I was walking home late one Friday night when I was
stopped by a crying girl. Instantly I was suspicious.
Before college, it seemed like girls cried all the time;
if you made fun of their hair or forgot an anniversary
or if there was a potential pregnancy — there was just
no telling what would set them off. Nowadays, it seems
like the only time I see tears is when I embarrass some
bro on the pong table. Bros love to cry.
So I was suspicious. Why was this poor girl crying,
and what did she think I was going to be able to do to
help? And more importantly, did I care?
She was with a guy. “Can you help her?” he asked.
Screw that, I thought. I’ve got beer to drink.
I reorganized that thought into something politely
apologetic, but when I turned my head to speak, the
dude turned on his heels and ran off down the street.
Just booked it. Bailed, hard.
I watched him fade into the crowd. Fuck. What am I
supposed to do now?
Now, despite what you may have heard from a few of
my old girlfriends, I’m actually a mildly decent guy and
compassion started to slowly fill my heart like a welltapped
beer into a frosty glass.
She’d stormed into I.V. from the towers of Santa
Catalina with a pack of girlfriends, all hot and bothered
to do whatever it is freshman girls do in Isla Vista.
She’d had a few — or more than a few — got separated
from her friends, became disoriented, lost, confused
and scared and couldn’t find her way back to the
dorms — hence the tears.
Well, I took her back home. My roommate and I
took care of her and calmed her down, rolled a small
joint and gave her some water; in short, we offered her
some classic I.V. hospitality as only a pair of gentlemen
Then my roommate walked her safely home to the
towers. I would have done it, but while my heart may
be a frosty pint of compassion, the glass is actually just
a 12 o.z., and, like I said, I had beer to drink.
But I was glad we were able to help. It felt good.
Good like draining the final cup. Good like drinking
all day. I.V. good.
It’s nice to be neighborly. It’s nice to have neighbors
who can look out for you.
I.V. can sometimes be an un-neighborly place. But
not as un-neighborly as one of my neighbors back
home. He’s an ex-con living under an assumed name
whose Weimaraner ambled over to my house three
weeks ago to kill and partially eat my beloved kitty
of 20 years. No, not that bad, but it still can be pretty
I.V. is just not the kind of place where you greet
strangers on the street.
I think that might be a function of the fact that
people are on the make and looking after their own.
No one wants some random horning in on their beer,
or their eye candy or their gig. And even though there’s
a good amount of lubricated jocularity, especially when
people are drinking dank beer, I.V. doesn’t always feel
like a community.
But life in Santa Barbara can be hard. Life is dank,
but it’s not all sunshine and coconut-scented tanning
lotion. There’s school pressure, money pressure, work
pressure, social pressure, romantic pressure and the
pressure of navigating them all. It’s a big load.
We’re all in it together. Those fuckers who broke my
side view mirror may not realize it, but on the inflatable
raft of life, everyone needs to chip in. You need a
guy to paddle, a guy to man the cooler, a guy to bail, a
guy to navigate and some eye candy. If all those people
don’t work together in harmony, they are going to be
wet and sober and not having a good time.
Sometimes we all need a stranger to help a little.
Sometimes a little hospitality can go a long way. And
sometimes, when you tap the frosty keg of community,
it’s the dankness of compassion that flows out.
If you find Nexus columnist Christopher Benham wandering
the streets of I.V., hold him to his promise of hospitality
and make him buy you a pitcher.