On the Santa Monica Pier
I'm sitting a stones throw from the Santa Monica Pier waiting for a 9:00 breakfast meeting. Although I'm originally from California, I'm a Northern Californian, and while this is the Pacific Ocean, it's not the part I know. Kind of like you can know someone's face but not the back of their head.
Probably the oddest thing about the beach is the fact they're grooming it like a snowfield. There's a John Deere tractor with what looks like discs roaming around the beach, scraping away the footprints and tire tracks which otherwise litter the beach. I don't know if that's because the sand gets packed down from 11 million people in LA or if it's just cosmetic.
I chose my lodging in this semi-exotic locale because it was fairly cheap -- hotels in Santa Monica seem to average around $250-300 a night, mine was $169. While it's a little funky, it's comfortable enough and a nice view of the water plus a window into the courtyard. A short walk brings me to the Casa del Mar, a swanky hotel, where I'm meeting a couple people about a project.
This trip does get marks for doing the stupidest thing ever on travel. I booked my hotel over the phone and gave them all my contact info. In this digital age I just expect to get a confirmation email. It wasn't until the night before that I realized that not only did I not get a confirmation, but I didn't write down the name of the hotel.
I figured that I could just search Google the same way and find the place, but none of them were looking familiar online. So I had my colleague drive me up and down the main drag and I still didn't spot it. So I finally got a connection, logged back into my machine at the office, went through my Internet history on that computer, and found it. I think this tops my missing my flight in DC because I was two hours early...
As usual, I'm traveling because of business -- a series of meetings in conference rooms and over meals in LA with prospects and money people. It's a productive trip, and less surreal than these trips usually feel. While I'm not a native southern Californian, I'm amazed at how familiar this place is -- I've had no problem navigating, people respond my odd humor the way I expect, and while the beach is different and the air feels as if it's been breathed, it's still California.
It's kind of like visiting your cousins -- they do a lot of things the way I expect, but then there are the odd things that throw you (like the time they fed me peanut butter and banana sandwiches). Familiar, but not home.