We went to visit some U.S. National Historic Landmarks, the Santa Barbara County Courthouse, built in 1929 in a rococo Spanish Colonial style and then The Presidio, built in 1782 by the Spaniards to defend their Alta California territory. I had asked to see the oldest building in Santa Barbara and in 1976 this place was quite seedy, the contemporary photo shows it has been well cleaned up. This building is as old as it gets in California and it was all rather disappointing. Rome certainly has more to offer I reflected, in fact so does Whitby. This was truly a different place and their connection and relationship to history had alternative foundations, it was still a fresh new frontier and all that entailed. Would I miss the resonances and depth available on a daily basis in Europe? I decided, despite being a modern person, that I probably would.
This also brought home the fact that California was ruled by Spain untill 1822 and then Mexico until 1848, demonstrated by the Spanish place names all around Santa Barbara. In 1850 less than one hundred thousand people lived in California, now there are over thirty nine million, that’s an invasion. Only recently hardly anybody lived here, and they didn’t speak American. I was in a New World, normally every building I would see would be less than a hundred years old, the people had just arrived. That changes your outlook.
Diving off the pier into the blue blue Pacific gave another sense of arrival. To be in an ocean stretching to Japan was liberating. I guess I swam in my underpants, so had to spend the rest of the day with no panties on, must ensure the Levi’s are well buttoned up.