Musings on the Coast


Kansas Cousin Darold Comes A-Visiting

By Michael Ray

Cousin Darold Longhofer grew up in rural Kansas and now lives in Kansas City, Kansas.   He always is very careful to add the state name, “Kansas,” to the end of “Kansas City” to distinguish it from Kansas City, Missouri, which is next door. One time I asked him why he always did that. He looked at me like I was an idio

“Missouri? Those f***ers invaded us in the 1850s and tried to make us a slave state. F*** ‘em.”

“Darold, that was more than 160 years ago.”


“So, don’t you think its time to let old feuds go?”

Darold is tall and thin and he looked down at me, then shook his head like a terrier, “Hell no!” And that was that.

He travels a lot for business and visits me when in SoCal. Although I grew up in CdM, we’ve been close since we were children. Our greatest delight is insulting each other.  With strangers, he is a wonder to watch. He’ll pretend he is a dumb hick and trick the stranger into saying something so logically crazy, Darold will burst into laughter: gotcha.

He was here about a month ago. He likes steaks, so I took him to Maestro’s Ocean House in the Crystal Cove shopping center. At the reception area, he took one look at the menu and walked straight out.

“Darold, what’s wrong?”

“Too damn expensive. I’m not paying that damn much for a damn steak.”

“Darold, you’re my guest, it’s on me.”

“Nope, don’t care. We’ve got better steaks back home for a fraction of that damn price.”     And that was that.

We ended up on Forest Avenue in downtown looking for Darold’s steak. We stopped at The Lumberyard, where Jean the beautiful bartender remembered Darold from the last trip (even his name, Jesus), said hello, and served us up great drinks for a good price. Then we continued wandering around the town. It was a nice Thursday night and the place was popping.

Darold paused at several buildings, looked them over, peering at them. He then would step back, looking left and right at the buildings on both sides. He would get close to them, too. This was Cousin Darold; sometimes he can be a bit obsessive.

He angled his head toward me, “Hell, what’s wrong with this place? These buildings haven’t been properly maintained in years. Check this out.” He made me feel the paint on one building. It was flaking.

“Damn,” he said, “this place reminds me of Marion.” He meant Marion, Kansas, where he grew up. Marion is in southwestern Kansas, farming country, and Marion’s population, 2,000, hasn’t changed in 100 years. It’s downtown, like Laguna’s, is only a few blocks long.

“Marion? Huh?”

“Yeah, Marion, it’s falling down, too. But that’s because it’s poor. Laguna is rich. Why are buildings in this place falling down?”

“Well,” I hesitated, but then told him about how our City Council thinks all of downtown is “historic” and nothing should change, ever. To enforce this, the city compels property owners to go through a long and expensive process to obtain a building permit. This way, the city believes the historicity of the buildings is maintained.

Darold: “That’s just stupid. These building ain’t historic, no way, they’re just old and most of ‘em are ugly.” Darold uses the word “ain’t” only when he wants to score a point.

“Darold, this is Laguna. If you want to update your building, you have to go through a process that takes a good 18 months and is very expensive and demeaning. The city wants it that way to discourage change.”

“Hell, you live in a place you call paradise and yet allow the city to demean you if you want to repair your own damn building?”

Silence from me.

“Hell, Michael, I keep telling you Southern California is where all the loonies come to live. They’re just crazy, you already know that.”

We traversed most of downtown, trading insults, had our dinner, and he just kept shaking his head, laughing that good ol’ boy laugh he always laughs in my presence to show me what an idiot I am.

Over his last scotch rocks, Darold said, “In this place, you really kind of don’t own your own property, do you.” It was a statement, not a question.


Michael Ray grew up in Corona del Mar and lives in Laguna Beach. He is a real estate entrepreneur involved in many nonprofits.


  1. Michael – If only you’d looked at the facts first…

    You claim that ‘our City Council thinks all of downtown is “historic” and nothing should change, ever.’ Please take a look at the 1981 Historic Resources Inventory. Item O, Downtown Laguna. This was a survey of a “triangular area of 10 blocks of commercial buildings and residential cottages” built from 1897 to 1940. Of the roughly 335 parcels I see on the map of this area, 56 were found by the City to be historic. 56/335=17%. So in 1981 approx. 17% of the parcels had any historic merit. Fast forward to the recently updated Historic Resources Inventory. Of the 56 historic properties from the 1981 Inventory only 21 still remain on the Inventory. So of the roughly 335 properties in the Downtown area, only 6% are now on the Inventory. Less than 1 in 10…

    You go on to claim “If you want to update your building, you have to go through a process that takes a good 18 months and is very expensive and demeaning. The city wants it that way to discourage change.”” Michael, please give a source for your 18 month claim. Are you quoting City data or have you just been hanging out with Peter Blake who claims it ‘takes 2-5 years for the average remodel to get approved.’ Again, Peter gives no source for his figures. I’ve remodeled more than 10 properties in Laguna in the last 10 years and most took less than 12 months to get the permits and complete the construction.

    Please do your homework next time.



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