I have some friends who are moving from Paso Robles to Oregon. “We came for the horse mentality, the independent spirit. It’s not so much that anymore but wine bars and vineyards. It’s changed too drastically and not to our liking so, we’re moving on.” I get that. I’ve thought a number of times that Cambria was getting too big. And then I immerse myself in it again.
A tree that I looked at every day I was home for the last 28 years was removed. Longtime businesses have closed. Friends move for work or family or opportunity. I realize that kind of change is always inevitable. Don’t like it but it is.
But there’s the character, the innate qualities that bring people to a place and make it what it is. That’s the hard part to see change. Because, intentionally or just as likely unintentionally, people twist the character of a town they were attracted to by “bringing improvements” to a place. They’ve not necessarily experienced what being neighborly means or have a different idea about it. How can that be? Ha, ha, ha.
Health care? Good one. Streetlights? Not so much. The beauty was more accessible before oversized spec-houses started taking over the forest and driving up rents. I swear there was a song (Barton Leslie?) about Camozzi’s being populated by cowboys and hippies, real estate agents and contractors, artists and bums. We used to have names like Waco Dan and Robot. Many people look at you like deer in the headlights when you talk like this now. “I’ve never even stepped foot in that bar!”
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Then this week, I attended the high school play. I have done so every year for countless years. Always thinking I won’t know any of the kids any more as my boys graduated years ago, lo and behold, there is some sprout who now towers over me, singing and dancing out there. Their heartfelt performances are absolutely delightful as they really put themselves out there. Love that spirit and nice to still feel a little connected to the younger crowd.
Then on the weekend, I was honored to have been invited to attend a huge birthday celebration at the vets hall, the likes of which we’ve not seen in a very long time! It was an extremely generous offering to all his friends with food and beverage, fun décor and live music all day, long into the night. A couple of us long-timers were duly impressed, and our hearts were full. And the party was for someone still living! How refreshing! One of the best visions — a group of middle school boys and girls dancing with each other, having a blast! My friend in that last “old” band and I agreed, there’s hope for the world yet.
Finally, the next day at the Cove, the scene of end-of-summer parties, marriages, wooing, child-rearing and too many memorials, there was yet another memorial for a dear friend. Being of the “old crowd,” folks came out of the woodwork that you haven’t seen in years, not since the last remembrance gathering. Trying to recognize faces, catching up, sharing tales of our friend — it was a beautiful thing, a huge crowd full of love and caring. It’s an odd feeling — sorrow and loss, expectation and joy at reconnecting.
And in the end, that is what it is about in Cambria, love and caring. Not just about each other but about where you live. Be a neighbor and talk to them about what you’re doing. Be a good human and put people before profits. Be a good Cambrian and keep it funky. Healthy, helpful, independent and earthy. I hope some of you can grasp that.
But, like my favorite Deadhead always said about Grateful Dead shows, “If you have to explain it to them, they wouldn’t understand it anyway.” I’m going to keep trying anyway.