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Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

Herb Benham

There are days when the sensible response is to uproot, move and throw your life away because something more beautiful has appeared.

Last weekend it was Santa Monica. Forget that we can't afford it, don't have jobs there and we'd be living under the Santa Monica Pier. When the wind blows like it did and you can see the Palos Verdes Peninsula to the south and Point Dume to the north, only the poor, stubborn and crazy stay put.

We had our shot. Thirty-five years ago we lived in Mar Vista and then in lower Brentwood. We ran on Santa Monica State Beach, walked into the surf and listened to Hot Lips and Fingertips at O'Mahoney's in Santa Monica.

Fond memories, yes, and ones that make people long for the good old days and the way things were except for this:

Santa Monica may have improved. Yes, there are four times as many people and the city may have lost its sleepy Midwestern town-by-the-sea feel, but droves of people were walking, running and doing tai chi in Palisades Park on Ocean Avenue overlooking the water.

Is that bad? After some light exercise, maybe you're hungry. Santa Monica is a good place to be hungry. There are restaurants. Tons and within walking distance, inviting another invigorating stroll.

We stayed at Loews, a large hotel, because Sue had business there, but Jim Carnal, an old friend, recommended the Seaview Hotel a few doors down on Ocean Avenue as a smaller, cozier option.

I walked by the Seaview on my way to Main Street. Sue had to pick up her dress for Sam and Lauren's wedding from Paris 1900, a small shop on Main (you can't imagine how relieved I am that Sue has her dress -- its absence had been weighing on me).

Shoot me if I ever use the word adorable again, but yes, Paris 1900 was adorable. Wedding dresses, vintage gowns, old French linens, cookbooks, jewelry -- "Small and potent," wrote somebody on Yelp.

Shopping is more job than avocation for most guys, but I was overwhelmed by a wave of adorability and inspired by the crisp, clear beach day so I plunged onto Main Street ready for more, and more there was.

The Urth Caffe, the Community Garden (one of three in Santa Monica), a small park where dogs ran freely, the Awkward Family Photos exhibit at the California Heritage Museum and a woman wearing orange high heels sunning herself on a park bench. It was time to praise Santa Monica, not bury it.

I walked into Buffalo Exchange, which sells new and recycled fashion. It was busy. In addition to "providing a livelihood for its employees, a fair return to its owners, having a rewarding workplace, acting with integrity, being self-righting and functioning in a socially responsible manner," I found a green cotton Hawaiian-like shirt for $8 and a cream-colored blouse from Coldwater Creek that Sue looks great in and which gave me temporary asylum in the land of men who can buy clothes for their wives and not completely whiff it.

"Santa Monica is bagless," said the clerk at the counter when I checked out. "Would you like to buy a tote bag for $2?"

Yes, I would. I walked north on Main Street carrying a handsome plastic bag from Buffalo Exchange.

It was the sort of day when you could walk forever or at least until the wind stopped blowing.