DRIVING UP STATE STREET AT NIGHT: CHRISTMAS, SANTA BARBARA, 1955

Posted on Dec 25 by SEASONS Magazine

State Street, photo by J.W. Collinge

State Street, photo by J.W. Collinge

By Christopher Buckley

 

We stop at the light on 101, turn right

up State, and pull over to the curb …

my father shifts the Hydramatic

of our shell-white Pontiac into Park,

and the orange glowing moon

of the cigarette lighter rises

from the dash as my parents light-up

their KENTs….

                        I lean over

the middle of the wide front seat

to gaze at the arc of decorations,

the air sparkling for as far as I can see—

ice-colored stars and golden bells,

red wreaths hanging from each street lamp—

and soon we begin swerving

around the wide white bases

of 20 foot Christmas trees stationed

in the middle of the street.

                                    Last week

before Christmas, and all the shops

are open until 9:00, sidewalks

packed, cars jamming all four lanes.

There's OTTS with electric trains

circling in and out of paper maché

Swiss Alps, a display of baseball

Gloves and bats—The White House

where we buy my school uniforms

the color of the sea. To the right,

De la Guerra Plaza with blue, red,

orange and green bulbs strung

between the palms, and the bright,

office of Western Union where I once

cut my chin on the marble counter top.

Carrillo Street, Silverwoods on the corner

where my father's sport coats come from,

a glow beneath the Florsheim shoes …

then the house-high windows of Woolworths,

our station wagon reflecting in them

as we stop at the signal, and I. Magnin

where I sit on the one chair while

my mother looks at the new beige fashions.

We pass the smoky haze of Pelch & Sons,

the boxes of Panatellas glistening

behind the glass. I look out the back window

to the tall Balboa Building where

my father reads the evening news

on KTMS; I point to a gleaming blue Cadillac

gliding by. At Anapamu "Silver Bells"

by the McGuire Sisters is piped through

speakers at the base of a tree, and

diners in line at the Copper Coffee Pot

move slowly in a glimmering hive.

Neon shimmers on the marquee

of the Granada Theater, and the spire

of the Fox Arlington, where I saw Peter Pan,

disappears into the stars … three of us,

in the calm dark of the car,

surrounded by all the light

it seemed the world would ever need.

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine, Winter 2014/15.

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