Author Archives: mdw

Santa Barbara, Phase 3(b)

I returned from Santa Maria to find myself abandoned, forcing me to relax by myself on the balcony with an ocean view for over an hour.

But Lobo and Alcalde eventually came back, and we decided to take a bike ride downtown and have lunch. By we, of course, I mean Lobo, who eventually badgered us into it. Alcalde’s bike was mounted on the back of his nomadic travel camper van vehicle, and he’d lost the key to the lock, so he used his bolt cutters to remove the lock. The fact that he carries bolt cutters might suggest something about his ability to keep track of keys, but it would be rude to point this out and beneath the dignity and decorum of this blog, so I’ll just gloss over that observation. He had another lock that he was going to use, but didn’t have the key to that lock either, so we ended up using Lobo’s lock for all three bikes.

Anyway, Lobo was right. It was easy and pleasant to ride downhill on a sunny day, and riding bikes downtown had a strong Summer of ’76 vibe as well. We ate at the Public Market again, and I had monkey skewers again.

Alcalde’s tires were semi-flat, so we rode to Open Air Bikes on Carrillo to get them inflated, then rode/walked back up the hill. Alcalde has one of those newfangled electrical bikes, but Lobo and I just had oldfangled bikes, so Alcalde graciously kept pace with us and didn’t zip by us while taunting us, which is probably what I would have done.

We tried to go to Chuck’s of Hawaii for dinner that evening, and in fact did go, but couldn’t get in, because I wasn’t smart enough to make reservations. We had also arrived a bit later than intended because Lobo had us going on some weird detour up in the hills. So we made reservations for the next night and went to a random nearby Thai place instead, where two-thirds of us had a good meal.

But it was all business the next morning, culminating in Lobo’s Three Futures presentation, which was well worth the 30-year wait, even if the motivational speaker was a no-show. We had a light lunch at La Super Rica, then went driving around a very nice assisted living facility in Montecito. Alcalde was oddly interested in it, but started to get a little squirrelly when Lobo and I mentioned having him committed. I guess some people are just indecisive.

We stopped by Third Window for some beers and I once again failed to get the sweatshirt I wanted. So I bought a t-shirt instead.

With a couple hours to kill before our dinner reservation, we watched Nandor Fodor and the Talking Mongoose. It’s a very odd movie. It looked like it was filmed at 48fps, which gave it a sort of soap opera quality. It also took some liberties with the story of Gef, to the extent that it might not be 100% accurate. The final scene even shows Gef looking like a CGI meerkat! Disgraceful. Alcalde fell asleep, in accordance with tradition.

We got to Chuck’s on time, without any unscheduled detours, and had some excellent New York (not Kansas City) strips. I had a mai tai, and after three beers in the afternoon, I was a little loopy. It wasn’t until the next day that I realized that Alcalde had paid for the drinks. (Thank you, Alcalde!)

Tuesday morning it was time to re-enter the real world. Humphrey was up before dawn to see us off, and after a busy morning of sitting around, Alcalde set out for Jalama. It remains unclear whether the Jalama Burger is world famous or merely regular famous, but Alcalde spoke well of it, and managed not to get eaten by sharks, so it all worked out.

I hung around Casa Villa for a little longer, then drove around for a while taking pictures before I had to turn in the car and fly home.

I landed at Seattle that evening and Ubered home. Riding home in the rain after dark while Gurdeep played Punjabi dance music was a whole vibe, as the youths like to say.

Madonna Inn Urinal Report (MIUR)

On Saturday morning I drove to San Luis Obispo and had breakfast at the Madonna Inn. I don’t think I’ve been there since the ’70s, but it hasn’t really changed. The only difference I noticed was that the building that used to be a gas station isn’t anymore, and next to it is a long row of Tesla chargers.

I had breakfast at the Copper Cafe and afterward availed myself of the facilities. I thought there were several restrooms with elaborate designs, but the only one I remembered clearly (and the only one I found) had a sort of rock grotto urinal (RGU) with water that starts pouring down the back when you pass an electric eye. It provides considerably less privacy than I would normally want, but no one else was in there, so I could enjoy the full rock grotto experience.

The faucets are water pumps, also automatic.

I looked around for other noteworthy restrooms, but the others were all conventional and lacking in pizazz.

Santa Barbara, Phases 3(a) and 4

On Thursday evening, Lobo provided the pizza that he perpetually owes us. On Friday morning, he ditched us to go have breakfast with an unauthorized friend. Later that morning, I ditched them both to drive to Santa Maria for my cousin’s wedding.

I stayed at the Radisson next to the airport. There was some kind of space-oriented convention going on, so there were spacemen in attendance. I tried to talk to one, but he just stood there. Kind of rude, tbh.

Friday night was a post-rehearsal catered shindig at Rick and Claire’s house, featuring a “welcome drink” and “light bites” which you could eat in sufficient quantity that they were no longer light. Anna told me about her new better job that finally got her out of the dog bakery. Cameron and I ate all the strawberries in the flower arrangements, and there was some weird helicopter-like thing that kept flying over, and what exactly is in this welcome drink?

Saturday was the actual wedding, and Rick and Claire were married in accordance with the laws of California. The wind made the wooden structure sway and creak, but it didn’t fall over, and the ducks registered their enthusiasm by quacking throughout the ceremony. Then we went inside for cocktails and dinner.

There were speeches and toasts and food and whatnot. Anna made some emergency frosting but it wasn’t needed so she passed it around to frosting aficionados. I danced a little with Briar, but only at the table. The tri-tip was excellent.

I drove home on Sunday morning to start Phase 3(b) of the Santa Barbara Excursion.

Santa Barbara, Phase 2

As Alcalde ambled his way southward at approximately the same speed as the California stagecoaches of yore, Lobo and I prepared the preparations for his arrival, which would kick off Phase 3 of the Santa Barbara excursion.

But I am getting ahead of the narrative.

Lobo and I purchased beer and foodstuffs at Trader José’s, then let the food sit in the hot car while Lobo ate lunch at the Habit in La Cumbre Plaza. I had already eaten at Shalhoob’s in the Public Market, where I also tried to buy a shirt. They were out of them, of course.

Lobo and I got to talking about Baskin-Robbins on Upper State, which led to a discussion of the Tee-Off restaurant, which led to a conversation with Evan and Suzanne, who recommended the Tee-Off, which led to our decision to go to the Tee-Off the following night, which led to us doing so.

I think I’d always assumed that the Tee-Off was some skeezy bar, but it’s a swanky prime rib restaurant that’s been there since 1956. Also a bar, hence the neon martini glass in the front. We had big old honkin’ 10-ounce prime ribs, and Lobo didn’t finish his. Weird. He’s definitely slipping in his dotage.

The next morning we were back in Ontare Plaza at the crack of earliness to procure Spudnuts and drive to Hendry’s beach, where we walked along the beach as the tide came in. We didn’t even make it to the point before we had to turn around. It was not well-timed, tide-wise.

After a busy morning of sitting around, we went downtown to reconstruct our Inter-Block Route from the Summer of ’76, and let me tell you, that was a white-knuckle thrill ride of of ambling and meandering. There are no longer any pass-throughs from Micheltorena or Sola, but from Arlington Ave. on we were unimpeded. We were even able to extend it past its previous terminus of Ortega and forge through all the way to Haley! Then we wandered back to the car.

Not only that, but we even found Yonder Place, although the door was locked.

We went home and sat around some more and eventually Alcalde showed up, and we begun Phase 3(a) of the Santa Barbara Excursion – the MesaMash.

NB: The official mascot of the MesaMash is Humphrey the Owl, who appears on the roof nightly to watch for mice or leezards or whatever it is that owls eat.

Santa Barbara, Phase 1

In Santa Barbara for the first time since 2011, I ubered to pick up my Turo car, then checked into the Oasis motel on State near Las Positas, the same place I stayed 12 years ago.

For dinner I walked to 3771 State Street, former home of Char West, to pay homage to the Creek of Life and have dinner at Taqueria la Única. Some have impugned the quality and prices of T la Ú, but I liked their tacos al pastor and think that maybe some people could try being a little less complainy sometimes.

The next day I drove out to Ellwood, took a picture of the Barnsdall-Rio Grande gas station (still in a state of sad decay), then hiked through the Ellwood Butterfly Preserve. The scent of the eucalyptus trees was an instant childhood flashback. The butterflies won’t show up for another month, but it was a pleasant walk, and without even trying I emerged from the woods at the end of Coronado Drive, where I lived from 1968-1970. My old house has been painted sometime in the last half century, but otherwise looks the same.

I spent most of the rest of the day downtown, wandering around and refreshing my memory on where things are, starting with the Courthouse Tower and working my way down State. State Street below Victoria is a combination of bustling and empty, the same problem it’s had for decades, only now they’ve made it pedestrian-only except for cross traffic.

I paid my respects to the late Santa Barbara News-Press and had a saison at Third Window Brewery. I was going to buy a shirt, but they didn’t have the kind I wanted. Third Window is on Haley Street, just a few blocks from Mac’s Grog ‘n’ Grog, where I called my mom from a pay phone when I was nine years old because I was too tired to ride my bike home, and I got in trouble because I wasn’t supposed to be down on Haley.

Down on Haley, Haley Street
Where the drugs are easy and the sex is cheap
You never know just who you’ll meet
On Haley!

— Nerf Herder, “Down on Haley”

The next day I met Lobo and Mrs. Lobo at the Santa Barbara Public Market, one of the nicer additions to the downtown area. It’s on the site of the former Vons/Safeway on Victoria and Chapala. Mrs. Lobo had a butternut squash taco, which is an actual thing that exists in this world. I had beef skewers from Three Monkeys.

After some confusion over what day it was and who was where when, it was determined that I should check out of Oasis a day early and move into Casa Mesa the next day, after Mrs. Lobo ditched Lobo for the second time in as many weeks. That left me with a few extra hours the next morning after checkout, so I took the tour at the Mission.

The Mission gift shop sells containers for holy water, so I bought a small one with St. Barbara on it. I was going to just fill it up at the water fountain outside, on the theory that water from the Mission water fountain would still be pretty holy, just by virtue of running through the Mission pipes, and anyway how much holiness do I really need? But the cashier asked me if I wanted it filled, and there was no extra charge, so I ended up with the full complement of holiness. For all I know, they just filled it at the water fountain anyway, but I’m no worse off, and it didn’t cost any extra. And the container is small enough to be within TSA limits.

These are the types of things you need to keep in mind if you want to be a savvy consumer of holy relics.

I had intended to go to the Presidio, and in fact I did go to the Presidio, but the cashier was talking to the British couple in front of me, and going on at great length about Santa Barbara history. After several minutes of this, I thought she was wrapping up, but she came up with a map she wanted to show them in another room, so I could see I was never going to get to buy a ticket and I left.

Subsequently I met Lobo in the BevMo parking lot and began Phase 2 of the Santa Barbara Excursion.