The places we call home
We never called it by its name, only the initials: I.V.
It was a place divorced from reality, a town populated by a narrow demographic segment, our people – college students, smarties, kids mostly from California, crowded together in a half-mile square. It was our place.
The town itself is wedged between the university and the ocean in an area sometimes called the American Riviera, a place that mingles Mediterranean and surfer vibes. It’s warm, breezy, the scent of black sage and dried grasses rising on the salt breeze, afternoon shadows turning the mountains blue and purple and pink.
When we were there, the last bad thing that had happened was the 1968 Bank of America riot, and even that was kind of a lark, a hippie fevered-dream.
We went there to see our friends who were studying at UCSB – Keller, Spike, Johnny-Boy – to party and to lay around and to tell stories on rump-sprung couches before heading out to pick up another 12-pack of Miller and a pizza.
Everyone rode cruiser bikes around the streets, Embarcadero del this and Camino del that. The buddy boys even lived on the street with the best street name in the world – Sabado Tarde, Saturday Afternoon Street.
But that was 30 years ago. That was before Friday. Now people are posting on Facebook “Did you hear about this story?” Of course we heard. Seven people dead. 13 more injured. One narcissistic madman. 400 rounds of ammo.
Now it’s Isla Vista, not IV. Now it’s a place of tragedy and horror. Life will go on, but now students will ride their cruiser bikes past murder scenes.
A friend left me a voice mail yesterday. “I was just thinking about you because you know…all those times we spent in Isla Vista.” He gave one of those cough-laughs that happen involuntarily to hide the weight of emotion. “I mean, I know all those places.”
I’m so unspeakably angry.
I’m angry on behalf of the parents of those kids. Those kids who were doing everything right. Those kids who had studied and had excitedly ripped open the acceptance envelope from UCSB and who had found apartments they could almost afford with a couple friends, kids who were getting ready for a three-day weekend, a perfect weekend, a weekend like we used to have.