1. Walking downtown – in the heart of the city – you look around for the source of the pot smoke wafting towards you. Is it the indigents? No. The disenfranchised youth? No. Oh. It’s the two silver haired, respectable looking gentlemen on the corner.
2. Still downtown, about every 20 yards you pass by someone who makes you feel uneasy. (And I’m not easily made uneasy. For instance, I am merely amused and not the least discomfited by the fact that behind the angry looking guy with Mohawk, nose ring, and short (as in micro-mini length) kilt is a guy strolling with his girl in arm and his guy in hand).
3. In the Saturn Café, the vegetarian diner that offers 50s style cuisine like faux burgers and vegan shakes, the two restrooms are no longer labeled “us” and “them” but are, instead, labeled “robot” and “alien.” Out of chocolate fudge and thus unable to serve the “chocolate madness” dessert that features fudge, chocolate ice cream, chocolate mousse, chocolate brownies, whip cream, and chocolate chips, a debate ensues with the server about whether the fudge-less result is “chocolate mildly annoyed” or “chocolate aggravated.”
4. The city’s elite are gathered for an orchestral tribute to the Grateful Dead. The only thing that seems more widespread than tie dye is gray hair. The hippies are the establishment.
5. At the grocery store they don’t ask “paper or plastic.” Instead, they ask, “why didn’t you bring an eco-friendly bag of your own today?”
6. The most significant donation to the University of California’s local (USSC) library was made by the Grateful Dead, who donated 30 years of their archives.
7. One gets the sense that two concepts that remain rather elusive to many of the folks here are cash and causality. A local bookstore is having an event on (and I'm pretty sure I'm going to mangle this) how the Mode rising in Capricorn should influence one’s career goals for the next 18 months.
8. Mothers telling their girls to go ahead and take off their clothes at a (sort of) remote swimming hole along the river because “It’s Santa Cruz and nobody cares.”
9. At the local university (UC Santa Cruz) on the 20 minute walk from one class to the next, you disappear into redwoods, unable to see buildings or roads, about a half dozen times, pop out into a meadow that looks down on Monterrey Bay once, and walk past deer a couple of times. And this through the busy part of campus.
10. You find yourself repeatedly exclaiming over how gorgeous it is and how much you love the place.
As you might guess, I just got back from a trip back to the Bay Area. As always, I was delighted by how gorgeous and unique is Santa Cruz.