Categories
Santa Barbara News Press Shifting Paradigms

Christmas Unwrapped

Traditionally, Christmas is known as a day of traveling, eating, unwinding and unwrapping. But not everyone in Santa Barbara is experiencing a traditional Christmas Day. Today, as thousands indulge in the joys of tearing paper, laughing children, sentimental music and hot cider, others in Santa Barbara will march to the beat of a different drummer boy. They will wait for emergency calls at a fire station, serve food at a swanky hotel in Montecito, counsel dangerous inmates in the Santa Barbara County Jail or lie dying in a hospice.

Christmas Unwrapped: Not everyone can enjoy the day with family and friends

Traditionally, Christmas is known as a day of traveling, eating, unwinding and unwrapping. But not everyone in Santa Barbara is experiencing a traditional Christmas Day.

Today, as thousands indulge in the joys of tearing paper, laughing children, sentimental music and hot cider, others in Santa Barbara will march to the beat of a different drummer boy.

They will wait for emergency calls at a fire station, serve food at a swanky hotel in Montecito, counsel dangerous inmates in the Santa Barbara County Jail or lie dying in a hospice.

A SB County jail inmate holds the Christmas cards from wife and daughter. STEVE MALONE/NEWS-PRESS
A SB County jail inmate holds the Christmas cards from wife and daughter. STEVE MALONE/NEWS-PRESS

Some, like Scott and Bonnie Bosler of Visalia, would have celebrated in the conventional way were it not for a life-altering tragedy.

Their son, 17-year-old Brad Bosler, drowned in June while trying to save a friend. As a result, Brad’s parents and two sisters today will serve meals to the homeless at the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission on East Yanonali Street.

“Our son was a big-hearted guy; he had a real giving heart, a real servant’s heart,” said Scott Bosler, whose son went to Mexico several times to build homes for the indigent. “We just weren’t ready to do what we’ve done traditionally during the Christmas season. . . . We wanted to do something he would have done.”

Brad was rafting in a canal near Porterville when a companion got caught in a whirlpool. Brad, a star athlete who hoped to become a firefighter, jumped in to save him.

“He wanted to be a hero,” Mr. Bosler said of his son’s professional aspirations. “He got to be what he wanted to be.”

Brad likely would have looked up to Jack Franklin, a Santa Barbara firefighter who is working the Christmas shift today.

As often happens on this day at the Carrillo Street station near State Street, Mr. Franklin and his company will eat a prime rib meal with dozens of family members in the garage that normally houses the engines.

“Generally it’s a zoo,” he said. “There are a lot of kids running around, with all their Christmas toys — remote controls on the floor where the engines (normally) park. But you drop everything when you have a call.”

And it happens.

Mr. Franklin, a fire engineer and former paramedic, has eaten holiday dinners in the front seat of a speeding ambulance.

“For the most part, it’s a lot of medical emergencies,” he said. “On holidays we’re (often) taking grandpa to the hospital because he’s having a heart attack. It’s a little bit too much excitement . . . with the whole family there.”

Sometimes, the fire station doesn’t need a chef. One Christmas, a family whose child nearly died of sudden infant death syndrome before being saved by firefighters brought a ham dinner to a small local station manned by three people.

“They brought a meal for like 25,” said Battalion Chief Chris Blair, who also works today. “We had ham sandwiches for weeks.”

As good as that meal may have been, its extravagance surely paled in comparison to the six-course dinner that will be served to hundreds tonight at the Four Seasons Biltmore Resort in Montecito, where a good night’s rest costs anywhere from $600 to $2,500.

The dinner, to be enjoyed in a renowned dining room with sweeping ocean views, will cost $120 a plate. And Rubin Cosio, the hotel’s food and beverage director, has the unenviable task of ensuring that the yuletide feast is worth every penny.

But he said he’s not worried.

“It’s only high-pressure if you don’t plan it correctly,” he said.

The hotel’s staff is making a special effort to see that each guest’s needs are tended to.

For instance, a “very senior manager” of a Fortune 500 company with a penchant for the $900-a-bottle Patr|ó|n Platinum tequila will find one waiting in his room, accompanied by two glasses with ice on the side.

“Some just like it straight up,” Mr. Cosio said. “It’s not anything you would make a margarita with.”

The hotel festivities, which include a $90 buffet, will be heavily attended by the L.A. elite who “just want to get away from their hurried lives” — executives, for instance, from CBS, NBC, Columbia Pictures and Universal Studios.

As the roughly 500 well-heeled folks wine and dine in Montecito, about 850 convicts will simply dine in the Santa Barbara County Jail, on Calle Real near Turnpike Road.

The inmates will eat a turkey dinner, attend services and sing Christmas carols.

Throughout the day, the Rev. Ivan Vorster, a 30-year pastor at the Harvest Christian Fellowship in Santa Barbara, will visit single cells, sitting face to face with some men who are “extremely dangerous.”

The Rev. Vorster isn’t scared, and not just because he will be accompanied by a guard.

“They are generally very respectful,” he said. “There’s a longing for their loved ones, for home. . . . (Talking with them) is declaring that somebody cares.”

One inmate, a young man who said he’s in for stealing, said he will give a sermon of his own.

“I feel like I’ve been called to preach the word,” the man said while hanging out with fellow inmates in the drug-treatment section of the jail, a less restrictive area that civilians can enter. “There are tools in here to better your life. You just have to use them.”

A few miles away, at a hospice on Calle de los Amigos near Hope Ranch, a 56-year-old literary agent from New York City is dying of a rare lung disease.

Al Lowman, whose list of clients includes singer Diana Ross, former Teen People magazine editor Christina Ferrari and folk singer Judy Collins, said he will spend Christmas Day resting at the Serenity House. The small facility accommodates six patients who expect to have less than six months to live.

“Growing up, my heart was not into (Christmas), but it is this year,” said Mr. Lowman, who was recently visited by Ms. Ross, hospice staff members said.

A talkative man, Mr. Lowman is upbeat even though his only son will not be able to visit him this year.

“I love living, and I love dying,” he said.

Mr. Lowman spends much time on the phone, doing business. He just finished editing the manuscript for Ms. Collins’ still-untitled book about creativity.

But he is not bed-ridden. Mr. Lowman sits in a chair, paces about the room and even kneels on the floor to call up on his computer the cover of Ms. Collins’ book — a painting she did herself.

To him, the Serenity House is aptly named.

“I’m having a holiday in the heart,” he said, mouse in hand, looking over his shoulder. “I’ve never been happier.”