The Hot Blond
It was a Wednesday night about 9 p.m. and I was at my favorite joint, The Lumberyard, at the big U-shaped bar, only a few regulars there. I don’t cook, so I eat out a lot and The Lumberyard is my favorite place. I had just ordered my usual martini: Hendricks gin, hold the olive, add four squeezes of lime, shake until very cold and then serve straight up. Hey, James Bond.
That was when the hot blond walked in, early-mid 30s, strawberry hair, svelte body, dressed like she had just been at a party, or was going to one short pencil skirt, stiletto heels, low top, on display. But she walked with anger, deliberate, striding swiftly, heels clacking.
She surveyed the bar, circled straight to me, jerked out a stool, plopped down, told the bartender she wanted what I was drinking, then sharply asked me, “What the f… is wrong with this town?”
“I just got stood up. The frigging jerk-wad didn’t even call. He texted, ‘oh gee I got hung up.’ Jesus, what for? The second coming?”
I had had a long day myself, many problems trying to manage a big new business deal, and I definitely did not need someone dumping on me, so I politely introduced myself and asked her name. “Petra, don’t ask, my parents are from the Ukraine. I grew up in New York, married a Wall Street son of a bitch who cheated on me and his customers, got caught, good for that a… and now his life is in ruins, good riddance. That was three years ago. I took off, thought The Coast would be better. Tried San Francisco, what a joke trying to be a big city. The Silicon a… are as bad as the Wall Street a… and there’s nothing there there, you know? Gertrude Stein, get it?”
“Uh, yeah, I know the reference; we’re not all idiots here.”
“You mean Laguna?”
She angled her gaze to me, anger still boiling. “You’ve been here a long time, right?”
It was an accusation.
“Yes. It’s home. I’ve been a lot of places. This is paradise.”
That got a reaction like a dog shrugging off water. She had crisp blue eyes that were tight and darting. She downed her martini. “I like this,” and ordered another. Whoa, I thought, slow down.
“You people,” then a pause, “you people don’t get it. I’ve been here three weeks and everyone says Paradise. They don’t get it. You don’t get it. This place sucks. You’re trying to make it into Disneyland. You’re trying to preserve Main Street like a shrine to another generation, Make America Great Again, but it sucks. The same crap tourist shops as Disneyland’s Main Street. Why don’t you name it Lagunaland and call it a day?”
I ordered my usual fare: pasta done my way, add chicken, subtract cheese, add capers, subtract thick sauce, add olive oil. Good price, good meal. I was finishing my martini, so Jean the bartender brought my usual white wine. The blond drained her martini and ordered another. “Hey,” I said, “You should eat, order something.” She did, a generous Shrimp Louie with bread. I thought that would slow her down. Good luck.
“This place reminds me of my old condo association in New York. The people who take control of it don’t have anything else to do, are busybodies, push their way into leadership, think they and only they know what they’re doing, and then wanna control every damn thing. Right? I’m right, right?”
I answered, “Well, we do have a group called Village Laguna, and …” Petra pointed at me with her right forefinger, interrupted and finished my sentence “And they say they represent thousands when they really represent a few busybodies who think turning this place into Main Street Disneyland is their holy grail, show up at all the civic meetings, speak on every topic, hector the elected officials, bully them, bully everyone, and have mailing lists they use to magnify their bullying. Right, right?”
My pasta had come and I was halfway through. I wanted to leave before she lost it entirely. She could tell I was edgy, grabbed my arm, breasts deliberately leaning into me to make her point. “Look, don’t let them. Get organized yourself. Look around. Nothing here is evolving, the economy is booming and yet your downtown has a bunch of vacancies, and don’t blame the damn internet. I bet your Village Whatever is trying to control who can go where, right, right?”
Before I could respond, she said with a disgusted look. “You know I’m right, that’s what they always do. It’s the same thing. They get some power and want more, then they get more, and that’s not good enough, so they look for even more things to control.”
For desert I usually order a cognac, but not tonight. I went to leave, got the check, paid, then walked home. Petra had ordered another martini.
I did not have the strength to tell her Village Laguna’s current mission is to put every structure more than 50 years old on an historic list, meaning you never can change it, ever, its value destroyed. More than a third of all homes in Laguna would be included.
I did not tell her that and I wonder does anyone care?
Fifth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America:
“…private property [shall not] be taken for public use, without just compensation.”
Local Michael Ray is a real estate investor and developer.
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