Santa Barbara, 1954
By Christopher Buckley
It was, of course, another life—the war just over, many of us barely out
of bassinets. The sky peeled away layer by layer, the grey air pausing
between those days and whatever was going come. I looked up
to clouds, white as napkins, in the high windows of the five and dime and
department stores. . . .
In the back of the Pontiac, I was learning the names
for things, my father driving the wide lanes of State Street, or along the seafront on Cabrillo Boulevard where I knew every palm tree ascending the blue.
I sat in the Fox Arlington theater, my eyes adjusting to the dark, the
appliqué of stars blinking in the artificial vault above, below which
I’d spend the next 10 years happily watching WWII movies save us
time and again. . . . I went to Copenhagen with Hans Christian Anderson,
and one day walked underwater with Captain Nemo, a gold light glowing
from the globed eye-like windows of his fish-shaped boat . . . I was 6 that Saturday kids were admitted free to Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea to promote the future, and the Nautilus, our first nuclear submarine. . . .
60 years later, I walk the same sidewalks in a future I could never have
foreseen . . . all the way back there it keeps getting darker, except for
these small whitecaps of light surfacing as I walk by remembering
what shops were originally behind which doors . . . and sometimes
on the upper reaches of State Street, where tourists have not thronged,
out of the corner of my eye, I see, in the great glass store fronts of what once were Lou Rose or I. Magnin’s, a woman with auburn hair, wearing her one winter coat, leading a boy out of the shop—the air clear, crisp at his cheeks, the mica in the sidewalks shining back up to the midday sky as he raises a hand to shade his eyes so he can get some idea of where he’s
going. . . .
Originally published in the Spring 2017 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.