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November 1, 2012 · Posted in Commentary 




Views of Santa Barbara


By Bob Vickrey

As I drove north on Pacific Coast Highway and caught a glimpse of the place where mountains meet the ocean, there suddenly appeared a vista that rekindled old memories and also marked the dramatic passing of time.

My sighting of the city of Santa Barbara coming into view made my pulse quicken and restored my long-slumbering senses. The sea breeze filled my nostrils and the simple euphoria of that same moment years earlier was still branded in my memory.

Winter rains had left the hillsides covered with the austere beauty of a shimmering deep green as sunset drew near. The setting sun reflecting off red-tile Spanish rooftops cast an eerie light across the cove and was softened by the iridescent colors of bougainvillea that blanketed the tops of homes and cascaded down their walls.

The city was bathed in the soft golden hues only seen in the brief glimpses just before the blood-red sun takes its nightly dip into the dark emerald green waters on the distant horizon.

While the awe-inspiring beauty of the tree-lined cliffs of Big Sur has surely brought grown men to their knees, its creation was pretty much all Mother Nature’s doing. The planning and building of the seaside theater nestled delicately into the southern range of the Santa Ynez Mountains that eventually became Santa Barbara , must certainly offer living proof that man occasionally gets something right.

The old Spanish city had called to me like a siren song as it came into view. It was once the temptress that had made a younger man begin to observe the world with eyes more wide open and envision a boundless future. And now, years later, it still beckons with some mysterious hold it has on travelers.

The trip there now rekindles memory and has on occasion triggered melancholy, and yet it still commands the power to revitalize the human spirit. In earlier years, I had never given thought about a coming day when I would make the same journey and have conflicted feelings about my return. Those were days before doubt and regret had entered the lexicon of my vocabulary.

Now the reminder of a failed attempt to mend a broken marriage and the recognition of a few misplaced priorities had made me reconsider how my decisions had guided my story down a different path than the one I had once imagined. Somewhere along the way, expectation gave way to worry, and hope was replaced by regret.

This time as I came upon the city limits sign, the melodic chords of Donald Fagen’s keyboard harmony provided the perfect backdrop on the car radio that whisked me back to those early days when I felt the whole world was indeed the proverbial ‘oyster’ promised to the very young. The pure blend of the music and beauty of the landscape there offered perfect testimony to the power of the heightened senses and accentuated its trigger on memory.


“Nothin’ here but history

Can you see what has been gone

Memory rushes over me

Now I step into the sun”


The futile challenge of recapturing the elusive dreams of youthful passion is little more than an exercise of a self-indulgent stroll into a dreary melancholy. However, I finally discovered that place which complemented memory, and which has also served me well into a contemplative and contented adulthood.

The shimmering jewel of a city on the South-Central coast of California had at once become the metaphor and symbol of hope and has always presented me with a sense of ultimate redemption and liberation.

I lower the car windows. I smell the briny surf—and that rush comes over me once again.

Bob Vickrey is a freelance writer whose columns appear in several Southwestern daily newspapers including the Houston Chronicle and the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram. He is a member of the Board of Contributors for the Waco Tribune-Herald. He lives in Pacific Palisades , Ca.


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