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Guest Column

A Newcomer Samples Local Culture 

 By Mark D. Crantz, Special to the Independent

Mark Crantz

 “Welcome to Laguna,” said the real estate agent as she handed us the keys to our new rental. “Oh, and here are two tickets to the preview to the Festival of Arts.”

 What no key chain light or jar opener fancied by aging baby boomers like myself, I thought.  “You should go. The preview is the big annual event in Laguna.  It’s fun.”  Not wanting to appear ungrateful we took the tickets with the scary looking guy on the cover and plastered our best Pageant of the Masters smiles on, stood stock still, mimed our best thank you look until the agent said, “Okay, enough. You should go now. Do you need a lift?”

Yes, indeed-y, we needed a lift. Some people get a face-lift, eye-lift, lip-lift, butt-lift. You know its parts therapy. I, however, was in need of an entire body lift. Aging at an incredible pace after a bad first marriage, a bad career, dying parents and dying houses that wouldn’t go on, but insisted on haunting us year after year, there wasn’t time left to do parts therapy. No Dr. No, it was time for an entire body lift, out of the Midwest to warmer climes, namely, Laguna Beach. Reluctantly, my therapist realized my epiphany would cost him his only paying patient and leave him with HMO members whose organizations okayed only one part therapy and refused payment for all other parts.  I felt almost sorrier for him than me. As he waved good-bye on our journey west, I dug deep for consoling words for him and yelled, “Remember, blame your Mother.”

And here we are. Finally. In Laguna. With key in hand my second and blessed nice wife turns the lock on our first rental, carries me across the threshold and opens my first jar of beer without the freebie jar opener we never got from the real estate agent.  If my wife wasn’t 20 year younger, how in the hell was an aging boomer going to open his beer? With preview tickets perhaps? A sore spot? Well, yes, I guess. But I’m not so angry that I’d mention the agent or agency’s name. Sherrie Larsen. Team Laguna.  Oops.

My wife, on the other hand, once she put me down, was thrilled by the preview tickets.  There are two things she likes very much. Dogs and art. There appeared to be a lot of both in Laguna. “The invitation says the preview is urban chic,” she informs me.  Being from Chicago, this means I should wear my pants down around my knees, sport a baseball hat three sizes larger, turn 90 degrees for the optimum viewing around corners and change in my CDs for 100 lbs. of gold “bling-bling” at $1,500 an ounce. “Don’t worry, I’ll dress you,” she assures me.

Opening night.  I’ve got the jitters. Not about the preview, but where do I park and do I have enough change for the meter? Always prepared like the Boy Scout I’m not, I load myself down with change.  Miracle of miracles, we find a parking space close by. I leap out to pump the meter and check my wife’s parallel parking prowess.  I’ve learned one thing about my short time in Laguna. Like art, do not park outside the lines, or prepare the overnight bag for Folsom.  My wife’s parking was a work of art and low and behold I didn’t need to feed the meter because it was after 7 p.m. Things were looking good.

As we got in line with all the other invitees without jar openers, my wife asked me, “Why are you making noise?” “It’s all the change in my pockets,” I told her. “Geez, pull your pants up and walk quietly. People will think you’re from Chicago,” she told me.

The line moved and as I slide my feet to minimize the noise of pocket change we were in. What a sight it was, 140 artists and their latest works of art. According to the brochure, the Festival of Arts is a world-renowned cultural institution famous for its juried fine art exhibition. The jurors score the submitted artwork based on quality, content, excellence of craftsmanship and professional presentation. The seven jurors are highly regarded as top professionals in their respective disciplines. “Mmm, why aren’t there 12 jurors? What do you suppose happened to the missing five jurors? Did they eat paint or paste and were asked to step down,” I asked my wife.  “You need a beer,” she suggested. Great idea. I love my second wife.

Beer in hand I followed my wife whose expression showed how much she appreciated the quality, content, and excellence of craftsmanship.  I, too, had the same thoughts as I kept her backside in sight. Thank you jurors, artists and meter maids off duty for I had more change for another beer, and my wife loved the Festival of Arts.  Relieved to be in Laguna.

Mark Crantz is a recent Midwest transplant.

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