Saturday, February 22, 2014

Interference and Crosscurrents

A Saturday morning drive to the Beach House is typically easier than workweek sojourns. My old car has an antenna to capture AM radio and the news is often good, though the reception changes with signal strength, tall buildings and concrete canyons. When broadcast signals can’t get through it is called interference. Something is interfering with the one signal we want to capture through the air.


In the water the phenomena is visible in the waves. It is called crosscurrents, and creates pretty patterns of crossing arcs close to the shore.


At Beach = Culture, the public use of the natural amenities embodies the spirit of crosscurrents. The policies and regulations that keep fire pits off the beach and the Guest House free and open are responsive to crosscurrents of preservation and access, private rentals and public use. 


Complaints about the City requiring pedestrian access or parking permits or public art arise from the perspective of interference. Is there one signal or many? The creative placemaker sees crosscurrents and repurposes them with style.

-Helen Lessick

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Relief of Exterior Space

It’s a quiet day at the beach. Mid-week, overcast, an on-shore breeze.  I’m drawn to it today, even though it is not my official office hours, to get distance from and reflect on my neighborhood.
The police were called to my neighboring fourplex early this morning.  The argument in the lower front unit woke me up when she opened their door. It was just dawn, but two other neighbors were in the street, awakened by the downstairs neighbor and waiting. 
‘I’ve called the cops’ said one ‘Where are they?’ The other held a bat as prevention if the scene came outdoors.
Domestic violence. The woman in the lower unit would walk outside, lightly clad, and then turn back. The man inside would close the door, then open it to yell. She went back in, then came back out.   At length she sat on the curb in pajama top and panties though it was 50 degrees.  The police arrived, though no one was taken away.
We go outside to spend time with ourselves. Sometimes it is to heal, to rest, or reflect on our sorrows.  The best public places have activities and also spaces to be alone; spaces for privacy in the midst of the public. Because sometimes it is safer to be in public than to be at home.

-Helen Lessick

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Waves and Valentines

This morning's beach had a pink glow, with a high haze from an impeding minor storm. Afterglow or ante-glow of weather? Glare hugged the shoreline, but the horizon vanished haze into nirvana. Tiny waves made a lace border on the giant heart of the Pacific. Santa Monica. The Community Beach House opens at 8am and by 9 the beach was crowded. Tween volleyball players; yoga enthusiasts; fishermen, always men, and tots with hovering parents cluster in small communities. The beach is living. Past the halfway point in my writing residency, I am just getting the cadence of this place. We go into nature and stand by the shore, spending time getting to know ourselves.

-Helen Lessick

Monday, February 10, 2014

Beauty and the Beach

February breaks cold in Santa Monica. Not east coast cold, but cold for the region.
The Monday morning crowd is not on the beach, but on bicycles, roller blades and in running shoes along the paved pedestrian path. Not so much inside.

The Monday morning docents at the Marion Davis Guest House had time to discuss their work, this place, and the reasons why people come to ACBH. Santa Monica’s public places are alluring: attractive, safe, clean, with pedestrian amenities and options for activity.

The docents, volunteers with the Santa Monica Conservancy, are the secret spice for the Guest House. Lively, outgoing, informed and just a touch of quirky, the women and men are eager to engage the public. But if you want to walk around yourself, you can do that too.  Well trained, with a touch of sass, they want to share the beauty of the beach.

- Helen

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Ocean Menagerie

Rain at the beach attracts new user groups. This morning a pair of dolphins came close for shore patrol.  Under a grey sky, few people came to the ocean’s side and their absence drew in birds. The dolphins, arcing in tandem, swam up the shore then down, catching a late breakfast.

The Community Beach House is a menagerie, a site of exotica and luxury for wild life of all kinds.

Today a Congresswoman is holding a private meeting in one facility; a university alumni group is in another, upstairs; a wealth investment seminar complete with a white board is being held in the open air in front of the guest house, and a dozen meditators are sitting in a circle near the waters’ edge.

Public space is what the public makes of it. Smart cities balance the needs of the public with commercial interests.

-Helen Lessick