[the Goldies: Best of Santa Cruz 1998

[ 'Best of' Index | Metro Santa Cruz | MetroActive Central | Archives ]

Staff Picks - People and Places

[whitespace] Best Pseudo-Pagan Monument
Pogonip Mystery Rocks

On the Pogonip trail that parallels Spring Street, just after it heads into the woods, is an idyllic clearing faced by granite cliffs. Nestled into this sacred spot is an evolving earthwork created of handy granite boulders. Each week, the rocks are formed--by unseen acolytes--into serpentine or linear or even graphic shapes. Last winter, the boulders intoned the mysterious announcement--"I Love Howey." Two weeks ago, the rough stones had been sculpted into a triple-decker circle around a firepit. Is this a shrine to the sprites of the forest or to the resident coyote shaman who guards this overlook? Perhaps the spirits of the ancient Ohlone who once hunted here maintain this enigmatically evolving monument. For those who hike this particular stretch of the golden west, the rocks offer a continuous koan, a memento of a time before bureaucracy when the woods were full of gods.
Christina Waters

Pacific Avenue

Best Street for Cats in Hats
Pacific Avenue

Step out onto downtown Santa Cruz's main drag any time of day or night and you're guaranteed to see some of the nation's most original hats looping along atop some of Santa Cruz' most eccentric cats. Renaissance types in velvet berets, Rastas in knitted caps, the occasional wannabe Viking in battle regalia, packs of lycra-clad cyclists in aerodynamic helmets--they all beat that same well-worn path between the Town Clock and the sea. And then, of course, there are always straw Panamas, baseball caps and the odd jester hood in the 'hood. Why such inspired and varied toppings for our already multiflavored, multilayered, multicultural citizens? Is it a case of cold ears and high winds combined with nonstop bad hair days (blame that on the ocean fog)? Or is it part of the Santa Cruz drive to be different that afflicts some of us all the way from our toes to our heads?
Sarah Phelan

Best Doors of Perception
Togos in Downtown Santa Cruz

Even chain stores in Santa Cruz have to be a little bit different. When famous local poet Adrienne Rich wrote her poem "The Fact of a Doorframe," she just may have been inspired by this downtown Santa Cruz sandwich shop's curious architecture. Sure as shootin', Togos has a typical door meant for entry just like any other room, but when the store is conducting biz, the walls surrounding that door vanish. What's left is a curious airborne arch serving as a Hellenistic-inspired threshold into the world of submarine sammies. Aldous Huxley would be proud, as would his follower, Jim Morrison, who named his band after drug-induced explorations of the curious threshold known as the door.
Mary Spicuzza

Metro Bus Depot

Best Pick-up Spot
Metro Bus Depot

I'm becoming convinced that the Metro bus station is the prime location for pick-up artists. As the lifeline to all of Santa Cruz County, the downtown stop is always bursting with different types of humanity: You've got your nine-to-five business types, your 14-year-old moms with half a dozen babies, your Bingo-addicted grannies, your junior high gangstas, members of the DeCinzo lynch mob and so on. What better place to find a new love when the person takes the same route as you? There's also something quite romantic about going on a date via bus--a sort of Anthony Michael Hall and Molly Ringwald "kiss me on the bus" chemistry permeates the sweet smell of bus fumes. We ought to bring Chuck Woolery out here to record Love Connection seven days a week because this is where all the sweet lovin' takes place.
Matt Koumaras

Most Creative Solution to
Substandard Housing
Low Fat, Fast Food and Organic Food Packaging

Last October, I congratulated myself on having scored an oceanside studio apartment. Three weeks later, when the rain began, I saw my dwelling for what it was: an overpriced and leaking garage. The romantic skylight over my bed lost its sex appeal when it started to drip erratically onto my head. Repeated calls to my landlord brought no relief. "I can't caulk the roof until it stops raining," was his glib reply. Luckily a scientist friend came up with a cheap and creative fix. An "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" tub attached below the offending drip led into six Burger King drinking straws that threaded together to form a bypass over my bed and into an empty Odwalla water bottle. The result: half a bottle of brownish rainwater per week instead of a chronic case of landlord-induced water torture.
Sarah Phelan

Best (and Most Frightening) New Trend
Red Bull Energy Drinks

It started innocently enough, when people around me began "experimenting" with Red Bull Energy Drinks, but soon I watched helplessly as friends and co-workers went out for a fix twice, even three times, a day. At first, they would rant and rave about the giddy burst of energy from that mysterious ingredient, taurine. Soon, it became a habit of maintenance at two bucks a pop. Coke bottles and coffee cups went the way of the dinosaur--now the recycling bins piled up exclusively with those damn little cylinders of joy. I finally gave it a try, succumbing to the ceaseless pressure to try this new "high." My head seemed somehow disconnected from my feet and I began rattling off nonsensical anecdotes at an artificial pace as the "magic" went to work on my system. Lately, I have watched the users veer toward newer and better energy drinks, experimenting with caffeine and taurine additives in various degrees. Will this be the fall of decency as we know it?
Arwen Curry

Jimmy, Harbinger of Mail

Best Stabilizing Force in Life
Postman Jimmy, Harbinger of Mail

There few things that--rain or shine, trauma or euphoria--one can count on to be there. Some may believe it to be unconditional love, but, c'mon, what's more reliable than that daily delivery of mail? And those lucky enough to receive downtown mail know we have a true god amongst our postal midst. Jimmy is always early, consistently friendly without being overly chatty, and has never been heard to whine about El Niño, as do most of us who spend less than half as much time exposed to the elements as he does each day. Jimmy may bring good news or bad, exciting packages or the run-of-the-mill business pitches, but whatever he delivers, he does it with poise and grace. Jimmy's just real, man.
Mary Spicuzza

Best Street Personality

In the Lower Ocean area he's known as Crazy Timmy, but in downtown Santa Cruz he gets more apt recognition as a latent rock star. Equipped with a battered guitar that sports about four strings, and shaking his mane of scraggly light hair, Timmy walks with a grin and as much swagger as you can muster while pushing a shopping-cart full of cans. Mustering a livelihood out of California Redemption Value, he follows a thorough and regular route to his "subscribers," picking up a week's supply of bottles and cans before they can be hauled off by the city or--God forbid!--a competitor. If lightly pressed, Timmy will pound out a painful "Freebird." And he can actually kind of sing.
Arwen Curry

Best Reuscitation
The Breatharian

We thought he had the wind knocked out of him, but before you could say "only in Santa Cruz," the air-imbibing Breatharian returned after almost two decades of obscurity. Those around in the '70s may remember Wiley C. Brooks, who discovered that he could live on fresh air and sunshine. Period. No Dunkin' Donuts, no cappuccinos, no Dippy Dogs. In short, the wind-sucking wizard proclaimed that he could survive without the four major food groups--caffeine, lard, sugar and salt--well, all food, actually. Yet Brooks' illustrious career as seminar leader for this less-than-pennies-a-day diet was cut tragically short when he was discovered slinking out of a 7-Eleven with a Slurpee. But our Air Bud is back, as well as his education center, the Breatharian Institute of America. We lift a bubbling glass of H20 in toast to you, our large-lunged friend.
Kelly Luker

Sign Best Sign of Our Times
"No Pooping Dogs"

Could Madame be a little more explicit about what goes (and what better not) on her tidy front lawn? We're not sure the neighborhood dog walkers understand the meaning of the sign posted on Milady's prim white-picket fence on Washington at New Street in Santa Cruz. This "loaded" piece of art consists of a silhouette of a golden retriever squatting intently against a white background, a glaring red circle around it and a slash running through. No steaming loaf cools beneath its tail, thank God, but the artist--the resident's handyman, it turns out--has paid shudderingly close attention to the physiology of pooping dogs: The pelvic tilt, the hump in the dog's back, and the slight declination of the animal's head communicate all too clearly that this dog is thinking hard about some heavy shit.
Traci Hukill

Best Place to Rekindle Community Spirit
The San Lorenzo River Levee

I'll admit that I felt a tad hostile toward the hordes of spectators who suddenly popped up along the levees and lined the bridges this winter when it looked as if the churning, swollen river might burst its banks. But as I mingled with these flood watchers, I discovered that along with the morbid curiosity--"If the river floods, which buildings do you think will be wiped out first, Jeff?"--came a genuine concern and a wish to protect Santa Cruz. So, thanks to all those concerned citizens, both for coming when they might be needed and for staying away the rest of the year. For their more usual indifference is what makes it possible for the great blue herons and the other few solitary souls who follow its winding course to exist peacefully at the river's edge.
Sarah Phelan

Best Eyesore
County Building

A perennial winner, that Great Grey Bunker rises out of the surrounding park and riverside like an industrial accident turned inside out. We like to imagine that there is a special corner of hell reserved for the architects who designed this. And they can share the space with all the city officials that gave the nod to the concrete abortion being deposited on our back lawn. And they can rub shoulders and pitch brimstone with the gang that designs strip malls and big-box stores. OK, OK--it was almost 30 years ago that it went up, but it's there, it's huge, it's ugly and it's not going away. Enough said. Competition is fierce for first runner-up, but we nominate the now-defunct Terrible Herbst gas station defiling the corner of Soquel Drive and Trout Gulch Road in Aptos. May we suggest that the next arsonist use better combustibles.
Kelly Luker

Stairs by the Town Clock

Best Place to Spy on People
Stairs by the Town Clock

These are a little out of the way, but that's the point. The platform atop the steep flight is excellent for visual sniping--not only can you watch pedestrians from here, but also activities of police cars, firetrucks and the occasional kids skateboarding on rooftops below. The watch-post affords this fine view of downtown while remaining nicely obscured from sight. It has sheltered illicit urinators once too often, perhaps, but still keeps an elevated intimacy perfect for discussing devious plots.
Arwen Curry

Best Spot to Watch Trees Dance
Path from UCSC's McHenry Library

Most believe trees don't dance, save in The Wizard of Oz or after earthlings consume copious amounts of illegal substances. But anyone who's strolled underneath the rows of live oaks lining the path from McHenry Library towards the UCSC Science Library and Clark Kerr Hall knows better. These knotted, twisted beauties waltz, tango and samba when the moon casts its nighttime shadows and the wind blows just right.
Mary Spicuzza

Best Santa Cruz Claim to Fame
National Headquarters for TLC

We're not talking tender lovin' care, here. Santa Cruz is home to the Trichotillomania Learning Center. Trichotillomania, or compulsive hair-pulling, is a disorder we're told affects thousands. Located on Mission Street, the center is devoted to providing emotional and practical support "so that no hair puller need suffer alone." Rather than being just another missionary group dolling out charity to those in pain, the non-profit organization on Mission Street was founded by empowered trich survivors themselves. TLC's major activities involve publishing a quarterly newsletter, IN TOUCH, hosting an annual nationwide retreat, sponsoring conferences and symposiums, and disseminating information on treatment options, new scientific advances and possible cures. Through personal contact and consciousness raising, TLC leads the nation in helping to solve this silent follicle killer.
Mary Spicuzza


Best Way to Feel the Long Arm of the Law
Drinking on the Beach

There are many things synonymous with the beach, and sobriety ain't one of 'em. Whether it's a cold beer on a sweltering day or a glass of cabernet on a chilly night, the beach is as much a spot for imbibing (responsibly, of course) as it is a depository for sand. Though our glorious beaches no longer will be littered with beer bottles and cans (though they haven't made soda illegal yet) and there may be a decrease in the sightings of beached beer bellies, those beach barbecues and bonfires, come summertime, alas, will be depressingly dry. The Po-po's broken up smoking and bars, drinking and beaches. What's next--state-instituted chastity belts?
Karen Reardanz

Best Place to Get Your
Heartstrings Tugged
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

There are few things that get those imaginary violins strumming faster than the sad eyes of a lonely dog or kitty staring up at you from behind the metal cages of an animal shelter. The local SPCA is brimming with animals--from your house pets to the random stray chicken, goat and ferret--who may never have the primal joy of an owner who doles out love, kisses and belly scratches on a daily basis. 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 have spayed or neutered.
Karen Reardanz

Highway 1's Bay/Porter exit Best Uncoordinated Lights
Highway 1's Bay/Porter Exit

It used to be a pretty straight sweep along Bay Avenue between Soquel Drive and Capitola Avenue. But, of course, that broke the Golden Rule of Development: If it ain't broke, grab a bunch of taxpayer money and screw it up. So the traffic engineers stared at that smooth-running traffic, sucked their teeth for awhile, then pulled out the slide rules and went to work. Now we have three stoplights in a 500-yard stretch--three stoplights so frighteningly uncoordinated that a trip to Nob Hill requires the time allotment and navigational skills of a Himalayan expedition. But the fun has only just begun. With the traffic jam promised by the Redtree/Nob Hill development looming in the future, there can only be only one solution: more stoplights!
Kelly Luker

Best Introduction to
Santa Cruz Gender Roles
Any Place in Town

With only 24 hours in this city, my 6-year-old son and I went hunting for juice and a loaf of bread. We ended up in a neighborhood corner store, and while I went searching the unfamiliar aisles, my son stood mesmerized by the checkout. Finally, the cashier noted my son's amazed stare and asked what was up.

"I was wondering, " replied my son, "if you were a man or a woman?"

"Oh yeah?" said the cashier, amiably. "How come?"

"Because you have long hair and earrings, but you look like a man."

"So, where're you from?" replied the cashier, visibly amused.

"Canada," replied my son, patriotically.

"Well, sonny, you tell your friends in Canada that here it's the men who have the ponytails and earrings."

"But what about the women?"

"Oh, they all have shaved heads."
Sarah Phelan

[ Santa Cruz | MetroActive Central | Archives ]

From the March 26-April 1, 1998 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

Copyright © Metro Publishing Inc. Maintained by Boulevards New Media.