Village Matters


Do we have control issues?


By Ann Christoph

I never smoked a cigarette and I never dyed my hair.  No one could ever persuade me to smoke.  I grew up with a chain-smoking dad who coughed for a half an hour every morning before he left the house at 5 a.m. to milk the cows.  Lying in my cold Wisconsin bed listening to those agonizing sounds, I hated the cigarettes that seemed to dominate his and our lives.  We moved to Arizona partly so he could breathe better.  Yet the one thing that could have made a difference–quitting smoking–proved to be more difficult than uprooting the whole family, selling our farm and cows and shipping us all across the country to desert land. Was I a little resentful? It was better to blame the cigarettes than my dad.


I didn’t feel quite so strongly about the hair dying choice. I just thought my hair, plain brown and flat, was rather unremarkable and should probably stay that way. And if I kept it the same, I would never have to make any choices about it.  It would just keep growing out the way it was. No roots! As years passed, more and more gray crept in and that didn’t bother me either until Sandy, the hair magician, moved into the salon below my office.  How about just making a few of the hairs a bit darker?  Looked good, and no one seemed to notice.


Then Arnold Hano pulled me aside and said, “I’m disappointed in you. You dyed your hair!” My goodness, can’t I be guilt free, or feel in control, not even in relation to my own hair!


As this year’s Halloween Party approached, we were considering our costumes. Alfredo had found some velvet drapes in a dumpster and got the idea of a drapery dress, for a Rhett and Scarlet ensemble. I could make the dress, and outfit Alfredo as Rhett, but the partially gray hair was not going to work. Rebellion was starting to set in. I told Sandy, “I just want to have fun and be someone else for the night.” She did a darling “do” and we even won a prize. But now my hair is still dark brown, darker than ever before in my life.  What next?


I find myself thinking about this dilemma more than the subject deserves. After all, just this week I learned of three different women nearby who have lost their homes to foreclosure. Contractor and landscape architect friends commiserate with a litany of money worries–lack of jobs, low pay and slow pay. Every time I optimistically think business is picking up, I am confronted with bills to pay and a declining checking balance.


We’ll have a new governor and the same city council, and a list of new and old problems to deal with. A new city manager will be on the scene, chosen by the council in secret, our new municipal mom or dad for the coming years. It’s kind of like our parent choosing a new mate and asking us kids to adjust.


Even in the non-campaign for city council, issues surfaced: Will we have a Village Entrance Park?  Will the architects’ and the neighbors’ complaints about Design Review ever be reconciled?  Can the struggle for power between the city and the Coastal Commission resolve into unified enthusiasm to preserve our coastal resources? Will the city ever be seen as business and resident friendly?


All these are so important for our future, yet now after the election, will things continue on as usual, with so many of these things beyond our control?  That’s what’s so frustrating. I guess that’s what makes contemplating the hair dilemma so appealing.


Ann Christoph is a landscape architect and former mayor of Laguna Beach.


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