I recall a day in Hermosa Beach, before the trendiness set in and left the town vapid. It was a rear apartment above the Insomniac Coffeehouse, overlooking a parking lot beyond which rose the dark redbrick mass of the old Hermosa Hotel. Relaxed by beer and Brazilian music, I sat with my feet propped on the low windowsill, watching the day.
Beach-goers wandered by below; girls in bikinis, surfers with bronzed shoulders, kids carrying beach balls. I dozed as the afternoon passed and the sun came around to the back of the building. Waking once, my eye was caught by the bulk of the old hotel, back-lit against the white-flecked blue of the sky, and I noticed for the first time that the old pile was out of plumb. Recalling how this low-lying neighborhood had, several times, been flooded by unusually high tides, I wondered if someday the weakened leaning wall of the hotel would drop into the parking lot. I pictured it falling in dreamlike slow motion as I went back to sleep.
Later I was wakened again, by shouts and laughter from the parking lot, and by a slight chill in the breeze. The sun was dropping behind the buildings along the beach. Carloads of flatlanders were driving away. I realized that my legs were sunburned. No matter. We opened more beer and listened to Jobim as evening fell and the lights came on from Manhattan Beach to Venice, to Santa Monica, Topanga and Malibu, and the Pacific sang in the gathered darkness, before the world vanished into an irrevocable past.