If dreams were hard currency, no one would be sleeping rough in Santa Monica.
Where do hopes go once they hit the Pacific Coast Highway? This self-titled “surfer beach town” is as far west as you can travel before the ocean’s vast embrace; the end of the road for everyone like me, who’s come here with little more than an empty wallet and lofty aspirations.
Wandering between the famous amusement rides on Santa Monica Pier and the tourist crowds on Third Street Promenade, it feels a bit like L.A.’s second Walk of Fame. Only these stars are all alive: singing, dancing, painting – and wondering when their big break will arrive.
An elderly man in golden pants croons Motown, next to a duo stretching behind the “Yoga For Cancer” sign. Two rockers slam drum sets, while a group in sleeveless shirts break dances to public applause. Over it all, the steady call of a Latino woman promises fresh “Churros churros churros.”
And then there are the silent observers with their paper requests: money, food, a tent, any act of kindness. A few even honestly write “Weed.”
I can’t help but wonder what brought us all here? Maybe we pinned our expectations on California’s eternal summer, or the lights of Hollywood, and are praying for the best.
There can be a big distance between the life we want, and the one we have, and moving to a new place is often the only way to bring those two worlds together.
There’s a freedom in anonymity here, which unites the poorest street performer and the wealthiest property owner in an identical quest to be something bigger. Shoot for the stars, and refuse to aim elsewhere. When my family strolls along the Palisades waterfront, I am merely one of a thousand people, all determined to squeeze the most out of Santa Monica.
Our flip flops tread a city built on sunshine and optimism. I don’t know how long we will stay – but right now, this is the perfect place to be. As the aspiring pop star and the man with the “Need money for guitar amp” sign demonstrate, a little more faith will see us through.
Where do wishes go when they reach the smoggy skies of Los Angeles? I think they follow Santa Monica Boulevard until they hit the shoreline, and make themselves at home.