Picture this, if you will: As I walk through Isla Vista early one summer morning to make it to work by 8 a.m., I pass by Rosarito, one of I.V.’s many eateries. As I walk by the place, I spy a young guy climbing down from the restaurant’s roof, carrying (I kid you not) a sitar. To clarify, this is the ancient instrument most often featured in classical Indian music or latter-day George Harrison albums, and not often found on the roofs of Mexican restaurants.

Just so you know.

Natalia Cohen

In any event, the man looks over at me, and, as if he can see a large red question mark hovering over my head, remarks matter of factly: “I keep my sitar on the roof.”

“I see,” I reply, and continue on my way.

After having lived in Isla Vista for over more than years, I can’t say that I see such oddities 24/7, but I can assure you that such sightings do happen. This, for me at least, is what makes I.V. distinctive.

We are a city of perpetual youth—and while this certainly results in our being stereotyped as a town of mindless revelers, what I think we really are is a town full of people learning how to grow up, and doing weird, brilliant, beautiful, and, well, sometimes horrifically irresponsible things in the meantime. We are adults technically, but not really, and that’s what gives us our charm.

As for me, I feel that I fall somewhere in the in the middle of the aforementioned. I’m going into my fourth year at UCSB, where I study English, film, and media studies, and professional writing, which makes me excellent at dinner conversation and hopeless at divvying up the tip at restaurants. Also, I have terrible wanderlust, and want so much to see the world, but I haven’t been any father then Canada—yet.

In the meantime, I’m content to live in Isla Vista and see people hoisting their sitars down from restaurant roofs, practicing circus routines in their front yard, or playing guitar and singing for no particular reason in the Pardall tunnel connecting I.V. and the UCSB campus. The sight of 20-year-olds parking their new Mercedeses next to a family with young children raiding garbage cans is, sadly, also not a sight unfamiliar to I.V. residents. As I said, it is a strange place to live and go to school.

I like to think that, though there’s certainly truth in the stereotypes about Isla Vista, there are also those who defy the norm in a way that people can’t, or won’t, after they graduate and leave our seaside Never Never Land.

In this column, I’m going to try to seek out those people—the ones who express their joie de vivre in interesting ways—and write about them. It sounds simple, but as I’m just one person. If you happen to know of anything out of the ordinary—about just one person, an organization, or the town—feel free to leave a comment or send me an email.

In the meantime, I’m going to continue paying attention on my walks to school. Maybe next time, I’ll see someone climbing down the roof of Freebirds with a keytar. You never know with Isla Vista.


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