I'm staying for a week in Montecito, which is part of the city of Santa Barbara. The climate is nice to the point of seeming a little unreal. The temperature gets down to the low 50's at night, and rises up to the high 60's during the day. It's foggy early in the morning, then the fog burns off and it's sunny for the rest of the day.
The condo I'm staying at smells of bougainvillea and various other flowers whose names I don't know. Even the parking garage here smells like the eucalyptus trees which surround it. There is a gentle breeze which comes in from the sea. After several days I have yet to notice a single insect. (The flowers must get pollinated magically.)
The town is rich, even ritzy. (I'm just a scraggly visitor.) Rich people seem willing to spend inordinate amounts to be close to the ocean. A two bedroom condo on the beach (but facing the mountains) will go for maybe $1.5 million. On the other side of the building, if you're facing he ocean, the same unit will cost twice that. Four bedroom houses on the ocean cost $16 million. And there are a couple houses on the bluff which are upwards of $40 million.
Beyond those houses is a large graveyard, roughly a half mile by a mile, which sits on a hill next to the ocean. That land has to be worth in the billions. If Santa Barbara ever runs into financial problems, they should just sell the graveyard. (I doubt its current residents would much mind being relocated.)
LIke the rest of southern California, Santa Barbara has a beach culture. I've never quite gotten the appeal of going to the beach, whatever part of the world you're in. The nearest bathroom is usually a ten minute walk away, the water is usually too cold to swim in, there are horseflies (on the East Coast), and sand gets in everything. It's hard to read in the glare and if you try to eat, the wind just blows sand in your food. What's the point? To get your skin to wrinkle faster?
If you surf, at least you're doing something. But the Channel Islands, which protect Santa Barbara against catastrophic tsunamis, also make for mediocre surfing.
The surfers are part of the beach culture here. But in Montecito, there are also a fair number of people taking their morning stroll on the walkway above the beach. It's fairly easy to tell which group they belong to. You see a fair number of Easterners, who are staying at the Biltmore; they are pale, and usually bundled up against the 60 degree chill.
Then there are the locals, who are as likely to be jogging or bicycling. Their skin may be a bit more leathery, but they also look healthier. Many of the local women just look like money. You can tell, the most important thing they've ever done in their lives is just look good. You see some near the beach, and more in the shopping center up the hill.
The weirdest thing about this place is that beautiful women will actually walk past you on the sidewalk, smile, and say hello. (What planet is this?) I, of course, at first had the normal guy reaction: finally, a group of women who appreciate me! (It doesn't take much to put my ego in fourth gear.)
On the East Coast, if an attractive woman smiles at you on the street, it might translate as, "Let's do it." Of course, it could also translate as "I'd like to separate you from your money." Or, maybe, "I'm insane."
But in Montecito, it translates as, "I'm a Californian -- isn't it a nice day today?" That's it, nothing more. Read anything into it and you're just taking your ego out for a spin.
(It may have been my imagination, but it also seemed as if there was a faint echo of, "Isn't it grand to be rich?" to their friendly hellos.)
Good-looking women usually accompany expensive real estate. Centimillionaires don't marry plain women; they may have married them and subsequently gotten rich, but that's different. Show me a centimillionaire who makes his money and then marries a plain woman and I'll show you a genuinely nice guy. Hmm. Right, not too many of those around.
Conversely, show me a gorgeous woman who marries a poor-and-not-particularly-handsome man, and I'll show you a truly nice girl. Okay, not too many of those either.
But at least in Montecito it all looks -- and smells -- good.