Thursday, September 30, 2010

Everyone's Plants

Do you like succulents? If you happen to kill off everything potted, but still really like plants, then this is the greenery for you. Succulents thrive in Santa Barbara, but I don't see very many lawns that feature them. Usually they are on the sidewalks or along the hiking trails. If you see a fairly small one, I encourage you to dig it out and replant it at home. I'm really tempted to do so with the ones pictured.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

52 Messages

Every Tuesday I have to walk up and down Carrillo Hill in the evening. The reason for this is not important. What matters is that going once a week to a place you can't help but notice trivial/odd things about it. For example, over the course of three Tuesdays I watched a skunk decompose and get picked apart, eventually leaving a tuft of tail that is still stuck to the sidewalk. Along my route there are also a few 2-liter soda bottles crammed under bush filled with what must be urine; they have remained in the same position for at least a month.

The best thing along this walk, however, are the playing cards that I always find either scattered on the ground or stapled/paper-clipped/taped to trees or sign posts. The cards are all sharpied with an obscure phrase. I like to think of the person who does this as "The Masked Messenger." The one pictured above proclaims "scary good."

Thursday, September 23, 2010

"Citizen journalism"

Now you can also follow Santa Barbara Unseen on, a site where a bunch of Santa Barbara people have their own blogs. They write about all sorts of things, usually with considerable eccentricity. We'll try to live up to that, but we're still getting it caught up with the version you see here. When we do, however... the only possible advice is, prepare.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Then who is responsible?

You see these abandoned shopping carts all over Santa Barbara. I have it on good authority that this tree is nowhere near a market. Trader Joe's? Twenty-minute walk east. Ralph's? Ten-minute walk west. The cart didn't roll here by itself. It's not one of those homeless chariots, laden to the point of metal fatigue with plastic bags barely encasing lord knows what. I don't even know who I'd approach to get pointed in the direction of where I might possibly find something like answers. Not to get all Resnais on you, but:

"I am not responsible," says the street crackpot.

"I am not responsible," says the bored adolescent joyrider.

"I am not responsible," says the confused, foreign grandma.

Then who is responsible?

Thursday, September 9, 2010


I've noticed that abandoned/left behind/unloved buildings in the downtown area have a habit of sitting around and decaying; the cheap cork board tacked to the windows getting progressively water-streaked and rotted. The above home has been left in this state since I moved downtown two years ago, the only difference being that the menacing "CONDEMNED" sign disappeared at some point.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Phoneless, boothless

By default, people tend to think that State is the best street in Santa Barbara. It is actually the street with the most novelty t-shirt stores. If you want to see the city at its most interesting, you go Haley Street — or, as an eccentric resident we recently met called it, "skid row" — every time. Needless to say, you'll want to keep an eye on its tag.

I can think of no better image than the above with which to celebrate this real best street in Santa Barbara. It's no secret that cellphones have pretty much killed the payphonic star; even UCSB is dismantling its wall of pay phones, which in happier days positively teemed with foreign students. But there's something so distinctively sad about this pair of phoneless shells that I hope it never occurs to anybody to pull them up. These twins stand, Shining-like, in front of Haley's similarly hobbled Mac's Grog & Groc. Mac (or whomever) doesn't even bother trying to mask the fact that the place was clearly designed to be a gas station. Something must have gone terribly wrong along the way, since instead of gas pumps, there is usually just a fat Indian dude.

This is what I love to see in a city: the anachronistic, the unwelcome, the decayed, the partially removed and ignored. There's a lot of that on Haley.