By Chris Quilter
Notice anything different? My 10th column for the Indy has a new name. It will ring a bell if you attended Mater Dei High School a half century ago. My brother Charlie was editor of the Highlighter newsletter in his senior year, and I followed in his footsteps. (We weren’t Irish twins, but an 18-month age difference landed us a year apart in school.) He started and I continued a column called “Patchwork by Quilter”—a title we thought was way cool.
Why the change? My first column was about an experience a lot of us have as time goes by: we turn into our parents. In my case, my mother wrote a column for the Indy called “The Diary of Susi Q.” So “The Son of Susi Q” seemed apt, especially since I was interested in writing about the experience of growing older in Laguna Beach, where the Susi Q Senior Center opened in 2009.
Then I came out. As a Democrat.
In my seventh column, I wrote about why I was endorsing Jane Egly and Bob Whalen for City Council. Since I am writing this right before election day, I have no idea how much this damaged their chances. But reactions—insofar as there were any—ranged from high fives to a hail of bullets. The best response, however, came from a couple of Republicans of sterling character, eliciting one of those “oh, [expletive]” moments I hope you’ve been spared because you always get it right.
I feel quite stupid for not making it clear from the get-go that the opinions in this column are mine alone. In hindsight, just the title was confusing and I apologize if you were confused into thinking I was writing on behalf of the Susi Q Senior Center or Laguna Beach Seniors, which cannot and will never endorse political candidates. So, the name change is a no-brainer, unless Charlie or Mater Dei object.
I’ve been making this column up as I go along and learning what it’s about by writing it. All writers stare into their souls—which are located behind our navels—in search of universal truth. Narcissism aside, however, I’m loving writing about living in Laguna. Growing up in a military family made a nomadic existence feel normal. I had to retire to realize how much I wanted to be from somewhere and have a hometown.
The bean fields and orange groves that Charlie and I drove through to get to Mater Dei are papered with homes. Orange County is full and (sigh) still growing. Here in Laguna, we’ve prospered beyond all expectation. But we still know where we are, and even after being sorely tested in an election year, we still have a sense of community that encompasses an impressive amount of common ground. A good example is the Susi Q. If it is anything, it is common ground.
As pleased as I am about this, I will no longer be writing as the Son of Susi Q. I’ll be the second son of Elizabeth Howe Quilter, who did her best to take the high road, where the view is said to be sensational and—to date—the traffic light.