479 Alan Road

The house had changed a lot over the years, but none of it surprised me. I had seen it on Google Maps street view on a number of occasions. I already knew the tree in front of my bedroom window that provided easy access to the roof was long gone, as was the unchecked ivy growth that covered the backyard fence. The unkempt front lawn had been given a landscaping makeover. The car in the driveway was a far cry fancier than Mom’s old beat-to-shit Honda Civic.

Still, I wanted to see the house in person. I was visiting Santa Barbara that weekend, something I had not done in over six years. Rebecca and I took the train down on the Friday Trump was inaugurated. Now one might see this as no mere coincidence and concluded that I was attempting some kind of escape into the past to avoid at least temporarily avoid a bleak present and near future. Not true, I’m afraid. As much as I loathe Trump, my actions were motivated by more personal matters than political. They usually are.

The reason I chose this particular weekend was to attend the memorial service that Saturday for an old friend who had recently died of cancer. I knew little of Holden outside of the cafe where we used to hangout in the mid 1980s. It was good to hear his family give me a fuller picture of the friend I had lost.

Holden published a zine called Short Fuse that I contributed to on occasion. I had not seen much of him in recent years and had missed  him during my last visit. I wanted to see him the next time I was in town, but his death in October made that impossible. Attending his memorial was as close as I was going to get.

After the service, Rebecca and I walked back to the hotel and changed clothes before walking to the transit center to catch a bus to my old neighborhood. We had originally planned on going Sunday, but decide to take advantage of the break in the rainstorm that was drenching Santa Barbara.

We boarded the number 5 bus, the same line I used to ride to get to high school. Twenty minutes later, we got off at the Alan Road stop on Cliff Drive.

There used to be big vacant lots down at the corner when I first moved to Santa Barbara in 1975. Now there were houses, much larger and more expensive than the modest tract homes further up Alan Road. I pointed out this and other tidbits to Rebecca we walked up the street. I was probably boring her, but she was being a sport and letting me have my moment.

I felt no immediate nostalgia when we reached my childhood home. It looked exactly like what I saw on Google Maps and not much like the house I grew up in. I still had my memories, but they were attached to a place that no longer existed.

With no overgrowth of ivy, there was nothing to connect the backyard fence to the time my friend Ricky and I crouched in the foliage with his Wrist-Rocket slingshot to take potshots at passing cars. I remember when it was my turn, I put a rock clean through the plastic side window of a Triumph. The driver turned around and came back looking for us, but we had dropped down into the backyard. We struck and disappeared without a trace. We were just like the Viet Cong. It was wonderful.

Now four decades later, I looked at the bare wood of the fence and realized that no child today could use it to have the same kind of fun that Ricky and I once had.

Rebecca and I walked away from the house in the direction of the beach where the old snack bar was now a high-end eatery.

The Rain Outside

I enjoy the rain. It sounds nice falling on the ground and I don’t have to be out in it for an extended amount of time.

My affinity for rain is mostly aesthetic.  I may say “We really need the rain” to someone complaining about the weather, but I only do that because it is easier to sound high-minded than to make a case to the unconvinced that rain is inherently neato.

Also, I don’t look at rain as a personal necessity, eventually sure, but not right away and not here in any event. San Francisco gets its water from Hetch Hetchy out near Yosemite. For me to get a glass of water or flush the toilet, it needs to rain (or snow) there. Further south, people are more dependent on local reservoirs so maybe my saying we need the rain is showing solidarity with those outside my community. Yeah, that sounds right. I’ll go with that.

I suppose I would be less of a fan of the rain if I were homeless. I would be less concerned with its sound than finding a place to bed down where it would not come down on me all night.

I’m guessing here. I rarely talk to the homeless about the rain or much of anything for that matter. I have nothing against homeless people on principle.  It is just that tend to turn toward my being asked for money. I invariably tell them no, which is usually followed by some insult or guilt trip uttered in my direction.

I know I’m not the most charitable person in the world, but I prefer not to be reminded of the fact. This is particularly true if the person reminding me is motivated more by self-interest than concern for the common good.

I don’t blame them for begging of course. Those bottles of Night Train are not going to buy themselves. I still prefer to avoid confrontation so when I walk past a homeless person, I make it a point to not engage in conversation or even acknowledge their presence.

Especially if it’s raining.