No.1 Where Mountains Meet the Sea

Welcome to Notes on SaMo by me, Lillian Kalish. A sometimes reporter, sometimes poet, I’m a writer currently stuck at home with my parents, writing from the corner window.

Going forward, I hope to make this a little collage of things I see and remember around Santa Monica, a smaller city in Los Angeles where I grew up. I’ve always been fascinated by this place, a city that sits on Gabrielino Tongva land, that was colonized by the Spanish and named after the weeping Saint Monica. In more modern times, it was a place for wealthy retirees and ex-military personnel to relax and rehabilitate.

A western landscape, it was no stranger to manifest destiny; Santa Monica became and is still home to all sorts of extravagant, wild dreams that could only be fulfilled on land that was seen as empty. Like the former Ostrich farm on Main Street. The joyous lawlessness that once prevailed on the Venice boardwalk - home of skateboarding, the Silver Man, and the family run “freak show” now lost to gentrification and big tech. The names of apartment complexes - Wonder Palms, La Vida, Chateau Six - reek of the promise of new beginnings, of a vacation from life elsewhere. Even the very topography, the unnatural commingling of palm trees, eucalyptus, red woods, and firs, makes this place other.

Don’t worry, I will not wax poetic for too long: Santa Monica was and still is a point of my adolescent rage. For one, it’s overwhelmingly white, wealthy, and over policed. It’s a place of juxtapositions. Among the notable alumni at my high school are my forever crush, Tessa Thompson and white nationalist, senior adviser to the President, Stephen Miller. Throughout most of my schooling, I was the only black student in my class, one out of 400 in a school of 4000 or one out of 400 in the whole city. When my sister and I walk the dogs in our sweats, we turn heads. My mom gets pulled over on the road or followed in the store. Next Door is riddled.

This once sleepy beach town is usually crowded 24/7 with droves of tour buses, huddles of TikTokking teens, and fitness Instagrammers abound. But these days, as is most of the world, the streets are mostly quiet, its residents home bound.

And occasionally, in the mid afternoon glow, I’ll take a walk, snap some photos and jot a few notes of the people that used to tread here.

If you’ve made it this far, thank you so much for reading. Drop me any questions, comments, critiques, or stories about where you’re stuck.

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