Monday, 6:30pm: I’m at the Santa Barbara Roasting Company, waiting out traffic. It’s not a bad place to be stuck, actually: weekend destination for many, close to the wineries in the Santa Ynez Valley, and home to my alma mater.
I could write volumes on Santa Barbara: my love/hate relationship with the city, the good times, the bad times, and all of the friends I made over the years. Going to school and living here for years after graduating changed my life. I met a lot of wonderful people along the way, but when fate and circumstance convened years ago, I did not hesitate to move away.
Still, I’ll always consider Santa Barbara my home away from home. It’s changed a lot since I was a resident, but in many ways it’s the same. I still have friends here, but my closest friends are long gone. They were my last two roommates before I moved to the Inland Empire. We had a lot of fun together and whenever I visit this part of downtown, I think about them.
I remember one night we were downtown for dinner. Whether it was a pre-bar-hopping dinner or not, I don’t recall, but I’ll never forget what we had that night: pizza. Uncle Rocco’s was our spot then; we loved their big, thin New York pizzas. We each ordered a slice and I beat both of my buddies to the red pepper shaker, knowing that we all loved the added spiciness. I probably gloated a bit over my victory in the Great Red Pepper Race of 2006. No, I definitely gloated over getting the shaker first.
I then proceeded to dump the entire shaker’s contents onto my slice.
Thanks to some jokester who’d loosened the jar’s top, what was meant to be a few shakes to spice up my slice ended up being a single shake that unleashed an avalanche of red pepper onto my plate. My pizza was buried underneath, like a team of explorers meeting their destiny on Everest.
My buddies couldn’t stop laughing for what seemed like hours. I cleaned up my dinner and our table, laughing along with them. It’s nearly ten years later and I’m still laughing.