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Critics' Choice Awards

[whitespace] cherry blossoms
George Sakkestad

Best Harbinger of Spring:
Cherry/Plum Blossoms

It's been another lo-o-o-n-n-ng, wet winter, interspersed with sheets of ice on the windshield in the mornings. Just about the time that soft breezes, Hawaiian shirts and flip-flops recede into distant memory, out pop the first little buds on the cherry and plum trees. Within a week, a gorgeous canopy of pink lines the sides of country and suburban roads, from Old San Jose Road to the lawns outside the UCSC library. The weather still sucks, but those blossoms remind us that winter won't last forever.
Kelly Luker


Best Olfactory Sensation:
Lavender Hand Soap at the Nick

Lusciously sweet-smelling, talcy and light--is it a field of wild lavender? No, the Nickelodeon Theater's women's bathroom. From inside an ordinary wall dispenser squishes the most wonderful hand soap in the county. Pale and creamy, it leaves your hands lightly scented for hours--or until you must wash hands again. For curious types, the Nick staff says the soap is Pure & Natural from Coast Paper Supply; unfortunately, it's only available in bulk. Sigh.
Karen Reardanz


Best Place for Older Lovin':
Jeffrey's Restaurant Santa Cruz

Now that vaudeville nights at King's Table have waved bye-bye, Jeffrey's seems to be the new hot spot for active seniors to strut their stuff. I don't know who this Jeffrey character is, but the over-60 crowd flocks to him like Doris Day to an earache. After the ladies get their hair impeccably styled down the street from the Soquel Avenue and Capitola Road eatery, they inevitably make their way to Jeffrey's and slyly exchange goo-goo eyes with the well-dressed senior bachelors. Cupid is definitely floating over the sea of California omelets and Jabba-size biscuits. I asked my Uncle Gus why he goes to Jeffrey's, and he said, while jotting down his phone number on a napkin for Mabel: "Because the girls, like the pancakes, are golden." I guess I've always had a little thing for Bea Arthur too.
Matt Koumaras


Best Movers and Shakers Party:
Christmas Shindig at Biggam Christensen & Minsloff

We don't usually think of attorneys and politicians as party animals, but each year for the past 20-plus years, the law firm of Biggam Christensen & Minsloff, which contracts with the county to serve as the public defender, has hosted a no-holds-barred, throw-away-the-tie holiday bash. The best part is, the cops refrain from busting the joint--since some of them are there partying too. Last year's affair was a bit strange, with the politicking over former District Attorney Art Danner's judgeship and the impending choice of a new DA making for some weird party dynamics. And next year's will come just three months before a special election for both jobs. We promise to check our notebooks at the door.
John Yewell


Best Reason to Join a Monastery:
Regan Parker's "SWF"

Every other Friday, the office gathers 'round the Sentinel's Spotlight for another valuable lesson in male-female relationships, courtesy of Regan Parker's "SWF" column. So far, we have learned that men are cheap, rude, shallow and rudderless. Women are not. Author Parker has managed to cram into her very few years of dating experience enough bitterness, bile and rage against the opposite sex to put those of us who've been working on it for 20 years to shame. We agree--men are cheap, rude, shallow and rudderless, but c'mon, you've gotta find a sense of humor in this sorry fact of life. Lighten up, girlfriend, and hand 'em back their cojones once in a while.
Kelly Luker


Best Confidential Source:
????

Our best source is informed, always takes our calls, knows the difference between "off the record" and "not for attribution." Our source understands that his interests and those of the press often do not correspond, so that when journalistic obligation compels us to write something against our source's interests, he is understanding and professional about it. He is thick-skinned and can take a joke as well as give one. He shares his knowledge freely, believes fiercely in the public's right to know and provides other leads to help us get the story straight. And he knows we'd go to jail rather than reveal his identity. So, naturally, we can't name him. Or is it her?
John Yewell


Sno-White Drive In
George Sakkestad

Lisa Tkoch and daughter Haley (age three) enjoy a chocolate-dipped ice cream cone at the Snow White Drive-In.

Best Sentimental Journey:
Sno-White Drive In

With its glowing Happy Days-meets-The Jetsons sign, Aptos' Sno-White Drive In beckons Seacliff Beach tourists and locals alike. The menu offers slices of classic Americana perfect for a sentimental journey--burgers and fries, onion rings, chunky malts, even apple fritters. Still, nothing compares to the guaranteed comfort of one of Sno-White's chocolate-dipped cones. For the full experience, slide into one of the tiny bright booths and savor the crunchy coating and smooth swirl of ice cream while watching the widest range of clientele assembled in Santa Cruz County. Throw in the espresso maker--the only hint that the '50s have ended--and it's clearly a flashback way ahead of its time.
Mary Spicuzza


Best Reason to Break Down:
Ocean Blue Towing

Tow-truck guy Kurt Feinberg has his priorities in order. First (or else second) comes his faith, closely followed (or barely superseded) by his passion for windsurfing. And after that (or maybe before all) comes music. Well, he knows his priorities, anyway, and altogether they have created a climate in which Feinberg's company, Ocean Blue Towing, can thrive. Why do we care? Feinberg charges only $25 to haul breakdowns anywhere in Santa Cruz. He tows donated cars for free, then he gives half his profit away to the Jewish Learning Center. "Spirituality's real important to me," says Feinberg, a self-described Torah Jew. "That's what the windsurfing and the music are all about." Feinberg's one-man operation allows him the freedom to commune with the Muse and Mother Nature as well as do his part for humanity, and we reap the benefits right when we most need it--after the fan belt's snapped and before the mechanic starts laughing. He can be reached at 831.462.6305.
Traci Hukill


Best Bar in a Fitness Club:
Cabrillo Fitness

My friends are amazed at the amount of time I've spent since the first of the year at the Cabrillo Fitness Club. When I made my resolution to become Lucy Lawless with a buzz cut, I told no lies. In addition to an ample supply of Odwalla juices and imported bottled water, Cabrillo Fitness offers a fine beer selection, including a mighty pale ale. My strict fitness routine now goes accordingly: Lifecycle, 10 minutes; beer, 20 minutes; restroom, two minutes; beer, 30 minutes--I am already seeing definite results. I always dreamt of having a six-pack for a stomach, and in some ways I'm getting what I wanted.
Matt Koumaras


receptionist
George Sakkestad

Best Receptionist:
Patsy McPartland

When you call or visit your county supervisor, the first person you are likely to talk to is Patsy McPartland. Positioned at the fifth-floor entrance to the supervisors' chambers in the County Government Building, Patsy patrols the front lines. Working in that job, a person could easily become surly and unpleasant. Patsy is anything but. How many times have we called, desperate, deadline approaching, and been completely charmed and disarmed by Patsy's eternally cheerful voice? She takes messages, tracks folks down when possible and even shares doughnuts with passersby. Despite being the first to get an earful from angry constituents, Patsy remains friendly and helpful. For this she merits more than a Goldie: she deserves a Purple Heart.
John Yewell


Best Preteen Hookup Spot:
The Rink, Scotts Valley

Do you know what your kids are doing at the roller rink? Talk about a scene. Preteen scene, that is. The Rink in Scotts Valley is a great place to relive the angst of those years. Among whispers of "Does he like me?" watch the young-uns make their moves. Parents, beware: you may not want to see your 8-year-old acting like a teenager or your 11-year-old stealing a kiss (like they do on TV). Even the DJ has groupies. All in all, roller-skating is plenty wholesome, but when the parents are away--well, you know.
Morgan Pershing


Best New Logo:
Saturn Cafe

Many a tear was shed when the Saturn Cafe went up in flames a few months ago. Immediately wishing to memorialize the event, or perhaps displaying a twisted sense of humor, the owners each got a tattoo of the planet Saturn with flames shooting out of it. After some debate about the cafe's fate, the owners rallied. Out of the ashes sprang a new logo mirroring the design of the tattoo, which can be seen hanging in the window of their new locale at Pacific and Laurel. If you can't laugh at your own misfortune, how can you laugh at anyone else's? Morgan Pershing


Best Happy Hunting Grounds:
Skyview Drive-in Flea Market

When Santa Cruzans clean out their garages, the results can be wondrous. Thus, the Flea Market. A mere $1.50 guarantees hours of amusement--plus, you may find a treasure you didn't know you needed. The Flea offers up sports equipment, musical instruments, home electronics, house plants, furniture and fresh produce, as well as unclassifiable detritus. For a buck, I once bought a book of maps detailing the pronunciation of common phrases used in New England farm households--it was the damnedest thing I'd ever seen. Even if there isn't anything to buy, the entertainment factor is high. A sunny weekend will bring out a cross-section of the county, from Mexican families in their Sunday best to tie-dyed neo-hippies to multi-pierced Goths, all of them pretending to be steely-eyed hagglers.
Marty Stevens


Best Place to Get Your Heartstrings Tugged:
SPCA

There are few images that pluck those imaginary violin strings faster than the sad eyes of a lonely dog or kitty staring out from a cage at the animal shelter. The local SPCA is brimming with homeless animals--from domestic house pets to the random stray chicken, goat, even ferret--that deserve the animal-land joy of an owner who doles out love, kisses and belly scratches (not to mention regular vaccines). And the sheer thought of the possible fate of these lovable little critters is enough to make you want to grab all your arms can carry and run for the hills. If nothing else, it's more than enough incentive to get the furry creatures you do own spayed or neutered.
Karen Reardanz


Sweetest-Sounding Airwaves:
KHDC-90.9FM

I couldn't believe my luck when, idly swiveling the radio dial one day, I encountered the enchanting strains of slack key guitar. Since then, I never stray far from the radio during the "Music of Hawai'i" (every Sunday, 2-8pm and, starting March 27, also 11am-noon). Regular DJs Auntie Nora, Brickwood B and Lokelani choose from their own personal collections of CDs, cassettes and old records, and they're delighted to bring some aloha to area Hawai'ians and Hawai'ians-at-heart. For dedications and requests, call 831.758.KHDC. One recent Sunday, I basked in the sounds of the legendary Gabby Pahinui, ukulele virtuoso Eddie Kamae, the late, great Izzy Kamakawiwo'ole and many others. It's a trip to the islands for the ears and the soul.
Tai Moses


Best Agility Test:
Ping-Pong at the Red Room

Forget about yoga and tai chi, Ping-Pong at the Red Room gets those muscles warm and limbered up just as well as any New Age stretching method. Strategically nestled in the far reaches of the downtown Santa Cruz bar, this Ping-Pong table is used both by those skilled at it and--unfortunately for those seated in close proximity--by those who royally suck. There's just barely enough space between tables, booths and bodies for the table and its players, but shots requiring any sort of free-range movement are met with reckless reaching, scooting and ducking. Ping-Pong casualties escalate as inebriates fall victim to an out-of-control ball or a wayward paddle.
Karen Reardanz


Best Pacific Avenue Sculpture:
Bronze of Tom Scribner

Tom Scribner was a living icon in Santa Cruz for years. No one who heard him play the saw on the Mall two decades ago will ever forget the soaring beauty and grace of his music. Scribner was also an old Wobbly--a member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) with decidedly left-leaning politics--so the installation of the sculpture was controversial. We are glad it's there. Every time we pass that bronze outside Bookshop Santa Cruz, his music seems to waft through the air. Anyone wishing to be reminded of it should go to the video store and rent One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Scribner plays the saw in the movie's haunting score.
John Yewell


grocer
George Sakkestad

"Smilin" Pete greets all at the California Market.

Best Corner Grocer:
Pete From California Market

In many a corporate conference room, marketing geniuses have decided that megastores need to recapture that neighborhood feel. Smiling Pete, owner of California Market in the Circles, could've saved them thousands in consulting fees. From behind his counter in the classic store, an 1890s landmark, Pete gets to know his customers--from their favorite candy bars to their alcoholic beverages of choice. He recounts tales of his days in the Navy and advises young women about the importance of self-defense. Lovable Pete needn't worry about recapturing the neighborhood market feel. He's had it all along.
Mary Spicuzza


Best Reason to Sit in Your Car:
Skyview Drive-In

We're talking volume control, climate control, adjustable seating and so much more, all while enjoying a movie on the big screen. Forget the stadium seating, irritating neighbors and high-priced foodstuffs and tickets, and enjoy the cinematic experience from the comforts of your own car. You can talk if you want, smoke if you do, honk your horn when the flick goes out of focus and perhaps catch a beautiful sunset if your watch is fast. Everything that's bad about a movie theater is good at the drive-in.
Morgan Pershing


Best Place to See Weekend Warriors:
Roller Hockey at Mike Fox Park

I've been drilled between the eyes once, slashed in the face three times and stabbed with my own stick at least a dozen times. Still, as our commitment to idiocy, my fellow "pimps for the puck" and I refuse to don decent protective gear. It's called a pick-up game because somebody's always picking up their friend's finger, eyeball, spleen, etc. I thought I established the court's bloodletting record, but that distinction goes to Robert, who has been injured for the last 56 Saturdays--not to mention incurring the sport's only known beheading.
Matt Koumaras


Best Place to Get a French Fix:
Maison Julie

Alors, it is printemps and le coeur aches for a stroll along the Left Bank, a demitasse of café by the Champs Elysses, a glimpse of the Mona Lisa in the Louvre. But the old country, it is too far away. Pas de problem. Drop on in to Maison Julie, a little outpost of Francophilism in Capitola. The strains of accordion music blend with the soft French accents of staff and expats in the tiny store that carries miel from Provence, chocolat from Paris and resources on childhood friends Babar, Tin-Tin and Madeline. Nothing's cheap, but then neither is France.
Kelly Luker


Best Place to Equip a Religious Cult:
Safeway

Everything you need from raw meat to 12-hour votive candles is within reach at this one-stop shop for sacred paraphernalia. For Druidic-leaning zealots, Safeway sells fresh bay leaves that can be stitched up into nifty headgear. The supermarket also carries votive candles and glass holders, including the beautiful ones embossed with images of the Sacred Heart, Virgin of Guadalupe and other spiritual superstars. Do-it-yourself priests and priestesses can find all the equipment needed for conducting impromptu Mass on the bread shelves and, of course, in the wine section. But why be tied to any pre-existing liturgy? Get creative! Make your own cult rituals with goodies from the balloon section, the doughnut counter and the wall of condoms. Or just stock up on grape Kool-Aid. It's up to you.
Marlow de Ville


swing
George Sakkestad

Don't Let Go: Marcus Kellum teaches Sarah Mendel how to swing.

Best Place to Learn to Swing Dance:
Monday Nights at the Ugly Mug

I can't even get a decent swinging motion off the old swing set. So when I got conned into swing dancing (i.e., the "new girlfriend" factor), terror visited me from head to toe. But something strange happened within the cozy confines of this coffee shop. Maybe it was the Brian seltzer water I drank. Maybe it was the low-key atmosphere and the wisecracks from swing-instructing daddy Marcus. I somehow became the third piece in the Kevin Bacon-Patrick Swayze dancing triumvirate. Each session kicks off with basic turn patterns and gradually expands to trickier West Coast moves like the "Cherry Bomb." The lessons are also all-ages, the way things oughta be. I still suffer from "spaghetti arms," but my partner and I have officially blossomed into "swing babies."
Matt Koumaras


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From the March 24-31, 1999 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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