Gay marriage issue hits home

Despite some initial reluctance by the Santa Barbara City Council to take the plunge into the national gay marriage debate, on Tuesday night they voted to adopt a resolution expressing opposition to President Bush’s proposed constitutional amendment prohibiting lesbian and gay couples from the right to marry.

“In a nation where it’s legal for Brittney Spears to get married as a joke in Vegas, and when Fox has shows like Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire, we should celebrate anytime two people get together who want to share that love and commitment under the institution of marriage,” said Councilwoman Helene Schneider, who voted 6-0 with her colleagues in favor of the resolution.

Councilman Dr. Dan Secord abstained from voting, having earlier expressed his opinion that the matter was out of the jurisdiction of the City Council.

Mayor Marty Blum initially said she agreed with Secord that the matter was not related to City Council business and suggested that it should be brought instead before the County, which has the authority to issue marriage licenses.

However, later in the discussion Blum said she supported freedom of choice and opposed any attempt to write discrimination into our constitution. “We need more commitments in this world, not less,” she added, eventually supporting the majority.

The issue of taking a stand on gay marriage was brought before the council at the request of the Pacific Pride Foundation, and the Santa Barbara Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

“I don’t want this generation to be the first to see an amendment to the constitution that takes rights away,” said Mark Quinn, a board member of GaySantaBarbara.Org who recently married his partner.

We support same sex marriage and equal access, said Linda Tuomi, a board member of the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee.

The issue of same-sex marriage sparked national debate after counties in California, Massachusetts and other communities around the country began performing same-sex marriages.

There was also some debate at Tuesday’s meeting. Both Dr. Patricia Stewart, a local dermatologist, and Dave Bramson, who said he represented “the majority of citizens who were at high school graduations and other activities that night” spoke against the resolution.

Bramson said he believed marriage is a “hallowed and very important tradition” and that if people of the same sex are allowed to marry, there is no reason why a brother and sister shouldn’t marry or any other two adults. He asked the council to back off from taking a position.

“It is incumbent upon us to take a stand,” said Councilman Brian Barnwell.

Ultimately the stand the council took was that regardless of a person’s moral position on same-sex marriage, amending the U.S. Constitution is inappropriate.

City Administrator Jim Armstrong said he would bring the final resolution (in the form of a letter) back to the council for approval before it is sent to President Bush and other elected representatives.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon

Raising Helen diverting if not demanding

Raising Helen movie poster

Raising Helen movie poster

The spirit of summer reruns spreads to the multiplex with Raising Helen, a creampuff of a movie we’ve seen before (Baby Boom, Step Mom) and will most certainly see again (the new TV series “Summerland”).

It’s an enjoyable enough version of a coming of age story: self-involved, career focused woman has children (usually via a tragic death, as is the case in Raising Helen), resists changing her life, takes some missteps, figures out what she’s doing, then grows up and redeems herself in the end. Though the story is familiar, it’s one that will resonate with any woman who’s ever had children and realized that she went into the hospital (or the court room, or the adoption agency, or the lawyer’s office) a woman and came out a mom.

Kate Hudson is certainly a charming heroine, although I couldn’t help wondering what her underused costars Joan Cusack and Felicity Huffman (as her older, smarter and much taller sisters) would have done with the meatier role. Hayden Panettiere, Spencer Breslin and Abigail Breslin give decent performances as the three children Hudson inherits, but John Corbett is miscast (too old and not hot enough or witty enough to compensate) as her romantic interest, Pastor Dan.

While Raising Helen lacks any kind of freshness beyond Hudson’s smile, and a scene that will be cheered by Devo fans everywhere, it’s still a pleasant enough trifle for a hot summer night.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on June 10, 2004.

Day After Tomorrow makes you wish for another day

The Day After Tomorrow movie poster

The Day After Tomorrow movie poster

Watching The Day After Tomorrow feels an awful lot like yesterday. A reworking of standard cliches from disaster movies like Independence Day, Armageddon, Twister and a zillion others, the coolest thing about the movie is that it shows how far special effects have come.

Using CGI techniques and gynormous budgets the folks behind classic disaster movies like The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno could only dream about, the special effects are indeed impressive and by far the best thing about The Day After Tomorrow. But I don’t understand how the filmmakers can realistically flood New York City with water and then freeze the whole place over by ten-degree increments, yet they can’t write a decent line of dialogue?

Also, watching this movie is the only time in my life I’ve ever felt that being such a mediocre science student was actually an advantage. While Dennis Quaid and Ian Holm manage to turn in unembarrassing performances, as “scientists who see the disaster coming but nobody will listen to until it’s too late,” even I could see that Quaid’s paleoclimatologist character is motivated by movie logic rather than scientific logic. Jake Gyllenhaal and his big blue eyes are impressive as Quaid’s moody son whose relationship with dad is at stake along with the fate of the rest of the work.

This depiction of what it might be like if the climate of our entire planet (minus Africa and Australia, which are mysteriously not included in the movie) were to change drastically in a matter of days does have some fun moments. Some of them are even intentional.

My advice is to sit back and enjoy the far-fetched spectacle for what it is, a forgettable popcorn movie destined to make just enough money to ensure that Director Roland Emmerich will have the chance to make another version of this same story in a year or two.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on June 3, 2004.


The tourists are coming! The tourists are coming!

There’s no need to fear, though. Our Sally Cappon and Leslie Dinaberg have the insiders’ story on what to do, where to go and how to just get around town at the height of summer. Follow their leads


East Beach Grill (1118 E. Cabrillo Blvd.) comes with a couple of disclaimers. First, it’s perilously close to tourist hotels, but you should be OK if you come early; tourists are not known as early risers. Another reason to get up and go: Parking is free up to 10 a.m. weekdays at adjacent city lots. You’ll probably see someone you know, especially if they’re part of the beachy athletic community. Tip: Try wheat germ pancakes. — S.C.

The Come Back Cafe (324 State St.) has toys and a play area for the kids, as well as Mickey Mouse-shaped pancakes in blueberry (my favorite), chocolate chip or any other flavor your heart desires. — L.D.

Judge for Yourself Cafe (1218 Santa Barbara St.) is another great local place for breakfast or lunch. It’s near the Courthouse but enough off the beaten track that you have to know where you’re going to find it. — L.D.


Leslie’s Top 10 Places to Do Lunch Sans Tourists

1. Mexican on Milpas: La Super-Rica (622 N. Milpas St.) is always super-crowded with L.A. types, but Taqueria El Bajio (129 N. Milpas), Julian’s (421 N. Milpas) and Mexican Grill (730 N. Milpas, formerly Mr. Pancho’s) are equally good without the wait.

2. Padaro Beach Grill (3765 Santa Claus Lane). If you have kids, this is the place for you. A huge, outdoor picnic-type space, sand, toys and plenty of grass for cartwheel practice, plus the occasional train for entertainment. And the food’s not bad either.

3. Cucas (626 W. Micheltorena St. or 2030 Cliff Drive). Best shrimp enchiladas in town. In fact, it’s all pretty bueno.

4. Pierre La Fond (516 San Ysidro Road). The two downtown locales are great, in the winter. But go to the Montecito location year-round to avoid tourists. The salad bar is great, especially with the air fries.

5. Red’s (211 Helena Ave.). The Funk Zone’s favorite coffee house is also a great place for lunch.

Derf's Cafe

Derf’s Cafe

6. Derf’s (2000 De la Vina St.). Good food at good prices, a great patio and great service, and lots of great memories.

7. Santa Barbara Chicken Ranch (2618 De la Vina St.). Owner Matt Benko says his busiest time of year is Fiesta, when the place is filled with locals trying to avoid the crowds. But the chicken, tri-tip and burritos are great year round.

8. Freebird’s (879 Embarcadero Del Norte, Isla Vista). The burritos are great — and big enough to split — and you can get exactly what you want in them.

9. Lazy Acres (302 Meigs Road). A wonderful salad bar and the soup are always terrific. Also worth trying is the turkey sandwich with sun-dried tomatoes.

10. El Sitio (7398 Calle Real, 2830 De la Vina St., 102 S. Fairview Ave., 138 S. Salinas St.). Try No. 14; it’s totally greasy; it’s totally unhealthy and one of the best things you’ll ever taste that’s not chocolate. I promise.

Dinner and Drinks

For atmosphere, you can’t beat Cold Spring Tavern (5995 Stagecoach Road). The historic stagecoach stop is tucked in the Santa Ynez Mountains just over San Marcos Pass. Great food in cozy rooms in a rustic, creekside setting. Menu features game and chili. Warning: It can look like a Harley convention on the weekends. — S.C.

The best oceanside dining is the Beachside Bar-Cafe (Goleta Beach County Park). Seafood is king at this restaurant where you can dine inside or out, overlooking the ocean. Best-seller night after night: Halibut stuffed with goat cheese and crab. Other favorites: Clam chowder and Caesar salad. Tip: Don’t even think about going here around UCSB graduation. — S.C.

Chuck’s (3888 State St.) is the ultimate locals place. Not the easiest place to find, but pop in almost any evening and you’ll run into an old friend. Famous for decades for steaks and service — and don’t miss the salad bar. — S.C. (Plus, you won’t find a better Mai Tai anywhere, even in Hawaii. — L.D.)

Pepe's Goleta (courtesy photo)

Pepe’s Goleta (courtesy photo)

Another great, nontouristy place is Pepe’s (254 Orange Ave.) in Old Town Goleta. It’s very kid-friendly, the margaritas are excellent, and you’ll never hear a patron talking about Michael Torena Street. There’s also a great patio for private parties or loud friends. — L.D.

Best Reflection

Mount Calvary Retreat House (Mount Calvary Road). For serenity, scenery and sublime R&R, nothing tops this monastery operated by the Episcopal Order of the Holy Cross. Perched off Gibraltar Road above Santa Barbara, it offers a spectacular panorama of the South Coast. Quiet rules, with silent times, and services that guests may attend if desired. A small bookstore sells arts and crafts made by brothers of this friendly community. — S.C.

Casa de Maria (800 El Bosque Road, 969.5031). It’s worth attending a program just to have access to the grounds of this Montecito treasure. — L.D.

Don’t Forget Dessert

McConnell's (courtesy photo)

McConnell’s (courtesy photo)

Want that creamy, cold, rich ice cream taste without the calories? In addition to its award-winning ice creams, McConnell’s (201 W. Mission St. or 7034 Marketplace Drive) also has a wonderful invention called Wow Cow, delicious frozen yogurt at only 9 calories an ounce. — L.D.

Next Week …

Recreation’s the game, with beaches, parks and shopping on our map.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on June 3, 2004.