Posts Tagged 'Xantus'

California dreaming

So I’m in Santa Barbara, just a little ways up the coast from the looming metropolis of Los Angeles. And for the first time in the trip, I’ve found somewhere I could genuinely imagine living, at least for a while.

I suppose I have expensive taste. Santa Barbara is characterized by gorgeous, peaceful streets, pricey restaurants, clean beaches, beautiful weather, and an influx of super-wealthy demigods living in impossibly large mansions – among them, John Cleese.


The drive up saw the gritty land that surrounds LA change by degrees to soft, parchment-coloured sandstone and wiry little bushes, with thin spits of land occasionally questing into the sea. The pacific has a different sort of quality to other seas I’ve seen – and I’ve seen quite a few by now. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it seems more vivid, more lively somehow, as if there exists in it more raw… I don’t know, possibility. I was going to try and nap on the bus, but instead found myself glued to the scratched-up window.

I arrived in the late afternoon and was greeted by Xantus, a tall and carefree chap with a great group of equally carefree (but not as tall) friends. I was taken to their house, which is a large and heavily customized rented property, with dozens of cool little decorations, hanging drapes, curious lights and other oddities, such as a tiny tiny tiny working piano, or an iron-frame statue that threatens to eat your tongue. All very unaffected, and fantastic for it.

The afternoon was spent more or less simply hanging out, eating tacos at a local place and then going to see Joshua Tillman, one of the members of Fleet Foxes, play a solo gig at a local place called Muddy Waters (‘okay, so there are like, a couple of Muddy Waters,’ Xantus’ housemate clarified, ‘but they all feel independent’). It was a good gig, and although he lacked some of the inventiveness of the collective band, when he hit his ‘wall of sound’ mode it was incredibly exhilarating. A good evening.

The next day Xantus and I went for a romantic stroll on the beach. It’s crushingly beautiful and really makes me wish England had better weather. It’s even milder up here, and really is an absolutely lovely climate to stroll around in. Always warm, rarely hot, cool in the evenings and any trace of humidity blown away by the sea breeze. The beach itself is wonderful.


The town itself is low-lying along the coast, which I found out today is due to heavily specific regulations by the local council: nothing more than three floors, no neon – even the tiles on the rooftops have to be terracotta. The result is an almost painfully pretty town, which I spent today wandering around.



My lasting memory of Santa Barbara, though, will be what we did last night. As the sun set across the glittering bay, we drove up to the mountaintop. Leaving our car by the road and the city at our feet, we picked our way across the boulders and rocky pitfalls for a few hundred meters to a place called Lizard’s Mouth Rock, a distinctly-shaped outcrop that is apparently a popular place. I say that because there already folk there when we arrived, playing guitars and generally having a good time. We joined them, talked late into the night, watched the sun set and the stars rise, and played around with slow exposure settings on cameras and coloured LEDs.

But why bother expounding on that, when a picture can convey exactly the atmosphere?


Santa Barbara is just a great place. I used to think Jack Johnson’s ditties were unrealistically saccharine, but after learning he was raised here, it makes sense. I was strolling along the surf with Xantus, when he stretched his arms into the air and gazed up at the sky. I couldn’t help agreeing with what he then said.

‘Life is pretty good,’ he remarked, ‘all things considered’.

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