Opinion: Musings on the Coast

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Petra’s Friday Night

We all seem to be living in a state of low-level depression. It’s the virus.  You don’t know if you’re coming or going. There are so many hotspots around the country, travel seems dangerous. If you had plans to vacation outside of the U.S., you can’t do that either. Our residents are banned from most countries because the virus here is still out of control.

To get me outside my own funk, last Friday night I visited the Forest Avenue Promenade. The joint was jumping, crowded but organized, masked and social distanced. Oh boy, and happy.

I started to smile when there was a tap on my shoulder. It was Petra The Hot Blond. I groaned. She always complains and I didn’t want to hear it.

Petra appears when she wants to, because, well, she is not real. When I say “not real,” I mean she is a real bot but not a real person.  She can appear whenever she chooses, and she had chosen now, in the Promenade, and I groaned—again.

Petra, as usual, was dressed to kill, hair hanging low on her shoulders, a skin-tight top, ditto pants, but with no heels this time. She wore yellow sneakers and even smiled, sort of. No matter. All eyes snapped to her.

“Michael,” she said, “Why are you here?

“I’m just wandering around. I’m depressed and wanted to get out of it, so I came to check out the Promenade on a hot Friday night.  And…”

“Stop right there,” she said, and grabbed my shoulders. “This Promenade exists because there is new leadership in town.”


“The current Laguna Beach City Council, you idiot. The idea for a Forest Avenue Promenade has been kicking around for 20 years, and it’s always been killed by Village Laguna, a group composed of. . . ”

“Petra, leave me alone. Go away. I’m trying to have a bit of fun. City politics is not—let me repeat, not—on my agenda tonight.”

By now, we had wandered around the Promenade and started up the avenue.  All the restaurants were buzzing and many retail businesses were open and they were buzzing, too. We slowly strolled until we hit The Lumberyard.  The owner, Carey Redfern, had created an outside patio area to the left of the entrance and it was wonderful: full bar and menu, live music and people were laughing. One table was left and we took it.

Jean, the gorgeous bartender, waved at us and automatically brought us our favorite cocktails. Petra downed hers in one giant gulp and asked for another.

“Whoa,” I said, “Slow down.”

“I’m a bot, I can’t get drunk. Don’t you worry your sweet little head about me. This is a night for celebrating.”

“Celebrating what?”

“How the new City Council made all this happen. Five years ago, no way.

It’s like that old Bob Dylan song, ‘The Times They are a Changing.’ So relax. Forget the virus for one evening. Enjoy the music. Enjoy all these people enjoying…themselves.” She swept her arm out in a gesture toward the rest of the diners. “Look at all the smiles. Get out of your own head. Join in.”

So I did. Thank you, Petra.

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