11 is Veteran's Day.  It's the day we civilians are provided the opportunity to do more than just slap a "Support our Troops" bumper sticker on something. It's the chance to voice our thanks to the members of our military community, without whom our freedoms might only be a long-forgotten, faded piece of parchment. 

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all our veterans. You are loved, celebrated, you are treasured and admired more than most of us can ever articulate. I'm not a veteran but I am a military brat so I'm a teeny-tiny bit familiar with the personal sacrifice of military life. There's much opportunity in military service but there's sacrifice as well. Besides opportunity to serve this country, the chance to earn a college degree, a noble career, and the experience of being part of a team, there's low pay, drafty base housing and more time away from family than with them.  

I'd like to expand my thanks to include the military families who stay strong and lovingly give of themselves in a way they may not have anticipated when their beloved family member became part of our military forces. For the military, service to country comes first and family members provide a huge amount of support to make that happen. This country should also thank the families. I salute the veterans and their incomparable families from the deepest, furthest corners of my heart. You bring color, vitality and nobility to our American life.  You are part of who we salute or for whom we cover our hearts when we sing the "Star Spangled Banner" or say the Pledge of Allegiance.  Thank you.

I thank my cousin Dale in Chicago who enlisted in the Marines in 1968 on the day he turned 18. He spent two tours as a lineman in Vietnam before he was twenty. He came home to marry a lovely woman and raise three fantastic, loving, generous children whose lives contribute to the world. Thank you Dale.  You have led a loving, selfless, noble life and you are one of my heroes. I'm proud of you. The whole family is proud of you. 

I'd like to celebrate my cousin Christina who enlisted with the Marines at age 18 and continued to serve her country even as a single mother. You inspire me and I thank you.  

A special thank you to my eighty-seven year old father, who, at age 18, was flying P38's with the famous 94th Aero Squadron over Italy during WWII.  He spent 24 years in the Air Force beginning his career when it was known as Army-Air Corps and retiring in 1964.
About five years ago I attended a course, "American War Films", offered through Santa Monica College We viewed, analyzed and discussed about ten films, one of which was "The Story of G.I. Joe" which I'd never seen before.  War films are not my favorite film genre but I've seen a number of them. Where other films left me with a hatred of war and violence, "The Story of GI Joe" transformed me -- not my thinking -- me.  I don't mean that I now love war and violence but I did come away with a LOT more -- 100% more -- appreciation for what it took to be in the armed forces during WWII. 

Walking home after the class, I felt the urge to call my dad and thank him for his service.  Like so many veterans, Dad seldom spoke about what war was like for him so I didn't know if I'd embarrass him or make him uncomfortable. I called anyway. I told Dad, "I've just seen 'The Story of GI Joe' and, I know you weren't in the infantry and I'll never know what it was like for you in World War II, but I appreciate what you did and I want thank you. I just really thank you."  He was quiet for a few seconds. Then he said, "You don't need to thank me."  I said, "I want to." Another second or two passed before he replied, "No one in my family ever thanked me before."  We talked further but I was so glad I made the call and so glad I thanked my father for his service to this country. 
In his back yard.
Dad lives in Virginia now and spends his days teaching himself Arabic, studying home courses about calculus, astronomy, theology, genetics and teachings of the Buddha. As an unintended member of The Greatest Generation, he's a walking, breathing part of history -- and he's interesting to talk to about almost any subject. 

Enjoying the afternoon sun.

Most days Dad takes a walk along the Windsor Castle park bridge in Smithfield, VA.  If you see him, introduce yourself and chat. I'm sure he'd be delighted and it'd be a gift to him if you say "Thank you for your service to this country".

Once again, thank you Veterans and Veterans' families. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Steve Jobs in Santa Monica

The alert bell jangled on October 5, 2011. The sound, I knew, was breaking news delivered to my iPhone via the New York Times app. The screen read, "Steve Jobs, Apple Co-Founder Dead". Like many millions of others, I read about the death of Steve Jobs on an Apple device. I gasped, "No..." and wept. I don't remember ever crying over the death of a CEO before.  I was caught off guard by my reaction.  I knew Steve Jobs was battling cancer but I was shocked, felt a deep sense of loss and cried. I wanted to visit the Santa Monica Apple store. I knew instinctively I'd find fellow mourners with whom I could cry and wonder aloud how such a brilliant man, leading innovator in personal computing, music and animated film industries could be beaten by cancer.  He just seemed bigger than a disease that so voraciously vanquishes the lives of less accomplished mortals.

I bought my first Apple product in 1984 and have been an unabashed Apple fan ever since. I admire the clean simplicity of Apple products even if I don't understand or utilize even half of any devices' capability.  Most of all I admired that Steve Jobs wanted to change the world and he did. I admired Steve Jobs unconditionally -- flaws and all.  I needed to find my own personal way to say thank you and goodbye. 

It took me four days to stop crying, gather myself and organize my day so I could take time away from work. On October 9th I printed the photo from the Apple web site and scribbled, "Thank you, Steve Jobs for the difference you made in my life through your life's work." Around 2 PM I began the nine-block walk to the Santa Monica Apple store, 5" x 7" note in hand, intending to leave it on the sidewalk in front of the store where I expected to find a spontaneous memorial of flowers, notes and apples.
What I didn't expect was this:
Santa Monica Apple Store tribute/memorial to Steve Jobs 
The Warhol-esque, three-panel vision of a larger-than-life Steve Jobs rested against the Apple store's front window.  Each panel was about four feet tall by three feet wide. The canvases were striking, poignant and quietly powerful. There was something so cathartic, so right about the art work -- I conjured the memory of John Lennon, Steve Jobs and Beatles' music.  There were flower bouquets, single roses, candles, cards and apples with a single bite taken from side like the iconic Apple logo. It was a magical memorial.  

I placed my note at the base of the left hand screen next to a generous bouquet. Many notes read simply, "Thank you."  Like me, several people in the quiet crowd around the memorial read the notes, stood in silent reverie, left something behind and took photos. I'm still moved by the show of affection for a man I'm sure none of us who visited the store that day ever met.  

After I placed my note, I entered the Apple store and asked the young man who'd helped me solve an ITunes problem, if one of the store employees painted the art work.  He said no, and none of the employees knew anything about it. It had been left anonymously and was there when the first employees arrived to open the store that morning, Oct. 9th.  

I haven't returned to the store since, so I don't know if the artist returned to reclaim the canvases or if the memorial is still there.  I may go visit the store again tomorrow, November 9, a month after my visit and ask if anyone knows any more about the art.  

Santa Monica Chip

This precious little critter is "Chip" and I frequently see him in Santa Monica, walking with his human partner. His personality could light up anyone's day.
I took about 8 pictures of this darling, friendly and gleeful chihuahua but he's so full of zip and vigor that he's just too fast for my iPhone camera! He's got such a happy personality and he makes me giggle every time I see him  I'll try to photograph him again next time I see him. Maybe I can get some better pics.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Squaring of Santa Monica

It's no surprise to the readers of this blog (all two of you) that I enjoy photographing the comings and goings, whimsy, beauty and unique delightfulness of Santa Monica. My cameras (iPhone 3G and Olympus FE-140) often don't capture what I see as well I want but Santa Monica never disappoints. 
A beautiful day at the Santa Monica beach.
Santa Monica state of mind captured!

Santa Monica summer sky

Optometrist's clever window display! 

I don't know what these are but they're lovely.
Farmer's Market Birds of Paradise

Tiles on Santa Monica's City Hall entrance display the color and movement of Santa Monica.
For the past few years I've photographed the results of Santa Monica's Beauty-and-the-Beast development. As a 20+ year resident of this beautiful city, I used to be a proponent of "zero-development" here. However, after reading fellow resident, Frank J. Gruber's clear-eyed, practical observations about urban development in his book "Urban Worrier", I adjusted my opinion -- a bit. I have a better appreciation for a city's need to evolve as decades pass in order to keep up with the demands of a vibrant sea-side city like Santa Monica. 

The single greatest visible impact development has on the public is on its architecture.  There are thousands of other details and issues but the architecture of a building's facade afflicts or enhances a city and its public for decades.  Like any city of merit, Santa Monica is more than a bunch of people living, working, existing in buildings.  It's a state of mind for many, rather than just a destination.  Residents can feel pride of place.  I feel very lucky to live in Santa Monica and now that I've lived here for a generation, I'm entitled to say, I'm proud of this city.

Here, the trees capture the breezes.

Paths that lead to a sense of place.

Reminders from an earlier era that utilities don't have to be utilitarian in design.
The moody Santa Monica marine layer 
The starfish are sultry and alluring.
Cyclists customize their ride in the joyfulness of Santa Monica.

Santa Monica winks good night.
While I admit that reasoned development keeps a city from stagnation or decay, I still hate seeing decades old, well crafted, homes bulldozed and replaced by multi-resident, high-rise dwellings with no yards or sense of being part of the city for which they provide shelter. 
House on the west side of 11th near Wilshire Blvd.
The reason for this post: I'm deeply disappointed, even angry, at the same, uninspired architectural designs repeatedly approved by Santa Monica's Architectural Review Board (ARB). 

In Santa Monica, the ARB gives, among other things, final approval for the physical look and style of new buildings. I'm sure that's a great over-simplification of the ARB's responsibility.  The process for final design approval is long, arduous and, in my opinion, worthy given that the ARB is responsible for Santa Monica's architectural character as new buildings go up.  Public services notwithstanding, architecture is a declaration of a city's view of itself in the world.  

Let's start with the Big Brown Blob of a high rise somewhere on Santa Monica Blvd. between Lincoln Blvd. and 4th St.. The eye of this beholder-blogger thinks this is an ugly building with zero sense of Santa Monica. 
On the same north/south block as the Big Brown Blob is an entire block of high-rise boxes, with no sense of place or distinction between Santa Monica Blvd. and Broadway on 6th or 7th St. (they all look so much alike I'm not sure) with only two ever-graceful palm trees as balance.
Approved for the NE corner of Lincoln Blvd. and Broadway.  It will be on the same block as the ugly horizontal green stripe building that's almost finished (photograph follows). 
A more recent variation on what's going in on the NE corner of Lincoln Blvd., and Broadway
Almost finished high-rise box with puke green horizontal stripes under construction on NW corner of Broadway and 9th (referred to above).

The color scheme for this high-rise seems to reference Santa Monica's beautiful orange sunsets and the grey mist of Santa Monica's June-gloom marine layer (which was rolling in as I took the pic). 
Square, square and more square blah.
I can't even recall which block this is but it all the same squares, rectangles and straight lines. Not even palm trees to soften the harshness!
This is on Broadway somewhere between the new (and square) open air Santa Monica mall and Lincoln Blvd. but I can't recall exactly where. 
Ooooh, how clever: squares and rectangles now with balconies.

This is a little more interesting with a mirrored facade and shadow-making angles. 
Oh, and here's the very expensive, much anticipated, new, and not-so-much-improved Santa Monica Mall:
Broadway and Third St. (the Promenade) entrance to the open air Santa Monica mall full of right angles. It could have been erected any where.  
SE corner of Broadway and 6th
Except for those who live in Santa Monica, who in the world would think this is a fairly new block of buildings in Santa Monica, CA? These will probably look like slums in about 10 years -- then the ARB can approve even taller variations of square rectangles to replace these (please, no!).
In my dream world, members of the ARB read my blog so, my request to them is: please stop -- stop today -- just stop approving all these right-angle boxes that could be anywhere on planet earth and demand architects incorporate the soul of Santa Monica in their designs. Require architects walk (or bike) at least a percentage of Santa Monica's 8.2 square miles to get a sense of its unique qualities and heart so designs can be submitted that look like they could only exist in Santa Monica. Designing with inspiration and creativity is not any more expensive than designing the same boring boxes but it's a far more noble legacy for Santa Monica and its ARB.  

To be fair, not all the new architecture is ugly.  Sometimes the ARB gets it really right and I thank them but the vast majority of new architectural designs being approved by the ARB are the same boxy shapes, top-to-bottom with no trim or design to soften or interest to attract the human eye.  Here are two favorites of mine: 
This perimeter fence along Colorado (between 6th and 7th Streets) is part of the new bus terminal. It's particularly beautiful and in keeping with Santa Monica at night (reminds me of the ocean waves and azure skies of summer).  
Relatively new commercial building on the NW corner of Colorado and 2nd St.; one look and we know we're in a sea-side town. I still won't eat at McDonald's but I'm proud of this building. 
Now that I have this out of my head and into my blog, in future posts I'll publish photos of some of the elements of Santa Monica shape and form that we, the public, should expect to see in the architectural design approved by the ARB.

A final note, none of the square buildings in this post are parking structures -- which one might excuse for being unimaginative, right-angled edifices -- all of which makes what's been done to the look and ambience of Santa Monica that much sadder. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Santa Monica Roses

The roses in Santa Monica always end up in my camera. I don't upload the pictures very often so by the time I upload them it's a double delight because I don't remember that I took the photo.  

I wonder if this is called a peppermint candy rose.  What ever it is, it's stunning!

A little blurry but luscious red RED rose in a garden on 10th St.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Achieving Bike-Friendliness

Pretty, Sparkling Bikes!

For those eager to see Santa Monica and Los Angeles transform into bicycle-friendly cities, reach into your pockets and get out your two-cents worth of input!  On  Wednesday, June 8th (5:30 pm to 7:30 pm) William Roschen, President of the Los Angeles City Planning Commission & Alexis Lantz, Planning and Policy Director for Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, will discuss the Los Angeles City Bicycle Master Plan, approved in March by the City Council. The Bicycle Master Plan calls for an eventual network of 1,680 miles of interconnected bikeways, including more than 200 miles of new bicycle routes every five years. It also calls for a safety campaign to educate drivers about sharing the streets. (Yay!)
Learn how the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, Los Angeles City Planning Commission, and Department of Transportation collaborated to make this vision come true.  This is a free meeting open to the public. 
I know, starting at 5:30 pm is not a good time for most folks  Regardless, send a message by participating: attend, listen, learn, ask questions and (possibly -- I haven't seen the agenda) comment.  
June 8, 2011 5:30pm-7:30pm 
Environment Now
2515 Wilshire BoulevardSanta Monica, CA 90403 (I have no idea about parking; I plan to take the bus).
RSVP to 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

All Things Bright and Bicycle Related

Santa Monica Ride
The Santa Monica City Council is making strong efforts to transform the city into a bicycle-friendly city.  Since I used to cycle all over Santa Monica and would love to do it again, this is very exciting and I say, YAY!

Santa Monica Beach Ready-to-Rides
Last Friday I attended an "I Am Santa Monica" workshop (more about that in another blog) and was delighted to hear other Santa Monica business representatives make positive comments about the bike valet stalls made available for recent city events.  Statistics show that cities that are "bike friendly" are better for businesses and its residents. 

I've seen an increasing number of cyclists in Santa Monica.  I know one resident/attorney/journalist/author, Frank Gruber (author of "Urban Worrier" and the "What I Say" column for Surf Santa Monica) is a dedicated (in my observation) bike commuter from his home in Ocean Park to downtown Santa Monica.  He's a great role model for cycling to work.
New bike posts (on Broadway) to secure our wheels.
For those Santa Monicans interested in supporting the "better bicycling" efforts being made, you may want to contact various members of the Santa Monica Planning Commission and City Council or attend the meetings to make public comments.  A plan has already started to take shape but community input is invaluable and vitally important.  Or, you may want to join/support Santa Monica Spoke, an energetic and thoughtful non-profit group whose mission is to help make Santa Monica a better place to cycle.  I'm 100% for that but I'm also committed to a well-planned integrated plan that allows motor vehicles, non-motorized vehicles and pedestrians safe and unfettered access around the city.  We CAN all get along. 
Cycling up the California Incline - not for the weak-thighed.
It's important to note that riding on the sidewalks -- although seemingly safer to the rider -- is illegal in Santa Monica.  
For those who enjoy cycling, the Santa Monica beach bike path from the Pier south, is a little bit of heaven and is relatively confined to bicycle traffic only.  The part of the path north of the Pier is less so.  That part of the path is marked as restricted to bicycles and skaters only, but joggers/walkers/runners/strollers also use the path because there is no other place to walk if you don't want sand in your shoes.  Many a busy weekend has ended in discord between cyclist and foot traffic because of the path's lack of accommodation for both.  I'd like to encourage the re-striping of that three miles of bike path so pedestrians can share the outer portions of the path -- much like the pedestrians and cyclists who use the bike path in Rancho Cordova that parallels the American River.  Pedestrians share the outer edges of the two-way, four-lane path while cyclists and skaters use the wider, inner two-way lanes; pedestrians walk (sometimes with their dogs) against the wheeled traffic so collisions are avoided.  If there's no economically viable way to widen the Santa Monica beach path, then how about re-striping and re-signing it?  It might cause fewer fights and collisions between the admirably active cyclists and pedestrians.  
Cycling the pedestrian bridge over PCH.
A couple of months ago I participated in the 5th and Arizona Development community workshop and one of the most prevalent comments was a desire for bike accommodations and how much more time could be spent shopping and enjoying downtown Santa Monica if there were.

My bike (now residing in Rancho Cordova). 
After years of commuting 13 miles by bike -- Santa Monica to Culver City --  I stopped cycling Santa Monica in 2000 because increased traffic, hostile drivers ignorant of the laws regarding bikes and lack of bike lanes made it increasingly scary for me.  Since then, I've walked Santa Monica and while I love walking, I can't carry as many purchase walking as I did when I rode my bike.  Now, for purchases that require more than my two arms or are too heavy for me to carry more than a few blocks, I drive out of Santa Monica to avoid local traffic.

I’d like to cycle Santa Monica again.  I'm an advocate for an integrated approach to make Santa Monica safe for all traffic.  Everyone has their own point of view but, I’d like to see increased bike lanes and bold signage that indicates "No bikes on sidewalks" or reminders for cyclist to obey all traffic laws. This would educate drivers, cyclists and pedestrians and result in safer streets for everyone.  Widening or re-striping the beach bike path north of the pier to give pedestrians a designated narrow lane could allow safe pedestrian and cyclist throughway to locations like "Back on the Beach" or the Annenberg Community Center.  Seeing police on bikes as a yearly presence around the city says cyclists are welcome here and are an important part of this city.

Bikes galore for rent.
Cyclists create a community, not only with each other but with the businesses they patronize. I look forward to an integrated plan for the whole city that embraces cyclists, benefits our businesses and creates smooth flowing and safe traffic for all of us.