Spent the weekend in Santa Cruz County. I lived here in the 80s and have always been welcome to come back and visit at the home of Janey, one of my closest and oldest friends.
Time accelerates as you get older. Especially during Covid, the days seem like a repetitive blur. You get up, do your morning and afternoon chores and before you know it, it’s time for bed. You have little to talk about because there’s nothing going on.
Janey has three cats. One of them, I think, has ADHD. Lucky for him, in the morning, when the coyotes have gone to sleep, Janey lets her cat out.
This cat needs the outdoors. He needs to roam and explore and get into a fair amount of trouble. Just like I did when I lived here. Santa Cruz gave me that freedom.
I had the freedom that so many young people today lack. Today, every young person I know under 30 is still living with their parents. They have to. It’s an economic necessity. My generation couldn’t wait to get away from our parents, especially if it meant living in a place like Santa Cruz. I lived all over this county. I bounced from place to place. Landlords would give me notice when they were about to sell or bring in some relative. Or I’d get into some hassle with a roommate. It was all part of what I needed to do in order to learn and to grow. And it’s left my memories of this place so noteworthy and multidimensional. No, these memories are not a haze at all. Santa Cruz allowed one to savor life and experience it completely. It’s sad that young people today don’t have that.
We also had relatively free community college back then. And you couldn’t beat Cabrillo, my alma mater. It was rich with interesting teachers. I’m sure it still is, although the tuition has gone up and admissions are now impacted.
More than anything, we had access to such incredible natural beauty here. That beauty remains, although the parks and paths have gotten increasingly more crowded. And you can’t traverse Highway One and most hours of the day without getting stuck in traffic.
Another thing that’s happened to Santa Cruz is the widening gap between the haves and have-nots. Young people just starting out here cannot afford rent. My rents here were so low that I could go to school and work part time, and thus have time for the all the other shenanigans that I managed to get into.
I’ve got a bad knee that won’t let me hike. This prompted me to buy a mountain bike, and I had heard that Santa Cruz was a mecca for mountain biking. This weekend I checked out the Forest of Nicene Marks which I would highly recommend. I also drove up the Emma Mccrary Trail, which for me was a little less promising. Too many hills and dangerous curves. And even at 8 a.m. on a Sunday, the trail was packed with bikers. They were all men who’d parked their expensive SUVs along the turnouts on Highway 9. There they unloaded their $5000 + mountain bikes sped up and down the redwood root-knotted hills with remarkable skill and strength. I could only try and stay out of their way and eventually give up on the trail altogether. It was too much for my knee and I didn’t want to break my neck. Nevertheless, it was great being out in the woods and I’d forgotten how much I loved and missed this place.
Below is a poem I wrote of Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz still Holds me
Santa Cruz still holds me
Wraps around me like Redwood roots
Sings me with memories
Driving through after 30 odd years
You know I knew a surfer here
He blew through my life
Like waves and summer wind
One night we crouched on the floor
Of a women’s state park bathroom
On an empty raining beach
Drinking beer and laughing
“This is our private oceanside resort,” we said
That’s how much we loved
This place and each other
The coastal fields look up from their work and nod
Quietly recognizing me
From behind a fog veil
The rhythm of these harvest seasons
Santa Cruz still holds me
Time sat down with me once and rested here
Beside sand, pines, and sea