You can call them “homeless” if you want, but to me they’re bums. Bums and rummies. And they’re all over downtown Santa Barbara and squatting on State Street in particular, and a lot of them have dogs. Those poor sad dogs. What a life. Listen to me — I’m almost ready to go out and give a buck or two to the next vagrant-with-a-dog that I see. I don’t give a hoot about bums but I feel genuine sympathy for the dogs…and the bums know that, of course.

Santa Barbara is one of the big bum meccas of Southern California. There are bum hang-outs in the downtown area, bum flophouses. This is what a tolerant, politically correct culture has to accept and put up with. I don’t flinch at bums in Manhattan where you expect to see a little squalor, but bums lying around in groups of two, three and four on State Street with all that affluence and Spanish architecture in the background — somehow that feels like a different deal. There are no bums in Tokyo or Hanoi, or none that I noticed. But boy, do they have them here.