Lunch Money


Where's Santa?

Thanks to Alaska Airlines summer special mid-week airmile deals, I just finished a short but wonderful visit with my daughters’ family in Southern California. California, the land of my youth, my old home State. The origin of many childhood memories.
Halfway between Santa Barbara and Ventura on US Hwy 101 lies the improbable and strangely placed Santa Claus Lane. I mean think about it. Here, right on the California Coast between two major beach communities, next to Carpenteria California once dubbed the safest beach in the world, lies a cluster of shops which include Santa’s Kitchen, Santa’s Workshop and various other replicas of Santas' North Pole compound. And standing in the midst of this some 30 feet tall, was a large, brightly painted, smiling, stylized replica of the Old Boy himself, waving at the cars speeding by on US 101. I say was because on this trip I noticed that Santa was no longer there. All the other shops seemed to be in place, but where was Santa?. It is not that this Santa had any particular special meaning except for two things. Santa kinda marked the half way point between Santa Barbara and Ventura, a trip I took many times as a child and later as an adult with my children in the car. So, first, it was the sign that we were half way to where we were going. It was the landmark I could use to console whiney kids with "we’re almost there when we see Santa". Second, it had been there for over forty years. It was as much a part of the landscape, or should I say beachscape as any hill, or rock, or other natural feature.

I got to thinking that there must be thousands of "Santa like" landmarks throughout this country. I’m sure all of us can come up with an image of something that we used as a landmark to direct people, or reassure ourselves with, or take bearings off of. Some Billboard or little store that marked being close to home or verifying we are on the right path. Then I got to thinking this. There are the great Icons of this country that are protected by one agency or another, one regulation or another so that they will never disappear. You know, the Statue of Liberty, the Golden Gate Bridge, the worlds largest thermometer in Baker California, the giant Uniroyal Tire in Detroit, all that national icon stuff. But what about all that personal icon stuff. The things that we hold dear as landmarks in are own little sphere of influence, the small but important roadside things that give us comfort or add meaning to our lives. Who is out there protecting those things? What becomes of the small things that are so easily sacrificed in the name of progress or re-development. Things that have meaning to many but most have no say in the fate of these markers of our lives. Oh sure, I’m sure there is some sort of Planning Board or Commission that publishes something, somewhere about decisions that are about to be made. But, really, do most of those who will be affected by the decision have access or input to the process. I think not. I’m not even sure of how many would if they knew how.

What I am struck with is how much of our life is changed, or affected, or modified by forces that we have no input or control over and for the most part we just seem to make note of it and then move on. I’m not sure what else I should be doing about such changes in my life except to make note of them in my blog and maybe personally recognize the fact to not to take the giant Santas of my life for granted because someday I may look up and they'll be gone.

By the way, I later found out that Santa had been purchased and moved next to a used car lot in Oxnard. That alone is fodder for a whole other posting but suffice to say it seems to me there is something terribly wrong about that.
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