Friday, April 12, 2013

Return to Goleta


I was not prepared for how nostalgic I was going to get as I drove into Goleta. Just north of Santa Barbara, it was the city I lived most of my formative years. As we approached the northernmost Goleta highway exit, I was drawn to exit for no reason other than to drive once more on these old, familiar roads. I was still half an hour from my destination, but I ended up taking three hours to get there.

I drove down streets just because I recognized them. I followed Cathedral Oaks, Hollister, Glen Annie, Fairview, and many other streets that seemed like old friends. I drove past my high school and was flooded with memories and emotions. I was impressed to see a brand new performing arts center in a spot that I eventually figured out used to be a parking lot and extended driveway for dropping off and picking up that we used to call The Circle.
DPHS sign, with the brand new performing arts building in the background.
As I walked around the perimeter of the campus, I was struck by feelings of how young I was when I walked the halls. It didn’t make me feel old, but it did make me feel very wise and mature. It was strange how well I could recall my naivety of the high school years. I took River past the wrestling room, where kids were grappling away inside, and I took him up the stairs that we used to have to run up, carrying a teammate on our back, during some of our grueling practices.
So many memories in this building, my high school gym. That's the wrestling room on the left.

Driving into town, on the same road I used to walk, take the bus and then eventually drive to and from school, was also fraught with so many memories.

I was struck by how beautiful Goleta is. The colors, the landscaping, the sky, the architecture. It is all so perfectly manicured. I never noticed nor appreciated this when I lived there as a kid.

I drove past my junior high school, and then my grade school, going back in time and deeper into my childhood memories. I drove past “the club” where I used to swim and play tennis, and past some of my childhood homes.

I drove River to Isla Vista, which is a little mini-town that basically serves as a home base for UCSB. I spent many days and nights there. Every street I drove past held a boatload of memories. I had to park on the main party drag, Del Playa. This street used to be mecca when I was a boy. It was where all of the UCSB frat parties were. We used to go there every weekend, and just go up and down Del Playa looking for parties we could crash. But even if we didn’t find any parties, just being on that street was enough. Every night was like Mardi Gras in Isla Vista.

I parked Thumper on Del Playa and was going to take River on my familiar walk, but I was struck by how much broken glass there was in the street and on the sidewalk, so we turned around and instead went down the steps to the beach.

I was going to play with River in the waves, but after a few minutes, I was reminded of an aspect of the beaches that I grew up detesting; tar. Within minutes the entire bottoms of my feet were covered with black, sticky residue from the many off shore oil rigs that leaked into the water. It was something that just came as part of the gestalt of the beach when I grew up, and I accepted it as a necessary evil. But now that I’ve been to many other places and I know more about the world, I see the tar as heinous and sickening. I wasn’t able to stay. We walked back up the stairs and I sat on a bench removing tar from my feet. It was another trip down memory lane.

I got back in the car and continued to explore, until something very powerful and unexpected struck me. When I drove to an old home, on Dara Road, I parked to take it in. As I sat there in my car, with River in the passenger seat, I realized that this was the very image I had in my head when, just a year ago, I would say, “I want to get a dog and then get a car and drive him around the country.”  I was obviously inspired by a memory of living in this house, when I had my dog, Barney and my yellow Datsun pickup truck. I guess this new era of my life, with Thumper and River, was my recapturing those free wheeling days of my youth. As I sat there and took a picture, I was overwhelmed with joy and a sense that I am living my dreams. Simple, I know. But true.
River, where Barney once was


I took River to one of the parks I used to play in with Barney. And I took him on a hike in the creek. I was amazed that all of the sites were still there. Even the one missing rail in the bridge that allowed us to climb off the trail and down into the creek. We followed the banks of the creek to a place I remembered. I used to come down to this place just to be alone and explore bugs and rocks and nature and stuff. It was fantastic to be there again. I almost took a picture of a patch of iceplant where we used to come and drink beer, because I noticed that the plants were still tramped down like we used to do. I guess kids are still going there to drink beer.

I spent three hours just driving through my old town. I didn’t want to miss a street.

Finally, since check in time was at three o’clock, and it was about 2:45, I got back on the highway and headed for Carpinteria.

In between SB and Carp, there is a place called Santa Claus Lane. I loved it as a kid because there was a giant Snowman and Santa Claus on top of two of the stores on this lane. As a teenager and young adult, I learned to dislike Santa Claus lane as I was now able to see them as dirty relics of commercialism and not at all appropriate in a city called Summerland. I was glad to see that Santa and Frosty are both gone.

We pulled into the motel and checked in and I made myself a big meal and then we took a short nap. We ended the day with a walk to the beach. The motel is about twenty minutes walking from the beach, but we took the walk and were playing on the sand as the sun went down.

River had an encounter with a dog on the beach.  The dog was off leash, but River was on his 30 foot leash. The dog approached straight on, which is a challenge in dog language. The polite way to approach would be circularly so we could see the side of his body. River responded by going down into a play crouch. This is all fine. I watch River’s back for signs of distress. If I don’t see the tell-tale strip of fur standing on end, I know we’re just playing. The dogs interacted nicely for a while, until the other dog started to bait River. River was ignoring it at first, but before we knew it, the dogs were in a full on scuffle. I pulled River out and laid him on his side to let him know I was unhappy, but in all honestly, I don’t know that he did anything wrong.

Here’s the thing. In most cases, it isn’t River that starts the problems, but because almost all of his encounters with other dogs end in a brawl or a tussle, I have to deduce that River is the common denominator. River must have some kind of attitude or some energy that causes other dogs to want to attack him. Either that or he’s a big bully, and he’s skilled at hiding his goadings from me and at looking innocent when the other dogs finally lose patience. I hope he outgrows this before someone gets hurt.

Anyway, the beach was great. There was much less tar than in Goleta, even though I could see more oil rigs off shore. We saw a dead seal and I was glad that River didn’t roll himself in the carcass like Barney used to do.

We walked back to the motel room and chilled for the rest of the night.

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