This blog is about the story of my family here in America. We arrived in the 1630s as Puritans, and became the common folk of the New World.

The poor side of town, Santa Barbara, California

People that have only known me as the successful corporate graphic designer, who lives in suburbia, are sometime surprised to learn about the ratty neighborhoods where I lved before my career got started. And one of the worst was in Santa Barbara, California.

I lived there in my mid-twenties, and I knew that it was important to get out of there. If it seems a strange thing to say, please let me explain.

I had been living in Los Angeles and had accepted the job in Santa Barbara without giving any thought to the cost of living. And the cost of living there was, and is, astronomical. But places like that need people to do the ordinary working, so there are places for them. My place was in an illegally-converted house over in the Milpas area. If you're familiar with Santa Barbara, it was at the dead-end of Soledad and Cacique.

The city of Santa Barbara is so beautiful because they refused to let it get over-run. Back in the 1970s, they limited growth by stopping the issuing of new water permits. You could build a house and live there as long as you didn't need water. If you made the mistake of building a house without knowing about this, or ignoring this, when you went to get hooked up to city water, Santa Barbara said "no". There were a lot of abandoned mansions there!

Anyway, the net effect of this policy, in addition to creating a beautiful little city like Santa Barbara, was to keep most people like me out. And if I'd known about it, I probably wouldn't have accepted the job. But, hey, I was young.

At age 25 I really didn't mind living in a broom-closet of an apartment. It was a place to hang my hat, that's all. It may have been about 12 feet X 12 feet, but it had a bathroom and shower. A single bed fit along one wall. There was no other furniture other than a miniature refrigerator and a tiny stove and oven. There was no heating or cooling. And, of course, since it was illegal, there was always the danger that the place would be reported, and then I would have to get out fast. I just knew that I didn't want to turn thirty there.

My next-door neighbor taught me a very important lesson. He owned the house next door. But he didn't live there. He had a full-time job at the college, as a janitor, and he spent the nights as a night-watchman for various places around Santa Barbara. He, literally, never slept in his house. He lived in what I have come to understand as the "world of total work". And it was an important early lesson in life.

What I learned during my escape from Santa Barbara drove me to make decisions about my life. I didn't want to live somewhere that was so expensive that I had to live in a world of total work. I wanted to be able to breathe. It wasn't long until I returned to Phoenix and bought the house where I am now.
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