By Vince Basehart
September 12 -- "Excuse me sirs," says the voice
behind us on the sidewalk.
The word "excuse" is extended into three and a half syllables
and ends with a hard "s," as if being stretched on the
rack. The voice is delicate, and distinctly Teutonic.
The Lens and his friend turn around and discover a beautiful young
German woman wearing a confused, exasperated expression. Beautiful
is an understatement; she is in fact stunning, a blonde nymph who
seems to have sprung from a magical glade in the Black Forest.
"Vee are lookink for zee art gallery sirs, please?" the
lovely fraulein implores. "It is right around here, no?"
No. But we will help this little lost lamb find Art.
Her boyfriend is short, whiskery and generally hairy, and slouches
beside her. His round face looks painfully sunburned. He wears a
t-shirt and the remains of camouflage pants which seem to have been
torn off at the knees. He is one of those young men who insist on
wearing a woolen watch cap even in this summer heat. He remains
as silent as a stone.
We are standing on a sidewalk not far from the cluster of medical
buildings on 20th. There is more than one art gallery in Santa Monica,
we explain. So she will have to narrow it down.
She rolls her blue eyes up towards her golden hair as she rummages
for the right words. She is perfectly suntanned.
"Oh. It is zee Santa Monica Mooseum of the Aahrt," she
states. "Perhaps vee haff taken zee wrong Blue Bus?"
I can tell she is proud of having the colloquial term for our local
The Lens's friend gallantly whips out his internet-computer-telephone-navigation
device he wears on his belt like Batman. While he taps at the screen
and clicks buttons with his thumbs, the couple and I smile at each
other awkwardly as traffic whizzes by.
"Here on vacation?" I ask, obviously.
"Yes. Vee are from Germany," she answers, just as obviously.
If they were any more German they'd be wearing lederhosen.
Ridiculously I ask, just to keep the conversation going, "So.
Are you from Berlin?"
Something gets lost in translation. She is beautifully perplexed
for a moment and answers, "No. Vee are staying at zee Loewes
Hotel" and points west towards the beach.
I realize suddenly just how poorly the dollar is doing. In other
times such college-aged European travellers would be humping backpacks
and crashing at Santa Monica's low-rent student hostel, not staying
at a mega-bucks beachfront hotel. I notice also that the boyfriend
is carrying two glossy Armani bags. Mein Gott.
Their destination has been located on the Lens's friend's side-gadget.
We explain the museum is a good mile or more southeast of where
we are standing now. The Lens's friend shows the map displayed on
The damsel sighs and looks at her boyfriend with a super model's
pout. She strings a quick sentence together in German, complete
with long technical, German compound words.
"Vee voor zupposed to take zee other bus as I thought so,"
The sunburned young man stares at us blankly from under his woolen
We explain that it's walkable, but in the heat it seems it would
be difficult. They may want to find another bus down there. We point
to the bus stop down the street.
"I suppose a taxi it is available. No?" she asks.
I explain that this is Santa Monica. It is not like New York, or
perhaps Berlin, where you can just find a taxi anywhere and flag
it down. I don't even know if it's legal for a taxi to just stop
Beautiful people do have it easier. Miraculously, not a moment
later a yellow cab comes cruising down 20th and stops at a red light
not half a block away.
With a gasp and a brilliant smile the beautiful young German woman
nods at us and dashes off, her boyfriend trotting behind her across
the street carrying her Armani bags to get into the taxi.
In the middle of the crosswalk, her hair shining in the sun like
corn silk, she calls out over her shoulder, "Thank you sirs."
I wave and exclaim, "Guten tag!"