Tag Archives: Cabrillo Beach

Gray Days

Photo by Tim Maxeiner

The news of Space X building its big effing rocket in San Pedro has gone national, global even. It, along with some hot property deals, also led to the predictable headlines about an “upturn for San Pedro.” Maybe, maybe not. As “Marina del Pedro,” an info-rich exhibit currently at the Angels Gate Cultural Center, shows, the efforts to develop this community are as old as the port itself. Curator and artist Tim Maxeiner (discloser: he’s a friend) turned to both historical archives and the contemporary local community to tell the tale of the Port of Los Angeles’s push and pull relationship to nature, industry, people, and business. The German-born egalitarian pulls work from both teens he taught at the Boys and Girls Club and such local artists as Phoebe Barnum and Beth Elliott. I even wrote an essay for it, about waterfront adventures in this whale of a town. The exhibit closes Saturday, with festivities from 3 to 6 p.m. Below is my essay, which will also be in the catalog, available this weekend.

Gray Days

By Evelyn McDonnell

I live on the edge of a forest. It’s five acres large, a potential home to 700 species, and it thrives in winter, when its trunks and leaves stretch high to the sky, swaying back and forth in the ocean currents. Animals feed and hide here in the Giant Kelp: mammals as big as you, who will swim up to your kayak and look you straight in the eye or roll in the water underneath, showing off, or maybe even nursing their young. Schools of fish — sardines or Spanish mackerels — flash silver in the sun, and bright orange garibaldi dart nervously around rock outcroppings, having been pushed out of their nests by crustacean bullies: armored lobsters and their sideway cousins, the crabs.

I live next to one of the busiest ports in the world. Ships laden with containers slip in and out of Angels Gate, like multi-colored skyscrapers moving sideways across the sea. Towering cranes await them, a forest of metal redwoods silhouetted against the mountains, ready to pluck the rectangular boxes off the cargo decks like so many toothpicks hundreds of feet in the air, then stack them neatly on the dock, where they’ll continue their voyage via trains, or trucks — the atoms of the neoliberal capitalist organism continuing their global orbit. Refineries belch smoke in the background, processing the crude black oil pumped up from the bottom of the ocean by the rigs that loom like watchtowers on the southern most edge of my view — the rigs are the south poles, the refineries the north. Between them lie the kelp and the commerce, the dolphins and the dock workers, the whales and the freighters — the urban wild landscape of San Pedro, my adopted home.

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Sunset, Cabrillo Beach, Dec. 22

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I haven’t posted any sunrises or sunsets for a while, but tonight’s was so spectacular I feel compelled to share. It had a been a stormy day, inside and out — torrential rain followed by piercing sun. Alexander Hamilton (the dog) and I took a walk out on Cabrillo pier; the foot of a rainbow waited for us at the end.

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Metallic Sunrise

 

Sunrise, Dec. 11, 2016

Sunrise, Dec. 11, 2016. Photo by Evelyn McDonnell

The sun finally broke through days of gray skies yesterday morning.

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Sunrise Dec. 9

Sunrise, Cabrillo Beach, Dec. 9, 2016

Sunrise, Cabrillo Beach, Dec. 9, 2016

The sun splashed above the clouds early yesterday morning but never broke at the horizon. It barely peeked through all day and there was no sunset; we even had moisture in the air last night. (I wouldn’t go so far as to call it rain.) Today the sea and the sky have merged into one gray slate, the line between water and air indistinguishable. Twice, I’ve see the sun shine a spotlight on ocean patches, but it was quickly overtaken by clouds. Time blurs like the elements. When does the day begin and end if we don’t have the sun to mark it?

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Sunrise, Sunset

Sunset, Point Fermin, Dec. 8, 2016

Sunset, Point Fermin, Dec. 8, 2016

Every day I count my blessings to live in a beautiful place. San Pedro may house the port of one of the biggest cities in the world, but past the cranes, barges, and refineries lie the cliffs of Point Fermin and the dark blue Pacific Ocean. Unusually for California, our house is located on a bluff facing east, so we can watch the sun rise over the water from our bed. At night, we can take a short walk down the beach and look back at the point to see the sun setting, casting our house into darkness while lighting up Catalina.

I’m going to try to start documenting the daily entrance and egress of this celestial body, as it bids hello and goodbye to the west coast of North America. These photos are taken from Cabrillo Beach this evening. In the far right of the photo of Point Fermin, you can see the lights of our house, among others. It’s a good time to reflect on the things that are eternal, ineffable, and even divine.

Catalina Island, Dec. 8, 2016

Catalina Island, Dec. 8, 2016

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Galileo in Cabrillo

I think Galileo would appreciate tonight's moonrise over Cabrillo

I think Galileo would appreciate tonight’s moonrise over Cabrillo Beach.

Big news for San Pedro: The next production of The Industry, the site-specific, tech-savvy, game-changing Los Angeles opera company, will take place at Cabrillo Beach in 2017. The Industry is pretty much the coolest theater company in Southern California, if not the world. Their production of Invisible Cities, based on the Italo Calvino novel, was staged at Union Station, with protagonists Marco Polo and Kublai Khan mingling with real travelers in real time. Last year, their “mobile opera” Hopscotch moved from various  spots in Downtown LA. Both drew tremendous acclaim and press attention.

The company debuted a gorgeous film of Invisible Cities at Pedro’s Warner Grand Theatre this evening. They opened the event by announcing Bertolt Brecht’s Galileo as their next production. The show will take place around a bonfire on Cabrillo — aka my front yard. (After the party, there will be the after-party.) Artistic Director Yuval Sharon said the Industry chose San Pedro because of our town’s (see what I did there? “Our Town?”) “long rich history of labor equality, their union history, and their connection to the port.” Galileo depicts the battle between reason and authority — a timely issue, as Sharon noted. The Industry will be working in collaboration with Tim Robbins’ politically conscious The Actors’ Gang (whom I saw stage a production of Our Town, coincidentally, several years ago), with art by locally based sculptor Liz Glynn. Even more encouragingly, Sharon said the company is eager to work with homegrown businesses and talent. Representatives of locals-only arts organizations San Pedro Ballet and Grand Vision were in the house.

As a denizen of the beach, I’m not so crazy about Sharon’s request for a helicopter; we get enough of those around here, thank you very much. But otherwise, as we say around these parts, STOKED.) Galileo will take place September 16, 17, 23, and 24.

Ironically, right before the announcement and screening, the San Pedro International Film Festival wrapped with a panel discussion about establishing a creative corridor in town. The conversation was interesting but lacking in context and depth, conflating technology with arts and never addressing how gentrification is another word for displacement. The whole conversation was largely rendered moot with the Industry’s announcement next door, though the panelists seemed oblivious of the pending tremblor. In the words of Angela Romero, “that’s so Pedro.”

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Waves

We could feel the waves pounding the shore in our beds. That’s new. For the last six years, we’ve lived in an apartment perched on a cliff above Cabrillo Beach featuring a jaw-dropping view of the Pacific. Often at night, we can hear the waves – especially when the surf comes in, like it did early yesterday morning. We called it our tree-house beach villa. We thought we would never move.waves

Last weekend though, we did. The stone and glass mid-century bungalow just two doors away went on sale for only the third time in history and miraculously, blessedly, we could afford it. And because being 400 feet from the ocean wasn’t close enough, we slid down the hill 200 feet. Now, we don’t just hear the crashing; we feel it. First, there is the crackling crescendo, as the water starts to fold on top of itself, molecules smacking into molecules. Then BOOM! A big wave pounding into sand sounds like thunder. It shakes the earth.

At daybreak, we were able to visualize what we had been hearing and feeling for hours. We still have a killer view, only now we look out across the ocean more, rather than down on the port of LA. I haven’t seen a swell like this in months. The waves were coming in like a rippling mountain range, forming perfect arcs across the horseshoe of the bay, breaking left to right, east to west in symmetrical rolls that are rare for usually choppy Cabrillo. Amazingly, there were no surfers at dawn. Word got out quickly though, and soon they were pulling up in their pickup trucks and jeeps, wetsuits already on or hastily pulled over shorts as they stood by their vehicles. This was one of my favorite activities at the old place: the peep show of the hot surfer boys barely hiding behind towels as they dress or undress. Apparently, the tinted glass of the new house curtains me as well as the high location of my old office window did; I can still get my voyeurism thrill on.

img_8064The intensity of the surf doused my own swimming plans. Conditions mandated a board and serious skills. In case I had any doubts, the presence of a lifeguard boat anchored at the buoy off-shore affirmed that this was a serious swell. Even if I had wanted to risk a swim, they probably wouldn’t have let me.

So instead, I watched, from the wall of glass that sweeps across three sides of our new great room (and great it is). Waves smashing into the fishing pier and each other formed 20-foot-high white plumes, rippling all the way across the stone breakwater to the black-and-white Angels Gate lighthouse. The dolphins surfed too, a pod of big and little ones, splashing so high in their frolics I wondered what was going on.

I was born in Los Angeles but moved to Wisconsin when I was four. California remained the golden dream for me as I struggled to fit into small-town Midwestern life. On our frequent visits back to my native land, I would walk through the beach communities visiting families and friends and fantasize that I would come back some day, to a place where I could swim year round. Now I’m living the dream.

It would be easy to spend all day watching the waves, the dolphins, the surfers, the birds. But this is the setting from which I work, not my retirement. It’s the place of beauty to reward that long commute home. I know how fortunate we are to be here (though honestly, as beautiful as it is, our home is also a fixer-upper).  I am the beneficiary of all sorts of privileges, to have landed on this perch, in this room with a view. I don’t take that for granted. I know that the water that is a balm for me is an escape route, or a death trap, for millions of people in danger and in trauma.

I respect the ocean and I cherish it. And I am grateful that when I wake in the night, sleepless and disturbed, worried about the world and my little corner of it, the sound of the waves lulls – and even rocks – me back to rest.

 

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