Thursday, March 31, 2011

Santa Cruz Life

Yesterday we missed lunch at Duarte's (pro: Dew-Art, the "e" is silent) in Pescadero, today we see how one lives the good life in cold rainy Santa Cruz California. All it takes is a sense of adventure.The Pie Ranch wasn't around when Layne and I lived here years ago, but it's here on California Highway One today and it does good work giving at risk kids a taste of the farming life. They also sell home made food. They grow some lovely vegetables too. We bought strawberry preserve and a walnut pie. My wife loves pecan pie more than anything and this, they promised was as close as you can get and even better. They were right, by the way.For lunch we shared a rich delicious onion pie.It was this sign that sucked us in, just north of Ano Nuevo State Park. How can you not slow for pie?The central coast of California is a wild and wet place. There are hardly any all weather anchorages on this rocky coastline. Monterey was Spanish California's capital in the 17th century because Monterey Bay is one such place. Sailing a small boat up this coast in the teeth of northwest winds with huge seas was a cold hard overnight sail when I wanted to take my boat 70 miles to San Francisco.Somehow years ago they built a cement plant in Davenport, the only industry on this agricultural coast. They also built rail lines for two trains a day to the plant so you don't see trucks tearing up the highway.
This is not swimming country as the cold Alaska current sends water down from the far north and the waters year round are cold enough to give an unwary swimmer a heart attack.Santa Cruz county grows wines and wineries display their wares around town. My wife loves to taste wine and pack the bottles in bubble wrap and store them at home on Ramrod Key to drink and enjoy and think about where they came from.If we lived in Santa Cruz we could bring an empty bottle to Scones and buy a refill of their Hedgehog table wine. As it is Homeland Security won't allow us to carry a bottle as carry on. Just too risky in our risk averse fearful little world. I much prefer road trips to flying.
So much wine, so little time.My wife attended Duke University for a semester but came home to California to graduate from here. It was an alternative school that gave no grades, professors gave narrative evaluations of their students upon graduation. These days this is becoming a boring scientific place in pursuit of the practical. As proof they grade students now.It is a beautiful campus perched on a hill overlooking the city, growing year by year and sucking up more of the city's water and creating all sorts of development problems for a city that theoretically opposes unbridled development. The campus is exempt from city regulations.Set among the redwood trees the campus winds this way and that.It was Spring Break last week but these are serious students and they don't typically descend on the city below and drink themselves into oblivion.There is precious little team sports here either so I was never exposed to football mania and stuff like that, even though I was never a student here.They helped map the human genome here. That and water polo is their thing. And marine sciences.
California is broke but you wouldn't know it. They still fund things that garner them Nobel prizes and the like, at the UC system.The city on the hill overlooks the city of Santa Cruz set on the north shore of Monterey Bay. You can see why people who don't care for palm trees could argue this is a very beautiful place. It was 58 degrees when I took this picture. Warm by local standards.The mascot of the UC Santa Cruz campus is the banana slug, and it shows up everywhere. It's cute and they know it.The Cowell family foundation donated land to build the university on their former ranch. This barn is an historic ranch building. The idea was to make the seaside town a year round economic engine when tourists went home in September.Unfortunately this was the mid 60s and the campus became a hotbed of leftist revolutionary theory and the fuddy duddy city fathers lost control of their one horse city to the young graduates who came off the campus and wanted to create a Utopia by the sea.They succeeded for a while in their efforts to turn their backs on development and the growth paradigm. Then Silicon Valley came along over the hill in San Jose and brought huge wealth to buy out the lovely little seaside town. They turned the little hippie town with a university into a telecommuter's paradise with name brands and a reverence for the material over the spiritual.The debate continues, students bicycle, scientists drive foreign sports cars. Now it is the turn of the socialist-feminist city council to turn their backs on their beliefs and make compromises on box stores and housing costs and reducing bus service and all the things rich people don't really need.They do have a few palm trees in this frigid climate.
Hoodies are year round wear on the California coast.
I keep seeing similarities between Santa Cruz and Key West. Here's the local Fausto's Food Palace.They sell bumper stickers in Santa Cruz, not "One Human Family" but "Keep Santa Cruz Weird." I think that when you have to consciously work at keeping a community weird it's too late.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Santa Cruz Bound

We dropped Cheyenne off with her godparents last Friday morning and drove up to Miami. My wife had to see her Doctor and I noticed that there are quite a few people who don't know how to park in Miami. And this isn't even the dreaded parallel parking...For the next few days every time I laughed I coughed. I was getting over my sinusitis- my wife was not getting over her rheumatoid arthritis. As she gave blood one more time my wife grinned at me as I cringed. I always say it's lucky she got the RA, because if it was me I would be unbearable to be around. Fast forward 24 long hours and we woke up in this regal bed in a beautiful house overlooking foggy rainy Santa Cruz, California. You know how people say "How was your flight?" Six and a half hours direct from Fort Lauderdale by JetBlue for $370. And worth every penny of pain boredom and overheated cabin air, I say. I'd have given a King's Ransom for a bubble of that overheated cabin air here in Santa Cruz. The temperature outside the glass was 40 degrees. Imagine how happy that made me, as I pulled on my jeans and socks and fleece jacket."Been like this for a month," the stoic locals, my former neighbors shrugged off the flooding, sinkholes and drowned streets. I cowered under the overhang of the front door and wondered why I was so pissed off after just a few hours of this shit falling out of the sky.Our absent host, my dear friend Ty was on his boat in the Caribbean, where I should have been.I mean, do you think he looks miserable on the deck of his Fontaine Pajot catamaran? Outside the front door of his house the world looked like this: Santa Cruz home to the eponymous University of California campus used to be a hippy town, but not everyone wants to be known as green, or ecological, or pro peace or anything weird like that: I didn't see many cops around my former home town. The police chief is apparently not big on community policing unlike my boss here in Key West. But this poor guy pulled the short straw on Soquel Drive last Saturday morning. They needed him on the street and out of the snug police station.Morrissey Boulevard was drowning too. This was our friend's front yard. Marty was thinking about converting it to a pool, but it was too cold even for locals to go swimming.I kind of figured we had to take a left onto Market Street at this point. The day before we arrived they had hurricane force winds, trees down, power out, a trailer park in Capitola sank into a sink hole and on and on and on. "How 'bout them 'canes in South Florida?" I'll take a hurricane in 90 degrees any time over a rain storm in 40 degrees anytime. My wife had to admit she could see her breath in this weather, something she was reluctant to admit.The bumper sticker seems like a non sequitur, but there was a big fight at Lighthouse Field State Park to keep allowing dogs off leash in the 20 acre, oceanfront wilderness. The dogs lost of course. California is a very uptight place. Santa Cruz has a large population of year round bums too, and sometimes it's hard to tell them apart from the poor and unemployed and generally downtrodden.I learned to sail in the Pacific Ocean and the Key West waters are a piece of cake by comparison. This is the sort of 55 degree ocean you look at rather than swim in. There is a reason Jack O'Neill invented the wet suit here.Jack Zajac I've known for thirty years. A world renowned sculptor, former UC professor and a part time resident of my village in Italy.He's lived on the ocean front for decades and loves it.Layne and Jack and I had a great chat. His wife had sinusitis just like mine and she was knocked out. Bummer.Jack is important to me because he has seen both parts of my life, in Italy and the US and his serene overview of my life reaffirms my life choices. "You did the right thing," he says to me talking about my decision to emigrate, and his affirmation comes as a relief."Lunch at Pescadero" my wife declared as we left Jack to minister to his sick wife, cheered by an enjoyable chat. We have learned over the years that visits to Santa Cruz get busier and busier as the days go by so if we have a hankering to do something it's better to do it sooner than later. Besides we were flying home Monday night so time was precious.Davenport is a little artsy village eleven miles north of Santa Cruz on "the other" Highway One.Riding in the back of a car around Santa Cruz with Layne and I would be intensely boring. We are always reminiscing and our conversations start with: "Remember when..." and this roadhouse used to be the Davenport Cash Store. I broke down with my horrid VW Westphalia van years ago right here. The distributor broke that time.This is the coast road to San Francisco, "The City" to locals. If you live in California you never refer to your home state as "Cali." Those same out of state rubes refer to San Francisco as "Frisco."The coast road is relatively undeveloped because of the California Coastal Commission's stewardship. I watch the agricultural fields roll by, the crappy farmworker housing and the miles of empty rolling hills and think about the coast of Florida massacred with condos and neon and parking lots.Imagine what this would look like of the developers had had their way.Tourists flock here and take pictures. Makes you miss capitalist maximum return on investment doesn't it?This needs a nice fast food place perched on the cliffs.How about THE WORLD'S BIGGEST SOMETHING right here preceded by miles of lurid billboards.Great ride in 70 degrees, a real trial by frost in this weather.Waterfront accommodations.Pigeon Point lighthouse, a hostel frequently enjoyed by bicycle tourists and other random passersby. Look them up on the web if you'd like a night in this socialist under developed paradise of California's Central Coast.The road washes out from time to time. It really is lovely to look at.The Santa Cruz Mountains. On the other side is the frenzy of Silicon Valley.We stopped to photograph this sign. It seemed oddly relevant. Ah! Lunch at last......oops. There's only one road in to Duarte's Tavern and their special artichoke and green chile soup.Marty's Subaru wasn't going to make it through that and it seemed bad karma to test their kind loaner.We turned back, lunchless. California rain is something you have to experience before you can claim to really know the Golden State. Little wonder I got sick of the California weather isn't it? It took me twenty years to tear myself away from Santa Cruz. There was a reason I stayed so long and I met a lot of them at Bernice's memorial service Saturday afternoon.