In case you haven’t been keeping abreast of my Facebook status, I have a brand spanking new job. Suffice it to say that I am incredibly excited. Excited in a way that only someone who has been waking up at the literal crack of dawn all year to serve coffee and to ungrateful jerks who don’t tip - let alone appreciate the fact that I dragged my ass out of bed before sunrise to make sure their morning bagel gets buttered - can be. I’m finally working for more than minimally-above-minimum-wage, and I even get commission. The best part is that I get to work with art, and when someone asks me about light at my new job, they’re starting a conversation about photo composition and not the calorie count in our cream cheese. It’s refreshing to say the least.
Of course, I’ll still be serving coffee once or twice a week at The Drip - not so much because I need the extra pay, but because the calculated cost of losing out on my free coffee connection is simply too much for my budget to bear. But, I will also be working at the Dan Merkel Gallery on State Street every Tuesday and Friday, along with some weekends. I apologize for the shameless self-promotion, but I swear I would be saying this even if they hadn’t just taken a chance on hiring a poor film student with little technical photography knowledge and even less experience in art sales. Needless to say, it’s an amazing place. The work is cutting-edge, color-saturated, and completely original, with Dan’s trademark surf photos sharing wall space with some of the most breathtaking panoramic landscape shots I’ve ever seen. Throw in some t-shirts, surf movies, glossy coffee table books, and a very liberal music and movie-playing policy for staff, and I’m in after-school job heaven.
There’s just one thing - the job isn’t in Isla Vista. Like I said, the gallery is downtown - right in the heart of State Street. It’s a great place to people watch and it is definitely a prime position to peddle photography, but it ain’t I.V. No matter how much I complain about the inevitable destruction of any property that I park on I.V. streets, the relative homogeneity of the I.V. party scene and the fact that no one in I.V. seems to be capable of saying “please” and “thank you” while purchasing their morning coffee, I still love the place. There’s a particular vibe in I.V. It’s sort of like the laid-back luxury of downtown Santa Barbara, but more laid-back, with less luxury, and a kind of “we’re-all-in-this-together” camaraderie that feels absent from the scene on State.
Well, it’s not exactly absent. It’s more like it’s just out of my reach. See, I’m about a month away from 21 - effectively barring my admission to any bars or clubs until after July 21. And I’m considerably younger than most of my coworkers at the gallery. Thus far everyone has been really sweet and supportive, but it definitely feels like I’m standing in front of the big-kid rollercoaster and I’m still just a few inches shy of reaching the line on the “you must be this tall to ride” sign. Whereas I’m the older, wiser, more experienced girl at both of my other jobs - I’m an editor with actual, honest-to-god minions at The Nexus and I’ve been at The Drip for longer than I’d like to admit - I’m not only new at the gallery, I’m young. Really young.
My lack of legal drinking age status has never really been a big deal before. Sure, it sucks to be the one left behind on Thursday nights when everyone else leaves the beer pong table and heads for Bill’s Bus. But other than Thursdays, I generally don’t feel the wrath of my relative youth when in I.V. When I’m on State, it’s an entirely different matter. The camaraderie here has a decidedly post-college vibe to it. Everyone is either in their mid-twenties or older. Drinking occurs in dignified places, like gallery events and restaurants, not on someone’s puke-stained D.P. couch. Midnight is late night and theme parties are actually excuses to wear costumes, not chances to go out in public with as little clothing on as possible. It’s a whole new world, and one I’m intrepid about getting involved in.
In I.V., I’m comfortable. I know what to talk about with the customers who come in to The Drip because I can just shoot the proverbial shit with them about the same classes, concerns, car problems, keggers, and concerts that I’m interested in. I’ve spent the past few hours at the gallery Wikipedia-ing all the terms and topics that have come up in my two short days working here, and I still feel more lost than a freshman trying to cross the bike paths on the first day of classes. It’s a feeling I haven’t had in a good long time, and while it’s not exactly bad, it’s definitely disconcerting.
Maybe it’s a good thing though. Maybe I’ve been too complacent about my college experience, falling victim to sameness syndrome - too much time spent in the same square mile, with the same social scene, and the same people whose situations are all so similar to my own. Maybe it’s time for me to get out of the I.V. bubble and into the real world - or at least the slightly larger and marginally more diverse bubble of downtown Santa Barbara. Maybe a little life change is just what I need to spice up my summer, especially since summertime is bringing the temporary loss of a close friend to a camp counselor job in Canada, and the more permanent loss of all the great friends who are graduating. Who knows? Maybe one day soon I’ll wake up and realize that the seemingly endless stretch of State Street is just as comfortable a place for me to pass the time as Pardall Road is now. Hopefully by then I’ll be 21.