Opinion: Village Matters

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We’re in Control, Right?

ann christoph

It’s Oct. 27 again—and again we are coughing from smoke. Unlike Oct. 27, 1993, the fires are not here in Laguna, but the danger is threatening our neighboring cities, and the suffering we went through is repeated once again for families nearby.

Again and again we are forcefully told we are not in control. Even Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s will power had its limits. 

What we can control is how we deal with the crazy and unpredictable things that keep happening day after day. 

I came to the office as usual three weeks ago. Sitting there at the computer calmly typing. A fire truck outside my window. Commotion. What was going on?  Firefighters, police, tears, and hysteria. “What happened?” I asked. “We can’t say,” the policeman responded in an official tone. “Will he be going to the hospital?” “No.” Koty Lopez, 36, who had long-term heart problems, would no longer be part of our lives at the St. Clair Building. The circle of people we see every day around the 7-Eleven and the Thai Restaurant—John Thomas walking his retired seeing eye dog Norway, Tom Richeson and his clumsy trailer, Hugo Rivera, artist—is diminished. There was a paddle-out on Saturday, remembering Koty and his skim boarding fame, his friendships.

“Just what he would have wanted,” his mom said wistfully, thinking of him robust and healthy as he was in earlier times. This is how we cope and move forward with hope and optimism.

A new tenant, Joyce, will be opening a flower shop, just what I have always envisioned for the St. Clair Building. This landmark Tudor style building at the foot of Third Avenue was designed by Aubrey St. Clair, the architect for the Water District, City Hall, the Bette Davis House and many other Laguna homes. The old newspapers report that construction was started in April and finished in August 1939. There must have been a crew of very skilled craftsmen to build It so strong and beautiful in such a short time with only three sheets of plans. 

Joyce the florist needs a sink and we struggled with where to install it. Her shop was originally designed to be a drug store, and there on the plans the architect had provided for plumbing rough-ins for a sink. No sign of it inside, but outside, yes, there was a vent and a cleanout.  Yesterday we bravely cut into the plaster wall and there were the pipes, just as St. Clair had called for, waiting 80 years for Joyce’s sink to be installed.  The little wonders we are treated to when things work out.  Amazing.  Be grateful.

So many of us are hoping to be grateful when we see the results of the election next week. We’ve been working hard on campaigns, hoping to convince others to see politics and candidates our way. Hoping for a more sensitive and careful approach for leading our country, and less aggressive, more appreciative city council leaders.  This is our time to have some control by checking boxes on a ballot, raising our voices and talking to our neighbors. I am hoping to see Ruben Flores and George Weiss on the council dais and Ann Marie McKay as city clerk. Even in the face of COVID-19, fire, death and other tragedies, we can nudge our government in new directions if we consider carefully, push harder, and keep our enthusiasm sparkling.

Ann is a landscape architect and former Laguna Beach mayor.

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