It’s Jai time
Sometimes it is just too late. That is what the President said earlier this week, quoting Dr. Martin Luther King at a press conference on the UN climate summit. You can wait too long for something and miss your chance. So, one has to be informed and ready to act.
As I have mentioned previously, we missed the time to purchase a fantastic condo in Downtown LA. Today, they are too expensive for anyone but the truly wealthy. We missed quite a few desirable places on the Central California coast — but that’s because I hadn’t known how great they were. Luckily, we can still afford Ventura, but I am not sure for how long.
Ojai is a different story altogether. It is so remote, not as the crow flies — only really 30 miles or so north of us right now — but via any kind of viable roadway. When we went there in October to snap pictures and do some early Christmas shopping, we took the “back way” — Route 30 off the 126 that runs from the 5N to the sea. Making that right hand turn up into the high mountains felt like a real adventure. It is a narrow, two lane road just barely paved enough to make it pleasant and just labyrinthine enough to make you feel like you are stepping off the known path and into the abyss. The whole way there, which took 90 minutes, we were careening around hairpin turns and climbing steadily up to dizzying heights. On either side were farms and ranches selling everything you can imagine from eggs to pistachios to cactus jam to cattle.
But, these rustic little 200 to 2000 acre spreads are deceptive. No shacks, no huts, just dynastic low sprawling luxury manses — Western style. No one who doesn’t have an independent stream of income can support themselves in these places. So no one tries. For a long time, decades in fact, Ojai and its surrounding mountains and valleys have been the domain of gentlemen farmers and dude ranchers. Not to say that there aren’t some serious agriculturalists there. There are, since the area provides a lot of the produce we love and associate with Mediterranean climes: pistachios, olives, grapes (wine and table), avocados, dates, figs, and all sorts of fancy produce delicacies like heirloom lettuces and wild greens for the upscale eateries in nearby towns like Ojai center, Santa Barbara, Montecito and SLO.
The town is an art and music haven. People walk around casually. Vendors and shops put costly goods out on unmonitored tables. You pick something up and see a price tag that makes you take a step backward and hastily put it down, lest you drop it! Around every corner is a gourmet eatery or deli. Music lightly drifts from hidden niches and there is a sense of quiet celebration all around. One of my favorite stores is Rains, which has been in Ojai for 100 years and sells an upscale array of merchandise from handmade gardening accessories to ski wear. Exquisite clothing boutiques abound.
All this is just 12 miles from the sea, if you head out of town on the West side and take the main route down directly to El Camino Réal/Highway 101. It drops you in Ventura. And truth be told, that is the way we usually go to and from Ojai, as it makes the trip much shorter and easier. On those back-way winding mountain lanes you have a few minutes here and there with your heart up in your throat as there aren’t always good guard rails and the turns are sharp and unexpected, placing you at the edge of a many foot drop with one wrong move.
But what about my opener regarding time? Ojai is in peril. Seated in a low valley at the floor of its surrounding high mountains, it is almost burning to a crisp most of the year now. It is drying up too. How will these ranches and farms continue to irrigate when the water levels are receding steadily at an alarming rate? How will this little hidden jewel continue to draw its loyal clientele when the food is no longer local, fresh, gourmet and seasonal, but has to be gotten where everything else we eat is purchased: supermarkets with tasteless fruits and vegetables from South and Central America, fish from Vietnam and Indonesia — none the better for the long trip they take and of heaven-only-knows what quality and sanitation.
The US is alone among 200 nations that are meeting right now, in facing stiff opposition to common sense measures, easily affordable and subsidized by a group of wealthy countries, aimed at stemming the rise of global temperatures, especially the seas, before it is too late. We couldn’t manage it for Kyoto. Will Paris be any different? It is a shameful feature of our politics that we put the profit of the fossil fuel industry above saving this planet. Even the US military is alarmed and demanding action, on the knowledge that droughts and floods produce desperate migrations and foster terrorists, who exploit these disasters, imperiling civilization.
Ojai will be a casualty. So will many Islands around the world. As will areas that are undergoing other forms of extreme weather right this minute. The wet getting wetter and wilder and windier. The dry getting hotter and tindery. Even the Kochs refuse to admit they are behind the network of false prophets who claim that the science is unclear or wrong about this man-made warming trend. In an Emperor’s-clothes maneuver of epic dimensions, they have hoodwinked the American people into believing this is a myth. That man cannot affect his environment in catastrophic ways. Oh no? Tell that to the frogs and bees that are disappearing due to Monsanto’s nefarious greed. We have obliterated dozens of species due to our own human activity, short-sighted and blundering. The science is clear, by peer-reviewed research. Please do not send me sham articles from bogus opinionaters. How stupid can we be to believe these “reporters” know more than the 150 world leaders meeting in Paris or 99.9% of scientists? The earth is spherical and spins around its star. Global warming is fact. Get over it.
John Lennon and Yoko Ono spent a good deal of time in Ojai in the ’70s. They considered buying a spread near town. John would perform impromptu at local venues and even Yoko got up and did her signature bird calls, unasked. They decided not to live in Ojai ultimately. How I wish they had — John might have been with us to this day, had they. J. Krishnamurti established his institute and schools there and they remain, havens of tranquility, education and repose, to this day. Teddy Roosevelt fell in love with Ojai. Paul Stokey of Peter Paul and Mary fame lives there today, anchored by its many rustic charms. And every so often, you look across a path and see a musician, a Hollywood celebrity, some politician, other stars, the beautiful people just slipping up there for a relaxing stay at one or another of its luxury spas.
Ojai today looks as it did, 100 years ago. It still delivers on its alluring promise.
But not for long.
Images: Chez BeBe: Ojai October 2015, click them to enlarge