Dispatches from Santa Cruz, California

1. I am sitting in a coffeeshop, using the wireless like a junkie, when the man behind me, sitting on a long bench seat with two older men who are playing speed chess, stretches out his leg & starts talking about the operation he had to do — with a hunting knife, on the pier — to remove the gangrenous skin around his knee that developed after a bike trick accident…. I don’t actually work up the stomach to order a coffee until I’d moved to another seat across the shop.

2. In the Pacific Surf Shop, I am trying to decide how badly I want a “Santa Cruz Surfboards” t-shirt as part of my master plan to blend in with the students here, the homeboys & girls of Northern California who wear NorCal and Volcom and Quicksilver gear like a uniform. I overhear a Dutch couple are asking the salesgirl (who is blonde, and stereotypical) about whether there are youth hostels in Santa Cruz. “A what?” she asks, her whole body a blank stare. “A youth hostel,” I interpose, thinking maybe it’s the accent that’s throwing her; “you know, like Hostelling International or something.” She looks at me, clueless. “Like for travellers?” I add. “Oh!” she says, some point of reference coming to her. “Well, I don’t travel, so I don’t know what that is.”
And why would you, if you were a blond California girl, forever in your element on the North Coast? Sheesh.
The Dutch were appreciative, but I didn’t answer their reference question until after we’d parted ways, when I went next door to the bookstore, checked Lonely Planet, and figured out that there is an HI-Santa Cruz, reservations recommended. And then I felt bad about not giving them the advice to do the same. Heh. Damn librarian gene.

3. Downtown, a strip of shops that all seem to have exactly what I am looking for — stationary and shoes and miscellaneous wonderful things — I turn into a shopper, magically, and spend too much money on fun things. Nice cards! gifts! Awesome perfume in an awesome stone box! I lust after a pair of Fluevogs but decide if I am going to spend that much money I’ll do in Seattle at the flagship store. I lust after a lot of things. What is it that sometimes makes spending money so easy, and other times a chore? I want everything I see; it would be dangerous to live here. There’s a Trader Joes around the corner. Three nice bookstores. A vegetarian Italian restuarant. I am in love.

4. The boardwalk is crowded on this sunny Saturday, insanely so, so I skip it; but am amazed, I’ve never seen it before, and the old-school rollercoasters tower above the beach, like Disneyland with better scenery & a cool factor x 10. In retrospect, I should have taken pictures; I’d like to go back when it was deserted, some cool weekday morning, and wander amongst the scaffolding with the surf in the background.

5. It’s cool, breezy, sunny skies. No wonder everyone wants to live here. It gets cold at night; I pull on a jacket and let the strung out street kids and crazy homeless people harass me, like in Seattle. It feels like home; rough around the edges, gentrified in parts. I know that there is too much meth here and too many tourists and rents are astronomical; I know that some 40 people besides myself applied to the job at UC Santa Cruz that I didn’t get. I know all of these things and I still love it. California is another country, another continent; I still feel out of place here, like a tourist in my own state, and I know that I’ll never really be at home here, though I act the part.

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5 Responses to Dispatches from Santa Cruz, California

  1. springstreet says:

    Oo, which Fluevogs? I finally broke down and got the ones I had been lusting after for the longest time (there are many others after which I lust, but these were The First Ones). Now I am afraid I will never be able to stop.

    These are my new shoes.


  2. brassratgirl says:


    those are almost my shoes! these are my shoes:

    are they comfy? do you love them? what about the wierd heel? etc etc.

  3. netsirk says:

    Awesome shoe, awesome name!

  4. springstreet says:

    Heh. Thought you’d like that. 🙂

  5. rwx says:

    i love the boardwalk there, highly recommend the pinbal games.

    will be going by you on the way back to seattle.

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