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Skeleton Key: WAMM's new postcard invites interpretation.


DIY July 4

In the late afternoon on July 4, the Cruz looks a lot like those idealized suburbs in movies, with block parties in the streets, men manning grills and kids running around with jello stains on their shirts.

But as the sun sets, something changes. People on bicycles rove the streets in packs, trickling then pouring onto the beaches in mobs. Fireworks crackle and pop long before dusk. From the cliffs of Seabright Beach, Nüz watched with growing unease as a group down below assembled what appeared to be some sort of homemade cannon. They were pouring a variety of chemicals into a metal bucket strapped to a wooden pallet, which was aimed not so much in our general direction as it was aimed directly at us. After pounding a metal lid onto the bucket with a mallet, the man in charge grabbed the earmuffs from around his neck and slid them over his ears for protection. He then pulled a tiki torch from the sand and stood as far away from the bucket as he could while swabbing the bucket with flames.

The explosion jolted our bones and set off car alarms behind us. The lid that the man had hammered onto the bucket was propelled 30 feet across the beach by a twirling fireball. Cheers rang out up and down the beach as people looked toward the source of the blast. For about five seconds, the man with the shooting-range earmuffs and homemade cannon was a rock star.

On it went--the first of the big gun fireworks answered somewhere down the beach by another, bigger and brighter. As gradually as the light faded, the explosive conversation mushroomed into a chaotic cacophony of swishing rockets and exploding light. The beach itself, shrouded in smoke and crawling with people, faded into the darkness as scattered bonfires and fire dancers became the focal points of a weird, tribal wasteland.

Remarkably, injuries were few, but Nüz witnessed disasters narrowly avoided--fireworks flying with dangerous horizontal trajectories, "duds" suddenly fulfilling their fiery destiny. Nüz walked past a slurring-drunk young man illuminated by firelight holding a rocket in his hand with a lit fuse. When the wick reached its end, it paused. The young man moved the rocket close to his face for examination, at which time the wick sparked, his hand jerked skyward and the rocket whistled into the air.

Unlike centralized fireworks displays, where you always know where to look, the shows we get on our local beaches are spontaneous, and even somewhat dangerous. The police, so often a symbol of authority and consequence, become inconsequential in the face of so many thousands set on celebrating their country's independence exactly as they want to. All of which got us wondering what July 4 would be like if fireworks were actually allowed in Santa Cruz?

Supreme Jitters

Immediately following the news of Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on July 1, City Councilmember CYNTHIA MATTHEWS, who is also the associate vice president of public affairs for our local chapter of PLANNED PARENTHOOD, snapped into action, organizing a minirally at the Town Clock on that very day. She and about five others held signs addressed to the Supreme Court that read "Save Roe," "Protect Women's Health" and "Protect our Privacy."

"Justice O'Connor's departure is a genuine threat to reproductive health care and women's right," said Matthews. "With so much at stake, we need to be visible and vigilant in the Supreme Court nomination and confirmation process to ensure that women's health is protected."

Meanwhile, the political advocacy group MoveOn got busy organizing "Supreme Court house parties" around the country, for which DEIRDRE DES JARDINS organized a meeting at the LAVA ROCK CAFE on July 10.

Des Jardins says about 20 people showed up to vent their concerns and to figure out what they can do to "make sure we get a centrist justice."

"There's a lot of civil liberties at stake which we take for granted today," says Des Jardins, who takes aim specifically at JANICE ROGERS BROWN, the former California Supreme Court Justice recently appointed by G.W. BUSH to the D.C. U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

"[Brown] wants to significantly narrow the definition of due process in the 14th Amendment," says Des Jardins, adding that Brown has also been criticized for her stances on affirmative action and women's reproductive rights.

So which nominees are they gunning for in particular?

"We don't know exactly," says Des Jardins. "There haven't been any names circulated," says Des Jardins, "but these are the kinds of extremist nominees we would vigorously oppose."

Whoever is appointed might have to take an early stand on reproductive rights, what with the Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood case that the Court has decided to hear later this year.


Interestingly enough, political advocates looking for a justice who would uphold the Supreme Court's historical stance on progressive issues like environmental protection and workplace safety would be looking for someone with a broad interpretation of the interstate commerce clause, which is also what made possible the recent Gonzales v. Raich decision against medical marijuana. As The New Yorker's HENDRIK HERTZBERG put it, a narrow interpretation of the Commerce Clause would mean"hello to bong hits, but goodbye to workplace safety, environmental regulations and Medicare."

This conundrum isn't discouraging members of the WO/MEN'S ALLIANCE FOR MEDICAL MARIJUANA, whose members will host a march downtown on July 16 at noon. Visit www.wamm.org/march.htm for more info.

Ready, Set, Go

From July 18 to Aug. 12, the Santa Cruz County Clerk will be accepting candidacy declarations for any of the six special districts up for election on Nov. 8. We leave it to you to decide how "special" those districts are: Alba Park, Parkway and Recreation District (three directors), Opal Cliffs Recreation District (two directors), Salsipuedes Sanitary District (two full-term directors; one short-term director), Depot Hill Geologic Hazard Abatement District (three directors), Place De Mer Geologic Hazard Abatement District (three directors), Central Water District (one short-term director). For more information, visit www.votescount.org or call 831.454.2060.

Call 831.420.5030 for more openings.

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From the July 13-20, 2005 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

Copyright © 2005 Metro Publishing Inc. Maintained by Boulevards New Media.

For more information about Santa Cruz, visit santacruz.com.

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