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Is a Good Seaside Hangout Too Much to Ask?

March 17, 2000|BOOTH MOORE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

With temperatures expected to reach 80 degrees this weekend, it seems spring is finally here. I can't get enough of Jimmy Cliff's "I Can See Clearly Now," and I'm itching to get outside and feel the ocean breeze. The only trouble is, I haven't found the perfect spot.

I don't mean the beach. There's enough sand to go around. (I'm a huge fan of Malibu's El Matador.) I'm talking about a waterfront hangout, somewhere to go with friends and sip cocktails festooned with little umbrellas, eat raw oysters, buy a new bikini.

Growing up back East, I had this delusion that Southern Californians dined and shopped oceanside every day. I dreamt of watching the sunset at Granita. (So who knew Wolfgang Puck's Malibu outpost was in a mini-mall! You'd never know it from the American Express commercial.)

I'm not suggesting more coastal development, just an improvement on the development we already have. Take the Santa Monica Pier, for example.

It is undoubtedly popular (more than 3 million people visit it each year), but it has the potential to be so much better--something more akin to Baltimore's Inner Harbor, with its world-class aquarium, or New York's South Street Seaport, which has great shopping and happy hours.

Many people shy away from the penny arcades and snack bars on the Santa Monica Pier because they have the impression the area is not safe. (Five people were shot in a scuffle there earlier this week.)

I'm not suggesting that we turn the waterfront into a salt-sprayed version of the Universal CityWalk. Or that the Coastal Commission hasn't done a good job of fending off the urbanization of the shoreline. But I just don't believe a pier has to be seedy to be charming. L.A. deserves a waterfront destination equal to those in other major metropolitan cities. Besides, I'm not looking forward to another summer of gorging myself on peanuts as I wait and wait and wait for a table at Gladstone's 4 Fish, whose prices ruin my appetite anyway.

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People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals announced Thursday it is dropping its controversial anti-dairy "Got Beer?" campaign.

"We are pulling the campaign out of respect for Mothers Against Drunk Driving," said Sean Gifford, a PETA spokesperson.

The two organizations have sparred on television several times since the "Got Beer?" campaign launched last week. "[MADD] voiced their concerns, and we support what they are about. Who couldn't? Drinking and driving is a terrible calamity," Gifford said.

"Got Beer?" campaign materials on college campuses will be replaced with materials for PETA's new "Dump Dairy" campaign, and a link is being set up from PETA's Web site at http://www.milksucks.com to MADD's site (http://www.madd.org).

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Stephen King's new e-book, "Riding the Bullet," is off the e-charts. Online booksellers racked up 400,000 requests in the first 24 hours the book was available.

Fans flocked to sites like Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com after the book's 12:01 a.m. release Tuesday. Some struggled on crashed servers for more than 10 hours to download the novella and the software required to read it, according to Yahoo! News.

Who would have thought computers would bring about a return to reading?

Booth Moore can be reached at booth.moore@latimes.com.

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