Thursday, October 4, 2007

A day at the shore

Belmont Shore, that is.

For most of my time down here in Southern California Michelle and I lived in Belmont Shore, which is a cozy, cool little beach-hugging enclave of Long Beach, about 20 miles south of downtown Los Angeles. Michelle had lived here for years before we met, so she introduced me to the area, and we spent a great couple of years here, with the girls visiting -- and also loving it -- during the summers.

Today, Michelle and I drove down so she could hang out with Kaye, who still lives in the neighborhood, and I found myself with a couple of hours to kill.

I had planned to watch some of the baseball playoffs at my favorite sports bar on Second Street, the Shore's "downtown" strip, but the bar had closed. Surprising, since the place always was crowded when we lived here. Instead I walked around, rekindled some memories and found another spot to watch a few innings of the ballgame.

Here's my visual tour.

Second Street, from the corner of our old street, Nieto. Second is a seven- or eight-block stretch of cool stores and restaurants with very few chains or fast-food joints -- mostly original shops and tasty but not overpriced eateries. I noticed a lot of turnover today since we'd been here last. The Legends sports bar wasn't the only old place that was gone; rents must be on the rise.

The Super Mex is still there. This staple of cheap but good Mexican food was a regular stop for us, especially when the girls were in town. Great chips and salsa, and I always liked their chicken enchiladas.

With Legends closed I decided to walk down to the beach and grab a burger and some baseball at Yankee Doodle's, a sports bar/billiards hall that, as Michelle says, has the smell of desperation even on weekend nights when it's busy. I have a soft spot for the place though, because it's where I let Michelle beat me at pool on a couple of early dates. She liked that.

This afternoon, with nobody there except two alcoholics, a waitress, a 30-ish couple arguing at the bar and one guy practicing his pool stroke on Table 23, the smell was worse than desperation. More like old sweat, stale beer and maybe a whiff of disinfectant. The absence of windows didn't help.

One of the drunks kept talking loudly to the TV and laughing uproariously at what he imagined to be his sharp wit. "The Yankees against the Indians!" he said at one point, repeating the promo for an upcoming game. "What are the Indians even doing there? HAH HA HAH HA HA, WHAHAA, HEH HEH HA HA HA HA, HO, WHOOOEEE."

The other drunk kept cycling among the rest of us, asking for cigarettes or a light, although no indoor smoking is allowed. I finished my dry burger and fries and skedaddled out of there, with the Rockies leading Philadelphia something like 10-4.

I walked along the beach for a bit. Long Beach is probably the ugliest, least SoCal-y beach in Southern California -- a jetty out there someplace aids the shipping lanes but prevents waves from coming in, and it smells kind of oily -- but it's open space and water, and that's cool. This is where Gina and Franny first tasted the ocean, I think.

Michelle and I used to run, bike and sometimes skate along this path. This exact spot, at the yellow stripe, is where I fell off the sidewalk one day, rolling my foot on the ledge, planting myself face-first into the sand and spraining my ankle so severely that I had to visit the doctor. This is also the spot that one day, as we jogged past, a little boy asked his mother, "Mommy, why are those people making the running motion?"

I guess we weren't going very fast.

I was bummed today to discover that walking only a portion of our former "short run" made me very tired. I had to sit down to rest.

On the way back to Second Street I spotted a couple of houses for sale. This was the cheap one. Asking price, $1,089,000.

Also for sale: $1,249,000.

Here's our old place at 213 Nieto. We were renting it, not buying, and even at that it was spendy. But it was a cool little house. The girls produced a little play -- an abridged version of the musical "Once Upon a Mattress" -- in the backyard with their friends from summer camp. Seeing the house today brought back good memories.

Living here just felt like California to me. Isn't it nice?


kateco said...

Hey -- the scoop on Legends -- at 6:30 one morning about a year ago, it burned down! It was really weird because the smell of burning Legends was like an alarming alarm clock -- What the hell is that! -- The bar was completely gutted and a bunch of sports memorabilia was lost, but somehow the eccentric toy and teacher supply store that shares a brick wall with the bar survived, and Legends was "determined to make a better-than-ever combeack. Anyway, they are almost finished with the rebuild and it looks pretty cool. It has a curved airplane hangar-style roof. On your next visit down, you won't have to resort to Yankee Doodles while Nik and I have girls afternoon out. Phew!

Mark said...

Hmm, interesting. I love how you can get news on this stupid blog.

I guess if they're rebuilding that rules out an insurance scam. And I don't think the Yankee Doodle people did it, or if so they didn't make much of the business opportunity.

I'm glad they'll be back and they didn't just get priced out of the hood.