Are there Americans who don’t have fantasies about a better life in California? About gold in the rivers, giant fruit in the yards and a hardcore, neon sunset every single night? The collective westward yearn is endlessly evolving and migrating around the very big state, sometimes dampened but never entirely silenced by stories about natural disasters and inner-city crime.
If property values, pop-culture mentions, and multipage Architectural Digest spreads are any indication, that yearn currently centers on the not-even-10 square miles of a not-even-town on the southern edge of Santa Barbara: Montecito.
A place whose desirability makes it clear that the current American dream is not about hustling to auditions or starting a company that changes the world — as the Californian fantasies of old promised — but instead is simply about being very, very comfortable as often as possible. If “wellness” were made manifest by a single dot on an enormous world map, that dot would land neatly on Montecito. It’s where wealthy people who have succeeded in becoming their best selves go in order to maintain the exalted state.