On move-in day, waves and waves of SUVs will crash and break around the residence halls. Dads dressed in polo shirts tucked into khaki shorts, moms with J. Crew sweaters around their necks and wide-eyed students will swim around, depositing all the possessions that students just can’t live with out.
Finally, the tide will recede, leaving behind a mass of excited and nervous freshmen like castaways stranded on some enchanted island.
Well, moderately enchanted, anyway. The real magic happens in the little place next door to campus – the place your parents dread and you see as a modern-day Candyland.
Welcome to Isla Vista.
I’ve worked summer Orientation for the past two years, and I could bet my paltry paycheck on the fact that a good number – if not the majority – of freshmen made their way down to I.V. at night to sneak in a little preview of life to come.
They’d duck out under the cover of darkness, dressed in their finest threads with their nametags still firmly pinned to their shirts and wander about the streets in search of a party, a keg, cough syrup, anything with an alcohol content.
A few would find it and stumble back to San Miguel at four in the morning, drunk, happy and utterly clueless about I.V. My summer with Orientation, we had one junior jerk-off run in with the IVFPD and spend the night in the drunk tank.
It’s sad to say, but these are the people who drag I.V.’s name through the mud. Their parents can’t look past the easy access to booze, the shoddy apartments and the homeless to see that, yes, a town exists here as well.
I’ve lived in I.V. for two years, going on three, and I feel like one of the lost boys. I.V. has everything I could ever want or need, and the thought of leaving makes my asshole pucker.
It’s the only place I’ve ever known where I can roll out of bed in the morning, walk two blocks for a fantastic breakfast, hit the ATM and cruise off to class on foot. I can spend my evenings at a clean, well-lit place, reading my books for class or engaging in pretentious college conversation.
All my friends live within walking distance and so the walk home after a bottle of wine or a few scotch and sodas takes all of two minutes. If I don’t feel safe walking, I know I’ve got plenty of safe spaces where I can crash for the night.
Best of all, the beach is two blocks from my doorstep.
Few people come to understand the true beauty of the place.
On one of the tours I gave of I.V. over the summer, a mother from Napa, with J. Crew sweater tied around her neck, became frightened as a homeless man joined our tour and walked 10 paces with us.
Afterward, she told me how she didn’t want her daughter living in I.V. because the scary man who smelled bad might rape her. In the same breath, she asked about the best nightclubs and parties her daughter could go to.
It’s a damn shame some drunken asshole masquerading as a friend is more likely to slip GHB into her daughter’s drink downtown or at a huge kegger.
But she was from Napa, so I can forgive the blissful ignorance.
This is a great town, kids, despite what mom, dad and the L.A. Times have to say. You’re welcome to come and stay, just don’t fuck it up.
Steven Ruszczycky is the Daily Nexus opinion editor.