Guest Opinion: So Far So Good

Billy Fried

It’s the shortest day of the year, and I’m on my kayak, threading the reefs at low tide. It’s sunbaked, windless and still, the small surges spreading languidly over the rocks, only to collapse back onto themselves and gently into the sea. Sit long enough, and you become part of the rhythm, undulating up and down and taken where the sea wants you. And when you look down at the crystal-clear winter waters beneath, you grasp the power of nature to regenerate and renew. It’s magnificent and a perfect place to ruminate over the close of another year and the start of a new one.

This is the day when the North Pole reaches its furthest tilt away from the sun. It’s the cosmic turning point, with the belief in many indigenous cultures that light has triumphed over darkness – a return to life that is essential to all civilizations.

So, while we are still mired in a historic drought that could see our water supplies of Lake Powell and Lake Mead turn into “dead pools” by 2025 (where water would no longer flow past the Hoover Dam, cutting off flow to Arizona, Mexico, and yes, California), we have definitely received our share of early, life-affirming rain. Now, if only the gods will bless us with more. Lots more. Because otherwise, there won’t be anything to be thankful for.

But in the meantime, water flows from our faucets, and we’ve been spared from fire. Sweet Jesus!

And whether you believe the science or not, we have definitely emerged from the deadly scourge of Coronavirus and mostly gotten our lives back. Sure, we are living with it now, but it is a lesser version of itself that isn’t nearly as deadly – or life-constricting. Here in Laguna, we have gained the tremendous gift of outdoor dining and the soon-to-be-permanent pedestrian promenade at Forest. And we have seen the mass adoption of electric bikes, thinning our streets of traffic and giving our youth freedom like never before. No small victories those.

We have also finally purged ourselves of toxic politicians, locally and nationally. As the Jan. 6 committee has so effectively demonstrated, crimes were committed, the foundation of our democracy was threatened, and no one is above the law. On the local level, our community proved it would not tolerate abusive behavior and would not buy into the myth that Laguna was under siege from developers. And in the process began a youth movement with the election of a promising 25-year-old neophyte named Alex.  

The homespun, bromantic Brooks Street Surf contest happened this year after a too-long four-year hiatus. The Coast Film Festival celebrated its fourth year in grand style with hometown legends Honk playing a live soundtrack to the fiftieth-anniversary screening of “Five Summer Stories” from the great Greg MacGillivray. The Aquathon was back as well, on a big, beautiful life-affirming day. Art and Nature too. And what about that Breakers football team? Who thought an affluent coastal community could produce such a talented team that galvanized our entire town?

Art and Music continue to be everywhere. Music at Bluebird Park was back, with new venues at the Promenade, Laguna Beach Beer Company, The Lumberyard, and the mighty Laguna Beach Cultural Arts Center.

The City is buying St Catherine’s school campus, which could add needed resources like a skate park, swimming pool, satellite police department, or even affordable or senior housing. We took control of our library and got a pledge from the County to upgrade it.

The town’s first artist live-work complex will open in the coming year. Now that the scaffolding is down, we can see how cool this building will actually be in fostering the careers of over 30 working artists, hopefully, a model for the future lifeblood of our town’s artistic legacy.

We are about to take jurisdiction of our beaches in South Laguna. I hope this is a good thing, with local stewardship perhaps providing greater support for our wondrous full moon drum circle at Aliso Beach. Perhaps the fire spinners will be allowed to return?

And now, we can get to work on acquiring Laguna Canyon Road and Coast Highway from CalTrans to make needed improvements, like undergrounding the power lines on the 133 and making a dedicated transit/bike lane.

Yes, with all the uncertainty in the world, and the roiling sea change that befalls us, Laguna remains a protected pearl. A safe harbor, a great place to be young, and grow old.

And even that overly commercialized holiday of Christmas was recently celebrated (well flayed, actually) by the mighty Laguna artistry of snarky musical genius Jason Feddy, dramatist Lojo Simon, and her merry band of Bare Bones actors, who regaled us with a deconstruction of the holidays at the Cultural Arts Center called “Santa Hates Me.” It was filthy and profane, just like we like it – and of course, ultimately a heartfelt valentine to Laguna. A perfect way to end the year – and this column. Here then, is their version of the 12 Days of Christmas:

“On the twelfth day of Christmas Bare Bones said to me,

Have a Merry Christmas

Light the menorah

Count all your blessings

Take care of your loved ones

Shop locally

Laguna loves the arts

Support local artists,


Buy tickets

Go see plays

Comedy is fun

And don’t take yourself too seriously!”

Billy is the CEO of La Vida Laguna, an E-bike and ocean sports tour company. Email: [email protected].

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