It's Always Sunny in Santa Barbara
It's Occasionally Sunny in Philadelphia
I had a lot of good memories when I lived in Philly, especially childhood memories like going to Connie Mack Stadium and shopping on South Street. But as I grew older, I began to be aware that I wasn't living in the best of places. I started to feel disconnected from the city and its fast-paced culture and, for the most part, unpleasant surroundings.
It seemed to be cloudy and rainy half the time. Mostly, I stayed home. Sundays I would go to church, come home, plop down on my plush recliner (recliners are very big in Philly) and watch the Eagles play on TV while grazing on snack food for the course of the game. Needless to say, I was getting very chunky in Philly, as well as being very pale from the lack of sunlight.
There was nothing that I wanted to see in Philly that I didn't already see. I found myself driving up the same old streets and buying junk food from the same WaWa market. I had lived there for 57 years and I was tired of looking at it. Philly gave me everything that it had to offer, and I was grateful. I was ready to move on.
It took me half of my life to realize there must be a better place to live, a better lifestyle than living in the Philadelphia area. So I sold my house, squeezed everything that I could into my Prius and off I went to California. I didn't have a job or a lot of money; I just had faith that things would be better. Life would be more exciting, the weather would be warmer and, most of all, I would be happier.
Things Began to Change for Me in California
Once in California, things changed for me almost immediately. I began wearing flip-flops; I got rid of my winter clothing and my Eastern attitude. My accent began to leave, along with my East Coast skepticism and distrust of others. I became open and smiled more. I began to view people more positively and became more hopeful about things. My weekdays were wonderful but my Sundays in Santa Barbara were special--no longer just sitting in front of the TV with my cat on my stomach baking bread.
I Became More Active
There's a different mindset in California because the weather is so good. Everyone is out and about. People get into their RV's (recreational vehicles) and just drive. They may drive along the coast and park somewhere, take out their barbecue at a campsite or they may take their boards and surf. There are very few toll roads in California so it makes driving fairly easy and straight forward.
Another thing that changed for me was yoga. While I practiced yoga in Philly, I became more of a yogi in California. California is the Queen of Yoga with it's many facilities and yoga practitioners. There is acro-yoga (balancing from a rope upside down) to hot yoga, where the temperature may reach above 100 degrees. Whatever the yoga, the people are very passionate about it. Shortly after arriving in Santa Barbara, I took a yoga retreat in the Santa Ynez mountains at the White Lotus Foundation for 16 days of non-stop yoga.
And I began to walk everywhere--downtown, uptown. I walked slow and I walked fast. Walking is easy here because everyone walks and pedestrians have the right of way. In Philly, walking could be quite hazardous . But in Santa Barbara, you have crosswalks and drivers are more aware of your presence and, in fact, look out for you.
I Became More Interested in My Surroundings
My senses became enlivened. I became more interested in the things around me. I began to notice the fruit on the trees. I began to notice the crows and blue birds, the Eucalyptus trees, the varied Palm trees, the Oak trees, the plants that don't need much water (called succulents) like the Blue Agave and the different stonecrops and the Canyon Live-forevers.
I began to take pictures with my trusty Cannon Power Shot. I took photos of the way the sidewalks slanted, the way the grass grows, the ways the tops of the Palms fan out and the way the sunlight plays off of the Birds of Paradise. I took pictures of dogs on the beaches. I took pictures of hippies walking barefoot and dudes riding unicycles backward. I took pictures of cats jumping walls and pictures of people pushing their wheelchairs and homeless people packing their belongings in their shopping carts. I wanted to get it all because it was all good and it was all captivating.
I Began to Socialize More
I met a wonderful girlfriend who has a wonderful family and I learned different things about a different culture and I saw places that I never saw before, traveling up and down the coast of California from San Diego to San Francisco. I met many people and I felt comfortable with them and learned a lot about what they do--different and unusual occupations, some artsy, some business and managerial types. Random people would converse with me and tell me things that I did not know--from rich Montecito types all the way down to people who lived on park benches. It was all good.
Should I Ride My Bike, Play the Guitar, or Take a Dip?
Sundays in Santa Barbara
It's always so beautiful in Santa Barbara and it seems especially true on Sundays. Sunday is a time where everyone is out, tourists seeing things for the first time, everyone is happy and carefree and doing their own thing--which might be laid back or intense. So allow me to give you my stream-of-conscious experience of Santa Barbara during a typical leisurely Sunday.
In the park there are trees with big, far-reaching roots, trees with extra-large canopies. Crows everywhere searching for food. People lying down on blankets and getting some sun, others juggling objects like bowling pins, others doing Tai Chi or upside down yoga poses, dudes playing sad, romantic melodies, homeless couples by the sink washing up, kids laughing on the playground and speaking Spanish. The blue sky gets bluer; the clouds are moving inland. The warm sun feels good against my skin...
A bike whizzes by; the guy in a biker suit peddles his legs fast and furious. He rides all over town, speeding past slow cars, skateboarders, pedestrians, and joggers. He heads up the hill, to the Mesa and down along the Pacific coastline; it's exhausting for him to keep pumping the pedals on such a steep incline, but he's strong and willing...
Walking on the beach and kicking off the seaweed from my heels, I take pictures of the surfers trying to keep balanced as the waves carry them up and under a big one, avoiding the breakers, and coming out the other end. The tranquil paddle boarders want to combine exercise and relaxation at the same time...
The sea birds flock together, flying fast, in groups of five and six souring overhead and into the distance, then dive bombing into the water for fish. The wind surfers nearby trying to hold on and ride both the wind and the wave and the hang gliders catching the wind that takes them higher and further out to sea. They all are trying to harness nature while maintaining their equilibrium...
The trendy people on State Street with their bronzed legs, pierced navels and the sounds of their flip flops. The guys are casual in their Sanuks and trendy sunglasses. Where shall we go to eat? What shall we buy now? I hear people talking and laughing and getting into their Teslas, Mini Coopers and classic cars and driving away...
We head to Cabrillo, to the Art Walk. We pass the spinning butterflies, the wine stoppers, the art that looks like Rorschach images, the wooden games, the glass blowers, the Japanese guy who is sketches in ink, large colorful canvases, pictures of Redwoods, the orange field photos. It goes on and on; the art never ends here...
I pass by the taco stand and hear Latin rhythms and we stroll further and find an eclectic cafe with a table in the sunlight under a line of Palms. We have something light that is fresh and Mediterranean and we drink some Merlot and we sigh and we say, "It's always nice in Santa Barbara."
We head home, but not just yet; it's too nice, we're not ready to go inside. The moon roof is open, we drive our recently washed car feeling the warmth of the sun as we slowly take a ride down a quiet street, up Anacapa, turn at State Street, and make a left at De La Vina. We both realize again that it's another beautiful Sunday in Santa Barbara.
I recently connected with a previous supervisor that I was fond of from the Philly area. He saw some of my pictures online and told me that California seems to suit me. "It does," I responded back. It's like I should have been here all my life. It's the place that I feel totally alive and able to live the kind of life that I dreamed about. It's always sunny here and it always will be.