Last year I returned home after trying to live on the Big Island for several months. At the time I was relieved to once again feel the motherly embrace of Santa Barbara, and I soon found myself sharing coffee with Bob Burton’s round table of cronies.

An elegant slab of botoxed marble glided by as Bob boomed the millennium’s minutes. She gave us a haughty, disdainful look. Bob regaled her with morning salutations.

“Blah, blah, blah, ” she growled back through perfect fish lips.

“We call that conversation where we’re from!” he replied gleefully.

“Hey, you want to meet a real local?” Bob gloated, pointing at me.

She stopped and looked as Bob continued my introduction.

“His father played piano while John and Jackie from the Cape cuddled in the dark recesses of the Plow and Angel.”

“Oh really!” she said, as her lips tried to curdle. “Where were you born?” she asked me, with eyes of an asp.

“March 4, 1954, Cottage Hospital,” I answered.

“And what town is that in?” she shot back at me.

My point is, there’s a quiet little tug-of-war being waged on the home front. It’s called, “I’m a local, who are you?” I read these proclamations in the local rags every day, hidden in the subterfuge of what side you’re taking during whatever popular whine is on the auction block. Why am I shocked at this age old game of capture the flag? As the son of a history professor I should know better. The human condition has always proven that nothing ever changes, and change is the cause of it.

A bunch of guys in shiny metal suits hack their way through jungle and indigenous people, plant flag in sand, put lazy locals to work, name the place after some faraway dead princess who lost her head by her father’s sword. Five hundred years later some out-of-work bum has an epiphany, cashes in, moves to coast, puts lazy locals to work, gives the landscape a makeover. What’s the difference? Nothing has changed.

So all you locals, want-to-be locals and non-locals, step back, take a deep breath, put your shiny suits and flags back in the war chest, and give the beautiful landscape a rest while we all try and enjoy whatever religion’s got us by the short hairs during the winter solstice celebrations. Then, maybe, there is hope for us all!

Merry Christmas and happy New Year, Santa Barbara!


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