Mirrors Reflect Mirrors on the Promenade
That was pretty much the high point of my quick run to the Promenade. That, and the Chinese acrobat balancing a dozen plates on his head. On earlier visits, a bunch of hotter than hot band of Argentinian musicians who used to perform regularly on the Promenade were a major attraction. But they've been missing for a while now, which makes me suspect that some corporate types might have swooped them up, and they'd be coming out with a record soon. They were crappy musicians anyway, the only appeal being that they were yummy eye candy.
But seriously, the Promenade is becoming more and more lacklustre for the likes of me as we speak. All the quirky, independent shops are long gone, the last to disappear being the beloved independent bookstore, Midnight Special.
Instead we have rows and rows of outposts of corporate empires, clothing stores where the season's trend infects displays with lightening speed, meaning that shopping is basically an endless succession of deja vu. This year's trend flu happens to be ruffles on shirts and tops, and by goodness they're everywhere.
I happen to like ruffles, so don't mind much, but given that clothing is so ephemeral and disposable these days, most of these garments are awfully constructed and made from synthetic or poor quality fabrics. Viscose, polyester, rayon, nylon, polyamide. Chances are, this is what the fabric content on your garments reads like. The irony is that these fabrics make their appearance across the spectrum, from bottom of the barrel stores like Old Navy to high end designer wear. Don't believe me? Check this out then. You've got to have some nerve to sell a dress made of viscose and elastane for $2139 (which by the way, is the discounted price).
Anyway, I digress, but not too much. Point is, the Promenade has been taken over by overpriced, mind-numbingly similar corporate clothing stores. There is also a de rigeur Starbucks (but of course!). Actually, I'm happy for the Starbucks, it's the only place on the promenade that allows you to use its bathrooms for the very nominal price of their cheapest coffee. This may not seems like a big deal, till you're actually stuck on the Promenade, and you really gotta go, and the only alternative to the Starbucks is buying a meal at one of the mediocre restaurants for bathroom privileges.
So now that Midnight Special is gone, we have the excellent choice of deciding between the tightly controlled genres and selections of Borders on the one hand, and Barnes and Noble on the other. Oh wait, there is an actual element of real choice, Barnes and Noble serves Starbucks on its premises, while Borders serves Seattle's Best Coffee. Happy now? Ok, ok, I should not quarrel with bookstores, especially with bookstores that have very liberal policies with regard to browsing and even reading on the premises.
This article, by a former Santa Monica mayor was perhaps written a few years ago, when the takeover of Third Street Promenade by large corporate chains was not yet complete. It is fairly prescient about things to come and correctly predicts that the place has become nothing more than a shopping mall with jacaranda trees, such a change from the vibrant place with independent retailers that it once used to be.
Lest anyone thinks I'm reflexively anti-big business, let me clarify that I have nothing against large corporate chains whatsoever. I shop extensively at retail chains like Target, Ikea, Zara and Trader Joe's, and am thankful for the bargains these places offer to a starving student like me. However, I also like diversity, and the happy co-existence of large and small players in the retail business. However, given the megastore uniformity that the Promenade has embraced, each visit yields more and more disappointment on that score.
A pity indeed, a street of shops and cafes by the ocean has such a nice ring to it!