ZONED OUT: And so, as we leave 2016 for dead and head-shakingly ponder 2017, we must ask why we elected a dunderhead as president.

We could do so much better. The choices are many, both men and women. (Dodger legend Vin Scully, for instance, a man of honor and character.)

Barney Brantingham

Luckily, our golden enclave of Santa Barbara, so far from Washington, so close to heaven and the beach (if you can afford the price of admission), remains an oasis of relative peace and quiet in a world gone tragically bonkers.

I know what they say about us, that we’re smug, self-satisfied, and cynical. Oscar Wilde said it first. A cynic, he said in the play Lady Windermere’s Fan, is someone “who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

That’s not quite true, of course. We know the value of our homes to the penny.

In Washington, heads are already rolling in Congress. Obamacare, with 20 million people relying on it for health insurance, has a target on its back and is on life support. Planned Parenthood, long-hated by the GOP, is as good as dead. These are just the first casualties, of course. Much more to come. Don’t tell me you’re surprised.

The latest crackpot bait-and-switch scheme out of Washington is Trump, who, having won the election in part by pledging to build a border wall, with Mexico paying the bill, now wants U.S. taxpayers to foot the construction cost.

Mexico will reimburse us the estimated $25 billion later, Trump assures us. If you believe that, he has a wall to sell you.

Is it symbolic of the selfish, careless new era in D.C. that on opening night of the glitzy new MGM National Harbor casino there the chair of the county liquor commission was arrested for DUI?

HORSES, HORSES: We can only regard 2017 with trepidation. Perhaps it’s best to avert our eyes, hug our children tighter than ever, and consider the pleasures here at home.

Awaiting is the smack of a cascarone on your head. The sound of a Fiesta mariachi band piping away in a lower State restaurant. The music is comfortingly familiar.

So is the sun on your neck the first morning the June gloom finally burns off.

The saucer-eyed black cat staring at you from next door. The way practically anything can grow here, from tropical bananas and bougainvillea to crabgrass.

The little kids across the street screaming with glee as it finally rains.

A fish sandwich at Leadbetter Beach with your toes in the sand while eavesdropping on the obviously honeymooning couple at the next table.

College girls screaming at Joe’s. New Orleans–style jazz in the night at the James Joyce. The clip-clop of horses on State Street during the Fiesta parade and the slightly sweet essence of warm manure after the parade passes. (Not for everyone, natch.)

Calm elections. The bang-bang of the train crossing gates. The swarm of graduates heading for City College, ready for a free year there hitting the books.

A rock band somewhere high on the Riviera.

Jackson Browne or Crosby, Stills & Nash filling the soft evening air at the Bowl.

Bells pealing from the Mission and the annual I Madonnari chalk art on the parking lot there.

A boat chugging into the harbor with a cargo of happy anglers. Kids learning to sail in little seashell boats.

Parents lugging a pile of books back to the library, with a gaggle of kids trailing behind, anxious to begin reading in the car before they even get home.

The jagged profile of the Channel Islands when winter clears away the summer mists. Harry’s Plaza Café when it’s jammed with weary little cowpokes after a horse show at Earl Warren Showgrounds.

Tourists rubbernecking at the County Courthouse (financed by Ellwood oil revenues way back when).

Silver-sailed catamarans skimming the water off Stearns Wharf.

As George and Ira Gershwin put it: “Who could ask for anything more?”


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