By Matt Wakumoto
Photo by Kevin Huang
Vaughn Huelsman, Kevin Huang and I stood on the Sepulveda station platform while we discussed our next steps to Greystone Mansion. Kevin and I realized halfway to our stop that where Vaughn said to get off was nowhere near the mansion. Due to a lapse in our judgement, we had foolishly put our trust in two of the most unreliable things on the planet: Google Maps and Vaughn’s sense of direction. Luckily, we were quick to adapt and carried our shared dead weight to the iconic Santa Monica Pier.
We followed foot traffic after exiting the metro platform and walked towards the beach on the center divider. When we first arrived it felt like I was constantly looking for Kevin, who was frantically looking for nice photos. We discussed a lot of different ideas about potential activities, like getting a kayak or going for a hike, but we decided to just play it by ear and enjoy what was there.
Street performers added to the fray of errant noises and congestion under the rustic blue and white Santa Monica sign. As we approached the pier, we stopped to see a break dancing group that performed acrobatic stunts in a slew of current hip hop culture references and racial jabs. They were more courteous than other street performers I’d encountered, never heckling their audience for money and always doing their best to get everyone watching involved.
The process of getting down the narrow street that led to the pier was long, and left us sandwiched between a lot of sweaty people. It did however produce perspective over the crowded pier and adjacent beach. White washed ocean sunlight created an elegant backdrop to the contrasting large crowds, roller coasters, and many overpriced snack vendors. The smell of the ocean and beach euphoria combined with the sights and sounds to create a truly unique experience for all of the senses.
We followed the looming roller coaster and ferris wheel to the ride kiosk. It took a few minutes to mull over the various eight dollar rides and eventually select the Ferris Wheel. Advertised as the only solar powered Ferris wheel in the world, the ride was underwhelming after the initial roundabout. However, it did give us a unique view of the iconic coastline. From the peak we could see down onto the crowded beach below and up into the blue-green Santa Monica mountains.
After exiting the ride we navigated through the expensive shops and back off the pier. Immediately all the oceanfront dining options were more upscale sit down restaurants, however as we continued up the beach, we found a few parked food trucks. The food trucks mainly served traditional cuisine from different cultures, but with a few fusion or specialized dishes. Before reboarding the train we sat and talked on a shady patch of grass and ate an awkwardly timed lunch/dinner.
The train ride home consisted of an hour and a half of standing completely pressed to the door with an occasional yell or shove for being in the walkway. Though deciding which point was the highest of the trip would be nearly impossible, for me it wouldn’t have anything to do with the sights or activities.
My unfamiliarity with the rest of the group initially worried me, because I had never talked to Vaughn for more than a minute, and didn’t know who Kevin was at all. I feared that the whole trip would just be six hours of awkward small talk. However, by the time we’d finished all of the basic icebreaker questions, we continued to connect much quicker and on a deeper level than I initially thought we would. The circumstances of the trip extended our ride by a little over an hour and the long conversations became the main part of our adventure, perhaps more so than the actual trip.
We didn’t do anything spectacular, but getting advice from Kevin and Vaughn and talking about individual ideas and experiences in such a new relationship was unique and enlightening.