Over the summer we stayed with our friends-who-are-like-family in Ocean Beach, California. Ocean Beach is one of my spiritual homes, I suppose because it reminds me so much of the town I grew up in, Pacific Palisades.
Warning: Huge tangent: That sentence above, for those of you who have been both to the Palisades and to OB anytime recently, is probably enough to make you laugh your tush off. Because as beach towns go, they are nothing like each other except that they are a) in California and b) are by the Pacific Ocean. Pacific Palisades, however, used to be a lot like Ocean Beach, before it got fancy and rarefied and majorly into itself.
The pre-Reagan Pac Pal I grew up in was an interesting combination of old California families, aerospace engineers, entertainment industry successes, educators, German immigrants, and Jewish families that didn’t want to deal with the whole Westside LA schtick. Houses remained proportional to the lots they were built on, and cars were driven long past their paint jobs lost their luster. It was an upper middle-class neighborhood with an intellectual side, and was organized around a small downtown with a movie theater and a hardware store and a bookstore (this was before bookstores had to identify as being independent). It didn’t show off, and offered a quiet anonymity to stars and plebes alike. The schools were good, which was why my parents chose to buy a house there. It didn’t get hot like the Valley and you could walk pretty much anywhere you needed to go.
Now it seems like the Palisades is less itself than a beach town that Bel Air and Beverly Hills made over to keep on standby for when the Westside became passe, but before it reinvented itself. Ah Los Angeles, you just never stop being you, now do you?
Ocean Beach reminds me so much of the pre-fancy Pacific Palisades. It’s a little polarized by a groovy, hippie/homeless vibe one the one hand, and a thoroughly well-coiffed presentation on the other, but it’s still home to a large swath of not very showy people who just really love living near the ocean.
Okay. Back on topic: So, this summer we noticed that our friends-who-are-like-family were dealing with barking dogs and neighbor-noise on not one but both sides of their domicile. As in: a bloodhound mix who routinely got the other dogs going at 5am and did not really take a break from their canine barbershop quartet all day. And a neighbor on the other side who hosted libations for his guests on his patio (just feet my friends’ bedroom window) until 3am talking at the top of his lungs, yet also could make early morning smoothies in the adjacent outdoor living area by blending them at top speed with lots of ice. The big cubes. At the 5:30 side of 6am. Whose dog likes to “greet” everybody loudly, and by everybody I mean anyone walking by, bugs, birds, wind, you get the picture.
We were of course, outraged for our friends. We were supportive and inspired by the kind way they continued to talk to their neighbors and keep it friendly, even when those neighbors would consistently respond by saying, “Oh I’m sorry!” yet go promptly into a black hole of Not Getting It amnesia and would then repeat the exact same, oh so incredibly charming incursions into peaceful airspace over and over again. And again.
I blame population density for some of the ways I see people retreat into themselves in Southern California. It seems like a protective mechanism, to pull inward, so far in fact that the world ends at the tip of one’s nose. Getting bombarded with other people’s energy and sitting in traffic all day really does assault the delicate balance of extroversion/introversion we all must maintain to stay sane. It is an awfully narcissistic way to live, though. I remember when we moved to small-town New England I anxiously regarded anyone who stopped to chat (and mostly all do) with suspicion of laziness, perversion, or intoxication. At some point I must have become that very same loopy, deranged chatty woman who is casing your house because in San Diego I get sized up a lot.
So we left our dear ones to contend with the kind of karmic challenge one faces regularly, that of being flexible enough to stretch our concept of solutions way beyond what is comfortable. And we returned to our small community just a weensie bit smugly.
And I am kidding you not, the very next day our neighbors across the street left for work and their small dog barked all. Day. Long. Two days later at my office, the upstairs neighbors were gone for most of the afternoon and their dog was singing the same tune. A week after that, I was at a meeting where a friend of mine parked close to the building and left his dog in the car (windows open) and….yep. Or should I say, “yap”.
When our new neighbors moved in that same day and went to get another load of stuff, leaving their two dogs behind for a few hours and they started barking, I basically just burst out laughing.
(cue dramatic music): The Universe was going metaphysical hard-core.
Tune in next week to find out what Psychic Sooz did and what she learned.
This is a pic of Pacific Palisades, in 1962 waaaaaaay before I was born 😉
and here is a picture of my dogs who are very good and NEVER bark too much 😉