Crossing the same river twice

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Published on: September 17, 2006

I spent a few days in southern California on business last week. Work was work but I took the opportunity to look up a few friends I hadn’t seen in years and to drive up the coast to Santa Barbara. All told I’ve probably spent a third of my adult life living in Santa Barbara and it is the place I think of when asked where I’m from. Unfortunately, I hadn’t been back since 1999 when I moved to San Francisco.

The drive up from Santa Monica was one that I’d made numerous times and the trip up PCH, through Ventura, and then up the 101 was virtually unchanged. As I drove I was reminded of things I hadn’t thought of in years: old friends, old flames, other trips down the same road and constellations of memories associated with all these that I hadn’t thought of in years. In Santa Barbara, I drove past old apartments and parked in Lot 2 at the Paseo Nuevo.

Clovis (as natty as ever) and I had a nice dinner at Palazzio and walked up and down State Street a bit. They’ve paved the sidewalks not covered in red terracotta with brick. Odd bits of public art are here and there and a few things have moved or disappeared. Ma Dolce Vita is gone and so is the Earthling bookstore. Clovis tells me that the Green Dragon coffee house has also closed and the space used for something I don’t recall. Cafe Roma and Sienna have been bought by the same company. The Cajun Kitchen, where I cured hangovers with spicy sausage breakfasts, was still there and the oil platforms were still islands of light on the black ocean.

I didn’t get an opportunity to dangle my feet off the end of the pier like I did on so many nights when I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t sit on the patio at Sienna and have coffee. I didn’t walk through the open air mall where I worked and met so many good friends. I’ll need to take more time when I’m next in the area.

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