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  • I lived in Santa Barbara for six years, with some time abroad mixed in, going to school for my PhD. Even though this was only a few years ago, Santa Barbara seems like some fantasyland, some dream place where I spent a lot of time yet still feels unreal. The streets are all familiar and nothing much has changed in the couple years since I had visited. Maybe it’s because this was where I sought to enter high academia, and when I left that life behind I left Santa Barbara behind. Maybe it’s because the place is just so damn perfect, a bastion of bourgeois white liberalism on the Pacific coast with low mountains on one side and the wide ocean on the other, seemingly 75f every day of the year. Or maybe because it has simply been too soon since I lived there, and there hasn’t been enough passage of time to be able to reflect dispassionately. I don’t know.

    On occasion I would meet foreign graduate students on their first trip to the US, studying for a few months or a year or two at UCSB. And they would say that, based on their experience, the US was awesome. I would always point out, however, that there was no other city in the country like Santa Barbara, that indeed Santa Barbara was not really the US.

    But although those Santa Barbara years remain a bit of a blur to me, I knew exactly what to do once I got there. I pulled off the 101 on Milpas and went straight to Super Rica, the best Mexican taco stand in town, fortunately the line wasn’t too long, to get some tacos and albondigas. Then I went to my favorite café a few blocks down Haley, Muddy Waters.

    During my time in town I became very familiar with every café in town, but Muddy Waters was (and is) by far the coolest and most comfortable. The café was nowhere near where I lived, far out by the school, but it was near where my girlfriend (Debbie) for much of my time in SB lived. I didn’t have a car at the time, but SB is very bike friendly and easy to get around, so that was my main mode of transport (I got in the best shape of my life!).

    When I would stay the night at Debbie’s, I’d get up early in the morning, ride my bike to the café, get my tea and open up the laptop or take out the stack of papers and do my morning work. In a short while Debbie would arrive for her cup of Joe, before going to her work a block away. When it was time to go I’d hop on my bike a ride the 10-15 miles home, or if I had to be somewhere catch the express bus.

    So I laid out some Budget Press at Muddy Waters and then went to my bar, the Sportsman, and had a drink. Then Coffee Cat, Goleta Coffee Co., ending at my friend Greg’s apartment, two doors down from my old place.
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