Running with the sharks
Two days ago, I went for a short run along my usual beach path and didn’t encounter a single hobo. I was disappointed. But, as I cut through a marina parking lot, a gleaming white Rivian, slow moving and stealthy as a shark, forced me stop so it could pass. I had never seen one before
Under the stifling heat and humidity trapped by the surrounding hills, I plodded along and reflected on the rich and not so rich, and on the unfairness of the world. Santa Barbara is very rich. You can see it on the streets, in the restaurants and shops. The high hills swarm with mansions, and Hollywood stars have abandoned L.A.’s traffic and pollution to live in the slopes of Montecito, just a few miles away. They descend, occasionally, to buy wine and real estate.
Julia Child also lived here, and left behind the the Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts. In fact, she was born in Pasadena, which disabused me of the long-held impression that she was a Boston Brahmin. Apparently, she was a California Brahmin.
Last night we dined at Super-Rica Taqueria, Julia’s favourite, about a kilometre-and-a-half from our hotel. We found out why Julia liked it so much, but she probably called ahead and had her tacos ready when her driver pulled up. From the moment we queued up to order, until the paper plates of food and blazing hot sauce were in front of us, an hour-and-a-half passed. Good things come to those who wait.
The restraint of the City Fathers
State Street is the main drag in Santa Barbara, where you’ll find most of the restaurants, bars and shops. By early afternoon it’s teeming with locals and tourists, but also with a remarkable number of homeless people. A good portion of them are mentally ill. They punch the air, shout and swear. They live in unspeakable conditions, and carry about the smell of urine and defeat.
I have to give some credit to the City Fathers, who let these people be. Crazy homeless people can’t be good for business. I suppose something bad has to happen before they take action: a catalyzing event, such as a punch that actually lands on a tourist’s nose.
Stepping on dead mice
I ran again, yesterday, well away from the beach and into a neighbourhood of small, well-tended homes, where Mexican families live. I ran until the road began its steep ascent into the hills, and I soon became tired of listening to my own gasping. I turned around.
Several times, I stepped onto small squishy objects that felt like dead mice. But they turned out to be tiny purple-black figs, from trees planted along the sidewalk. Figs in spring! In Greece, we have to wait until the end of summer.
I saw Teslas tricked out with racing stripes and graphics, and ran by a large daycare echoing to the sounds of the Hokey Pokey. Outside a farmer’s market, an ancient Mexican man was making balloon animals, as beseeching children tugged on their mothers’ skirts and pointed.
At Ortega Park, I paused to watch some nine-year-old boys in a soccer match. In the few moments I spent beside the cheering parents, all of them Mexican, the Blue team pumped in three goals. The Blues were cruel and efficient. On the far side of the pitch, parents of the hapless Yellow team stood in grim silence. Life is not fair.