ARE WE SMUG? David Sedaris knocks off these short, amusing essays about places he visits, including a put-down of Santa Barbara.
Shocked? What’s to criticize? Well, to Sedaris, it’s easy. We’re too perfect. To him. We’re a town composed of handsome people in their sixties, privileged, blessed, looking like models.
And living clean, healthful lives. “Most everyone I passed was engaged in some sort of exercise.” And every day has perfect weather.
“There are other such towns in California — La Jolla, Carmel — but none seem as satisfied with themselves.” The airport is meticulously landscaped “and smells like primrose mulched with shredded money.”
Sedaris gets paid by UCSB to give talks, blows into town, then sneers at us, or what he sees from his room at the Four Seasons Biltmore. He’s very good at finding stuff to bitch about.
When he first started coming here, he was offended by California’s crusade against smoking. When the Four Seasons Biltmore and other top hotels went nonsmoking, he fretted that he’d have to stay outside town “at a dismal chain hotel on the freeway …”
But now that he’s quit smoking, he’s turned against the Biltmore and found reasons to be “disgusted.” But why? Well, “The Olympic-sized pool, for instance: It’s too long. [He means the Coral Casino’s, actually longer than Olympic.] The tennis court is too … tennisy.” What?
The hotel’s “a short distance to Montecito, an enclave of wealth and privilege that makes Santa Barbara look like East St. Louis.”
Hold on a darn minute there, Sedaris. East St. Louis is a gang-infested, high-unemployment town that is “not only one of the most violent cities in the United States, but it continuously ranks among the world’s most dangerous cities,” according to Wikipedia.
I trust that he’s not speaking from experience, stopping there for the night and not finding a Four Seasons. But we get the joke, even if it doesn’t fit.
But Sedaris, in his hit-run critique, missed the essence of Santa Barbara-Goleta-Montecito-Summerland-Carpinteria. It isn’t that we’re anything like perfect; it’s mainly that we’re sitting in this little corner of California, watching the world go crazy and so glad it’s there and we’re here.
Until the June primary hits, we watch with horror the Republican presidential race that seems more like a Lower Slobbovia fishwife battle in the market than sober consideration of the best choice of a president of a great democracy.
Now the candidates’ wives are being libeled and slandered, for Pete’s sake. What next?
The GOP seems determined to hand the presidency to Hillary Clinton on a silver plate.
The June primary will surely see Donald Trump barreling into California, bellowing fresh insults far and wide, like a high school football player running for freshman student body president, too big and too loud to be challenged when he smears the virtue of cheerleaders, until the principal pulls him off the stage.
But in California, there’s no principal. It’s us. And maybe, for the first time in many years, California will have a real say in the GOP race. Right now, at least, Trump is the frontrunner for the nomination, and books are being written for high school students and scholars for generations to come about the Great 2016 Presidential Election. Possible title: Democracy at Its Finest.
Right now, they’re likely to resemble scripts for the Netflix series House of Cards, portraying a sleazy, slutty conglomeration of corrupt Washington, D.C., officials manipulating the sausage factory on the Potomac. And when we start getting inside political news from the National Enquirer, politics has hit a new low, or we have. What high school poli-sci teachers are telling the kids I can’t imagine.
It’s not too surprising that Clint “Dirty Harry” Eastwood is supporting Trump.
“The National Enquirer says they have the goods that five women had extramarital affairs with [GOP presidential contender] Ted Cruz,” Bill Maher said on HBO’s Real Time. “Now I don’t personally believe any of this is true.” Cruz, Maher concluded, actually gets his jollies “by defunding Planned Parenthood.”
UCSB’s Arts & Lectures is bringing funnyman Conan O’Brien to the Arlington on April 16, and he’s sure to make some cracks about the GOP contenders and their sex lives. Sedaris returns on May 1.