Seeking to escape the haze and home confinement, we went where we used to go on Sunday in normal times: Santa Monica.
We parked on one of the wide, flat streets north of Montana, away from crowds. And we walked in masks that we imagined shielded us from dangers visible and invisible.
At Adelaide and 4th, where a palm lined grass island ends at a cliff and now blockaded stairs, someone had written “No Vaccine” on a wall.
This year everything is No: no work, no travel, no movies, no dining out, no socializing, no school, no hugs, no kisses, no bars, no strangers, no baby visits, no old people, and, of course, no vaccine.
Before the pandemic there were many runners here, and they would run up and down the stairs, but the virus put an end to that, and now the bad air ensures it.
This part of Santa Monica is grand, with large houses, of every style and decade from the past 100 years, but everything, under the grayish, smoky skies seemed tired, out of breath, defeated; like the city and the state and the nation.
There were Porsches parked in driveways, and Mercedes speeding past, but there seemed no respite from thoughts of ruin and gloom. Who will save us? Will we burn down? Will we be safe when fascism takes over? Or will the lawless sack the mansions and the stores while hated cops stand by and watch? Will a smart leader emerge? Or shall we suffer under Q-Anon and the conspiratorial voices on Next Door?
Who shall live and who shall die and who shall find the most followers on Instagram?
Only the Shadow Knows.
Along Ocean Avenue at Georgina there is a restoration of a grand mansion, with construction illustrations of the elegant plans, and other photographs of historic and happier Santa Monica. Why there’s Mr. Pepper Gomez, Muscle Beach Contest Winner, 1950.
On Georgina there are yard signs, some of them angry. “Elect a clown, expect a circus” says one placed inside a long olive tree lined forecourt of a gated house.
Sometime from the 1940s through the 80s, this area was not so rich. There were large houses, but they weren’t expensive, so developers came in and tore down some of the historic ones and put up cheap apartments.
A 1971 apartment at 129 Marguerita is emblazoned with a strange sign: 129 Career. A door or two off Ocean Avenue, the 2-story building is remarkably plain and homely, with a side alley of individual garage doors, stucco wall and steel windows. Balconies are big and full of plastic furniture. The good life was once available at bargain prices.
And at 147 Adelaide (built 1926) there is a mysterious, long, downsloping, concrete driveway that leads into an old, wood door garage with a five-panel utility door next to it. Two spotlights were on at Noon, and in the distance, haze covered the canyon and the hills and the houses.