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Moe Bettah: Sidewalk guitarist Moe says Santa Cruz's eclectic street music scene suits him just fine.

Nüz

No Way, San Jose

Would you take your act to San Jose?

Nüz asked this question to street performers on Pacific Avenue last week, after learning the city of San Jose is looking for ways to liven up its redeveloped downtown, which reportedly remains deader than a dotcom startup.

"Not really," said a guitarist named Moe, who was singing the Beatles' "A Day in the Life" barefoot between New Leaf market and the newly renovated Theatre Del Mar, whose neon-lit marquee now illuminates the so-called "hippie planter" at night.

A former San Jose resident, Moe described as "excellent" the classical selections that New Leaf has been piping (in a move worthy of Mars Attacks meets Wagner's Ring Trilogy ) at what detractors call the "Trustafarians" gathered outside its doors.

In fact, Moe claimed that Santa Cruz is getting better as a street performance space, "because more and more people are flocking here from Montana and Oregon; but I don't think I'll be staying around long, because we've got Rainbow gatherings planned in Florida and Wisconsin."

Adding that "right now two stores--Sushi Now! and Ali Baba Cafe--are trying to take over the sidewalk, so we're gonna have to move from here anyway," Moe said he prefers Santa Cruz to San Jose, "because here you have more performers and more variety, like world music, drumming circles--and didgeridoos."

Indeed, sitting on the nearby hippie planter wearing a leopard-spotted vest was a spiky-haired didgeridoo player, riffing it up on a length of PVC pipe.

The piper, who identified himself (with an accompanying wildcat roar) as Cougar (because "I lived with one for three days in a cave in the Ozarks"), said he was playing a PVC pipe in Santa Cruz because "I don't have enough money to go to Australia. And even if I did, I wouldn't have enough to buy a real didgeridoo."

Asked how he got to California from the Ozarks, Cougar showed Nüz a thumb, which he inverted when asked if he would consider playing San Jose.

Meanwhile, Pixie, a young singer and guitar player from New York, expounded more fully on her--albeit secondhand-- objections to SJ.

"I've heard it's hard-core and violent," said Pixie, who came to Santa Cruz because people "ranted and raved about it," but doesn't altogether like what she found.

"If you can see beyond Santa Cruz's storefronts and money, you see lots of class segregation. It's only the people who have money whose opinions count," said Pixie, who believes that complaints about "us feeding pigeons, playing hackeysack and sitting on the planters" are "unreasonable."

Asked where street performers can congregate unharassed in New York, Pixie said, "Greenwich Village and Thompson Park, though it's getting hard-core these days with lots of drug users, needles and dirty rigs."

Outside Borders, guitarist Cosmic Chris took a break from crooning "Pretty Woman" to give SJ the thumbs down.

"It's too noisy and dirty. The homeless are in bad shape. And there's lot of alcoholism," said Cosmic Chris. "A big reason why musicians play on the streets is they don't want to do the bar thing with alcohol."

At the arched and gated Cooper House walkway, a leather-hatted ponytailed Dove paused from trilling his alto recorder to say there were lots of reasons for not going to San Jose.

"Starting with it being a tough enough location before the economy collapsed," said Dove, who doesn't consider himself a street performer, though he was playing on Pacific.

"I'm sitting here because of the architectural splendor of this building where music can sound up and down the vaultlike walls. I'm just practicing on this recorder, which is easy to carry around,

unlike the cello, which is what I play professionally," explained Dove, breaking into a snatch of Bach's Fourth Suite for solo cello.

Asked if the streets of Santa Cruz are a friendly venue, Dove said he gets a lot of positive input.

"The hall monitors, which is what we call the people patrolling with or without guns, have been respectful, and no one has unlawfully coerced me," said Dove. "However, the public forums in which people can gather and discuss reality have evaporated."

Noting, "Personally, I can play renaissance music or gypsy songs while riding a unicycle, as I've been lucky to get off the treadmill," Dove complained that "if you gather in a crowd, anti-loitering ordinances are invoked which are demonstrably unconstitutional."

But Dove isn't interested in playing at the hippie planter, which he alleges is a front for drug dealing.

"You have a merchant class walking around under the guise of freedom of expression, when really they are selling chemical enhancement," said Dove, who claimed he's been propositioned with "bud, meth and other not so good things" when he walks by. But he doesn't advocate clearing the streets or shipping performers to San Jose.

"What this town needs is a plaza, a nice open area, but where people are not allowed to sleep," said Dove, who suggested creating a campground outside the city "where the homeless can chill." Pointing out that since Sept. 11 "business has been doing badly overall, but prostitution, drugs and entertainment have thrived, as they always do in hard times," Dove noted that "nurturing Santa Cruz's musicians and entertainers is a good idea right now."

Rave Reviews

California ravers can reinstall their Vick's masks, at least for now: the twin anti-Ecstasy bills (SB 1103 and AB 1416) took big hits in the California Assembly and Senate Public Safety Committees last month, though Ecstasy now ranks behind only alcohol and marijuana among teenage drug users nationwide--and has been shown in laboratory animals to alter the brain's serotonin levels, impair memory and cause psychotic behavior.

The bills proposed reclassifying the drug, a.k.a. 3-4 methylenedioxymethamphetamine, or MDMA, within Schedule 1 of the state controlled-substances law and imposing a mandatory 90-day stint in jail for anyone caught under the influence or in possession of MDMA. Both were purportedly in response to police requests for more effective tools to discourage teen drug use.

State Senator Bruce McPherson voted in favor of SB 1103, but the bill died in a 3-2 vote opposing the new legislation, while AB 1416 was sharply amended to exclude the minimum 90-day jail sentence.

MDMA users would have been less than ecstatic had the bills become law. Deemed lacking in safe medical applications and having a high potential for abuse, Schedule 1 drugs carry the most stringent regulations and the stiffest penalties. With MDMA already classified as Schedule 1 under federal law, the state law would have made it easier for prosecutors to get convictions locally.

Critics of the bills assert that since crimes involving MDMA already carry the same stiff penalties as Schedule 1 drugs, the new legislation won't discourage drug use, but will eliminate possibilities of medical research. They also claim that a mandatory 90-day jail sentence would have created serious health risks, with users less likely to contact emergency services in the event of an overdose and dealers less likely to sell the real thing.

Meanwhile, youth involved in the local E-scene scoff at the new laws.

"Eating E is more of a communal, feel-good thing. It's not like you're going to go out and kill people when you're on it. It's embarrassing to have the DEA in this country use all of this much-needed federal money to combat young teens to mid-30-year-olds who do recreational drugs," said one youth who preferred to remain anonymous. And when it comes to having a good time, party-goers are fearless. Said one, "I don't think it will affect the parties too much. LSD is still widely available, and that's what, a life sentence?"

They suggest that a better way to combat Ecstasy would be to raise awareness of the drug's adverse effects, which would have the added benefit of potentially reducing the number of young ravers suffering from itchy scalps--another reported side effect so far not noted among lab rats.

Valentine Nots

Sex chart keeper Lish Daelnar (Nüz, Jan. 9) says that on the first version of her chart, she was linked to "aoxomoxoa, pip, 8ball, murmur, Dcheese, jamesy, turbo, spirit, & mogul" and "NOT beastie, oodles or fatslayer," as previously reported in Nüz.

Daelnar also doesn't know "where people keep getting this 46K size of the chart. It actually weighs in around 89K. Even if you remove all the text except for the chart itself, it's still 64K. "

As for Drew Barrymore, Daelnar noted that "she IS on the chart, as linked to Courtney Love. The all-caps denotes the true 'famous' people."

As regards keeping names vague, Daelnar says she doesn't "link anyone to their photos or real names or websites or anything [in order] to avoid a lawsuit, not because I'm unsure about who's who. Fact is, I know most of the people on the chart at least through email and can generally tell you SOMETHING about any person--what his hobbies are or where he lives, stuff like that."

Gotcha Lish. Happy Valentine's.

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From the February 13-20, 2002 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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