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09.17.08

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Phaedra

Illustrations By Jed Alexander

Student Survival Manual 2008

Our guide to getting by in the wilds of the greater Santa Cruz area.

By Curtis Cartier, Traci Hukill and Jessica Lussenhop


It isn't easy mastering the basics of college life. A person isn't born knowing where to go for a cheap breakfast or how to locate a papasan chair for $10. These things are learned gradually, usually after many misadventures and some expense. This handy guide is designed to equip the new or returning student on a budget with the necessary knowledge to avoid starvation, death from exposure or that most pernicious of all threats, boredom. Use it wisely and thrive.

A simple $5 bill can procure a filling, moderately nutritious meal.

It's not difficult to eat well in Santa Cruz for cheap, what with the jaw-dropping produce and fresh local products at the farmers markets and grocery stores. But you've just been nudged out of the nest; you may face starvation in a very real way if you don't have a microwave. And cafeteria food is Snoozeville. So here are ways to eat for less than or equal to $5 all over town, broken into a few helpful categories.

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Classic Chintz
Taco Bell runs this town--the ratio of Taco Bells to homeless people is nigh unto one-to-one. But not everyone has the colorectal fortitude to deal with 69-cent tacos on a regular basis, so let's move right along.

Cheese pizza slices are only $1 on Tuesdays at Rocker's Pizza Kitchen (1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz; 831.423.1338), a.k.a. Catalyst Nightclub, and $2 for pepperoni and cheese the rest of the week. Jack's Hamburgers (202 Lincoln St., Santa Cruz; 831.423.4421) is a classic and quick hamburger joint, much beloved by locals for the $4 burger. Betty Burgers (505 Seabright Ave., Santa Cruz; 831.423.8190) gives sweet potato fries a much-deserved place on the fast-food ticket, and flips a fine, affordable basic burger, so long as you can handle calling the sauce "lube." Both burger stands have veggie options.

Breakfast
At Zachary's (819 Pacific Ave., 831.427.0646) there are a handful of items you can get for less than $5, including a short stack of pancakes or granola, though it might be difficult to stay within your budget once the elaborate specials go flying by. Just be prepared for the long-ass wait on weekends. Kelly's French Bakery (402 Ingalls St., Santa Cruz; 831.423.9059) has poached eggs, oven-roasted potatoes and ham and Gruyère toast under the $5 mark, not to mention all of the half sandwiches. Santa Cruz Diner (909 Ocean St., Santa Cruz; 831.426.7151) serves classic egg standards, waffles, pancakes and lots more for the budget bruncher. And then there's Cereality (1315 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz; 831.425.1997), the Kirsten Dunst of restaurant chains, in that they are both successful for reasons unknown. Two scoops of cereal and two toppings are $3.99.

Lunch
Asian restaurants love lunchtime deals. Masako (1520 Mission St., Santa Cruz; 831.429.4088) doles out chicken teriyaki bento boxes for $4.95 from 11am to 2:30pm. The kiosks along Pacific Avenue also offer a majority of their items for less than $5, including very healthy vegan fare from Alfresco (corner of Soquel and Pacific avenues, Santa Cruz; 831.429.1765) and hot dog, chips and soda combos at Li'l Coney Island (1520 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz; 831.429.5181).

Whenevs
You can't swing a gato muerto around here without hitting one of many taquerias, which are, of course, always very cheap. Taqueria Vallarta (608 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz; 831.457.8226; 893 41st Ave., Santa Cruz; 831.464.7022; 1101 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz; 831.471.2655; 6272 Highway 9, Felton; 831.335.4264) is a local favorite with four locations and plenty of typical Mexican dishes that come with a side of change from a fiver. Khyber Pass (810 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz; 831.423.3400) has a number of economical Pakistani/Afghani appetizers, like the mantoo and aushak dumplings. Charlie Hong Kong (1141 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz; 831.426.5664) whips up quick, organic dishes in the Asian street food tradition, with many of the rice and noodle bowls hovering around $5, and the Vietnamese Pho at $4.95.

Fancy Pants
Some people will not deign to eat rice and beans to save money, but don't mess your trust fund, there are a couple of excellent deals for gourmets, although in some cases, a small plate means a wee plate. Soif Wine Bar (105 Walnut Ave., Santa Cruz; 831.423.2020) has several low-cost items on its appetizer menu, including very fancy crostinis for $4 and lamb meatballs for $5. Five dollars at 515 Kitchen and Cockails (515 Cedar St., Santa Cruz; 831.425.5051) gets you pickled ahi croquettes or truffle-and-herb french fries; as a bonus, they also serve till 1am every night. If you make it to Hoffman's Bakery Cafe (1102 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz; 831.420.0135) in the tiny window between 5 and 6pm, bourbon-glazed prawns with cheddar grits are under $5, along with a few other items during the half-priced appetizer happy hour. Red (1003 Cedar St., Santa Cruz; 831.425.1913) has a smashing happy hour deal that features $4 and $5 plates, including chicken or beef skewers, prosciutto-wrapped asparagus and the upscale mac-n-cheese.

Red bartender Ryan Abbott also offers some practical financial tips, free of charge. "Tell them to watch their wallets and credit cards," he says. Abbott has handled his fair share of tearful students on their step-retracings and warns, "More often than not, they don't turn up."

Jessica Lussenhop

Do not attempt to go naked in public except on Halloween. In case of severe clothing shortage, hurry to nearest thrift store.

Buying cute but affordable clothing and houseware has never been easier with the arrival of H&M and Ikea. For better or worse, Santa Cruz is home to neither of these. That means we have to think for ourselves in order to look good for less, and do things the old-fashioned way--digging through thrift shop inventories. There are lots of options in town, and each covers a territory in its own way. You just have to roll up your sleeves a little.

Retro Paradise (1010 Pacific Ave. #C, Santa Cruz; 831.460.9960) has a large selection of surprisingly wearable dresses and shoes, as well as long rows of button-up men's shirts, Hawaiian, plaid and otherwise. The focus seems to be on prints, and with the right attitude, they are quirky-chic. If you're a sex kitten on a budget there are whole racks of corsets and garter belts. There's also an astounding array of vintage earrings in the glass counter near the register for those who are clothed quietly but accessorize extravagantly.

Come fall, Cognito (821 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz; 831.426.5414) definitely has Halloween on the brain. This is a one-stop shop for newer and used costume items, from wigs to boas to slutty Supergirl to super classy '60s maven a la Mad Men. There's also a fine selection of tuxedo components in the back of the store. Once October passes they make more room for off-season thrifties.

Always judge a thrift store by its odor, and you'll know the minute you walk into Moon Zoom (813 Pacific St., Santa Cruz; 831.423.8500) that you are in the presence of former attic and garage dwellers who've been given a second chance. A pronounced must presides over the old muumuus and puffy vests, but with a little extra effort and a trip to the laundromat on the way home, rest assured there's gold in them thar mountains. Plenty of old bowling bags suitable to be repurposed as handbags, not to mention lots of options for Halloween, plus racks broken into categories like "'80s Party," far more helpful than division by mere garment type.

The employees at Crossroads Trading Co. (811 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz; 831.458.0555) wield a very unique power over the people who come to sell their clothes. Anything that doesn't meet the store's strict guidelines is rejected, which not only makes you feel bad about the things you once deigned to wear, but haunts you with the memory of paying full retail. This is no dump-and-run operation. Each garment is carefully looked over and chosen for its condition, seasonality and label power. The benefits of that fastidiousness are passed on to the customers, who can peruse Crossroads' wide selection of designers jeans, shoes, shirts and dresses knowing that, like a good used car, their garments weren't overworked or undermaintained. There's also a small selection of moderately priced new clothing at the front of the house.

Salvation Army (812 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz; 831.429.8118) has one definite advantage over the other thrift stores: the Quality Loft. This is the first-class section of the two-story establishment, where only the crème de la crème goes for perusal. Though signs warn you to expect higher price tags, there are still many gems at rock-bottom prices--like a liquor decanter with a pirate ship engraved on it for a piddling $5.50. Downstairs there are still many worthy racks of clothing, plus large furniture items that make outfitting a house with your seven closest friends a snap.

Front Street Thrift (428 Front St., Santa Cruz; 831.457.0229) is the granddaddy of all thrift stores in that if you look long enough they probably have it. Donations are dropped off without much employee interference, and judging from the shelves' contents, most of it ends up stickered and put up for sale. Gently used deodorant stick? Soccer trophy from 2004 with someone else's name on it? Twenty-five ladies' blazers in the exact same shade of red? It's all here! But that also means you can find a mean bargain. Particularly spectacular is the selection of stemware and barware for retro sophistication. If you're looking to wipe the banal Ikea uniformity off your home, pick up a couple of cool antique lamps.

Goodwill offers a couple of handy options--the weekend Flea Market (2260 Soquel Dr., Santa Cruz; 831.462.4442) takes place at the old Skyview Drive-In every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. There are something like 350 to 400 sellers booths set up and selling everything under the sun--new and used, tools, furniture, produce, toys. There is a teensy admission fee, and they close up shop rather early in the afternoon, so set your alarm clocks for the best deals. Goodwill also operates the Santa Cruz shop (204 Union St., Santa Cruz; 831.423.1078), which makes for a great mattress outlet, in addition to offering well-organized thrift, with tons of clothes, furniture, and of course plenty of Halloween options.

Jessica Lussenhop

Clothing and furniture are readily available at 1947 prices for those who know where to look.

Vinyl Victorious
UCSC grad Nathan Goodman finds a treasure at the Bargain Outlet.
The gate opens, the bell rings and in rush scores of eager shoppers armed with heavy gloves and Hefty sacks, all intent on finding a better deal than the next person. Clothes, toys, books and knickknacks fly through the air as people jockey for position and dig furiously though bins of "junk" looking for that new coffee maker or summer dress.

It's 10am at the Bargain Outlet, formerly known as the Bargain Barn, and the chaos inside is not an isolated incident--it's an everyday thing.

Run by thrift store giant Goodwill, the Bargain Outlet offers insanely low prices on secondhand goods for anyone willing to roll up his or her sleeves. For $5, ambitious treasure hunters walk away with grocery bags full of dinnerware and hardback books; $10 buys couches and recliners and vinyl records go five for $5.

"If you don't mind digging, you'll find some very unique and interesting items, and besides, it's so cheap that why not buy it?" asks Amber Young, an artist and avid bargain hunter. "Sometimes there is a gross-out factor that you have to get over, but when you walk away with bags of stuff for a few dollars, it's totally worth it."

Huge tractor-trailers bring in daily loads of donated items that will eventually grace the shelves of Santa Cruz's' vast network of thrift stores. The Bargain Outlet operates as a kind of clearinghouse and sorting station for these items and allows community members the first crack at buying them. But while starving students and bric-a-brac connoisseurs are obviously drawn to the store, other people who make a living hoarding as much junk as they can find, then hawking them later at garage sales, antique stores and on eBay, make up the larger population of patrons.

Employees at the store are very friendly, especially given the barely controlled anarchy that explodes each morning when they open. "We see UCSC students come in and dive into clothes until half their body disappears," laughs Bargain Outlet worker Jay Bedford. "They always come out with big smiles, though!"

If higher priced items like televisions, computers and stereos are on offer, a daily auction is held at 10:30am. There, electronics typically go for $30 to $100.

This is not for the faint of heart; insults and scuffles occasionally break out, and since the stuff comes straight from donation bins, glass, wires and dirt mean you'd best exercise caution. But with a sturdy pair of gloves or a little patience and some hand soap, anyone can find treasures. Just ask Nathan Goodman, a UCSC graduate who has picked out Pink Floyd's Animals and 5th Dimension's Greatest Hits on Earth from a box hundreds of vinyl records.

"When I was at UCSC, this place was indispensable for art supplies," says Goodman. "And there aren't many places to find vinyl in Santa Cruz, and definitely nowhere to find it at these prices. Any student should know about this place."

BARGAIN OUTLET PRICES
Clothes
$1 per pound
Nonclothing items $5 per shopping bag
Larger items $5 each
Furniture $10 each
Records Five for $5
Exercise equipment $10

THE BARGAIN OUTLET, at 392 Pioneer St., Santa Cruz, is open 10am-3pm every day; 831.423.8611.

Curtis Cartier

In case cold beverage is required in the absence of sufficient funds, check day of the week and proceed accordingly.

Classes got you down? Homework piling up? Part-time job a bore? Humankind's oldest and truest friend can help you cope. And since daily drinking can be expensive, here's a seven-day schedule for undersize wallets and oversize livers.

Monday
Everyone hates Mondays. But you can choose to sulk or you can stop feeling sorry for yourself and get down to the Crepe Place. Santa Cruz's premier indie club and French pancake outlet runs "Movie Night" every Monday from 8 to 10:30pm. Screening laugh-out-loud comedies on the courtyard patio, the Crepe Place sweetens the deal with $5 Don Julio margaritas. Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. 831.429.6994.

Tuesday
Tuesdays occupy the strange void between the classically loathsome Mondays and the middle of the week, where you can start looking forward to the weekend--obviously a very disorienting phenomenon. El Palomar, downtown's one-stop taco-and-beer-and-margarita emporium, offers "College Night" every Tuesday from 5:30-9:30pm with $2 beers and $2 tacos. They're perfect for making sense of Tuesdays or just forgetting them altogether. El Palomar, 1336 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. 831.425.7575.

Wednesday
On Hump Day it's time to stop drinking out of desperate self-pity and start drinking to a job well done. After all, you've made it halfway though the week! The Blue Lagoon represents a rock-solid choice. On Wednesdays this gay bar-turned-everyday bar has got you covered with live bands, $3 Jack Daniels, $3 Jagermeister shots and free entertainment from the assorted weirdos who lurk around bar's entrance. Blue Lagoon, 923 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. 831.423.7117.

Thursday
Thirsty Thursdays are a venerable collegiate tradition. Strut over to Rosie McCann's Irish Pub for $3 to $5 microbrew, cocktail and shot specials and bring a student ID for buy-one-get-one-free burgers. Everyone knows the Irish for their, um, dancing habits, and on Thursdays, Shakie O'Booty, the best DJ west of the River Shannon (or someone like him), will drop beats all fecking night. Rosie McCann's, 1220 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. 4831.426.9930.

Friday
Fridays represent everything good and right in the world. And when 5pm rolls around and the endless opportunities of a new and pristine weekend beckon in your mind like an old lover returned--it's time to quit thinking like a pansy and get to the bar! It's happy hour at the Red Room and its chic upstairs cousin, the Red, from 4-7pm with $3 well drinks and craft brew pints. After that, you'll only have to buy a couple more before they throw you out! Red, 200 Locust St., Santa Cruz. 831.425.1913. Red Room, 1003 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. 831.426.2994.

Saturday
On Saturdays, bathe in the full glory of the weekend! Or just bathe. I mean, for God's sake, people ... dry off, then race to Johnny's Harborside Restaurant & Bar, where over brunch one can drain a pitcher of hangover-slaying Bloody Marys for $20 or single Marys for $4. Johnny's Harborside Restaurant & Bar, 493 Lake Ave., Santa Cruz. 831.479.3430.

Sunday
And on the seventh day he rested ... not you, God! Get out of bed, lazy! With happy hour all day on Sunday, stool your keister at the Parish Publick House for $3 drafts and half-price appetizers. Parish Publick House, 841 Almar Ave., Santa Cruz. 831.421.0507.

Curtis Cartier

Entertainment on a budget is easily obtained if one knows where to look.

There's always that one high-functioning alcoholic at school who drinks himself blind every single night and still pulls in A's. That kid sucks. For everyone else there's a mess of PG-13-rated fun that at least earns highest honors at FrugalU.

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Games of bocce ball are free every night except Sundays and on Ukulele Club night (which is worth cooling your pallinos for) at Bocci's Cellar (140 Encinal St., Santa Cruz; 831.427.1795). There's free music nearly every night and the stick-to-your-ribs fare is reasonably priced. Santa Cruz Roller Palladium (1606 Seabright Ave., Santa Cruz; 831.423.0844) is always a bargain at $6.50 a person, but roll for a buck cheaper during the afternoon. If wading through alternately shrieking and weeping children does not appeal, Wednesdays seem to draw a slightly more adult crowd. Boardwalk Bowl (115 Cliff St., Santa Cruz; 831.426.3324) is a steal on weekday afternoons from 2 to 6pm, and Monday and Tuesday after 9pm, when games are half-price. Though the rides will often be dark across the street at the Beach Boardwalk (400 Beach St., Santa Cruz; 831.423.5590), a fistful of quarters will get a few rounds of Dance Dance Revolution or pinball, and admission to Laser Tag is $5. Pool sharks and barflies make a beautiful din together Sunday through Tuesday at Catalyst Nightclub (1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz; 831.423.1338) when bar patrons rack 'em up for free. The deal is up to Lady Luck at Ocean View Card Room (709 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz; 831.423.6257), which runs weekly poker tournaments and casual pickup games that don't end until players are either broke or exhausted. There's not a cocktail waitress in sight--this place is no muss, no fuss, just cards. The Del Mar Theatre (1124 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz; 831.469.3220) runs Midnights at the Del Mar every Friday and Saturday. Come witching hour, ticket prices drop to $6.50, and the pick of the week is always some much-loved blast from the past. Guerilla Drive-In is still fighting the Friday-night fight against $9 movie tickets and $7 popcorn with free movies in open, abandoned and/or ignored spaces all over town. Keep an eye on the website (www.guerilladrivein.org) for times and locales, and come packing blankets, chairs and treats. A bevy of skills ranging from useful to useless can be found on the Free Skool Santa Cruz calendar, with most classes and events offered gratis. Learn to puppeteer, learn to shoot, learn to ropewalk, learn to moonshine. Up-to-date schedule with sign-up and locations available on the website (http://santacruz.free skool.org).

Jessica Lussenhop

For those about to rock, find the nearest live music venue and take shelter there until the urge passes.

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Blue Lagoon The Blue Lagoon made a name for itself as one of the first gay-friendly bars in town. Since then it's become a haven for anyone who rallies around cheap drinks, hard rock and open minds. 923 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. 831.423.7117.

Catalyst The iconic Santa Cruz rock venue the Catalyst has been around since 1968 and attracts some big names in rock, hip-hop and reggae. Offering free live shows from local bands during the week, a 5,000-square-foot dance floor and some great drink specials, the Catalyst has a little something for everyone. 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. 831.423.1336.

Cayuga Vault Small on size but big on ambition, Cayuga Vault attracts some of the most peculiar and original musicians on tour today. From Tuvan throat singers to burlesque comedy shows, this venue digs deeper than anywhere else for the odd and interesting. 1100 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. 831.421.9471.

Civic Auditorium Opened in 1940, the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium is used for everything from AA rallies and art shows to educational lectures and rock concerts. And with 8,600 square feet of usable space, this is the most versatile venue in town. 307 Church St., Santa Cruz. 831.420.5240.

Crepe Place Not only does the Crepe Place offer killer crepes till midnight or later and have a beautiful patio where movies screen every Monday, but as the local hot spot for indie and progressive rock music, it showcases plenty of underground talent you won't see anywhere else. 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. 831.429.6994.

Don Quixote's A beloved locals' hangout since it started offering live music a few years ago, Don Quixote's offers a steady diet of enchiladas, margaritas and quality Americana music, with some world beat, Hawaiian and bluegrass thrown in for good measure. 6275 Highway 9, Felton. 831.603.2294.

Kuumbwa Jazz Center Closely associated with the Monterey Jazz Festival, this tiny venue draws world-class jazz acts (Roy Hargrove, Joshua Redman, Nels Cline) and occasional stars of Americana such as Fred Eaglesmith. A small kitchen serves light dinner fare and the bar pours beer and wine. 320-2 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. 831.427.2227.

Moe's Alley Californians love their hip-hop and reggae, and as Santa Cruz's flagship hip-hop and world beat venue, Moe's Alley has a lot to live up to. Fortunately, with a stellar sound system and an intimate atmosphere, this lounge-style club delivers all the goods. 1535 Commercial Way, Santa Cruz. 831.479.1854.

Rio Theatre When big bands hit Santa Cruz, they often play the Rio. Opened in 1949, this 938-seat theater features old-school stylings and cutting-edge talent along with a solid sound system and great views from every seat. 1205 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. 831.429.1812.

Curtis Cartier

Do not attempt to go to sleep on an empty stomach.

Dining late is an experience all its own. From interesting characters to questionable fare, once the clock strikes midnight, finding food can be an adventure fraught with danger but worth every effort. Here's a guide to finding eats in the wee hours.

Capitola Grille Capitola's only late-night restaurant offers American food and serves breakfast all day. Daily until 10pm; Friday-Saturday until midnight. 1900 41st Ave., Capitola. 831.462.1504.

The Crepe Place Indie rock and flapjacks made in the Gallic manner--obviously a match made in heaven. Weekdays until midnight; Friday-Saturday until 1am. 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. 831.429.6994.

Denny's When all else fails and all other doors close, there's always good old Denny's. Open 24 hours every day. 1515 Ocean St., Santa Cruz. 831.426.4628.

The Food Bin This vegan and vegetarian supermarket specializes in organic food and is open till midnight for late-night cruelty-free munchies, though you have to heat it up yourself or eat at room temp. Daily until midnight. 1130 Mission St., Santa Cruz. 831.423.5526.

99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall More beer than you can drink and more calories than you can burn--a must visit for all beer and burger fans. Appetizers daily until midnight. 110 Walnut St., Santa Cruz. 831.459.9999.

Red Fancy cocktails, Belgian beers, chic appetizers till late and beautiful people all make the Red a Santa Cruz favorite. Kitchen open daily until 1am. 200 Locust St., Santa Cruz. 831.425.1913.

Saturn Cafe Diner food always tastes better after midnight, and this joint's open till 3am every day. 145 Laurel St., Santa Cruz. 831.429.8505.

Pizza My Heart Santa Cruz's favorite late-night pizza joint, featuring slice deals and fresh salads. Sunday-Thursday until midnight; Friday until 2am; Saturday until 1:30am. 1116 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. 831.426.2511.

Tampico Restaurant and Bar A step up from any roadside taqueria, with great appetizers and good prices. Appetizers until 1:30am every day. 822 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 831.458.0126.

Curtis Cartier

Do not attempt to leave your dwelling in search of food if experiencing dizziness, euphoria or bouts of uncontrollable laughter.

For reasons that remain mysterious to us, delivery options are few and far between in Santa Cruz. But they do include a few gems, presented herewith. And please remember to tip. Once that liberal arts degree is procured, it could be you in the funny hat at the door.

Nite Owl Cookies From 9pm to 1:30am every night except Tuesday, they'll deliver fresh-baked cookies ($1.25 apiece), cold organic or soy milk, iced coffee by Firefly and homemade ice cream cookies. Minimum order: $10. 831.423.NITE.

Peking Restaurant Chow mein, lemon chicken and spring rolls ... what's not to like? 831.475.9234.

Pizza My Heart The famous Santa Cruz pizzeria delivers luscious pies and generous salads. Eat those greens, kids. 831.426.2511.

Upper Crust Pizza The Westside eatery delivers pasta, hot sandwiches and unusual square Sicilian-style pizzas. 831.423.9010.

Woodstock Pizza The "Dorm deal" is $12.99 for a large one-topping pizza, at residence halls only. Salads are also available. 831.427.4444.

Traci Hukill

If in need of shelter, consult an online listing service, then proceed with extreme caution.

By now most students have apartments. How do I know? Because I don't have an apartment. The people I've talked to--landlords, bar flies, stricken apartment-seekers like myself--blame it on the massive influx of students. Apparently, they've got the lot of them. It wasn't so long ago that I was a college student, driving up rent prices with my parents' paychecks. However, I've realized that there is a secret language particular to the listings on Craigslist Santa Cruz, the go-to real estate guide for those of us who are at least trying not to have to eat out of the garbage in order to make rent. Let's define our terms.

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Grandma units/Detached studios If you were ever a fan of the Boxcar Kids, perhaps these slender digs will charm the pants off of you. For others, a spirited and daily bout of hyperventilation is more likely. If I stuck my grandma back there I could probably be charged with elder abuse, so trying my hardest to imagine myself being happy there--and I really, really tried given these are the most inexpensive single-occupancy places in town--feels a little bit like dying.

Detached room Sometimes this means garage. For realsies. Beware.

No couples No sex. Remember when your pants got charmed off, Boxcar Sally? Put 'em right back on or face eviction. In this most liberal of hippie enclaves, free love ain't so free when you're taking a room in someone else's home or in a unit in their back yard. If you're totting some anonymous, screaming-drunk frat brother home for two minutes of futile manhandling that's one thing, but in some cases not even a long-term, and drug- and disease-free partner is welcomed by landlords. But you can toke up all you like.

$575 1Bd/1Ba Scam. There are an astounding number of scams, not that any of them work very well. You know what they say, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn't really some preacher who had to move to Nigeria to convert the heathens and wash the feet of the sick, and you probably aren't going to meet his wife to get the keys right after you send a sumptuous cashier's check, and those suspiciously prim thumbnail photographs that look like they've been lifted from the Sears furniture catalog probably aren't really what the phantom apartment looks like inside. Similarly, signing up for a free credit report on a website suggested by the "landlord" that looks like it was done in crayon is highly inadvisable as well.

Free rent for the ladies There used to be a guy who posted every day, promising free rent to an attractive woman who'd cook, clean and massage him when he got home from work, and now it's disappeared. Did he finally find a taker? Did he give up? Was he arrested? Do report back, poster. Perhaps turning the clock back 100 years on women's rights is the way to go to get housing in this town.

Jessica Lussenhop

Good health and hygiene are critical to surviving the academic year.

Not everyone will immediately be challenged to a beard-growing contest. Good thing it's easy to get coiffed and polished for less than you might think, not to mention kneaded, waxed, airbrushed--everything you need to keep your hometown friends from thinking you look rundown and fat on your Facebook photos. But you just might have to have a little faith.

The students at Shoreline School of Cosmetology (189 Walnut Ave., Santa Cruz; 831.423.5806) can perform a long list of services for dirt cheap, and even if they seem a little green, all of their work is overseen by instructors with 15 to 30 years of experience. On the safer side of the menu, manicures are $7 and pedicures are $13. For the slightly bolder or slightly broker, a simple haircut is a measly $8 and coloring services start at $12. The evening aesthetician program translates into 30-minute facials for $20, and for the saintly souls who are willing to donate their bodies to cosmetology--yes, they do waxing. You'll pay a discount price to be beautiful. Students get an extra 20 percent off with a student's coupon available at the school.

At Five Branches Institute (200 Seventh Ave., Santa Cruz; 831.476.8211) a full massage experience is only $35 with a senior intern, once again under the watchful eye of a licensed professional. If you want top-notch quality with an extra dose of exhibitionism, it's possible to book massages with a faculty member who'll do the rubdown in front of a small class. All students get an extra 10 percent off services with ID.

The acupuncturists at Grassroots Acupuncture Project (1414 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz; 831.421.0531) are seasoned professionals who donate their time to making alternative heath care affordable. Though it sounds counterintuitive, letting someone poke you with needles after a long day of classes is incredibly relaxing. Plus you'll be in very capable hands, though the lower fees do mean that instead of private treatment rooms, you'll be lounging alongside other porcupine patients. You can go under the needle for $18-$40, depending on your own self-reported income. (They go by the honor system, so be good.) The acupuncturists also do cupping and Gua Sha, a skin-scraping technique done with spoons. Call ahead, the sporadic hours and bargain-basement rates mean they're very busy.

If a simple trim and style is nowhere near enough to get your ego pounding on all six cylinders, Tonic Salon & Spa (765 Cedar St., Santa Cruz; 831.426.4311) offers upscale services for less on student discount Wednesdays. In addition to discounting their haircuts, the stylists will knock off a sizeable chunk of change on hair extensions, eyelash extensions, massages, peels and airbrush tans. You can also bleach the hell out of your teeth in three discounted treatments, for that rush week Chiclet smile. Just don't leave home without your ID.

To shed some pounds or just blow off some steam, Parks and Rec (831.420.5270) has got the prescription on the cheap. Sign up for some low-cost fitness and relaxation classes like cardio kickboxing, climbing, meditation, yoga and qi-gong held at many of the local parks and recreation centers. Check out a full list of classes, fees and registration requirements at the Parks and Rec website (www.santacruzparksandrec.com).

Jessica Lussenhop


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