Of the mean streets of Santa Barbara, CAPosted: July 28, 2011 Filed under: Language and text, Wandering in the city 1 Comment
Oh readers of mine, dearest followers of my long and lovely journeys, I shall now take you to the strange and vacuous land I’m currently calling home: Santa Barbara, California.
Jean Baudrillard once wrote of this odd place: “Santa Barbara is a paradise; Disneyland is a paradise; the U.S. is a paradise. Paradise is just paradise. Mournful, monotonous, and superficial though it may be, it is paradise. There is no other.”*
And here, in this mournful little slice of the paradise pie, I find myself.
I read somewhere that in Mexico City the streets, if you wander through them correctly, can lead you as readily through an impromptu poetry as they can through the city. In Santa Barbara, at least in the neighborhood I’m currently calling home, it’s poetry too, of the sadistic, mocking genre.
I assume it was white people who named the streets here, ignorant of the meanings of the Spanish names they chose. But it’s entirely possible that someone in the know wanted to mark some of the violent histories wrought by the makers of the American West. Either way, you have to wonder if you should heed the advice that is offered on Salsipuedes Street (in English, ‘get out if you can’). I’m also a big fan of Quarantina Steet (you guessed it, ‘quarantine’ in my native tongue). Perhaps they passed out the small-pox infested blankets on one of the now nearly deserted corners of this winding way. Then, of course, is Indio Muerto Steet. I’m not translating that one for you.
I myself live, appropriately, on the less morbidly but certainly melancholically named Soledad Street (‘solitude’ or ‘loneliness’ depending on its context).
Hard to say what any of this means but I’ve chosen to take it as the universe telling me I’d be happier in Mexico City. Or Buenos Aires. Or pretty much anywhere but here. But hey, sometimes you don’t choose your paradise. Sometimes it chooses you. And I’m happy in the knowledge that this particular utopia is on the beach, and in the knowledge that unlike a very large number of indios that once roamed in these parts, I might have a shot at escaping for weekends in L.A.
*Baudrillard, Jean. America. London: Verso, 2010.
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