A few weekends ago I drove down to Santa Barbara. I should explain that I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. Sometimes known as Silicon Valley, at least my part of it is. I drove down to Santa Barbara to visit my mother and her husband. By myself. It takes about 5 hours given the speed at which I tend to drive, i.e. fast enough to get there while fingers are crossed avoiding black and white cars that stop you and hand you pieces of paper that mean you have to take tests on the Internet and pay money to the Department of Motor Vehicles.
I took 101. As those of us in California know, that’s the freeway that goes from the top to the bottom of our rather large state. As those of us in California also know, in Northern California we call it 101. In Southern California, they call it THE 101. I have now given you the ultimate weapon should you ever want to appear cool to a Californian – i.e. simply that you know that the top half of the state uses different terminology than the bottom half of the state for our many big fast roads.
As those of us in California also know, the area south of San Jose and north of Santa Barbara doesn’t bear much resemblance to the California one might see on TV. Few starlets. Few Internet millionaires. Far more cows than you might expect. This is the area I am talking about.
You will notice there is a town called Greenfield. This is not an accident. The drive from Silicon Valley to Santa Barbara, then, is a palimpsest (big word of the day meaning layers of painted history) of California from the present, to the past, and back. As follows:
+ Earth-toned tract homes (High WASPs don’t like the term home meaning house but it is just too prevalent in this world to avoid it)
+ Large outlet malls selling clothes named after male golf players (where is the Michelle Wie line of clothing I wonder?)
+ Home-made garlic product stores with handpainted signs advising We Sell Cherries Too
+ A concrete culvert, full of recent rain, recovering from an urban dream and harboring new low pale green marsh grass, and two white egrets
+ More broccoli
+ Yet more broccoli, this time fronted by a 16 foot high cut out painted sign of a farmer, and words that say, “Now Growing – Broccoli”
+ Latin-inspired colored tract homes (this is how you know you are approaching Southern California, granite colored stucco is replaced by coral)
+ Large outlet malls
And so on – until you run into the ocean and then all bets are off.