Wednesday, June 30, 2021

BAKED 2: LUNACY AT ITS SNOTTIEST

 






Andrew phones.  He was supposed to join us on this road trip to Bakersfield but we gave him the slip, reasoning that he’d probably get us into trouble, not understanding at this point that we didn’t need Andrew for this because trouble in this strange place would be easy even without having him along and now we’d lost the opportunity to sacrifice him, in a squeeze, to save our own sorry skins.

“When are we leaving?” asks Andrew.


“Past tense, Andrew—we’re already here.”



Andrew:  left behind
“No!”

“You were supposed to be at my place at 9:03 this morning, remember?”


“That’s not what you told me!” Andrew hollers.





“No?  What did I tell you?”


“To call you at noon.”


“Did I say that?  Damn, Andrew, sorry.  But don’t worry, you’re not missing much—it’s over a hundred degrees out here and we can’t even get rooms.  But if you want, jump in your car and drive on out and...”


“You know I don’t have any money for gas.”


I do.  Andrew doesn’t have any money for anything, which is another reason we gave him the slip.

Contemplating thrift shop windows, I realize there is something very strange about the mannequins clad in old garments that even the Salvation Army would refuse, but I go inside anyway to escape The Bake’s extreme heat and bleak cityscape, which seems constructed to break any man’s spirit.  



That’s where I find a memento, which I can buy and quickly call it a trip, adios, Bakersfield: a porcelain angel picking the moon’s nose. 

Lunacy at its snottiest.



Further on, F.W. Woolworth (no longer a dime store but another junk shop) sucks us into its soda fountain, which serves Folgers coffee.  (Starbucks had the good sense not to open here.)






Walking around on heightened alert, I become the recipient of beamed messages from The Bake's landmark towers:  

Get out!  Get out!  Before it’s too late!


Van Stein looks at me, alarmed.  

“Are you hearing that, too?” 





But it’s already too late because the car is gone or maybe we can’t find it and by this time we are feeling desperate...




...so we rush into the Greyhound Bus Station...









...only to discover every departure has been cancelled...











...for the rest of the year.









Tuesday, June 29, 2021

RUDY & ME, THE COMIC ZONE




 


BAKED 1: BLOWN IN BY GUTSY WINDS

 


There are more pawn shops, tattoo parlors and bail bondsmen in downtown Bakersfield than grocery stores and pharmacies




Returning from Bakersfield, only a tab of Xanax washed down by a Grey Goose dry martini, olives, splash of dirt, saved me from commitment to a place where medication and counseling would be far more intensive and invasive.

It starts as a lark, summer approaching, when my artist friend Van Stein and I embark on a road trip to the “other” California—that is to say, the Central Valley, two hours inland from the coast.


Cruising along 126 is smooth enough, a left onto The Grapevine, until Gorman ushers us into the enormous valley with an electronic sign that flashes “gutsy winds.” 


I should have known right then that descending into a surreal stew of red necks, beer, country music and Basque grub would probably not be good for our psyche, much less our intestinal health.


Wiki Travel tried to warn us off—“This city will never be a tourist destination”—but it only beckoned us in, the masochists we are, laughing and yakking about art and letters, creativity and madness, in a never-ending and highly random stream of duo-logorrhea.


The big road forks and we veer right onto 99, California’s 66, and it sure feels upside down to us, hurtling through urban sprawl and decay until a magnetic force yanks us into downtown Bakersfield, which at first glance is underwhelming and second and third glance, much worse. 



Cold Spring Bridge
The view from rock bottom
By fourth glance, we realize we are quagmired—a rock bottom worse than the dry creek below Cold Spring Bridge, where we’d descended a year before to better understand suicide.






Home-town hero Merle Haggard is singing Gin and Misery on the CD player as we draw up to the Padre Hotel and I empathize with his misery as we amble in to enquire about accommodation.

“We’re pretty full, just one room left,” says a trim Caribbean-American.  “Big bike race in town.”



The Bakersfield Hotel
Van Stein and I don’t share rooms so this doesn’t work and deep inside I’ve already decided I’d be better off not staying overnight in Bakersfield but instead be gone before midnight, because if we can’t stay at the Padre—renovated two years earlier after being boarded up for a couple decades—we ain’t overnighting anywhere, least of all the old Bakersfield Hotel down the street, which might just as well advertise its bed bugs in neon.


Bakersfield's version of the Eiffel Tower


We take in the main landmarks: a couple of communications towers.

Next:  refuge in a thrift shop, having discovered there is more old stuff for sale in downtown Bakersfield than new.  


Thrift shops, pawnshops, tattoo parlors and bail bondsmen account for the shop-fronts still open, while the rest are shuttered with boards or iron bars or both.


This is one-stop shopping for young adults, who can pawn their mother’s jewelry and buy a new tattoo (to compliment a dozen others up and down their torsos and extremities) during one quick excursion into town.




Monday, June 28, 2021

MONTECITO: 20 YEARS AGO (3)






 Bang!  

Another rocket explodes in the smoky sky over Butterfly Beach as Thomas Van Stein, plein air artiste, stands cocked before his field easel on tar terrace.  


He works quickly on the under-painting, dabbing moody blues and purples from his palette with three filbert brushes, prepping a ten-by-fourteen Masonite board for the firework display already popping over Stearns Wharf, the oldest pier on Americas west coast, one mile to the west.  


Van Stein captures his prey with deft strokes, as much to catch the mood as depict a scene.  This artists true love is moonlight. Or any source of light that illuminates darkness.  


At 9:40 the firework display climaxes; high tide has claimed most of the beach and a sulphuric aroma lingers as locals close their coolers and trudge home.  


The painting is done for now, requiring touch-up and varnishing in the studio.


Van Stein unhitches a Mag-Lite attached by Velcro to his Russian faux-fur infantryman hat and steps back to illuminate the masterpiece before him:  an impressionistic nocturne seascape; fine art-meets-special-event; and more personally, to me, a memento of the occasion.


“I have an old buddy coming into town,” I say to Van Stein, after cutting a deal to purchase this painting, not just because I saw it painted before my eyes, but because its damn good.  “What do you recommend I show him?”


“You ever seen the old fig tree?” asks Van Stein.


“No.”


“Been to Joes Café?”


“No.”


“Sounds like I better show you both around.”


 

 

Santa Barbara Municipal Airport is compact, uncomplicated and passenger-friendly.  You can fly to Denver without changing planes, launch to Vegas for ninety-bucks or hop to Phoenix and connect to anywhere else in the country.  


A diner upstairs overlooks three short runways.  


I suck on a chocolate shake topped with a dollop of whipped cream as United Airlines disgorges passengers, including my buddy Floater from Chicago.


“This is beyond cool,” says Floater, looking around, absorbing the sun, seventy-four degrees, an ocean breeze.  “How are you feeling?”  He squints to assess my state of mind.


“Never better,” I grin, merging my Jeep Liberty onto I-101 at 86 miles an hour.


Floater is privy to the undercover work Id been doing for a decade; was also involved in some of it, my own recruit.  So he understands why Im walking the beach.  


“Heard from anyone?” he asks gently.


“Nope.  But theyre watching.”


“You think?”


“I know.  But Montecito is the ideal place to hide out because everyone lives behind tall hedges. And anyone they send would immediately get star-struck by all the celebrities.  Nobody pays attention to me.”


“What makes you think theyre interested?”


“They never release their grip.   Plus theyre afraid Ill write a book.  And I might.   But the more I walk the beach, the more I feel some things are best left in esoteria.”


We exit the freeway into the lower village, past a beggar with this sign: What can I say?  I screwed up.          


I drop Floater at the Coast Village Inn and he grabs his bag, chuckling.  “You dont have to work at life in a place like this.”


And he hasn’t seen Butterfly Beach yet.


“Settle in,” I say.  “Ill be back in an hour.  An artist I know is going to show us the sights.” 



At six o’clock sharp Floater and I enter Thomas Van Steins downtown Santa Barbara art studio, tucked inside a courtyard off West Ortega Street that housed the citys first milk dairy.  


Van Steins moody canvases of oil refineries at two in the morning grace the fifteen-foot walls of this sky-lit barn, part of the artist’s life mission to redeem hideously ugly industrial structures into something of beauty; in this case, urban nocturne meets baroque chiarscuro:  a dramatic light-dark contrast innovated by Dutch masters Rembrandt and Vermeer.  


Van Stein painted his first nocturne (of a full moon, in 1988 on Santa Cruz Island) with a flashlight taped to his Australian akubra outback hat.  


Then, largely influenced by the mysterious nocturnes of Charles Rollo Peters, Van Stein devoted a one-man show to nocturnal plein air landscapes and seascapes in 1993.  


He has been painting moons ever since, in addition to teaching “the color of night” at Santa Barbara City College.  


The artists leather bomber jacket, the back of which he painted himself, dangles from a wire hanger.  Van Stein is a warplane aficionado; in his spare time he paints nose art, gratis, on vintage aircraft at Camarillo Airport.


“Whats that?” I enquire about the jacket.


“An A-2.  For flyers.   During the Second World War, the A-2 was their second set of skin.”


“Where can I get one?”


“If you want the genuine article, like mine, order it from Eastman Leather in England.  Get it in horsehide.  Politically incorrect, I know, but lambskin is for ladies.  Ill paint it for you.  Ready?  Lets go!”


First stop, Joes Café on State Street.  Van Stein quaffs Bass draft beer and yaks about how he bailed all his emotional garbage through The Hoffman Process.  


“Its a program designed to purge yourself of your genetic code,” says Van Stein.  “It brings to the forefront of consciousness that one is the micro of the macro, that is, a product of all your ancestors.  You write everything down, ink on paper.”


“Thats it?” I say.


“Everything,” says Van Stein.  “Over five days.”


“And that purges you?”


“It purged me.  I put the Van back in my name.”


“What do you mean?”


“My parents, my brotherstheir last name is Stein.  But I did some research and discovered that, originally, we were Van Steins, from Jutland.”


“So you inserted Van?”


“Yep.  A legal name change”


“But isn’t the point of The Hoffman Process to purge you of family history, not revert to it?” I ask.


“No, no, no.  Family history and genetic code are two different things.  And anyway, I put the Van back in my name six years before I did the Hoffman Process.   To be your own person, you must rid yourself of all those ancestors crowding in with compulsions and hang-ups.”


“It that why we have schizophrenia?” I ask. “Un-tamed ancestors?”


“Probably.”  A drop of spittle settles on Van Steins lower lip, then launches when he erupts again, a trademark of sorts.  “Funny! So what do you do, Floater.  Hit man?”


Floater glances at me, returns to Van Stein.  “Do I look like a...”


“Hes a psychological hit-man,” I insert.


Van Stein giggles nervously.  “Washington, ChicagoI should have known.  Whats a psychological hit man?”


“He fools people.”


“Oh.”  Van Stein regards Floater for a long moment.  “Youre not fooling me, are you?”


“Careful,” I say.  “That’s an idea of reference.”


“A what?”


“When a person relates external events to himself, mental health professionals refer to him or her as having ideas of reference.”


“Are you kidding?” says Van Stein.  “That sounds like everyone around here.  The me generation was invented here—their sense of entitlement is mind-boggling.”


We set out on lower State Street, a plein air party zone for SBs tri-college community (UCSB, City College and Westmont) to the train station and worlds largest fig tree, planted in 1869 by an Australian seaman.


A “gentlemans club” called Spearmint Rhino attempts to reel us in, but a  supernatural chill runs through my body between the inner and outer doors and I freeze in my tracks.  “Lets do something else,” I say.


“You felt that too?” says Van Stein.


For a moment we are attuned to some unknown danger. 


Floater is too lagged to feel anything except painful blisters on his feet from a new pair of sneakers.  


We stroll up State, dodging vagabonds, snippets of rock music from assorted pubs and clubs, including the James Joyce, until we settle at Intermezzo to share a bottle of pinot noir and a plate of chocolate truffles.


Van Stein rambles about a lady in town who teaches tantric sex.  “My wife and I are thinking of taking lessons.”


“Wouldn’t it be more fun to leave your wife at home?”


Back in Washington Id be in bed by this time, hypnotized to sleep by the usual murder and mayhem, bribery and corruption and self-important political punditry.


“What makes this place tick?” I ask Van Stein, knowing damn well its not the news, which nobody cares about, except the tide report. 


“Abundance,” he replies.  “Theres so much of everything here.  Now, if only I could afford some.”


“Ive noticed theres an abundance of comedians in Montecito,” I say.  “Yet nobodys laughing.”


“Huh?”


“You got all the worlds funniest people living within two square miles of one another, but youre not even allowed to approach one let alone get a laugh out of them.  Steve Martin looks as if hed just as soon drop his bloomers and crap on the sidewalk than smile.  And Dennis Miller walks around looking like he hasnt had a decent dump in three days.”


“Thats funny!” says Van Stein.


“Damn right it isyet theyre the ones making the big bucks for being funny, not me.  They need to feed a little laughter back into the community.  Or maybe we need to squeeze it out of them.”

            



Sunday, June 27, 2021

SB NEWS-PRESS: THE INVESTIGATOR: MONTECITO MUSINGS

 





             HOMELESS IN MONTECITO 



Her name is Vicky. 


You probably did not know her name till now.


But if you reside in Montecito—a beachy paradise in one of the world’s most affluent neighborhoods, otherwise known as Hollywood North—you have most certainly seen her, even if you turn a blind eye.


Vicky is the lady who has made the corner of Coast Village Road and Coast Village Circle her home for the last couple of years. 


Vicky survives without shelter and facilities.


Every morning, upon awakening, Vicky packs up all of her belongings and tidies up after herself, even sweeping the pavement where she had slept. 


She neither panhandles nor begs. 


Some of the kinder folks of the community drop by food for her to eat or spare change for buying coffee and toiletries.


Vicky was born in Arleta, a San Fernando Valley neighborhood “where Richie Valens lived,” she told The Investigator.


She was married, long ago (the 1970s) for four years.


She has a 45-year-old daughter (divorced) and two grandchildren. They live in Las Vegas.


“Do you ever see them?”


“No, because I’m homeless.”


For years Vicky worked as a meat wrapper at Vons in the San Fernando Valley.


In other words, she is a real person, with a real background. And real feelings. 


What compels a person with a fairly normal background to evolve into a homeless existence?


Last year’s Oscar-winning movie, Nomadland, explained it thus: Some folks simply like to roll that way.

 

In Vicky’s case, she is Jehovah’s Witness and deeply committed to her faith. “I was baptized in 1992 as a Jehovah’s Witness—if you’re dedicated, you have to apply it.”


About ten years ago, when she retired and was offered social security and a pension, Vicky declined free money for reasons of faith. And without money to pay rent, she went without a home.


For half that time she has been in Santa Barbara. Until she moved to Montecito two years ago.


“Do you like being without a home?”


“It doesn’t bug me at all. It’s where I’m guided.”

 

Vicky will not go, for religious reasons, to the city’s homeless shelters.


“Is the city not doing a good job with its homeless population?”


“They are ousting people at age 92 from their homes and if you give them any problem they call you mentally ill and force you on 24-hour care—and you usually never recover. That’s how they get your money, your inheritance, your everything.”


She clearly has a healthy mistrust of the system.


“About a month ago,” Vicky continued, “a policeman said to me, ‘I’m throwing all your things away.’ And I say, ‘You can’t do that,’ and he goes, ‘You’re telling me the laws?’ I go, ‘I don’t want to, but, yes, I am.’”


She’s right—and the police officer who truly did not understand the law ultimately saw it her way.


“What does the future hold for you?”


“I just keep praying. God will help you. You know, if I wasn’t homeless I wouldn’t know anything that I know now. I just pray to be guided, that I get my daily bread. I do repent if I do bad. I don’t want to do bad.”


The Point Market at the Chevron station refuses Vicky the use of their facilities—and they have tried, she says, to displace her numerous times.


Other merchants refuse her entry, she says, including Jeannine’s on Coast Village Road.


Vons gives her a hard time with shoplifting accusations, which she vehemently refutes as trumped up. “It’s not Vons as a company,” she says, retaining a fondness for her former employer. “Just the people who work there.”

 

Starbucks is sometimes accepting, sometimes not; their coffee is more consistent.


Fortunately, not everyone is so mean. “The people at CVS are wonderful to me,” she says.


Vicky wanted to visit Carpinteria. 
 

The Investigator watched as a bus driver whizzed by, refusing to stop for her to board. 


Shame on him.


Where’s Ellen?


Where’s Oprah? (Hanging out with princes not paupers.)


The Investigator has become Vicky’s advocate. She has a phone with e-mail, she zaps me, I drive down to see who’s troubling her.

 

            BILTMORE BLUES

 

The Investigator is reliably informed of what Ty Warner has in mind for his Biltmore Hotel in Montecito: The Biltmore and Coral Casino will remain closed until Ty’s management contract with Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts expires, around mid-2022, when Ty plans to reopen with a new management team. 


Meantime, the beanie baby billionaire is engaged in a palimony fracas (being heard by District Court in Illinois) with Kathryn Zimmie, with whom he cohabitated for many years until October 2020.

 

            VONS

 

In addition to hearing from customers of Vons, The Investigator has personally witnessed time and again that Vons’ deli department appears to be the least efficient, most understaffed deli in Montecito (maybe in all of Santa Barbara). 


So: we contacted Corporate in Boise, Idaho and heard back from Media Relations, a Melissa Hill, who seemed genuinely apologetic to hear about the sad state of affairs in their Montecito deli and promised forthwith to inform their district manager that a change for the better is badly needed. 


Soon after, a Vons store director named Aaron phoned to say they will be doing a “Pavilions” renovation of the Montecito store and, consequently, Montecitans can expect vast improvements all round, including the deli, commencing August or September, latest.

            

            MASKS, MENTAL

 

This meme is doing the rounds on social media: If you are still wearing a mask, please seek help.


Did you not hear Simon, children? Simon says, no more masks. And, of course, we sheeple always listen to Simon (Big Brother, Fauci, et al—give “Simon” your own name).


The personnel in one of the businesses on Coast Village Road continue to insist upon masks for all customers and they blamed corporate for this policy.


So: The Investigator wrote to corporate:“I note that your location in Montecito CA continues to insist on mask-wearing for all. This appears to be in violation of the revised mandate that provides options for what businesses may do. Insisting on mask wearing by all is not one of them. Your representatives at this location insist that it is corporate policy that mask-wearing by all should continue for another two weeks. I would like to have some clarification about this time lapse.”


We received a fatuous reply from someone in their Public Relations Department that contradicted itself by stating they abide by state and county guidelines yet “retail owners may choose to still require masks in an abundance of caution.”

 

Indeed, “in an abundance of caution” perhaps we should no longer drive cars to avoid the possibility of a road accident…


Simon says, take off your mask.


The 81 million voters (perhaps many fewer) who elected Joe Biden into the White House must now be looking around, scratching their heads and going, Whoa, what happened?  With sky-high gasoline prices, way higher taxes coming (on everything, to include corporate, small business, income & payroll and capital gains), runaway inflation, rampant, rising violent (and tolerated) crime, dependence on energy products from other nations and a huge escalation in illegal immigration all due to the petty reversal of policies (not inherited) that were enacted by the previous administration… well, they bought themselves (and everyone else who saw it coming) a one-way ticket back into the swamp where government alligators lurk with newly-sharpened teeth—that is, newly sharpened against American citizens, not those who threaten us from abroad.

            

            DISTURBANCE

 

Montecito was in uproar two weekends ago when Hakim Kambiz threw a wedding for daughter Kim at his Sycamore Canyon Road digs, disturbing neighbors with very much commotion and garbage—and a Ferris Wheel that was, allegedly, brought in for use without a permit.


A neighbor of Mr. Kambiz told The Investigator: “After creating a huge amount of noise and inconvenience moving catering equipment in, they gave us only 24 hours’ notice that they were planning a party. They then tried to buy us off with a few bottles of wine. We returned it immediately with a note saying this is not how things are done in Montecito.”


To make matters worse, a number of Kambiz’s arrogant, obnoxious guests—an LA-crowd—made a cacophonous commotion at two Coast Village Road restaurants after they could not bully management into evicting already-seated guests to make room for their royal highnesses. 


Net result: At Coast & Olive these foul-mouthed gremlins were finally refused any service at all and were evicted (praise the Lord), but not before a posse of local diners stood up and chimed in (more harmoniously) with this mantra: Go away, LA.


And please don’t come back. 


An email from The Investigator to Mr. Kambiz seeking an explanation for noise, garbage and unruly guests went unanswered—perhaps demonstrating that, with regard to arrogance, the buck stops with him.

 

            CA'DARIO

 

Lest readers think we just like to carp, we want to congratulate Ca’Dario, Coast Village Road, on opening (at the worst possible time, just as COVID-19 began), surviving the oppressive lockdown (thanks, in part, to kind landlords) and becoming—in record time—a successful, highly popular restaurant due to their excellent cuisine and amazingly gracious staff. Kudos, especially, to Dubra, Marco, Filipe and Alex—and, of course, to Chef Ca’Dario himself.

 

            RIP CHARLES WARD

 

 And finally, farewell to Charles Ward, the oft called “Seasonal Mayor of Montecito” due to his ubiquitous, gentlemanly presence throughout the summertime for promoting the Santa Barbara Polo Club, to which he was devoted. Mr. Ward passed peacefully on 15 June in his native Texas.

 

            ANATOMY OF AN INVESTIGATION UPDATE

 

Our column about the inability of law enforcement to investigate a complaint of alleged voter fraud created quite a stir and finally resulted in an investigation involving the DA’s Office, the Election Office and GOP county representatives. Together they found that complainant Thomas Cole’s data was unintentionally ill-founded and that the specific fraud he had alleged is without merit.


Our view: Fairness in elections is imperative. We are pleased the complaint was finally investigated and even happier to learn that election officials keep transparent voter records; that they are willing to work closely with concerned parties for ensuring a clean system.


 

 https://newspress.com/reports-on-a-homeless-woman-the-biltmore-a-rude-l-a-crowd-and-more/


 

 

Saturday, June 26, 2021

MONTECITO: 20 YEARS AGO (2)










By day, Butterfly Beach

By night, Luckys

Emergencies only:  (my cell phone number)

 

This is the calling card I conjure up (if only in my mind) to reflect my incognito-ness, though Ive always eschewed CVs and business cardsanything, in fact, which leads a trail back to wherever I am.  


For wheels, a Jeep Liberty sets the right pace. And with Independence Day approaching, my presence in Montecito feels like it was designed in heaven, which, in this village, is pitch black, cloudless and decorated by a multitude of stars.


My new office, Starbucks, is everyonesoffice, including Dennis Miller, Rob Lowe and Peter Noone a.k.a. Herman of the Hermits.


It is also headquarters for the coffee-mom contingent, though these aren’t moms youd see in Indiana or New Jersey, but blonde ex-models who have made a bundle shooting the swimsuit issue for SportIllustrated, or they were aspiring models until they married a bag of bones, more than once…  


Aside from all the expensive nips and tucks (men, too), you still cannot tell these are mostly multi-millionaires, because the moment someone abandons a News-Press, three or more Montecitans pounce upon it, not wanting to part with fifty cents for their own newspaper.  


The worst culprit, a displaced Brit named Michael Murphy, is partly responsible for my move here because of some unsolicited if sage advice he conveyed at the Montecito Bar as I conducted pre-move reconnaissance over Grey Goose, up, three olives:  “Youre only here a short time, you might as well live someplace nice.”  


Murphy is not content with grabbing just one newspaper, but scours Starbucks collecting as many as he can find, for reasons only a psychiatrist might understand.


Make no mistake:  There is no place finer place to live than mellow Montecito.     


Talk about mellow:  After a few days, your wristwatch slows down.


Talk about mellow:  You cannot order a glass of water without whipped cream.


Talk about mellow:  The tree in my garden sprouts cotton candy.


Donna Karan lunches in the open-air at Tuttis while I pump gas next to Jeff Bridges pumping his own at the corner 76 station, which, on a quiet Sunday morning, could have been painted by Edward Hopper.



I round into Mailboxes Etc to collect my mail and almost collide with Christopher Lloyd, the mad professor from Back to the Future, inducing him into the kind of startled, bug-eyed body-freeze people pay good money to see at the movies, though I now realize this is not method acting but a natural reaction he produces naturally. 




When I see God i.e. Jonathan Winters...


...fondling cantaloupe in the produce department at Von
s, I want so badly to break the unwritten, unspoken Montecito code about approaching celebrities (dont) but I restrain myself.  
For now.


Most American and British comedians, on a wavelength exclusive to funny people, have somehow found Montecito and settled (too seriously for my taste) into life behind the hedges, where they can hide out from those whose ribs they tickle.  


John Cleese is said (by himself) to have embarked on a road-trip from LA to scout a second home somewhere along the Pacific Northwest yet traveled no further than mellow Montecito. 



Steve Martin lives in a concrete bunker with his valuable art collection, appearing at Pierre Lafond (a market in the upper village) at precisely 8:42 every Sunday morning for take-out coffee with trucker cap tilted downward to avoid eye contact; an anal antithesis of approachability.

            

Hollywood North.  Behind the Hedge. Asylum Without Walls.  Three of Montecitos monikers.  


Movie and television actors lurk everywhere, though most residents are first generation rock nroll songwriters with forty-plus years’ royalties behind them and TV sit-com writers who won the lottery when their laugh-track hit a hundred and went into syndication after ruining yet another generation.  


The latter are constantly hoping to be recognized by someone, anyone, preferably a movie or TV celebrity and this results in the Montecito Look: Whenever you walk into a bar or restaurant, whether its Toms Coffee Shop (Robert Mitchums final hangout, adjacent to the old-fashioned San Ysidro Pharmacy) or Luckys bar and grill, the natives look up to see who you are (or arent).  


Like most places, the natives can tell whether or not you belong by how youre dressed.  The Montecito male attires himself in a Hawaiian shirt hanging over blue jeans (only dweebs tuck them in).  


Never, ever wear shorts at night, no matter how warm it is.  


The appropriate footwear is Merrell slip-ons.  


If youre wearing a crew-neck black tee, you are obviously from LA, so youre the least welcome of all because you still have something to prove (loudly, often profanely, over your cell phone, non-stop), because youre still waiting to score high enough in Hollywood to buy a second home in Montecito or move in full-time and you’re probably over-caffeinated and honking your horn (whether you’re driving a car or not).  


Black apparel is for big cities.  In these bucolic parts, brown is the suitable color for adorning oneself.  



The first section I consult in the daily News-Press is not news, but the tide report.  This is for scheduling long walks at low tide along Butterfly Beach (sunset and moonrise times, also noted), a stretch of fine sand and gentle rolling waves framed with pure white flotsam.  


Dolphins swim past, waving their flippers; a fat seal lounges on his favorite boulder when the tide pulls out.   


I call it The Club.  It is healthier, more fitness oriented and socially stimulating than fancy-pants country clubs that charge a hefty membership fee and monthly dues then tell you what to wear and how to behave.  


When you pass another native walking the beach, theres an acknowledgement (a wink, a nod) that you are privy to a magical secret with these unspoken words:  Too blessed to be stressed.   


Montecito sits on a coastline facing south over the ocean (not west, like the rest of California) and thus enjoys a unique microclimate.  


The Santa Ynez Mountains behind the city and the uninhabited Channel Islands, a nature preserve twenty miles out, ensure that the American Riviera never heats much beyond seventy-five degrees Fahrenheit nor cools below the low forties at night, year-round.  


You need air conditioning?  Open a window.


Butterfly Beach abounds with pleasant views of the islands, the mountains and pretty young women in bikinis.


The Montecito tude:  Done what I wanted to do (and earned dough doing it), now Im going to have some fun!  


Or, as a local realtor puts it, “People around here do what they want.  If they get caught, they ask for forgiveness, its easier than permission.”


Entry fee to this climate-controlled coastal paradise:  Over two million for a two-bed, two bath cottage (Oprah Winfrey paid $51 million for her estate), though you can rent reasonably if you dont mind railroad tracks, like, right next to them, sandwiched between Interstate 101.  The good news:  After a few nights your brain develops an immunity to the 4:42 Amtrak that screeches by, horn a-blare, as if its coming through your window.

 

Around five o’clock when the sun begins to set, a watering hole/steak & chop house on the east end of Coast Village Road hosts the Montecito Mellowest

 




Luckys exudes relaxed elegance, its walls adorned with black-and-white photographs of famous thespians and crooners (mostly dead) in homage to Hollywood as it once was.  


Servers are dressed formally, but management does not expect the same of its laid-back patrons, the likes of whom include folk-rocker David Crosby, who grew up in Montecito and drives in from Santa Ynez for beef stroganoff; the carrot-topped novelist T.C. Boyle, in trademark red Converse sneakers; Kirk Douglas, Carol Burnett, Bo Derek and Oprah, who prefers to book the whole place when she has a craving for steak and chops and Luckys Fries and salty turtle sundaes.  


A beer comes in a frosted mug, poured by Matt or Ezra; dry martinis are stirred to perfection.  


The menu, classic American fare, features Andys Baby Back Ribs, after Formula One driver Andy Granatelli, who owns a corner table.  


Charlie Chaplin’s ghost is often present, when he gets bored with the Montecito Inn (next door), which he created in 1928 as a weekend getaway for himself and friends.  Now Charlie pulls playful pranks on patrons.  For instance, he’ll jerk a barstool, prompting a male customer to pratfall while concurrently causing a female to slip on an imaginary banana skin and they’ll engage each other on the floor—Charlie’s slapstick style of sparking seduction.  Strangely, no injuries occur from these pratfalls and slippages (which of course have nothing to do with martinis.)  



Charlie, costumed as The Tramp, is seen walking through walls in Lucky’s Bamboo Room; he flicks empty glasses off serving trays, incessantly taps the shoulders of chosen patrons, and, when washrooms are occupied, switches the lights off or jiggles sliding locks to show “vacant,” resulting in mirthful (if mortifying) encounters.  


Lucky’s Table 80 belongs to Charlie.  That’s the one whose candle mysteriously alights at evening’s end when all other candles, and lights, are extinguished. 


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSOYdLQF-co&t=5s


Some locals strain to transform the role of sycophant into an art and also a science, browning their noses upon Rob Lowe from bar to dining room with less dignity than the parking valet, who actually has incentive (a big tip) to sniff celebrity flatulence.  


This all provides exceptionally good theater, starring household names, with sides of creamed corn and rapini with garlic.  


And it means Rob Lowe has at least a few fawning fans in town.  Many others groan about the actor’s audacious property development, which allegedly imposes upon the views of his equally finicky neighbors, not only at Lowe’s Montecito estate but also

his nearby Summerland beach house.  


A new adage has been coined just for Montecito:  Do for yourself and complain when others do it too.