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Frank Gruber

One Beach, Four Multiplexes and Two Hospitals

By Frank J. Gruber

Like most Santa Monicans, I don't have much to complain about. Leaving aside the difficulties or even tragedies that individuals or families may have or experience, we have got it pretty good.

One might expect that with all we have to be thankful for, Thanksgiving would be an occasion for special humility, but let's face it, when one's life is not in crisis, one tends to take for granted what one's got. Sure, when the Thanksgiving host, with everyone gathered around the table, makes the toast, we recall for a moment, oh yeah, we didn't get all this good life by ourselves, but otherwise "entitled" is the operative adjective.

Those who are deeply grateful are probably focusing on the big picture -- the health of their families, the goodness of being together with family and friends, any hopes they may have after the last election for a better world. But I write a column about Santa Monica, and as the weekend unfolded I started to think of those often mundane and trivial aspects of living here that I like so much and for which I am so grateful.

Take Wednesday evening for example. My mother-in-law was visiting for the holiday and she's a James Bond fan. She and my wife decided to see the eight o'clock show at the Mann Criterion on the Promenade. I, however, am of the "seen one, seen them all" school of James Bond movie watchers. Yet I wanted to go out with them -- they were going to have dinner at Locanda del Lago.

What do you know -- at precisely eight o'clock, the AMC, right across the Promenade from the Mann, was showing a movie I did want to see -- "Stranger than Fiction." (My "seen-one" standard does not apply to Will Ferrell movies.)

Which just brings up something to be thankful for about living in Santa Monica -- there aren't that many towns in America where there are four multiplexes within walking distance, so that when your loved ones want to see a movie you don't care about, you can see something else and still go out to dinner together.

"Stranger than Fiction" reminded me of another reason I am thankful to live in Santa Monica. One of the actors in it is Dustin Hoffman -- who attended Santa Monica College! Not only that, Mr. Hoffman has been a benefactor of the new theater the College is building at the old Madison Elementary site.

I passed by the construction recently and the theater is taking shape. I am looking forward to the theater's opening because if Santa Monica lacks one thing in the entertainment sector of the economy, it's good venues for live performance of music, dance and theater. I'm thankful in advance of it's opening.

The Madison site theater takes shape. (Photo by Frank Gruber)

My thankfulness for Santa Monica on Thanksgiving Day was rather conventional -- I made good use of the beach. We were going to have the big dinner this year at friends', but we did a lot of cooking at our house -- our extended family and guests were to account for more than half of the company and there was such a fear of hunger that between the two households we were making two turkeys and one ham.

Somewhere in the middle of all the chopping of vegetables and baking of tarts and, in my case, filleting of anchovies (long story having to do with greens and a can of salted anchovies we bought at Bay Cities), I needed some air and exercise.

What's there more to be thankful about in Santa Monica than a 45-minute ride on the beach bike path that gives one authorization to eat like a 20-year-old football player?

And the ride took me past 415 PCH, the future site of the City's public beach club -- more to be thankful for, but I've already written a lot about it.

We had a great Thanksgiving dinner at our friends. Our friends are a family that has had more than their share of difficulties, and it was beautiful to celebrate the holiday in their house. They live in Santa Monica, too, and as one who moved here as an adult, I thought about how lucky I am to have made so many friends here -- it's as if I've lived here all my life.

My parents live here now, too, and naturally they were at Thanksgiving dinner. They are in their mid-eighties and suffering the wear and tear that goes with that territory. My mother recently spent a few days at Santa Monica Hospital for tests (which were negative).

No one likes being in the hospital, but my parents were so impressed with the attentiveness and graciousness of the care my mother received. Having encouraged them to move here from Philadelphia, I am grateful that everyone they come into contact with, from bus drivers to nurses to repairmen to pharmacists to the neighbors down the hall in their apartment building, is just so gosh darned nice.

Back to Santa Monica hospital. I was impressed walking around the lobby, looking at the displays about the hospital's history, going back to Drs. Hromadka and Mortensen, the founders, and the Merle Norman/Nethercutt family, who were big donors, not to mention all the other Santa Monicans who volunteered and donated over the years.

I don't recall having been inside the hospital for years, perhaps not since my son was born there almost seventeen years ago (in the meantime our medical plan switched to St. John's), but visiting my mom reminded me that Santa Monicans may engage in various fantasies about their world-class this or their world-class that, but for real we are blessed to have two world-class hospitals.

One beach, four multiplexes, and two hospitals. I hope you gave thanks.

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The views expressed in this column are those of Frank Gruber and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of
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