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Welcome to dystopian paradise. In addition to finding ourselves living in an oxymoron, Santa Barbarans are now pondering questions that read like Zen riddles designed by the dumb: What’s a wine country without wineries? What’s a tourist town without tourism? What’s a grocery store without jack shit in it?
The answers are bleak. So to stave off despair, I’ve begun fantasizing about the things I’ll do when our myopic messiah Donald Trump — Pence be upon him — singlehandedly formulates a cure and life on the Central Coast returns to something resembling normalcy.
For starters, I’m going drinking. I’ll guzzle every last delicious thing that Michael Craig pours me at Goleta Red Distilling Company and shake his hand with reckless abandon. I’ll sit beside strangers at the Imperial, sipping cucumber margaritas and admiring Dawn O’Brien’s incomparable style and poise. I’ll gather with friends around a table at Municipal Winemakers, laughing and chatting in close proximity and drowning in pools of Dave Potter’s wonderful wine.
I’m going to lounge in one of the tufted banquettes at Harry’s Plaza Café, inhaling Burnt Ends sandwiches and getting 10 kinds of turnt on Hurricanes. Surrounded by seniors, I’ll rest easy knowing that one errant cough isn’t about to usher in some kind of inadvertent elder holocaust.
I’m going to climb the egregiously steep path to the Santa Barbara Bowl and collapse onto my seat, sweaty and exhausted and ready to rock until precisely 10 p.m.
I’m going to attend no end of crowded events at the Carriage Museum and the Presidio and the Zoo, all of them somehow emceed by John Palminteri and DJ Darla Bea, and each of them an opportunity to reconnect with the ceaselessly warm and fascinating members of our community.
Even encounters with character types who have traditionally annoyed all hell out of me will feel like welcome reunions with dear old friends. The gray-ponytailed New Age guy (named something like Gale or Les) fondling the farro at Lazy Acres will be regarded as a comrade rather than an obstacle. The sight of his black socks and sandals and Jandd fanny pack will fill my heart with limitless compassion.
I will joyfully greet the bottle blonde who pulls out of her parking spot at Trader Joe’s with nary a glance in the rearview mirror. And I will be her rapt and grateful student as she conducts a master class in oblivious living.
The preternaturally toned and hairless Gauchos loudly playing beer pong on the beach will be like music to my eyes and ears. Their young, tanned bodies will not send me into a resentment-fueled shame spiral. Nay, they will inspire me to do better, be better, and love harder!
Even the herds of woo-girls dangling out of the Land Shark or chardonnay-stumbling down Yanonali will be embraced as cherished members of an extended family. Kaitlyn, Becky, Ashley, it’ll be a delight to see you all.
All of this, sadly, is still a ways off. But in the interim, there’s much to appreciate. We still have the sound of the Mission bells echoing through the canyon. We still have the fragrance of eucalyptus groves misted with sea air. We still have the digitate tendrils of fog crawling down the foothills. And we still have the sun melting into the ocean each evening, heralding the end to another day in what continues to be paradise of a kind.
For a place so closely associated with easy living, Santa Barbara and its citizens have had to endure an awful lot as of late. But for a city supposedly composed of the soft and spoiled, we’ve also demonstrated a remarkable amount of resiliency. This too shall pass. And when it does, let’s have some goddamn fun.
Get ready, John and Darla — it’s going to be a busy season.