Sunday, July 20, 2008


Last night we went down to Santa Monica, to the beach and the park and the pier, for "Glow" - a new, all-night-long arts event. Here's what we saw.

Palisades Park was crowded with people. They were selling Starbucks coffee in the park, and everyone was standing by the fence at the bluff, looking out at the lights on the pier. There was an installation of Japanese carp windsocks, with lights in them, that looked ethereal and beautiful.

The park was crowded, but the Pier was packed. You could hear the music thumping from a big outdoor stage on the south side. DJs were spinning inside the carousel house, and colors and patterns were projected onto the white-painted, peaked wooden ceiling. Overhead the rides and roller coasters rumbled and riders happily screamed.

The steps down to the beach held bright beads of light beneath the treads. You could stay on the concrete of the path and parking lot, or you could venture out into the sand, feeling your calf muscles bunch and tense with the effort of walking. Here and there, little clusters of people gathered, with their own lighted art installations around them, unsanctioned but just as festive as the official pieces. One group surrounded their beach blankets with luminarios, brown paper bags weighted with sand, holding a lit candle. Kids ran around chasing each other with light-sabers from "Star Wars."

Others had fancy light-up costumes, like this couple here.

Closer to the surf, a mock campfire glimmered red, for supposed sea-shanty singing. Across a broad sweep of the beach, a field of colored glow-sticks were stuck into the sand. The scent of incense and marijuana drifted gently and mingled with the scent of the ocean and creosote from the Pier's timbers. All along the bike path people rode, ran, strolled, some with luminescent rings around their necks, some with pulsing lanyards marking them as festival volunteers or participants. At an apartment house facing the beach, people on the narrow balconies drank beer and watched the crowds below. Others hung around the tailgates of parked cars, with their coolers. Up on the glass-railed patios of the beach hotels, outdoor bars serving cocktails catered to fancier guests viewing the festivities, the ladies with pashmina shawls draped over their shoulders.

Taking the bike path north again, we passed beneath the Pier itself, where fantastic undersea shapes hung. They were made of plastic bags and milk jugs and other flimsy stuff, illuminated from within, like phosphorescent creatures in the depths of the sea. They held tiny fans and motors to make them breathe, pulse, rotate, and sway, waving their plastic tentacles in the dark. I wish I had been able to get a good photo of this installation, and capture its weird watery beauty, but the best I got was this:

North of the huge beach parking lot, rising above the crowd of people, was a pulsing dome of colors that seemed to have no substance at all, but rose right up into the air. We moved closer to it, curious.

It was water vapor, sprayed in a huge circle of fine mist. digital projectors surrounding it shone bright colors and moving shapes into the mist. The gentle breeze from the ocean tossed and pulled the edges of the cloud so that the colors moved in the air. You could feel the gentle spray on your face if you stood near the fence.

Every face I saw was filled with wonder and delight at such a fine party. It was a night to play.

Throughout all, the lit Ferris wheel sparkled like a jewel in the night.


Anonymous said...

I slept on the beach near the sea shanties, and the beach was still pretty full when I woke up at 8 to the trash man emptying the hundreds of cans lining the beach. I'm wondering if anyone has heard about how many people showed? I got there at 9pm and can't even begin to estamate. The glow sticks ended up as a beautiful land scape and walk way for some specisl persons tent who was very bewildered when he emerged this morrning. I had a great time with my fellow LA'ers!

Glennis said...

Thanks for visiting, kurly kirby. Yeah, it was a great party, wasn't it? So what was it like in the early morning hours? We left around 1.

Tootsie Farklepants said...

That's just INCREDIBLE!!!

M. Bouffant said...

The trash ocean creatures 'neath the pier were the best "event," & we didn't even wait in line, just passed by below w/ the swarm of humanity jostling us.

Although the one-man band at the very end of the pier was amusing. "It's not that he does it well, but the mere fact that he does it at all that is amazing," as someone more or less said.

Glennis said...

I liked the creatures under the pier best, too. I'm so sad I couldn't get decent pix of them.

Liz Harrell said...

Wow. Seriously wow.