State Street Scribe
by Jeff Wing
Dear visitors from across the Pond; here comes summer, and your opportunity to visit world famous California during its high season! Yes, everything you’ve heard is true! California IS summer. Surfing, sun, and fun, fun, fun! And Daddy is NOT going to take the T-Bird away (I’ll explain later)! And if you’re going to travel all the way to California, you sure as hell (pardon my American) are coming to Santa Barbara, right? California’s Crown Jewel! HELL yeah! Oh, what’s that you say, Mr. Näaktgebøren? This year your family has chosen to summer in beautiful Flat Lick, Kentucky? Good call, sir! Nothing says “Summer Vacation” like a bracing and terrified sprint through waist deep, moonlit swamps. How are the kids with that decision? Let’s ask them. Famke? Joop? You kids down with dad’s decision to explore the “Real America”, the America of scary banjo-playing men in rocking chairs on dilapidated backwoods porches? Because outside California that’s pretty much what you’re looking at. Or how’s about an “American History Vacation” that has you visiting that dumb cracked bell in Philadelphia? OR, would you rather spend your “American Summer” around bikinis, surfer dudes, beer pong and movie stars? How does a possible James Brolin sighting sound? High FIVE!
A Very Dispiriting Outcome
But before you settle in, Foreign Friends, there are things about California and the U.S. you need to know, the better to understand and absorb the American experience before you head back to Glockenspiel or wherever. You see, Mr. Näaktgebøren, it’s like the song says (produces a guitar from out of nowhere and begins strumming); this land is your land, this land is my land, from California, to Gilligan’s Eye-land. Yeah, our land is vast, diverse, and carpeted with wonder, so to speak. But your “American Vacation” will be almost certainly be comprised of your family spending several weeks hunkered down in our isolating little beachfront burg with only brief forays out to Las Vegas (a neon-encrusted den of iniquity), the Grand Canyon (a huge hole that really wows at first then quickly becomes tiresome), and Disneyland (whose cardboard Matterhorn and its Yeti with lights for eyes is deeply embarrassing to us despite the Disney Corp’s herculean efforts in the areas of topographical and zoological authenticity).
Sir Francis Bacon once wrote, “A quantity of mercy cannot be strained. It is best to puree it.” And here in the U.S. we have pureed Mercy like nobody’s business.
There is more to this great nation; much much more. The U.S. is a big-hearted land, Mr. Näaktgebøren. It is filled with poetry; the poetry of The Individual. There are also vast mountain ranges (described as “purple” in some of the nuttier paeans), amber waves of grain, and heartland children waving little American flags in slow-motion. By the light of our uniquely American spirit we have moved beyond the barbarism and darkness of the Olde World and have, by the joining of many hands, attained the summit of some fancy mountain. Mount Vesuvius? I forget exactly which mountain, but you get the idea.
Sir Francis Bacon once wrote, “A quantity of mercy cannot be strained. It is best to puree it.” And here in the U.S. we have pureed Mercy like nobody’s business. In your well-meaning country, Mr. Näaktgebøren, much is made of, and many hard-earned resources squandered on, the misbegotten attempt to stamp out homelessness, poverty and hunger. Your culture’s pricey socialist egalitarianism is for the birds, Mr. Näaktgebøren! ( I mean no offense, it’s just a saying we have. We Americans love birds, and we eat many different kinds of beautiful birds). Your style of government wants to help everyone, make everyone equal, but that is not natural. Do the animals help each other? No, they eat each other. Or they maim each other in the attempt. Eat and maim. The Circle of Life. We understand the human impulse to spread the resources around in such a way that no person goes unfed and unsheltered, but where does it end? It ends with everybody owning the same kind of car. A very dispiriting outcome.
The Mercy Way
We of the Greatest Nation on Earth® have found another way. The Mercy Way. That’s what we call it. What. Don’t look at me that way. Yes, the U.S. has its poor, tired and hungry. Ol’ Lady Loudmouth in New York Harbor keeps waving them in with her stupid torch. We also have our homegrown balding, legless, cross-eyed and booze-addled. That can’t really be helped, but we do not want them to feel bad. We do not want anyone to feel bad. That is key here. This is the United States. We’re positive thinkers. And in all of the U.S. there is no State more singularly devoted to People Not Feeling Bad than California.
Let’s take a little walk around, soak up the sights and sounds, and learn the proper nomenclature, or Mercy Names, for the various situations we pass. The Golden State Kindness Glossary is issued by the California Hall of Fairness and updated every 5 years by a governor-appointed panel of empaths and poets. The keynote? Be careful what you say. The disadvantaged, dispossessed, and other species of the simply uncool are doing what they can. They may be living on the curb with outstretched hands, but priority # 1 is not allowing them to feel bad about that. This is How We Do, as unofficial SB Mayor Katy Perry puts it. Or as we say in California, “If you can’t feed ‘em, joy ‘em”.
Here is JG
Stearns Wharf is surely one of the loveliest sights in all of SB, isn’t it? State Street hits the coast and keeps on going for a quarter mile, tethering the town to the sea, as it were. Really lovely. Picturesque. Say, look at that smallish community of beautifully tanned ragamuffins sprawled down there on the sand and on the nearby beach lawns, some of them displaying handmade wares and fulsome beards. A less enlightened township would call this group The Homeless, but here in Santa Barbara they are known as “The Houseless”. See? Now doesn’t that take some of the sting out? Look at our city’s beautiful and iconic Dolphin Fountain, so named because it is a statue of Dolphins in a Fountain. Well, it used to be a fountain. Now the bronze dolphins are leaping triumphantly from a bed of wilting fuchsias. Walking slowly around it in a kind of stupor is a possibly distressed unfortunate without any teeth! That is an “Exposed Gums Champ”. You heard right! Now let me direct your attention across the street there. That downtrodden gentleman’s limp is quite pronounced. Looks to me like he is a “Uniquely Gaited Fancy Dancer”. You’re getting the hang of this, Mr. Näaktgebøren! You see? It’s more important that everyone get their tin trophy than that they are thrown a rope. There is John Galt.
Let’s continue on up our lovely State Street a little further and soak up the atmosphere, shall we? Oh my goodness! Look at that guy! Yes, Americans have a global reputation for being a bit portly and out of shape, but have a look at that bag of ham! Woops! I mean, have a glad gander at that “Self-Accepting Jolly Ball”. Uh oh! That “Tequila Genie” stumbling around has partaken of too much alcohol! I wonder why? Hey, don’t look at him like that, you European softie, you can’t save everybody. Haven’t you ever seen a lost, unbathed man careering about a public space before? What kind of antiseptic society you guys running over there? I’ll tell you what kind. A Socialist society. Root word: “Social”! That right there should scare you people. Uh oh…any minute now he’ll become a “Singing Goo Geyser”. Whoa, watch out! He’s singing all over the place!
Well, I think I’ll leave you and the kids and your lovely wife Hubertha to see the remaining Santa Barbara sights on your own, Mr. Näaktgebøren. I hope I’ve conveyed something of what it means to live here in Santa Barbara, and more important, what it is to live in the USA! Now go have your fun, enjoy our famous weather and $15 Martinis, and don’t be distracted by the Houseless. They’ll work it out. Tell your friends back home what you have learned. People should take care of THEMSELVES! All they need is a little encouragement. What? Oh, that? That’s our courthouse. Our COURTHOUSE. You know, there are trials there? Bad guys are sent to jail by judges? Yeah. Pretty, isn’t it? You should see it at night! All lit up? It’s really something. Beautiful! It looks like Disneyland’s Small World ride when all the decorative floodlights are on, bathing it in glory, like an E-ticket ride to Justice. Yeah, they really throw the book at ‘em in there. But wait’ll you see it at night!