Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Time to Put "Speedy" Alka Seltzer On Standby

Fiesta is here again and with it my annual dilemma: whether to become a full-on Fiesta fiestero or a bah humbug hombre.

I, like a lot of long-time Santa Barbarians, have a love/hate relationship with Fiesta.

Some years, I want to go out and mingle with the crowds, but other years, I just want to leave town.

It's the time of the year when "salsipuedes" is more than just the name of a street on the lower east side.

Anyway, this year, instead of "getting out if I can," I think I'm going to stay and party.

That's despite the fact that it's the one weekend of the year when the only thing that's higher than the nightclubbers on State Street is the price of the watered-down margaritas.

No doubt about what the chief item of sale is here.

It's the five days out of the year when people who don't know the difference between a castanet and a cascarone are running around town dressed like Spanish land barons.

Fiesta boasts one of the largest equestrian parades in the country, which I suppose is fitting when you consider that News-Press owner Wendy McCaw would have us believe that all of our local elected officials are horse's asses.

The children's parade is also the scene of the world's largest single-day turnout of four- and five-year-olds with mustaches penciled on their upper lips.

I've been around here long enough to remember when the Fiesta parade used to be held on Thursday and when a big party called the Baile del Mar used to be held every evening down at Castillo and Cabrillo.

I'm glad that the dance at the beach was given the axe because these days, every available law enforcement officer is needed downtown on Fiesta evenings.

Yes, Fiesta can be un gran dolor de cabeza (one big headache), but local merchants (especially the restaurants and bars downtown) make too much money from "Old Spanish Days" for anyone to ever consider abandoning it. It's like a second Christmas season for them, or perhaps a third or fourth when you consider the film festival and the summer solstice parade.

Nothing packs 'em in around here like Fiesta, and if you don't believe that Fiesta brings in people from out of town, just take a look at the 101 around noon-time on Friday.

Or try to find a vacant hotel or motel room this weekend.

So rather than getting out of Dodge and vanishing up to Vancouver, as I did last year, I'll be sticking around for Fiesta.

I shouldn't be hard to find. I'll be the guy at the mercados paying top dollar for a taco, torta, and a Tecate.

Then again, it may be hard to pick me out of the crowd.