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Abraham's Tribe: Pastor Abraham offers homeless Santa Cruz Service Corps members safe haven on church property.

Nüz

WWJD?

Journalists tend to be a godless lot, and Nüz is no exception. (A quick glance at the newsroom bookshelf reveals zero holy books, but a dog-eared copy of The Deluxe Transitive Vampire: The Ultimate Handbook of Grammar for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed. Still, Nüz has enough WWJD-savvy to believe Pastor Stan Abraham when he says the congregation at Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church has no choice but to help the homeless.

Says Abraham, "The congregation invited 12 members of the Santa Cruz Service Corps onto our property on the basis of faith, scripture and conscience."

Faith notwithstanding, the arrival of various SCSC-related trailers and tents on the five-acre property has ruffled some neighborly feathers.

And now it looks as if God's will shall be done, only if that false god known as the Santa Cruz County Planning Department deigns to give the church a permit.

"The basic fear is that something is going to happen, that there are going to be drugs and alcohol, and that property values are going to decline," says Abraham, who has only positive things to say about his guests.

"We've started to see lawns being cut, bushes being trimmed, and some of the group has been coming to church. I just need reassurance that rules are being kept," says the silver-haired pastor, adding that he's near retirement and has nothing to lose.

Except faith in humanity, perhaps.

SCSC member Larry Templeton says the 12-member camp has removed dead trees and poison oak--and planted 25 trees for Earth Day.

"We are making it look like the Garden of Eden," says the leather-hatted Templeton, who made a national name for himself as the founder of Camp Paradise. The homeless encampment defied the city's camping ban and strove to be a safe, clean and sober community, until it was flooded by the San Lorenzo River in December of 2001.

Though greatly scaled down, this latest homeless encampment lies on the dividing line of two county districts, making it the concern of supervisors Ellen Pirie and Jan Beautz.

Pirie says the property appears well maintained and is already zoned for a camping ground, but she is urging neighbors with concerns to meet the SCSC and directly express concerns.

"Hopefully the permit process will go smoothly, provided the group keeps the church's rules," says Pirie. "But right now, if a cat goes missing, people say they know where it went, and people with small children are anxious."

Though Mt. Calvary could be red-tagged for not having a camping permit, Pirie says it doesn't make any sense to throw the campers out "if nothing wrong is being done."

Meanwhile, Beautz says a permit "would make Mt. Calvary responsible, if things got out of hand. They can't be having businesses or huge numbers of people on the property."

So far, the only "business" SCSC appears to be doing is yard work for church neighbors--and giving away firewood.

Says Templeton, pointing to piles of neatly stacked logs, "We don't burn any, but it's free to anyone that wants it."

Burned Up

Free firewood, or not, apparently beach-goers will be lucky if they can find a fire pit near the surf this summer, according to one enraged Nüz tipster. Carl Reuter has been lighting fires

and strumming on his ol' guitar after volleyball games at Castle Beach for the past 14 years.

"We're diehards. We do it even when it rains. I feel like we're acting out some tribal thing, huddled around the fire. It's something I never want to give up," says the enflamed Reuter, who first heard that beach fires are gonna be stamped out entirely.

"The park rangers blame it on the budget, but they're just too lazy to patrol the area, so they close off the beach, and we get closed out of our rights," fumed Reuter, who had heard rumors that all fire rings will be gone by May 3o. ...

State Parks' Ralph Fairfield admitted that rangers have been removing fire pits, but because of budget cuts, and not laziness.

"Fire rings are an incredible expense. That, unfortunately, is why we are looking at doing away with the fires," said Fairfield, who denied that air quality concerns fueled the decision to ax the fire pits.

"Beach fires have a big impact, but we allow camp fires in campgrounds, so that's not the reason we're doing this," said Fairfield.

"When rangers removed dilapidated fire rings at Rio Del Mar beach, people were up in arms. They saw it as a take, but that's not our intent--we just can't do it all," said Fairfield, noting that his department also doesn't have enough staff to enforce a ban on beach fires, which are illegal without fire pits.

Asked which beaches still have fire rings where we will be able to legally warm our fingers and wieners this summer, Fairfield claimed not to know. However, State Parks has decided to wait until after the summer to remove all fire rings, so as to get information out to the public and get public input.

"If the economy turns around, maybe the fire rings can be saved, but we've never been funded to do this anyway," Fairfield explains.

Asked when the public would have a chance to grill State Parks about their latest incendiary plan, Fairfield said a date has yet to be set.

Air Apparent

Nüz caught up with Thoth by cell phone last week, just as the flamboyant street musician was twisting his dreadlocked hair before a prayerformance on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno. So, is he considering going platinum?

"That could look good, I could use some hydrogen peroxide and some glitter in my hair," laughed Thoth, noting that this is the year of the Horse and the Palindrome [as in 2002], "so everything is aligned."

Though his name is a three-letter palindrome in Egyptian, "written in English, it has five letters and no palindrome," says Thoth, who has reversed the last two letters of his name on his violin case to read "THOHT."

"It helps get people into the mystery mode, and I'm running a mystery school," said Thoth, who uses a mysterious instrument called a bullroarer at the beginning of each prayerformance.

"It's a spirit catcher that creates an eerie sound, cleanses the air and creates otherworldly feelings," says Thoth, who will prayerform in the Cooper House tunnel May 10, immediately after a question and answer session that follows the 5:30pm showing of Thoth at the Del Mar Theatre on Pacific Avenue.

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From the May 1-8, 2002 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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