On May 29, 1955, James Dean in his Porsche Speedster, took part in the Santa Barbara Road Race. Held on airport surfaces and access roads, the Santa Barbara Road Races were the premier West Coast motorsport events during the 1950s. Legendary driver Phil Hill won the inaugural Santa Barbara race in a Ferrari 250 in 1953. The event’s proximity to Hollywood drew celebrities like Steve McQueen while this Memorial Day event was James Dean’s last race.
Robert F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign would last only 82 days and would end in violence in Los Angeles on June 5, 1968, just moments after wining the California primary. During the primary Race Senator Kennedy visited the Santa Barbara Courthouse on May 28, 1968.
Earlier this month, I drove by the Californian hotel and saw the last of the side walls coming down. Now, it is just the State street facade. Two things came to mind, the photo taken after the 1925 earthquake, above, and my friend Jeff Wing’s blog post about Rocky’s and meeting his wife there, below.
PS: One thing I like about the earthquake photo is the bedsheets visible from the top floor hanging down, used by some guests to climb down. – Dan
By the age of 26 I had a beautiful teak rolltop desk full of weighty documentation, having parlayed my university experience, considerable native intellect and ruthless drive to succeed into a position of By my mid-twenties I had resoundingly fulfilled and then surpassed my early promise. My 75th floor office gave onto a skyscraping eyrie at whose filigreed iron railing I regularly took in the view of Gotham, the teeming city/state I’d conquered with such aplomb and daring as is only dreamed of in the pages of Fortu
As Grails go this gig is definitely the battered cup of a carpenter and not the kingly, jewel-encrusted decoy that caused that guy to melt in the third Indiana Jones movie. Rocky’s is not the Hollywood Bowl, but it is a club in Santa Barbara; or FREAKING SANTA BARBARA as I called it then. We’re jumping around like shameless asses a block from the long-sought Pacific, and we are being paid. The dance floor is packed with beach-scented revelers. As recent arrivistes from the powdery Sonoran desert sprawl of Phoenix and its black-painted, fishnet-gloves-and-clove-cigarettes club scene, we are in thrall to our sunshiney good fortune. True, the pay is such that, back at the band house/rehearsal studio, we are surviving on baked potatoes and pilfered frat house boxed wine. Show Biz Glamor is keeping her distance. Actually, she took the first red-eye to Timbuktoo and imperiously asked us to drop her a line when we began to gain a little traction. That would never happen. A freckled sunburst Yoko would presently shamble into the club with her friends and utterly guileless 1000 kilowatt smile, inadvertently laying waste to our china shop and turning my page so quickly it would effectively be torn from the book. Today the sun would begin setting on our years-long band and songwriting project, Spin Cycle. Elsewhere songbirds would begin quietly announcing the roseate onset of an extravagant new dawn; a dawn often viewed through slanting arctic rainfall on a Vermeer landscape, but a spirit-seizing, heart-renewing Dawn nonetheless. Juud!
My beer-dappled Converse® high-tops are being put through their paces. I’ve descended from my gosh-like position on Rocky Galenti’s Mainstage (or as we used to call it, the stage) and am mingling frenetically on the dancefloor with the thrashing throng of thought-free thoroughbreds, my unwieldy 60 foot mic cord allowing me the freedom to be publicly asinine in a setting where Asininity is King. The band churns buoyantly away behind me as I weave between the swingers. I’ve made good use of my late-breaking leave-taking of the Wallflower Club, whose charter membership I once wore like a badge of quietude in h.s. and college. I and my like-minded stagemates are well-matched. As a band we are part circus, part pop roadshow, part inexplicable performance piece.
I’ve stood atop our equipment truck at midnight of a starlit evening and serenaded a writhing mob in the street outside the club as our music poured out of the open stage door. I routinely take my leave of the dance floor in the middle of a song, and, mic in hand, climb atop the drink-littered bar in the front room and do the Vegas Catwalk, affronting the patrons in the main lounge who’d thought they’d successfully steered clear of this malarkey. I’ve sung hanging from rafters, have shouted off-pitch into the mic from the reverb-blessed confines of a club restroom, and once managed to warble while laying supine on a dance floor with a weighty patron in failing halter top perched on my chest. Which is all to say, ‘look how cool I was, and understand in part why nobody ever really realized I couldn’t sing’. Our between-song stage patter would frequently baffle our audiences, and in the middle of a song Leslee, our resident ‘foxy chick singer’, would more often than not flop off the stage like a maddened marionette to join me on the dance floor in a fit of high octane idiocy, bewildering the pogo-ing patrons with what looked like a grand mal dance seizure. We were full of surprises, misfires and dayglo laissez-faire. The songs, though, always came first. Eddie and I had been writing together since high school, he a post-modern Richard Rodgers who even as a 17 year old could spin a gorgeous, genre-crossing melody as you or I would open a can of soup; me a willowy, nominally quiet word-fan with one lazy eye and a nose made crooked by the Toyota Corolla that smacked me when I was 14. Rodgers and Frankenstein?
Today is The Day. Juudje, Carola and Renate are en route. It is 1986. We are, I think, three sets in on a sunstruck Sunday afternoon at Rocky’s, our favorite regular gig and the one that speaks most loudly to our having successfully made the move to California. Summer beach light pours onto the dance floor through the arched northerly club windows. The tanned, sandy throng gyrates in bikini and board shorts, pleasantly dizzy and pumping their fists in the ambient summer glow, as the pleasantly dizzy will do when unable to otherwise articulate their inner joy and wholeness. How many more sets this afternoon? Two? Three? One? Soon it would hardly matter. I believe I’m singing the epileptic Devo ballad ‘That’s Good’, leaping like a fool on coals and occasionally landing atop a fleetingly disgruntled mosher. I can actually smell the beach here in the club. We are expertly blaring a colorful mix of our own original tunes and covers by the likes of Talking Heads, Howard Jones, Divinyls, Our Daughter’s Wedding, and so on. Everything is going according to plan!
Eddie and I step outside for our customary Carleton between sets, a pitiable ‘low tar’ ciggy whose pathetic, pleading ad campaign at the time (IF YOU SMOKE, PLEASE TRY CARLETON!) is just amusing enough to make us fans. We reenter the club and spend the few remaining minutes before taking the stage in chit chat.
In walks Juud, in the company of her two beautiful friends and fellow-travelers Renate and Carola. I didn’t see them come in that afternoon, though one would think the hollering, frantically waving cherubim and seraphim would have tipped me off. As often happens, the heavenly chorus was drowned out by the din of happy drinkers ringingly in love with their own collective Moment. It wasn’t till Judie approached me between sets that the angelic loud-mouths gave their full-throated endorsement. I only remember someone speaking and me turning to regard a glowingly adorable post-punk ragamuffin redhead in a Cure t-shirt, and the warmest, happiest green eyes I’d ever seen. She was saying something unintelligible through the riot of club noise. She seemed to have some sort of speech impediment.
“I lijk ye bent.”
“I LIJK YE BENT.”
“I LIJK YE BENT.”
“You like the band?”
“Thanks.” Her towsled strawberry blonde mop, purple tube skirt, off-brand sneakers and immediately kissable face were not the standard uniform. My head swam, a little. Later it would swim a lot. Her striking pals Carola and Renate were behind her, mingling a little, watching over Juud a little. The three of them looked like radiant refugees from a Benetton shoot, high latitude blondes who carried themselves like self-possessed creatures of another culture, as indeed they were. They introduced themselves and explained that they were from Holland, a smallish town there called Monster.
“Muenster?” I blathered
“MONSTER!” Judie corrected, then raised her arms above her adorable apple head and made claws. “Like a monster! Raarrrgh!”
“Oh. It’s…the town is called Monster?” The three of them laughed disarmingly.
I wanted suddenly to wrap my arms around the one with the freckles and heartbeat-accelerating grin and warm green eyes. Keep your hands at your sides, you fool! You don’t know what is considered acceptable in Denmark or wherever!
Later that afternoon I would glance over through the madding crowd and see Juud standing in the middle of the blur, looking straight at me, her gentle, clock-stopping smile a still-point, a quasar, the gently buffeting breeze from an 80 kiloton explosion. I remember it with crystal clarity; that smile at that moment. I looked over and there she was, looking over. It almost sat me down, right there on the floor of the club. Good Heavens. That smile, that smile! Juud is the most beautiful, sensitive, life-loving and desirable creature on Earth, and an ongoing knee-weakener. Things happen to me when she enters a room, not all of them suitable for discussion in mixed company.
That Sunday in 1986 a corner turned, though I wouldn’t know it for some weeks. We fell hard and spent many an hour in my room at the band house, listening to music, talking about everything, partaking sickeningly of Little Caesar’s two-for-one deal. Soon it would develop that Judie had to go home, her visa expiring. I would labor over and then make an odd and slightly macabre decision, one whose effect on my dear friends I barely paused to consider, it must be said. Without the requisite inner turmoil (it would come later), I put my immediate past aside and stared fixedly at a previously unforeseen and deliciously unforeseeable future in another country.
I imagined the ineptly dubbed afterschool specials of my youth; rural European kids on tractors wearing alien-looking overalls, their words and mouth movements marvelously unrelated, cars with strange license plates, windmills, canals, those van Gogh stacks of threshed wheat; a half-accurate and delirious premonition. In brutish short order my emotional life would soon be overwhelmed anew as I informed my beloved bandmates and pals that our longstanding gig was up. All those endless muse-chasing days and nights, going right back to the egg; Eddie’s and my musical convocations and discoveries and initially accidental collaborations in the orchestra pit in our high school auditorium while crewing for that season’s musical, then the practice rooms in the music building at NAU with Paul.
And then the band years in carpeted living rooms and garages, clubs and bars and Fraternity bacchanals and university courtyards and city park bandstands, hotel ballrooms and yard parties; growing the band, growing each other. Everything for the music, for the imperfect, mildly self-mocking pursuit of Art. All the stories, the personalities – Monica, Tooth Sue, Plum Crazy the Gentleman Pirate, who could slurringly recite any Baudelaire you’d care to request, and who would travel with us to our Ventura gigs in the back of our enclosed equipment truck, sitting in the dark back there and emerging with a laugh when we arrived — I hadn’t a clue how tough this chapter-closing would be. I vividly remember my complete surprise at breaking down in the middle of the street downtown as I told our drummer, Cary, and him putting his arm around me like a consoling big brother. Cary; the comparative youngster we called The Kid.
Then there would be passport complications, more tears, some unnerving final gigs, a horrified last-minute, morning-of-my-departure pursuit of Leslee’s escaped cat (Commander Salamander RIP), me boarding a jumbo jet with one large suitcase and a Brother electronic typewriter as heavy as an anvil. “Okay, here I go!” I chirped confusedly to Leslee at LAX when boarding was called. “Don’t be glib,” she said levelly, through tears. “This is it,” the flight attendant said to me with meaning, looking me straight in the eye as I boarded; a strangely apt remark I still wonder at.
Then a peaked attic bedroom at the tippity top of a flight of narrow spiral stairs, a bedroom through whose canted ceiling window one could stare straight up at the enormous black birds endlessly battling the Dutch gale, their desperate caws sounding like cries for help. Then nuptials in Amsterdam, much horizontal rain, long nights drinking in Naaldwijk with Juud and Marcel, then biking back to Monster through the Dutch countryside in the whisperingly silent wee hours under scudding moonlit clouds. Freaking magic. And a whole new, deeply beloved family in a cozy little seaside town, nestled against the dunes on the Dutch channel coast; my second home and the Monster in my id. Oh, wat ben ik gelukkig. Thanks for coming to the club that night, Judie!
As evidenced by Dan’s post earlier this month, there is a love-hate relationship with Jacarada trees around Santa Barbara. The critics point to the sticky and stinky liquid that accompanies the flowers which “litter” and make a mess of the town. Meanwhile, fans flock to take pictures of the stunning trumpet flowers which bring spectacular color to the area each spring and summer. So let’s ask Viewers about the polarizing tree which is currently in bloom via the question of the week.
Rattlesnake Canyon Trail: From Skofield Park to Tin Can Meadow is 3.6 miles round trip with 1,000-foot elevation gain; to Gibraltar Road is 6 miles round trip with 1,500-foot gain
Rattlesnake Canyon Trail is serpentine, but otherwise far more inviting than its name.
The joys of hiking the canyon were first promoted by none other than the Santa Barbara Chamber of Commerce. In 1902 the chamber built “Chamber of Commerce Trail,” an immediate success with both tourists and locals, though both trail and canyon continued to be called Rattlesnake.
In the 1960s, the city of Santa Barbara purchased the canyon as parkland. A handsome wooden sign at the foot of the canyon proudly proclaims: Rattlesnake Canyon Wilderness.
The canyon was severely burned in the Tea Fire of November 2008, but the chaparral community in particular has recovered quite well from the devastation. Red-berried toyon, manzanita with its white urn-shaped flowers, and purple hummingbird sage cloak the slopes.
In Santa Barbara, follow State Street to Los Olivos Street. Head east and proceed a half mile, passing by the Santa Barbara Mission and joining Mission Canyon Road. Follow this road past its intersection with Foothill Road and make a right on Las Canoas Road, continuing to the trailhead, located near the handsome stone bridge that crosses Rattlesnake Creek. Park alongside Las Canoas Road.
From the Rattlesnake Canyon Wilderness sign, head north and soon rock-hop across the creek. A brief ascent leads to a trail that parallels the east side of the creek.
After a half mile, an unsigned trail veers off to the right. (One of The Trailmaster’s favorite byways, this narrow path leads along and above the east bank of Rattlesnake Creek and reunites with the main trail in about a mile.)
Soon after the junction, the main trail draws near the creek and crosses it. The path then ascends past remnants of a small stand of planted pines and into the open for good vistas of coast and ocean. Continue to a creek crossing and notice (you can’t miss it, really) a large flat rock in the middle of the creek known by locals as “Lunch Rock.”
The trail crosses the creek again, continuing along the west bank to open, grassy Tin Can Meadow, named for a homesteader’s cabin constructed of chaparral framing and kerosene can shingles and sidings. For the first quarter of the 20th century, Tin Can Shack was a canyon landmark, mentioned in guidebooks of that era. A 1925 brushfire destroyed the shack.
The apex of the triangular-shaped meadow is a junction. The trail bearing left leads 0.75 mile and climbs 500 feet to an intersection with Tunnel Trail. To the right, Rattlesnake Canyon Trail climbs 0.75 mile and 500 feet to meet Gibraltar Road. The hiker’s reward is an unobstructed view of the South Coast.
Interested in more hikes in Santa Barbara? Check out my guide: HIKE Santa Barbara
On this date in local history – May 24, 1855 – Santa Barbara got its first newspaper, the Santa Barbara Gazette. Printed half in Spanish and half in English, the paper offered Santa Barbara residents welcomed information ranging from legal notices and news to local happenings and bargain specials.
Black Tide once more: This beautiful coastline again damaged beyond belief. So much more than an ‘inconvenience’. – The Trailmaster
Let us remember those who lost their lives in this tragedy:
George Chen (19)
Cheng Yuan “James” Hong (20)
Weihan “David” Wang (20)
Katherine Breann Cooper (22)
Christopher Ross Michaels-Martinez (20)
Veronika Elizabeth Weiss (19)