I’ve been a Santa Monica Patch columnist for more than 10 months now. This is—by my count, which is somewhat reliable—my 41st submission. I feel like a lot has changed in the Patch community in these 10 months of my relationship with it. Or perhaps it's my perception and knowledge of both the Patch readers and the Santa Monica community that has grown. Either way, I’m better off for it and pleased with the results.
I’ll be the first to admit it: I knew nothing about Patch before I applied to write for it. I actually got into it because my father, also , was writing for Palos Verdes Patch as a side gig to his normal job. He has a lengthy résumé in newspaper writing, and back before I was born, he was a sportswriter in Kauai for the Garden Island newspaper. He is the one who I credit with my desire to be a strong writer, and though I’ve taken my writing to the comedy genre, his teachings from day one have been my biggest motivator.
You know when you have a memory from your childhood that didn’t seem like a monumental event but for some reason it's clear as a bell in your mind after all those years? It wasn’t getting beat up in school, it wasn’t having your parents get divorced—it was something minor.
I remember doing a book report in the third grade for Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell. It was required reading, and we were supposed to do a two-part book report: a write-up of the book, and some sort of arts and crafts piece. My mom being a very talented artist, and my dad being an incredible writer, my house was a factory for churning out A+ book reports. After knocking out a killer 3-D map of the island in the book, using clay and paint on top of a wood plank, it was time to do the write-up, handwritten in cursive, and burn the edges to make it look old and cool.
I can’t remember what I wrote, but what I can remember is my dad judging my writing as if I were a junior in high school. “Robbie, think of the reader!” is something I still think of when I go through to edit my scripts or columns.
Point being, I got started in Patch because my dad was doing it, and it was something we could share together—and a little side cash in this certainly helps as well. I had no idea what the audience numbers were, or if I was just writing the equivalent of spitting into the wind. Editor Kurt Orzeck happened to be a fan of stand-up comedy, so we clicked right away, and he suggested I take a stab at writing a column. Free range of topic, as long as it was at least somewhat Santa Monica-related.
Sometimes that amount of freedom makes things harder. It’s like when your English teacher would tell you to write your essay on whatever you’d like, and your mind goes blank. You’re almost wishing for a specific assignment because, even though it might not be your favorite topic, you’re task is set, and it’s simply a matter of getting it done.
My was an easy decision. I had just moved into an apartment with my girlfriend in Santa Monica and wrote about that process. As the weeks went by, I’d be racking my brain on Sunday nights, trying to think of a Santa Monica topic I want to write about. One way or another, seems to have found some legs, haphazard as it may be.
I’ve been with our landlord takeover, and this is when I really found out that people are reading and enjoying these pieces. First my comedy manager called me, asking how my living situation was and if everything was OK with my landlord. I had never mentioned it to him before—he had come across my articles.
I’ve had several kind emails from Santa Monica residents, sharing their rental experiences, offering advice and telling me which neighborhoods they think I’d enjoy moving to in the area. My friend and fellow stand-up comedian Nick Hoff told me that the owners of came across on Monday nights and forwarded it to him, and that it’s helped with their weekly audience.
I even had someone knock on my door (even though I’ve never given my address!) and tell me that she spoke with people at the homeowner’s association and that there is no way my landlord will be able get the permits to tear down our backyard and build a parking lot.
All of this has made me feel like I’m in a tight-knit community, and it’s really something special. I love this city, and hope to spend many more years here and write a lot more columns for you all!
(The second picture above is a shot of the remnants of the Thai food we ate on the floor of our empty apartment, the first night after we signed our lease.)