Monday, April 4, 2011

Santa Cruz Farewell

Our last day in Santa Cruz started in the usual high calorie style which is why one values vacations so much...Rick met us at Silver Spur, a lightly western themed breakfast place that consistently turns out quality pancakes and eggs and muffins. I've known Rick since the summer of 1984 when I bought a Catalina 30 sailboat from a neighbor of his. He still lives in the harbor on his Vega 27 and says his boat survived the tsunami with no problems. His girlfriend,a fine woman who really likes her dog (always a plus in my opinion!) was unable to join us but we chatted at length over flank steak and eggs. My orange marmalade muffin still makes my mouth water at the memory....plus, as my wife pointed out as she helped herself to a piece of my steak to add to her biscuit, she doesn't like orange flavored pastries so I got it all to myself. No wonder I put on weight that weekend. Rick is an example to me of steadfast refusal to change for change's sake. he still drives his 25 year old truck as perfectly preserved as a mechanic's car should be. The otter is second to the harbor seal is the popularity of marine mammals around here. This mural shows the Capitola Wharf in the background, jutting out to sea from a town created to supposedly become the 19th century capital of the burgeoning Golden State. However Capitola-By-The-Sea never fulfilled it's founder's dreams and slipped into it's preferred role as a quiet backwater and pleasant seaside resort of then thousand much more conservative people, than brash Santa Cruz next door. We stopped at Trader Joe's to load up with non perishable groceries to fill the two spare suitcases my wife hauled to Santa Cruz for the weekend trip. we saw this self important Vizsla in a truck and thought of Cheyenne enjoying the weekend with her godparents Chuck and Wayne on Sugarloaf Key.Gas prices in Northern California are always more expensive than elsewhere (excluding Alaska and Hawaii where prices may vary). Monterey Bay stretched out across the horizon. 60 degrees and not at all hot.Driving down from the University of California Santa Cruz campus.Monterey is an hour's drive south on California state Highway One toward Big Sur. It takes about six hours to sail the 25 miles directly across the bay. This, shown below, is no longer a movie theater. But it used to be when I lived in Santa Cruz. A single screen theater with rows and rows of seats. Movies as they should be seen...My wife had lunch and an afternoon planned with her oldest friend so I had the time to myself. I went downtown and decided to walk Pacific Avenue. Had I had Cheyenne, as I did on our road trip last year, I'd have headed for the mountains and walks under the redwoods. But I was alone so I found myself at Bookshop Santa Cruz, one of the fiercely independent bookstores in town. Gloating no doubt as the intruder Borders is closing...I love the signs in this town. "Too intense" indeed!Travel, biographies, novels, miles and miles of books. I had not been sure what to buy but I got a novel Matterhorn a story of the Viet Nam war, and a copy of We Didn't Mean To Go To Sea by Arthur Ransome, the man who gave me a taste for sailing through his Swallows and Amazons novels. I own all his titles including his adult sea stories, except this very one. I'd loaned the Ransome book to my girlfriend's son probably 20 years ago. The breakup initiated by me was abrupt as she was too...intense for me, but my book got left behind with her rather sweet kid who must be a man by now. I hope it subverted him into wanting to sail. In a town that worships seaweed as nourishment, Jack's is the antithesis of my hippy Santa Cruz past but I always enjoyed a nice piece of dead cow there and did last Monday also, when a nicely grilled burger and crisp fries constituted my solo lunch.Metro Santa Cruz, the free weekly was rather thin and mostly advertising as I suppose print must be these days. I missed my Key West Citizen to read over lunch.The historic clock tower keeping perfect time these days. Below we see the entrance to Pacific Avenue, which used to be much greener with benches and lots of coniferous trees and was known as Pacific Garden Mall before the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake tore the place to pieces. They rebuilt it to be less bum-friendly and more expansive to encourage shoppers and fewer layabouts.Note in the mural below the dog (actually with leash trailing) and the person in a wheelchair in this devotedly equal opportunity community. It seems so harmless and cheerful to me I have to wonder about people who rant and foam at the mouth about being politically correct as though inclusion were bad thing. This monument to bad taste is the Rittenhouse building and Louis, a former city council member is a loud Republican, a red dot in a blue sea. He has been fighting the city council since the 1989 earthquake over what to put in this the last hole left from that devastating time. I was, many years ago, on the Board of Directors of the Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District, these days struggling with a massive budget deficit in a widely spread out community devoted to mass transit and reluctant to end service anywhere. They, unlike Key West, value the ability to carry bikes on buses. In Key West the bike on the bus program was so popular they abolished it, in a masterful piece of Orwellian madness. Californians are always astonished to hear I prefer living in the Keys to Santa Cruz. "What about the humidity?" they ask querulously. "What about the much dreaded Hurricanes?" -A question this last that makes me laugh coming from a state with more natural disasters than you can shake a stick at. It is decidedly lovely when the sun elects to shine. My first proper job in the US was delivering pizza for Pizza My Heart in it's pre-earthquake location, around the corner from here. I used to deliver pies by VW diesel Rabbit. That was an economical car until I blew the engine up twice in one year thanks to my lead foot on the accelerator. And then there's the story about the times I delivered to the whorehouse on 38th Avenue and the girls liked to pay for pizza in kind. I liked to hang out and chat with them for a while, take my cash (I was cheap) and report back to the office as though nothing were amiss and everyone speculated I was getting laid on the job..."That was a l-o-o-ng delivery," Ben my dispatcher used to say slyly. He should know he was secretly (more or less) bonking one of our babe drivers. Ah youth.And so to Logos the premier used bookstore in this University town. How can you not adore these ridiculous labels?I love Voltaire Books in Key West, but they need new labels there.Logos sells discs, Cd's and has so many titles they are scattered through two floors. Every brand of thought is catered to in this magnificent place.I was looking for a motorcycling book or two. I could not locate Ted Simon but I did find Chasing Che by Patrick Symmes, and a very good read it appears to be about riding South America (and Cuba) on a BMW.Look below and see homeless vagrants who like Santa Cruz as much as their counterparts enjoy Key West. Here in California they are year round residents and how they cope with frosty wet winters I don't know.A pretty town it was where I learned to be an adult. Packing our bags back in our loaner home the weather was dastardly. It is hard to tear oneself away when Santa Cruz is putting on a sunny show.The nuts, spices, household cleaners and other grocery odds and ends from Trader Joe's went into one spare suitcase. The wines from Santa Cruz county went into their bubble wrap (my wife is a very experienced and careful packer) and made it home intact in the other spare suitcase.She announced to me that she was going to pay the fee to have them checked at the airport, because she knows I hate traveling by plane especially overloaded with bags heavy with stuff. We said goodbye to our lovely but temporary home and it's gigantic TV:One last stop at the harbor on a lovely day for it.That used to be me except I never owned a Cal 40. Goodbye to Tim.And back to Barbara and Marty's to drop off their Subaru Outback Legacy (who invents these absurd names?). In Key West I know when cops pull over a Subaru because they always describe them to me over the radio as "Uh, a Mazda maybe? Er...some kind of sedan..." Subarus are popular in Santa Cruz but not at all in Key West where all wheel drive is just a waste of gas. We waved goodbye to Barbara and as we piled into Marty's new Honda CRV with all our bags I was thinking how much I'd like one last dinner in Santa Cruz. Not for the food so much but for the company and good cheer. Well guess what? Layne sat in the back as we roared up Highway 17 toward San Jose and announced: "The 9:30 departure has been pushed back to two am." Well bugger, that means dinner in Santa Cruz one more time. We turned off the freeway and took Branciforte Road (Branciforte was the Spanish village attached to the 17th Century Spanish Mission of the Name of the Holy Cross- Santa Cruz, a name that pops up all over Spanish speaking America). The light was fading under the redwoods as we went back. It wasn't motorcycling but it was a way to enjoy the twisting mountain roads one last time. Mudslides are a way of life in these hills. How'bout them hurricanes?Sunsets are not generally that great around here but at least the marine clouds had stayed away and for once the sky was clear. Marty put on his custom fitted leather jacket and custom made felt hat both souvenirs of a trip to Argentina and we took Barbara out to dinner for steak and potatoes at Café Cruz. I was standing in the restaurant waiting for a table when a woman grabbed my arm. Holy shit! It was Megan, my wife's nephew's wife. She was down from Yosemite where Jessie the nephew is a law enforcement climbing ranger, and thought she had missed us as we had left town already...Life is one long coincidence. The delay worked out well for us. We took a nap and left for San Francisco in the dark of the night. Jet Blue's staff waived the check in fee for the bags and we were whisked onto the plane where we slept away the flight. My wife even had three seats in a row to stretch out on... Thunderstorms had delayed the flight from Fort Lauderdale which caused our eastbound flight to leave San Francisco four hours late. But we arrived to glorious sunshine barely visible through foggy windows, and the sight of the steaming Everglades was the sign that we were home. Santa Cruz was home and a very fine one too, but even my native California wife is happy to call the Keys home nowadays.