South Bay, Manhattan Beach editorial - we need an image makeover
July 24, 2007
I haven't written something like this in a while, but I woke up and feel compelled to share this viewpoint in hopes maybe people will read it down here, see themselves and think maybe, just maybe we need to change...
I'm referring to Manhattan Beach and those who live here. In fact all of the South Bay. It deeply saddens me that when I invited a girlfriend to come down here to join me and some of my new friends for dinner one of the first things she shared with me was a girlfriend of hers who'd gone out down here five years ago was drugged and then raped in a parking lot of a bar.
Apparently this woman had met a guy, left her drink with him to go to the restroom and the next thing she remembered she was being raped. I was shocked to think that occurred in my hometown. I don't know if the woman ever reported it or if anything was ever done to prosecute this man, but my friend is leery about coming down here because of that instance. Maybe that's why the men outnumber the women now?
Then, over lunch with my mom yesterday, when I told her I'm starting to socialize in Manhattan Beach (which I normally never do since my social and professional scene is strictly Hollywood) she said, well you know what they call that city don't you. No, I replied, what? Drunken Manhattan Beach.
That is so sad to me. Since when has alcohol become such a dominating force in a sleepy bedroom community that two separate people have such a bad impression of this beautiful seaside area? I grew up down here. I attended the local elementary schools, finished four years of high school and then after I left for college never really came back because by the time I returned all my friends had married.
I spent most of my formative young adult lives in Santa Monica and Hollywood. By then I was dating someone who wasn't a Christian and spent lots of times in local bars with him. He was an alcoholic and a drug addict (just pot, but still - a drug you need every day is an addiction. I don't care how much denial someone is in.) I've seen this lifestyle up close and personal and that's the reason I never married him.
I grew up in the local church and escaped the craziness of the beach lifestyle by virtue of the fact all my friends and I had fun doing other activities than getting drunk, having sex, and doing drugs. Not to say that anyone who grows up down here automatically does all that if they're not in church, or that people who attend church don't do that. It's just a little more loose if you're not surrounded by people who are trying to live a Godly lifestyle.
I don't want to come off as holier than thou, or whatever because I'm not, but I just want to ask anyone living down here in the South Bay to stop and think for a moment if the legacy we want to leave to generations to come is bigger than the fact this is a party town where the big focus is getting drunk.
I was surprised at a recent Al-Anon meeting when one of the ladies who I've started to consider a friend mentioned that her daughter was turning 14 and she knew she'd have to provide alcohol at her birthday party, but she was concerned about how much to offer.
Are we going to continue to be a community that turns a blind eye and condones alcoholism for under-age children? Are we going to continue to teach our children that this is how we live - drinking all the time? Are the police going to continue to turn a blind eye to the rampant open containers on the beach during events like the 6-person volleyball tournament and all events on major holidays?
I'm not some old fogey, a mother against drunk drivers, or someone who's lost someone to alcohol, but I am someone who is concerned that right now, right here, this is the reputation of my beautiful home town. That sickens me that everything else we do down here - the wonderful free outdoor summer concerts available in all the South Bay cities, the amazing fireworks displays available during the 4th of July, the creative, entrepreneurial minds and businesses that come out of here are completely overshadowed by alcohol and partying.
Maybe those who report on what goes on down here are so enmeshed in this lifestyle themselves that they think it's normal to write stories glorifying the drunken alcoholic revelry of holidays down here, but I would hope that maybe someone in government, or the police department, or visitor relations, or the newspapers will stop and consider that maybe, just maybe, it's not OK to allow alcohol to be the one thing people think of when they think of our beautiful beachside community.
Maybe our International Surf Festival deserves national and international attention for the quality of our lifeguards and the lives they protect day in and day out. Maybe our art scene deserves national and international attention for the diverse, unique, art festivals that are thrown each major holiday. Maybe the wonderful sports associations that host numerous city-wide sports like volleyball, softball, and soccer should have more attention.
Maybe the amazing recreation department that offers such a wide variety of inexpensive activities for the community deserves attention. Maybe our amazing adult schools that are so inexpensive, yet so popular and offer such an amazing array of classes deserves attention. Or the amazing Manhattan Open Tennis Tournaments, the amazing people who live down here like our local newscaster or professional athletes or CEO's. I don't know.
I just don't want my hometown to be casually dismissed as, oh, that city? That's where you go to get drunk. You have to go visit there at least once to see the party scene and get wasted.
I'm sick to my stomach just thinking of that right now. It makes me want to cry (I know - damn PMS, but still.) That's not why I moved back down here, that's not why people stay here - we're so much more than alcohol and my only hope is that someone reads this and will realize it's up to you to make a difference in the legacy and reputation we're leaving our children and generations to come.
Maybe we don't glorify the drunken antics of the upcoming six-person volleyball tournament in our local newspapers. Maybe the police do a better job of managing the open containers of alcohol so prevalent all the time on holidays. Maybe bars that advertise drink specials till noon on major holidays are fined. Maybe our elected officials don't turn a blind eye and condone alcoholic activities on the beach. I don't know.
What I found interesting is that the basic publicity I did for my PR workshop actually made the LA Times, The Daily Breeze and the Easy Reader. Maybe there's so little publicity on what's going on down here other than drinking that any news is more interesting. I don't know.
All I know is, I want my city to be known for something other than alcohol and if it means hitting up the chambers to do publicity for them, then that's what I'll do because my hometown is so much more than partying and alcohol. I know some of the pictures from my BBQ might indicate otherwise, but that's what got me started thinking. It was funny, but not how I normally have parties and made me uncomfortable.
So... That's all for now. I pray that my words bear fruit and it sobers up those of you who are using alcohol as the grease to promote your businesses, or score women (or men), or to avoid reality, or pain. Please stop. I know it's a disease, but let's not perpetuate it to future generations. Please, please, please stop the madness!
We can make a difference in our community, one activity, one business event, one story at a time. I'm going to. Won't you join me?
Here's a website you may find useful. http://www.addicted.com is a site for friends, families, and those who suffer from various addictions.
Posted by: Alcoholism | July 24, 2007 at 11:53 AM
Great points, Joy. I had an experience walking on the strand on July, 5 where a bombed guy asked me for a bottle opener at 6:00 AM. He was still drinking from the night before.
I don't know how seriously the police enforce open container laws. Perhaps the South Bay Cities need to see that a majority of the community would like less public drunkenness.
It's a little creepy to walk on Pier Avenue and watch little kids on their skateboards, bikes and trikes and see someone passed out or vomiting outside one of the local bars.
If there's interest for a rally to express our dreams of a more sober South Bay, I'll attend.
I'd like to see local groups that would be interested in safer and healthier environment express their support also.
Posted by: Lisa | July 25, 2007 at 01:53 PM
Hi Lisa, That's what I'm talking about! Gross, disgusting drunks mixed in with innocent family and children and those of us who can drink responsibly.
Maybe we should have a meeting and invite city officials, police, other organizations, and those interested in "cleaning up" the image of our beautiful beach cities to attend and hear from the community.
I don't think any of the other coastal cities have this reputation - why should we?
I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!!! Who else is with me?
This is Norma Rae signing off.
Posted by: Joy Kennelly | July 25, 2007 at 02:00 PM
In response to your July 24 column,I think both Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach have great community activities and groups that help give each city a positive image. For example Hermosa has the Fiesta Hermosa,HB Chamber and several non profit organizations that do alot of good for the community. People are responsible for the choices they make. They have a choice between spending their time getting drunk or getting involved with doing something positive for their communities. So I think cities can do their part in trying to put forth a positive image of their city and each individual can needs to ask themselves what they can do.
I also think people need to be extremely careful when accepting drinks from people they just met at a bar. If the person is a stranger, don't accept the drink because you don't know what's in it.
Just some things to think about,
Posted by: DK | July 26, 2007 at 12:18 PM
Hi Devin, Thanks for giving your feedback. I totally agree with you on many accounts.
However, to the outside community, I've heard repeatedly that this is a place to come to get wasted. That's not the image I want my community to have.
That's why I'm creating a publicity proposal which I intend to present to all the city chambers and others to promote all the cities quality activities in order to turn that image around.
Also, as long as the police and city officials agree to "turn a blind eye" to the open containers and blatant public drunkenness that happens on holidays and during certain city-wide events, then that image and reputation will continue.
You're right it is each person's own responsibility, but if they are not making the necessary steps to control their drinking and it's affecting the quality of life of others who do, then at a certain point something needs to be done.
I welcome any and all responses because I believe this is a dialog that is a long time coming.
Posted by: Joy Kennelly | July 26, 2007 at 05:17 PM