The Riviera | California | Living in Mexico

The Riviera

Many years ago I read an article about a black man who was walking the streets of Beverly Hills in his warm-up suit when he was stopped by the police who demanded identification. He tried to explain that he had left his wallet at home since he was just out getting some exercise. The police arrested him on some charge or other and took him to jail. Turns out he was a resident of Beverly Hills, not some vagrant as the cops had suspected. I have often thought since about the paranoia of people who live in wealthy enclaves.

Santa Barbara has such an enclave, which locals call The Riviera. Rich folks live here in magnificent homes.

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The Riviera is situated on a hill. Steep winding streets without sidewalks deter strollers.

The neighborhood resembles Bel Air, where Jean and I once took an evening walk. As we passed house after house, motion detectors switched on security lights. Amused by the extreme security measures, I told Jean the story of the black guy getting arrested in Beverly Hills.

A security service truck zipped by. We speculated that perhaps a nervous resident had called when we triggered their lights.

A few minutes later, two cop cars came tearing up the hill. The lead car slowed and hit us with a searchlight. Seeing a middle-aged couple walking along holding hands, they sped on their way, looking for real intruders.

We cracked up, knowing that we had a good story to tell about paranoid rich people frightened by pedestrian passers-by. Then the helicopter came. Whapping away overhead, it pinned us with its million-candlepower light.

Really.

The Riviera shares a feature with Bel Air: Security service signs.

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I can't imagine anyone dumb enough to try to enter one of these homes. Of course they all have alarms. The streets are narrow and winding: no fast getaway routes. The place is blanketed with cops.

All that the signs manage to accomplish is to lend a fearful, mean-spirited, hyper-protective feel to an otherwise beautiful neighborhood.

Part of what residents are protecting is their views.

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They sit out on their decks and look down on the city below.

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They can spot their yachts in the harbor. But letting riff-raff into the neighborhood would spoil the ambiance. Best to warn 'em off.

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Surprisingly, most of these people are democrats. Lots of Toyotas in the driveways with John Kerry bumper stickers. So they're careful not to single out any one ethnic group for exclusion.

The National Guard isn't so concerned about political correctness. They want to make sure their message gets to the right people.

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