Friday, July 13, 2018

On The Roof Of The Sea Castle

Every once in a while, a person has one of those vivid memories that resides in the midst of a foggy mire.  One of mine is that while I lived in the Sea Castle Apartments in Santa Monica, which was giant, Art Deco, aquamarine apartment building, and formerly an old-timey beach club (“The Breakers”), I got to see one of the most memorable fireworks shows ever.

My apartment unit, a studio space, which I leased from Lee Gaul who was an older women friend of my mother’s, was an ocean front….not just ocean view, but ocean front unit on the second floor.  The second floor had once been the location of the beach club’s old ball room, and it was actually at the height of a normal third floor since the entry level below had extended high ceilings.  The second floor, the old ballroom level, had been sliced and diced, and drywall installed to make little apartment units such as mine.

Lee Gaul had long ago moved to Frazier, Colorado and had become a born again hippie or something, and so in order not to lose her beach front apartment unit in this now H.U.D. (Housing and Urban Development) building, which was under Santa Monica’s strict rent control laws, she leased the unit out to friends, and apparently, to sons of friends.  That’s how in 1989, I moved in and paid $480.00 per month.  Whatever apprehensions I had of moving to the edge of the continent and missing the nearby nightlife of the city quickly dissipated when by the first morning I was there, I saw the beauty of the fresh sand and the waves in front of me.  I loved it.

I lived there for about a year and a half until I met a beautiful brunette who swept me off of my feet, and ultimately out of the Sea Castle.  After the first few weeks of dating, I asked her to spend the night.  It was wonderful.  My beach apartment and the woman I had always been looking for; an olive skinned, Mid-Western women with a sort of Marlo Thomas husk in her voice and a smile and personality that radiated wherever she went.  How completely sexy and uplifting she was. 

I remember clearly that the night we went to sleep together, she said to me, “I hope we see dolphins in the ocean in the morning.”  I thought, that would be nice, but the odds….

When we woke up the next morning, she went to the tall, wide sliding glass window that gave me a view from Palos Verdes to Point Dume, and she yelled out, “Dolphins!  I got my dolphins!!!”  I thought she was kidding, and yet when I walked over the the window, there they were; a pod of dolphins swimming north past the Sea Castle towards the Santa Monica Pier. 

And now, on to the light show.  One of the things they used to do in the old days there in Santa Monica was to have a fireworks show launched off of the pier.  And one of the things I learned to do was to go to the roof of one of the “wings” of the Sea Castle…the wings I refer to were lower units on each side of the building that ended at about the fifth floor.  Their roofs were lower than the main building’s roof.

We gathered our beach chairs, took one of the two old elevators to the sixth floor, ducked out a window just over the north wing’s roof, and sat readying for the fireworks show.  The view was of most of the ocean, but not far to the south since the edge of the main part of the Sea Castle was now to our left, and we could see a complete view of the Santa Monica Pier and northward to Malibu.  It was a gorgeous evening.  The summer light faded from the sky while a slowly creeping and somewhat chaotic armada of varying boats slowed to a float and bobbed around both sides of the Santa Monica Pier. 

My brunette lady was with me during this perfect evening.  The soft mist in the air created a slight glare in the air as the fireworks burst over the ocean, lighting the yachts, sailboats and dinghy’s.  It was one of those life moments that will never leave my memory because it represents a time when I was young and there was so much yet to experience in my life.  I had a sweet women by my side, and anything was possible. 

My room looks out to the wide open spaces.
My heart is touched,
By awakening faces.
I see the panic,
Of people in motion
I can stand here,
Look out on an ocean.

I am a wall,
Awaiting a catchword.
I see the city laid out like a patchwork.
Alone, I am free, from hatred and blindness.
I hope that this life,
Is frozen and timeless.

My man is here,
We grow old by inches.
Tomorrow, I’ll walk among heroes and princes.
I feed the boys,
I hear secrets whispered.
I know the harts that are battered and blistered.

I am secure.
In this world of apartheid.
This is my cell,
But it’s connected to starlight.


-Pete Townshend-