Yup. Hermosa Beach, California (Pop. 18,500). Known as the blue-collar version of its fancy-schmancy neighbor, Manhattan Beach. Hermosa ("beautiful" in English) is mostly populated with the behind-the-scenes folks who really run LA's entertainment industry - set designers, stunt men, make-up artists, key grips, best boys and cameramen. They are famously unimpressed with the very famous, as they all have their own eyebrow-raising anecdotes about "actors" - usually spoken with some derision.
To the residents of Hermosa Beach, the only true celebrities worth true adulation are the very-impressive local volleyball players. On our recent trip to L.A., we stopped off in this adorable little seaside town, conveniently located half-way between LAX and Mama Iva's house in Long Beach. I wanted to show Reid the wee apartment that I once called home. Behold:
Even though it was Linda's apartment (my flight attendant friend), she was never there and let me share. I was unbelievably happy in this place. I remember coming home one day from one of my four jobs at the time (art model, car valet, music journalist, taxi dancer) and feeling like a dip in the ocean. I lived close enough to put on my suit and jog right down to the sea ... Paradise.
When I think about it now, I realize Hermosa Beach was the last place I ever lived in Southern California (before moving to San Francisco in Feb. 1997) and I'm so very glad my 31-year run ended on a high note.
So, Reid & I are strolling the Strand along with bicyclists and joggers, checking out all pretty beachfront houses and I'm explaining the local importance of volleyball. In fact, it is often referred to as the "Beach Volleyball Capital of the World." (Last year, Hermosa Beach was also named the "best place to live for the rich and single" by CNN Money.) Looking into one living room, I notice tangible evidence - a cluster of volleyballs sitting under the glass coffee table, just waiting to be fetched:
I just love it when clear evidence presents itself....
Now, usually when one visits the old haunts, one is pained by the inevitable changes. Sure, some things were different but nothing that hurt. I did note this fancy new Tsunami Hazard Zone sign that was most definitely NOT there during my residence. In fact, I doubt I even knew the word back then, let alone pronounce it properly. The 2004 Indonesian tsunami that killed over 230,000 people changed that for everyone.
As we reached the epicenter of the Strand, I turned the corner and my jaw dropped. The last block of Pier Avenue, just before the pier begins, had been filled in and turned into Pier Plaza - pedestrians and cafe tables only! What a fantastic new development. All those tanned bodies frolicking about on bikes and roller blades in mid-February made me thirsty for margaritas...so we got on that right away.