To The Sea (Jacob Jonas The Company), the Santa Monica Pier, and the 3rd Street Promenade*

*As mentioned in my “About” section, I may document some experiences that I shared with a friend. The purpose in doing that is to help you understand how to navigate that venue or business if you were on your own. Also, I have visited the Santa Monica Pier and 3rd Street Promenade on my own a few times since To The Sea happened.

I was looking for events in the LA area, and came upon an app called Eventbrite. It searches by city and date, so if you’re looking for something to do on a weekend, it narrows down the search for you.

For this particular event, the flyer had a picture of a dancer backlit by the sun on the beach, which drew my attention. Upon further reading, it was titled “To The Sea: Dance Concerts on the Pier,” and listed 7 acts and 4 films. And it just happened to be the end of the Santa Monica Pier. I hadn’t been there yet either, so it was a two-for-one as far as exploring new things. Pier Dance Flyer

The best part of all, it was a free event. You just had to reserve your ticket through Eventbrite because there was limited seating. It was the last weekend in April, and was listed as a 6:00pm start. It was put on by Jacob Jonas The Company and Dance Camera West, with support from the City of Santa Monica and Santa Monica Cultural Affairs.

Since I was still new to the area and trying to become friends with my co-workers, I asked my friend Hana to join me. Keep in mind two things for the remainder of this post, 1) Hana and I both had no idea what to expect, and 2) what I describe can apply to those who decide to do this adventure alone or with a friend.

There are a couple parking garages near the 3rd street promenade in Santa Monica, so we chose one within a few blocks of restaurants and the pier. If you haven’t looked into the app called BestParking, I highly recommend it. It will list all the parking lots, rates, and hours so you know where the cheapest and closest places are, when they close, and if they take cash, card, or either.

Then we wandered down the 3rd Street Promenade looking for food. There are many options, from food trucks to street vendors to restaurants. The whole street is blocked off from vehicles, so there is ample walking space. Sometimes there are even street performers. Randomly we chose Trastevere, which features Italian food. We sat outside on front patio and shared bruschetta and pesto genovese. The atmosphere was nice, and the weather was perfect.

From there we headed to the event because we were pushing 5:30pm. We walked along the park on Ocean Avenue above PCH. It’s always half full of people, who like us were meandering, and half homeless people. On a side note, having encountered homeless people in various states, these ones keep to themselves unless they’re right in front of the entrance to the pier.

As you get closer to the pier, there are there are huge crowds of people walking on and off. Since this event, I’ve gone back on my own, and it’s always like that from the morning until nightfall. Once the sun goes down, it depends on the day. Usually on weekdays at night, it’s relatively less crowded.

The Pier is just like the movies with the restaurants, arcade and carnival games, and the famous ferris wheel. If you continue past those and the kiosk sales people, at the end there are lower walkways on the right and left where people fish off the side of the pier, Then you continue through an opening made by two stairways/seating areas and a restaurant. That is where the dance event was held.

Normally, there is a giant open area where people can sit or walk around and stare at the ocean and sunset. However specifically for the event, there were metal barriers set up to close off the stage and seating area specifically for people with tickets to the event. You technically don’t have to have one, but to be on the inside, you do. And again, you might as well because they’re free.

They had speakers set up on the sides of the stage to project the music they danced to. Jacob came out first and introduced himself and how he created the idea to dance on the end of the pier with not only his company, but also influential dancers in his life and the area. It is completely worth noting that the event was scheduled so that while the dancers were performing, the sun was setting on the ocean behind them.

Herein lies the part that pains me about not writing this piece closer to the actual performance date (April 30, 2017). The following is the order of the pieces, but only a few really stood out to me, so those will be the ones I describe. If there’s a link, I did my best to find the company or performance so you could see for yourself.

Tactility” by Cirio Collective
Get Sea” by The Seaweed Sisters
One Pair Off” by Jacob Jonas The Company
Fishy” by Tony Testa
Alfie “Al Boogie” Lewis was awarded the Mr. Animation Legacy Award
Awake O Zion” by Andrew Winghart
“Memories” by Les 7 Doigts De La Main (Mason Ames and Valerie Benoit Charbonneau)

I’ll start with the 4 I remember the least about. However, don’t compare their lack of review to the rate of their performance, but rather that my memory is terrible. Plus when seeing 11 pieces in 3 hours, there are bound to be some that stand out more than others, which is purely individualized depending on who is the viewer.

Tactility was performed by two male dancers from Cirio Collective. I remember both of them being very strong technically. Fishy started out as a solo piece and ended as a group number and seemed kind of intense. Al Boogie was recognized for an award and then performed a solo piece. I couldn’t tell if that one was freestyled or not, but I assumed so because it had an abrupt ending that didn’t coincide with the music. Awake O Zion was incredible in the fact that 12 girls were on a small stage at the same time doing many, constantly changing formations quickly in long, flowing dresses.

Now for the three that really stood out for me. First was The Seaweed Sisters. I hadn’t heard of them before the performance, but I later figured out that locally they are well known in dance circles. Their performance was Hana’s favorite because it’s rare that dance incorporates humor with technicality. Everything was intricate, yet fun. Their outfits, the music, and the interaction between the three and their audience, was all so entertaining.

After all of the performances were done, the choreographers from each piece held a Q&A together and the Seaweed Sisters revealed one method creating their pieces, which I believe they called the “and then” method. They basically make up a move and say “and then” to themselves before leading into another move they make up on the spot, and continue that system from movement to movement until they create a full composition.

The second piece that stood out was Jacob Jonas The Company, and it’s not because they created the event. The piece was four people, and each one had a chance to stand out among the synchronization set to music heavily accented by a metronome. There were tricking moves by two of the four, many levels by all, and a modern feel. I wish I could describe the feeling better. My eyes were glued the entire time. During their Q&A we found out that one of the four, Joy Isabella Brown, had only been in the company for a month and her background was in parkour. She learned the entire routine with no professional dance background, quickly, and then performed it in front a few hundred people. Pretty impressive collaboration.

Finally, the act that stood out the most to everyone in attendance: The 7 Fingers (which is a Canadian group that is normally written in French as Les 7 Doigts). If you look at their website, it’s a variety of acts, but this was just two people. Their specialty is acrobatics incorporated into dance. The performers were Mason Ames and Valerie Benoit Charbonneau. I couldn’t find their specific routine, Memories, but I did find another performance (linked in the list above) that gives you an idea of what they do. During their Q&A we found out they have been working together for a while. It’s clear the stunts they do take incredible trust and strength, as well as tons of practice. There were moments where you could tell the audience was holding their breathing hoping Valerie wouldn’t fall, and each time Mason proved he is a tremendous partner.

Santa Monica

While the Q&A was going on, a giant screen was being blown up for the films to be shown. At this point the sun had fully gone down and it got colder. About 2/3 of the audience left unfortunately. If you decide to go to the 2018 To The Sea, which they have the green light on, bring a jacket so you’re comfortable watching the films. Below are the works that were presented. Luckily most of them can be seen in the links, so you can see what I saw.

Retrograde” by Kyle Abraham and Carrie Schneider
Rebellion & Johannesburg” by Leila El-Kayem and Jessica Nupen
“Grey” by Jacob Jonas
Move On” by Yasuaki Fujinami

The only one not online is Jacob Jonas’, but I do briefly remember it. I believe it was filmed at the Getty Museum. It featured the architecture with his company performing in various locations on the grounds. I remember it being very aesthetically pleasing with a majority female casting.

Like the dances in person, it was clear why the last film was chosen to finish the event. Yasuaki’s Move On featured a beautiful concept with equally beautiful filming and execution. It’s no wonder it won so many awards. I urge you to watch the link mentioned above.

After it was completely over, Hana and I walked back to our car. On the way we talked about our favorites, but also took in the night life of Santa Monica. On the pier, you see vendors who write each letter of your name in a different water color pattern. You may usually see this at fairs and picture them going in a little girl’s room. I’m always surprised at how many grown adults I see carrying them around and wonder where in their house they’re going to put those. We also saw some more dancing in the form of street performers on the 3rd Street Promenade before finishing the evening.

Like I mentioned, if you can go to it this year, I highly recommend it. Even though that means it’ll be more crowded for me. If you’re looking for a true “California experience,” being on the Santa Monica Pier with a display of talented art being performed during sunset is a pretty great option.

Korean Friendship Bell and Marine Mammal Care Center

 

Upon visiting my dad’s cousin in the Long Beach area (I’ve always called her Aunt Dorothy growing up, but she’s technically not my aunt), she recommended I check out the Marine Mammal Care Center (MMCC) because her sons liked going there growing up. It also happens to be next to the Korean Friendship Bell, so I figured knock out two in one visit.

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When arriving at the Friendship Bell, there is a small building across the parking lot, which I later discovered was a hostel. As you walk toward the bell, there is a sign at the entrance which explains the bell was a gift from Korea to the United States as an extension of, you guessed it, friendship. Behind the sign, there were two totem pole looking figures that make for a fun photo opportunity.

While walking up to the bell, you realize the intricate detail of the hand painted ceiling and columns. It is pretty incredible and enormous. I can only imagine how much it means to Korean culture. Even the details of what is inscribed on the actual bell itself and the tiles underneath it.

Then you take in the view behind the bell, which is the Pacific ocean. You can also see Catalina Island in the distance. There is a small hill below the front of the bell, which you can climb down, and sometimes people take pictures there.

After that, I went to the MMCC. However, to get there, it was quite the maze of roads. My GPS took me on roads that seemed like they were not meant for civilians, but rather work/government vehicles. There was a Marine center up on the hill, but not the one for animal rescue. After going through odd winding roads, I finally found it among a bunch of other random buildings.

After parking, I walked through the gift shop and came upon the back area where the animals are contained. It honestly looked a little small for the amount of seals that were present, but I’m not an expert marine animal care, so maybe it was adequate room. There were a few small caged in areas, that each had their own little pool for the seals, and two larger pools. You can observe them and learn about them from various signs posted on the fences. You can also speak to the caretakers/volunteers, who were cleaning the cages and pools the entire time I was there.

IMG_8435It seemed like everyone was pretty busy, so I only really spoke to one person for a few minutes. He was very helpful in teaching me about the seals ability to swim and what the rescue was doing to help them. I assume besides the rehabilitation of the sea life there, the center is mostly for educating classrooms of children about seals and how to help them if you see one that is injured.

I wish there was more I could tell you about it, but it was a very simple little afternoon trip. Maybe something you could do if you knew of a restaurant in San Pedro that you wanted to try, and then go to both places after or before. Do I see myself taking guests to these places when they visit LA, not really. But it’s nice to know the Bell has a beautiful location and that the animals are being treated and released in great condition.

The Hollywood sign and Beachwood Cafe

When I first got to the LA area, I wasn’t focused on seeing the Hollywood sign, but I knew I would eventually see it. There are many places in the city where it can be spotted, depending on how close of a view you’d like. When I went to the Griffith Observatory on my first day in town, I saw it briefly during sunset, and then you can’t see it after the sun goes down.

My second glimpse was from the LACMA elevator, which happens to be pretty far away. You can tell it’s the sign, but it’s not super clear. I also discovered brief moments on the 110 North where you can spot it between making sure you’re not going to hit someone in traffic. Then I thought I had discovered THE place to see it.

I was an athlete when I was a child, and my sport allowed me to meet a lot of people. One of my childhood acquaintances lives in West Hollywood and she invited me over to catch up and meet her friends. After an evening out, I crashed on her couch. The next morning, I decided since I was already in the area that I would make it my mission to find the sign up close.

There really was no plan or direction other than using my GPS. However I remembered seeing a YouTube video about how the residents who live near the sign actually got the GPS maps to redirect people to different places because they hate the traffic in their neighborhood. Yes, you read that correctly. I’m sorry, but if you choose to live near a famous landmark, and yes that is a choice you made by buying/renting a place there, you should expect tourism to become part of your daily surroundings.

Anyway, I gave up on the GPS and actually used my actual vision to find the sign. It did require driving up and down a few streets, but I found myself on N. Beachwood Dr. As you continue to drive uphill, you can clearly see you’re getting closer. I decided I was hungry, and found the Beachwood Cafe on a quaint corner in the middle of a neighborhood.

It’s like something you see in a CW teen show about a small town. Once you enter the bright blue door, you’ll find a few tables, a linoleum floor of yellow and blue triangle pattern that stand out among orange and green, oddly patterned wall paper. There are giant wooden support beams that also run along the stark white ceiling. The cash register is at the end of a white marble countertop where you can dine or purchase baked goods or merchandise. Above it all two signs read: Good Food, Good Mood. I agree completely.

I was able to choose my own table, and I opted for the middle of the room so I could get the full ambiance. The first thing the waitress did was bring a menu and water, which came in a a glass bottle with a screw-on lid. It was a cute touch and helped the server from having to come by to refill my glass all the time. I did end up ordering another beverage, the fresh grapefruit juice. It arrived in a stainless steel cup with the cafe’s logo, name, and location printed on it. I liked it so much, I bought one.

I will let you know, that had I known it isn’t like a Yeti in the fact that it does sweat with cold liquids in it, I would not have bought it. But now it has become a staple of my breakfast at home since it is the perfect size for juice. However, I have to use a coaster every time.

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For my meal I ordered the Nichols Scramble, which was scrambled eggs, bacon, cheddar, spinach, and onion. It also comes with a side of homestyle potatoes. It was $13, but the price was justified when I only managed to finish half of it. When there’s enough food to take home and get another meal out of it, that’s always a solid deal to me.

Later as I was paying, I noticed the Market area by the door. It’s above the coffee bar and where they sell merchandise, like t-shirts, bags, and more. Past that was another room of tables in case you couldn’t find seating in the main dining area. Upon leaving, I scoped out the Hollywood sign and thought that if I actually went back down the road, I might have a better view because I was starting to have obstructed views due to houses.

So I put the leftovers in my car and walked back a few blocks down N Beachwood Dr. I did find some sidewalk graffiti which was pretty innocent, but also a nice view of the sign. After about 10-15 minutes of walking and looking, I decided to head back to my car and really start my day.

Then it hit me. Or rather my wallet. Literally in the time it took me to put my leftovers in my car and walk 10 minutes down the road, I got a parking ticket. Apparently I parked where a sign said I couldn’t be between certain hours in a residential neighborhood, and I missed the mark by 10 minutes. So within having lived in the area for less than two weeks, I managed to acquire a legitimate LA parking ticket at the cost of $68. I kept it as a reminder and keepsake.

At that point I was over it and didn’t need to find a closer view of the Hollywood sign. But at least I managed to find a cafe where I will be taking guests prior to visiting the sign.

That was all my first experience seeing the sign close, and eating at that cafe. However, I’ve gone back a few times to find the best ways possible to view the sign closer to take a better photo (if you read my “About” section of my blog, I’m catching up to previous adventures so some of my posts may seem oddly timed or have combined experiences).

I went back and found the legitimate gate entrance from the YouTube video, which puts you right underneath the sign for great photos. I didn’t actually find it alone, but rather my friend Greg, who was visiting, showed me. I’ve used this method twice since then, when other friends came into town. So in case you do decide to go on your own, this is also how I would go about seeing the Hollywood sign with the best view.

Park somewhere free relatively close to N. Beachwood Dr. or actually on it (but somewhere you won’t get a ticket like me). Then get a Lyft because near the actual entrance to the sign, there is nowhere to park. And even if you could find a place to park, you’d be worried about how narrow the roads are near the sign.

You’re trying to get to the corner or Rockcliff Dr. and Derhonda Dr. I’ll leave it up to you to look up or pin places near that intersection on your own GPS/map because I don’t want to give out random strangers’ home addresses. Once you arrive, you’ll notice there is a security person standing near a closed street. You can walk past him/her and go up the hill toward the sign. On your way, you’ll pass a guy who sells $1 bottled water out of his home, which is pretty smart because it can get warm up there.

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You’ll come up to a white, closed gate. Look for the teal colored door. It is closed, but it’s unlocked during most daytime hours. When you go through it, follow the path to the right. You don’t have to climb the rocks to get up the hill, but rather follow the paved path. You’ll come to a dirt landing, and you can’t miss the sign because it’s right in front of you.

When you’re there, you’ll notice there is a dirt path to the right of the sign that looks really steep (you can’t see it in the picture). It will take you to the back of the Hollywood sign for a different perspective. I am not sure yet if there are other ways to get to the back of the sign, but I assume so because that path looks like people have slid down it before. I did not try to take it because I was in sandals and because I honestly have no desire. Maybe on another adventure.

There’s also an update you on the Beachwood Cafe. It’s still just as great. I got an avocado BLT with fries, and for dessert, a lemon bar in a jar. They were both picture worthy as you can see below. My friend Emily joined me that time, and she ordered the veggie burger, which also was a large portion and looked delicious. And with that, I’ll end this entry on something that brings joy to almost everyone, food.