The allure of good fortune
Often when I post I will tell you I have had a busy week and this was thrown together. Well, this was the opposite. Other than planting more ground cover to replace lawn, I have been lazing around, reading a new book (that I will amplify on next week), watching the political spectacle unfolding here, and getting ready for Christmas. This is my shopping spree time and I truly relish it.
This summer we turned the Christmas room into a guest room and it looks really cute. Then we went out and got a new, smaller tree and put it in the living room. The other tree was around 10 feet high and enormous. This one is only seven and a half, pre-lit with sparkling white lights. I had fancy ornaments on the other one. This time I put up more folksy ones. They don’t match my formal 1930s furniture and Victorian antiques but somehow they make the room look like a turn of the century child’s fantasy. We packed up the big tree in a crate and are basking in all the extra room we made doing this.
That made me realize, once again, how lucky I am. For one thing, I have the cutest guy on earth here getting me my cup of coffee this morning and letting me spend the day, spending. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t for a minute forget what a privilege it is to have the support and the luck I have had my whole life, despite the smaller setbacks that temporarily make me forget to be grateful. And, as I said before, true fortune, like true beauty, has nothing to do with things or appearances. It comes from within and it is our human endowment, if we know where to find it. A whole subject in itself.
And that brings me back to California, embracing it, and loving my latest passion: Ventura, as I already shared a couple of weeks ago or so. What is it about Ventura that is so attractive, alluring to so many people? Well, first off, you might well ask how I know it is alluring to anyone else who is not on this same quest to find the perfect retirement town. I can tell by looking at the kinds of goods and services that I see there and the people walking on the street.
Rarely do I see a big (relatively, that is, 100,000 people live in Ventura) urban area with people walking around in beach wear. Back home in NY/NJ, the only place you see that is on the boardwalk. No one walks in shorts or, heaven forbid, a two-piece in the cities. They really don’t do that anywhere in California either, except right at the beach. I have mentioned the other great hidden secret, the South Bay beach cities of Manhattan, Redondo, and Hermosa beaches. Those are where the rich people play and there you see casual wear and a lot of skin right on the Strand but rarely anywhere even a few blocks from the water. It takes a certain sense of safety and security to walk around — at all ages, mind you — with hardly anything on.
As those of you who speak Spanish know, Buenaventura means — yup — good fortune or luck.
In Ventura, people are milling around as if they are in their backyard. These are not rich folks. These are — we have concluded — students, artists and university town people. Some of them work locally, some in LA, some in Santa Barbara. But what they all seem to have in common is a relaxed, quiet, cheerful, yet upbeat and energetic frame of mind. And that gives the whole area a welcoming and harmonious feel.
Something else I noticed along these lines. A distinct de-emphasis on barriers. Fewer fences and walls than in other places. Naturally, the more security and privacy people feel they must have, the more walls and fences decorate their neighborhoods. In Ventura I had a hard time finding any. There are fancy neighborhoods, but they emphasize ocean views, not separation from their neighbors. It was remarkable how close together the houses and apartments are. A modern anthropologist could probably do something interesting with this concept.
When we were last there a couple of weekends ago, Geoffrey wanted to hang out in one of the sports bars and just chat with the guys. I went around with the camera and he had a couple of beers. When we were talking about our day as we drove the mere 40 minutes back to the house he told me what he learned. Ventura is a long standing artists’ town. Not just visual, but poets and carpenters and metal workers and performing artists.
Instantly, I realized that was it. The ethnic restaurants, the casual dress, the many ‘spiritual’ book shops, the quiet meditative feel of the beaches are all the signatures of creative minds. Hence, the wide range of living options. Lots of museums, re-sale shops, bicycle repair places. It all fell into place knowing that.
And you see every type of character. Like Manhattan and Queens back home, you can be yourself in an artist’s community. Now, that is not to say that NYC is particularly known for art as its primary feature. I would have to say that the mighty dollar is the symbol of my hometown. But, if you think of it, and if you know New York, you will realize that one thing the dollar buys is art. So, the thriving theater community, the many museums and fine arts shops and ateliers. The original television industry. And, the incredible garment and fashion world still there on 7th and 9th avenues.
Now, I shouldn’t get carried away with this analogy as it will only take me so far. Ventura also has a very laid back surfer vibe. Lots of fishermen, wanderers, people who don’t need much and don’t have much, just hanging out. But rather than giving the town a down at the heels sense, it just makes it feel accepting and diverse. It is like salmagundi, or cioppino or bouillabaisse, a big aromatic watery soup with all kinds of interesting and unexpected tasty morsels.
So, here are some more glimpses of the many shots I took over the past few months. Maybe more will come and I will return to this topic. After all, I want to be sure this analysis holds up over time, since I tend to get enthusiastic and fall in love with a place, then obsess about it. I am a big girl now and have to make wise, big girl choices. So, let me just put these ideas out there this week and let them simmer.
Images: Chez Bebe, San Buenaventura, click to enlarge.