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December 12, 2008

Tour of Santa Barbara and wine country?

December 12. Day 165.

Through a random twist of events, I found myself at the Starlight Lounge having cocktails with a group of musicians from the San Diego Symphony.

Okay, not that random. The soloist at last night's performance was the acquaintance of an acquaintance of an acquaintance, and after the show Mr. A and I went back stage to say hi. He invited us to go out with the gang.

And so a harpist, cellist, French horn player, two violinists, and two groupies ended up at the Starlight.

Between conversations about violins, musical mothers, symphony auditions, Manhattan (see: cocktail), foosball, and propulsion physics (i.e. would a thrown napkin fly further if it had been doused in ketchup?), the soloist at one point mentioned that he doesn't like blogs.

"I'm a blogger," I said.

"Really? What do you blog about?"


He processed this for a moment. Perhaps this seemed unlikely to him, since I had told him I'm a grad student and occasional writer. Did I mediate cross-border labor treaties in my spare time? mend broken marriages? broker corporate discounts for group health care benefits? help bratty twins share a bedroom? "Negotiation..." he checked.


"What do you mean by that? What aspect of negotiation?"

"Basically, every day I try to negotiate something, ask for something, see what kind of deal I can get. For example, right now I'm asking you for a tour of Santa Barbara. When you're up there next summer." (A few minutes earlier, he'd told me he and his wife spend every summer there and it's his favorite city in California. I've never been, despite driving up the coast a few times. )

"You're asking me for a tour of Santa Barbara?"

"Yes! I'll just ring you up in six months and say, 'I'm standing outside'!"

"Okay. But it's not really a negotiation. It would be a pleasure."

Gained: a "voucher" of sorts for an insider's glimpse of SB.

For once, and only once, I went against my rule of not revealing my identity as a blogger before asking. I wasn't planning on phrasing it that way, or even asking for that, but so the conversation evolved.

Actually, this works out great. Except for certain situations -- purely self-indulgent vacations, Hawaii-style -- I avoid "tourism" as much as possible. It's fun to snap pictures on historic bridges and gawk at buskers while eating eclairs, especially when you're traveling with the right person, but really, what beats living in a place for a while, talking to the people who serve your steak or sell you the newspaper, adjusting to its daily rhythms, ditching the idea of "getting lost" along with the map, learning to listen for your neighborhood's particular sounds, becoming a regular, if only for a month or a precious week, at the cafe downstairs... No such plans for Santa Barbara, but a local's take will make it that much more memorable.
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