If we were to believe the headlines, “staycations”-bumming around close to home in lieu of actually traveling-would be every bit as fabulous as the real McCoy. The fun without the hassle, the adventure without the expense, the relaxation without the vaccinations. And yet, for me, skeptic that I am, those trend stories tend to fall a little bit flat-I mean, without a Walter Mitty-caliber imagination or some very strong hallucinogens, am I really supposed to believe I can have the kind of fun I’d have exploring some foreign land while actually wandering the streets of my own town, which I know inside and out?
Well, maybe. I mean, it is a charming idea, and Santa Barbara is nothing if not charming. Hallucinogens aside, I have a pretty decent imagination. And S.B.’s lineup of summertime festivals provides the perfect testing ground for such a concept.
So last Saturday afternoon, I got on my bike and made my way over to Oak Park-I mean Greece-for the 35th Annual Greek Festival. Clearing customs was incident-free, and while the kids playing in the pool and bouncing in the jumpers seemed a little less than authentic, the sound of Greek music, the sight of the dancers, and the taste of the baklava were every bit as delightful as if I’d stumbled across the scene in some Athens neighborhood. If nothing else, the heat was certainly comparable, and the ouzo was perfectly potent.
And while Oak Park didn’t exactly transport me to the whitewashed isle of Santorini, closing my eyes while inhaling the scent of lamb on the grill was enough to conjure daydreams of a Greek vacation. Of course, in my dreamiest of dreams I wouldn’t have to wait in a line rivaling the worst of DMV queues for a gyro, but I guess I can’t have everything. And, unlike that proverbial vacation I didn’t win (or did I?? did I??), the trip home took but a minute, and getting over this bout of jetlag was a breeze.