Friendly Neighborhood Is A Near-Hidden Gem Of The South Bay
When I moved to Los Angeles, the first place I settled into for a while was in the north section of Manhattan Beach.
With palm trees and lush vegetation in a median between the walking and running part of The Strand and a parking lot full of surfers going into and coming out of the Pacific Ocean, I loved it immediately.
“It looks like a place in the tropics,” I marveled to my new 42nd Street roommate, a long-time local, Big Howard.
I noticed a lot of locals referred to this area as El Porto, but I was defiant; I wanted to say I lived in Manhattan Beach. After all, that sounded so much more prestigious.
After a while tho – under the careful tutelage of Big Howard and in the company of the colorful characters of the neighborhood including Surfer Mike, WD, Grambeaux and Jimbo – I began to look at living in El Porto with a sense of pride.
I realized that El Porto was a tiny, tight community within a slightly bigger community (Manhattan Beach), within a slightly even bigger community (the South Bay) within a large city (Los Angeles).
I also realized you have to live in El Porto to appreciate it. People who live in other parts of the South Bay don’t get it. They can’t understand why anyone would live “so far away” from the action at the Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach piers.
Well here’s why: I had to leave El Porto when the house I was renting was sold. Recently, I was back for a few days cat sitting for a friend on Gull Street and immediately felt as if I had just returned to a place I call home.
Within minutes, I had reconnected with several former neighbors. I waved hey to Chase, the local multi-millionaire who keeps a yacht around the oceans and beaches of Europe.
Before even stepping inside my friend’s apartment, I exchanged pleasantries with Hugh, who was walking out of his garage.
I saw Big Howard, now living in a small unit in the alley, sitting outside on his tiny porch. I later joined him for a couple of beers to catch up and reminisce.
Somewhere during this time, I realized that when you leave El Porto, El Porto never really leaves you. It sticks to your soul like wet sand sticks to the soles of your feet.
Except that you don’t want to brush El Porto off of you.