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My Name Is Cat Neushul and I Live in I.V.

A “Grown-Up” Explains Why and How She Lives in the Student-Dominated Community


Editor’s note: Don’t get us wrong - The Indy loves Nicki Arnold, current Eye on I.V. columnist, as well as Mollie Vandor, who preceded her. However, it occurred to us that by only having UCSB students write about Isla Vista goings-on, we were excluding the perspectives of the non-UCSB affiliated I.V. residents. Thus, today marks the debut of Cat Neushul, one of two “grown-up” Eye on I.V. columnists who will be writing alongside Arnold. Look for Nicki Arnold next week and our third columnist later this month.

When I tell people I live in Isla Vista, I get one of two reactions. Some people smile and say, “Wow. Cool.” Another group, the majority of people out there, look a little stunned and don’t know what to say. It’s like I’ve just told them I have six toes on one foot. They haven’t practiced the polite response. I start explaining about the beach, and the parks, and the open space, but I know they’ve stopped listening.

In this, and future columns, I’ll be giving you what is being called a “grown-up” view of I.V. Grown up? Whatever. I will, however, be giving you a different perspective.

Here’s a recap of my life. Student. Teacher. Student. Teacher. Reporter. Teacher. Two kids. A husband. A dog. And a house. But what you want to know is how I ended up here. It’s definitely not because the houses are selling cheaply. They’re not. And it’s not because of the suburbia-type atmosphere. There isn’t. We don’t do block parties or let our kids play in the street all day. And I’m not a student, professor, or affiliated with UCSB in any way.

So why I.V.? Well, maybe it’s because we’re a little different. My husband and I spent years coming out here on the weekends. We lived near Leadbetter, but we preferred Campus Point and Devereux. We were lured by the beautiful and often deserted beaches. Friends would complain about the tar. Big deal, we would say. Bring some baby oil.

We also liked downtown I.V. We’d have breakfast at the Bagel Cafe, or have a beer at Sam’s to Go. With all the students, it has atmosphere. Someone I know was rendered speechless when he saw the bikini-clad girls who stroll around during the summer.

I like to think of I.V. as an untamed Santa Barbara. The streets aren’t pristine, there are no restaurants on the beach, and the parks don’t include koi ponds or manicured hedges, but it’s still paradise-just another version.

When a little house on the residential side of I.V. went up for sale, we bought it last year. We moved from downtown and started our new life in I.V. While my husband had lived in I.V. during college, I, on the other hand, was a newbie. It’s one thing to come out here on the weekends, during the daytime. It’s quite another to live here on a day-to-day basis. It can be a culture shock. Not only does it look different from Santa Barbara, a little rough around the edges, but it’s a melting pot for a whole bunch of different kinds of people. Some of them, particularly the students, are fun to be around for a few hours, but take a little getting used to when you live with them day after day after day.

My first week in I.V., I got to witness “The Big Dump.” This is a time when students throw out anything, and everything, no matter how new it is and leave it all on the sidewalk or street. There were desks, bicycles, couches, clothes, even a jacuzzi - yes, we checked, but it didn’t work - piled up along the curb. Trash trucks come rumbling down the streets daily and pick up all the stuff the students throw out. It’s like living in a trash war zone. Next I saw families, people with pickup trucks, and loads of others prowling around I.V. looking through the trash. I wondered who these people could be. Who would look through other people’s discards? Turns out, lots of people, including me. At this year’s move out, I kept my eye out for something good. I almost picked up a mini fridge.

When I left my gate open that first week, I met another I.V. staple: the recycler. A woman walked right into my yard and started looking through my trash. While I was standing there. The recyclers push shopping carts, strollers, whatever, through I.V. a couple times a week and look through the recycling bins. And they are industrious. For a while I wondered why my neighbors decided to throw out their beer bottles at 7 a.m. The clanging woke me up every time. Then in an “aha” moment I figured it out: It was the recyclers. I should have known.

One of the other staples of I.V. society are what I’ll call the activists. You know who they are. They’re the ones who know the history of I.V. and seek to preserve it. They are one of the reasons I moved here. Even though I might not agree with them all the time, I respect the fact that they are willing to speak out for what they believe in. And it turns out that we agree on many things. People need to voice their opinions, respect nature and beauty, and try to keep it real.

Then there are the homeless. A police officer estimated that there are about 40 regulars who live in I.V. They are such an integral part of the environment that I find myself talking to them regularly. One woman, who had recently gotten off the streets, told me about an unpleasant experience involving the DMV and police. She had yelled at a DMV employee for being incompetent, and police had been called. The fact that she had been recently homeless didn’t matter. I could relate. Who hasn’t wanted to yell at a DMV employee?

And last, but not least, there are the families. There aren’t so many, but they have a real interest in what happens here. They aren’t going to graduate in four years. And they’re like me. They have kids. They like being close to the beach. And are willing to put up with a little noise, trash, and inconvenience to live in a beautiful place.

While I.V. may not be for everyone, I find that the students, recyclers, activists, homeless, and me get along just fine.

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