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Balboa

By Mark Crantz

At least once a week, the family does a day trip to Balboa Island. Why? Well, there are several reasons. For one, I don’t think my car could take us much further. Second, there’s no traffic to dodge on Balboa’s walkway. Third, Balboa is built for old people. It’s flat. It goes in a circle, so you can’t get lost. And fourth and most importantly, I can still pass these dithering curmudgeons. “Passing on the left Gramps. No your other left.”

Vasco Nunez de Balboa did not discover Balboa Island. His descendant, Gilligan found it. Or more accurately, the island found Gilligan’s boat, the SS Minnowin 1964. Like us, Gilligan was only planning for a day trip, but ended up shipwrecked for three years until his reality show was cancelled by CBS. Since then, Newport
Beach Film Festival picks “Gilligan’s Island” as the best film in all 3,000 categories. Other film entrants have complained about the favorite son bias to no avail. In the case of Balboa, one man is an island. And his name is Gilligan.

I’ve learned a lot in visiting Balboa Island. The sea level is rising. Balboa is fighting back. They have raised the sea wall several feet. At first this seemed like a good way to protect the island’s homes. It did. Old people took off their waders. Boat shoes were back in. And then, they noticed that they couldn’t get to their boats to wear their boat shoes because the higher sea walls no longer aligned with their docks. Sadly, these old people couldn’t climb over. Many threw their boat shoes at their boats in frustration. Nike representatives were called in to clean up the bay. They hired Alex Trebek to reassure seniors that their boats were not in jeopardy. The elderly could reach their boats by buying Nike’s most classic line, Air Jordans, and then just jump over. Now every year, Balboa hosts March Madness, a festival where you watch old people’s grandchildren scale the sea walls to throw their grandparent’s Air Jordan shoes at fleeing Nike representatives, who have no choice but dunk themselves into the bay trying to get away from the March madness.

Balboa is different from Laguna Beach. Balboa’s design review board has drunk the building Kool-Aid. New homes are built to the property line and reach to the atmosphere’s edge. The FAA has now redirected flights over Laguna Beach, where there is a height ordinance that planes can still pass over. Balboa trees have been removed to make way for California closets filled with residents who won’t come out of the closet in fear of being away from their stuff.

But then again…Balboa is like Laguna Beach. In both places, I have passed groups of grandmothers and have overheard, “Did you hear the news? Sally met a new boyfriend at the rest home.” Ahh…isn’t that nice. No man or woman is an island, wherever you live.

 

Crantz tells the Indy that he sent this column in from Balboa Island. His car wouldn’t start for the return trip.

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