Land of the Lotus-Eaters | California | Living in Mexico

Land of the Lotus-Eaters

Santa Barbara, where bride-to-be Samantha lives, is one of the most beautiful places on the planet. The city is built on a narrow plain, the Pacific Ocean and the Channel Islands to the south, and steep, rugged mountains to the north. Spectacular views are everywhere. The climate is near-perfect year-round.

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Actually, it's not near-perfect right now. But it's gonna be perfect. For now, mornings are overcast, afternoons are sunny. This is a view of the city, with the ocean beyond. You can almost make them out through the fog.

The rich and famous have homes here: Oprah Winfrey, Ronald Reagan. It is a place for very privileged people. They don't tolerate weather that isn't near-perfect. Not at the kind of prices they pay to live here.

We have rented a place for the month before Sam's wedding. We found one on the Santa Barbara Craig's List that's a steal: An Alviso-style townhouse located on the edge of the Barrio for only $4,200 a month.

OK. I'm being unfair. The place is, after all, a vacation rental. It's three blocks from State Street and the heart of the downtown. It's maybe five blocks from the beach and the pier. Location, location, location. As for the nearby Barrio, we like being surrounded by Mexicans. And graffiti. And pickup trucks with decals of Calvin pissing on something.

Some books have been thoughtfully left for us in our rented townhouse. One in particular reflects Santa Barbara New Age mentality: Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, by one Karen Kingston. Chapter 18 is entitled "Clutter Clearing Your Body [sic]." The clutter referred to is that which is strewn about your colon. The chapter is full of nonsense about "impacted mucoid plaque" which Ms. Kingston, had she ever remained conscious through a colonoscopy, looking at the monitors, would have noted was not present. She might then have realized that it's her mind, not her colon, that is cluttered with impacted mucoid plaque.

I like the subsection entitled "The Ideal Bowel Movement," of which she lists six key properties. I won't clutter up this post with the list, leaving it instead to your well-formed imaginations.

In L. A. Story, Steve Martin's character meets a ditzy roller-skating blonde New-Ager who takes him to Santa Barbara to visit a Colon Institute for a "high colonic." As they are leaving, walking down the monumental front steps of the Institute, Steve delivers one of the better lines in cinema: "Thanks for the lunch, and... enema."

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Not only are we in the nesting grounds of crystal wearers, this part of the country is the trend center of personalized license plates. Every other car sports one. None appear to be clever. Typical is the following:

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The State of California has introduced several new symbols to the alphabet. The most popular appears to be the heart. This is a bad idea.

Cop: "So, did you get the license number?"

H&R Victim: "Uh... No... I think there was a heart in it. WJH-Heart. Or maybe WJH-Club. I don't see so good anymore."

Cop (into radio): "OK. We're looking for a silver Scion with a plate beginning 'WJH'."

Dispatcher: "Oh, how sweet..."

The illustrated plate is particularly pathetic. I mean, save your money and let the State figure out what to put on your plate. For example, BOL SÍ would be a good one. SWEE T Π would be good, too. Let's THINK about these things a little, people!

But your initials and your wife's initials separated with a heart? Is that the best you can do? You might as well have a bumper sticker that says, "I have the imagination of a liver fluke."

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Here's a real shock for someone who has been out of the country for a while: Grocery prices. Jean and I went to Ralph's to stock up on basics. $200. Jeez!

Sam took me to a "better" independent grocery store. Prices there were stunning.

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Looks lovely, doesn't it. The price on the left is for one bunch of celery.

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Asparagus: $6 per pound. That's $13.20 per kilo—$145 pesos. We can buy the better part of a week's vegetables for $145 pesos.

Do you see some sort of crash coming?

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