WHAT? PREPPIES HERE? Vanity Fair magazine warns that Santa Barbara is a favorite spot — along with Oyster Bay and other, mostly ritzy, places — for preppies to vacation. I’m not sure what a preppie is, but judging from Vanity Fair, you might be able to identify them by their plaid Bermuda shorts, Top-Siders, and blazers. (They are not to be confused with yuppies.)
Most, apparently, attend or attended Ivy League schools, their habitat is chiefly on the East Coast, and they tend to have very rich parents or grandparents. But if preppies live by a rather elaborate set of behavioral rules, dress, and habits, so do we.
A guide to the dos and don’ts of preppyhood fills pages of VF, while our traditions have yet to come to the magazine’s notice. While I gather that preppies seem to favor bright-colored clothing, dress neatly in the latest 1950s fashions, and are unfailingly polite to their inferiors, Santa Barbarans refuse to dress for show. You can’t tell the sloppy-looking computer millionaire from the guy whose idea of a clothing splurge is something marked down at a thrift shop.
This is a beach town, after all. We all look pretty much the same after a sweaty afternoon at the East Beach volleyball courts or lounging at a coffee shop.
Money doesn’t mean a lot here — after you’ve shelled out a pretty penny for a place to sleep, that is. You don’t have to be rich to have as much fun as the coupon-cutters, but without their headaches, spawned by the crazy stock market, to say nothing of federal investigations. You can pay $10 for a seat at the Granada — and I have — and hear the same concert as smarties up in the boxes. The last Music Academy concert I caught was one of the best I ever heard. Ten bucks a pop.
We do have our idiosyncrasies. We think it’s rude to blow our car horns (this can get your head blown off in L.A.). Too many of us do not know what a turn signal is for, and we have a dangerous habit of blowing through stop signs and running red lights. At last report, we were racking up one DUI a day.
We wear jeans to weddings, concerts, and funerals, and if they’re torn, so what? We wear shorts of all colors and conditions, from faded nylon board shorts to crotch-huggers, and Hawaiian shirts day and night, 12 months a year. We’re just as fond of mini-brewery beer as Santa Ynez Valley wine. We’re as honest as any town I can think of, or more so (Los Angeles and Bell come to mind). Even the judges are honest.
If you’re going to get in trouble, do it here. You’ll get a straight day in court, whether you just hit town or your family goes back to the days of Padre Junípero Serra. No one asks or cares where or whether you went to school. The junior high dropout on the next bar stool might be an entertainment-biz billionaire, for all you know.
We don’t talk about how much we made last year — or lost. Or how much we paid for our house — and how much it’s dropped. Anyone can walk into Ty Warner’s Four Seasons Biltmore and mosey around.
We, by and large, aren’t pretentious. The mayor or DA might be your server at a fundraiser. Your volunteerism is way more important than your last movie. (And we don’t sell maps to celebs’ homes on street corners or bug them in restaurants — or we shouldn’t.)
Oprah pushes her own cart at Coast Village Road Vons. The rich send their kids to public schools. We spend way too much time with cell phones screwed into our ears, even in cars, where it’s illegal. We drive way too fast, daring pedestrians to get in our way. We raise zillions a year for good causes yet turn our heads from the homeless.
Women brag of snagging an almost-brand-new castoff at a thrift store. Men’s duds are rags by the time our wives sneak into our closets and toss them. Then we sneak out to the garbage and get ’em back.
We look doubtfully at conservative North County politics. Santa Barbara County is like a dysfunctional, stubborn married couple, and they’re darned if they’ll get a divorce.
LONG-DISTANCE CON: June, I’ll call her, got an apparent international cell phone call. A man with a thick accent told her that because she hadn’t paid a $500 Internet loan, she must fork over the money pronto or a marshal would visit her with a summons to court. Court costs, interest, missing work, etc., would cost her about $5,000, he warned.
June protested that she’d never received such a loan, but he persisted. He knew all her personal data, name, work phone number, and more. Maybe they were counting on reaching a vulnerable, easily frightened elderly person, but June told him to jump in the lake. She hung up and never heard back. So be on your guard. With cheap international cell phone rates available, we may be seeing more of this.