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That Winning Gypsy Smile: Incidentally, Grandma Purple Turtle's face is also a handy, Triple A-approved guide to local sites of interest.

Nüz

Wild Card

Recent use of the term "gypsy kids"--including right here in our own Metro Santa Cruz--to describe some of the downtown hangers-around has got the local language police ranting. Their beef? They say the phrase reinforces negative stereotypes about gypsies, while applying them to a group unrelated in the strict cultural sense. Daniel Webster himself would call bullshit on this whole issue, since only one of the six dictionary definitions of the word refers to the actual wandering Caucasoid people believed to have originated in India, but we'll play along.

The first thing we noticed is that conspicuously absent from these rants is any input from the youths in question, which seems kind of lame, given that the kids hang out on Pacific Avenue most of the time and are mostly very willing to talk. Still, that made it easy for Nüz to swoop in and conduct our very own impromptu and highly informal opinion poll for, of, and about the "gypsy kids."

Asked what he thought of the phrase, Panther, who was reading a book on a bench outside Borders, said he didn't consider "gypsy kids" negative, while Miguel, who was panhandling outside Tenggara Imports, told us he had never heard the term before.

"But I like it," he said.

Meanwhile, a bare-chested, barefoot kid by the name of Jahrüdâh told Nüz he'd been called a gypsy before. "And I enjoyed the name. I am the wanderer, poet, traveler and magician, I am the gypsy," Jahrüdâh said.

"Gypsy kids is what we are, we travel for enlightenment," said Athen, a young man in a tattered Pink Floyd T-shirt, while a much tattooed and pierced young man by the name of Grandma Purple Turtle said. "We are modern gypsies."

So. What about "gypsy" being racist?

"To say that "gypsy kids" is racist is only true if you buy into the racism," said Rowan, who by the way was looking quite dapper in a straw hat. To which Jahrüdâh added, "The people saying that gypsy kids is negative think they are walking the righteous path, but that's because they don't know what it is to be a nomad."

OK, that's maybe a little abstract for Nüz's news-hounding geopolitical sensibilities, but we get the point. Asked if she'd rather be called a hippie, or some other term, a young girl by the name of Josie said, "The only people I hear using the word 'hippie' are the people calling us 'those damn hippies.' I just call myself someone who needs a job and structure in my life."

The only person polled on the street who objected to the "gypsy kids" phrase was James Le Gambet, who up until last week was doing psychic readings on Pacific.

"Gypsy is a racist term, because the gypsies are an actual race of people," said Le Gambet, who got ticketed for having "no ID and being 'believed to be providing false information,'" a situation that developed, Le Gambet says, after someone complained about his giving psychic readings.

Le Gambet now carries a Bible instead of the tarot.

Pizza With String Cheese

Given that classical music is being used more and more to drive people away from venues, Nüz can only sympathize with the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, which continues to buck the trend by actually trying to attract people to attend whole concerts of the stuff.

The latest to join the "Kill 'Em With Bach" movement is Round Table Pizza on 41st Avenue in Soquel. Apparently following the lead of other operations in its franchise, this particular RTP has installed kick-ass speakers in front of its main entrance and is cranking out classical tunes at a volume usually reserved for AC/DC and Spinal Tap.

According to assistant manager Dennis Lautenschlager, the plan is functioning like clockwork by deterring day workers from hanging out in front of the store during the three weeks it has been in effect.

"From what I understand, [the Round Table Corporation] tried it at a different store and it proved effective, so they wanted to try it here," Lautenschlager said. "For any restaurant, it doesn't look that great for people to be hanging out in front of the front doors. We're not the Shadowbrook--we're not going to be too upset with people loitering out front. But it intimidates people, makes them not want to come in, to steer clear of the front door."

Lautenschlager was unaware that the Downtown Association (in conjunction with the Redevelopment Agency) used an identical strategy to drive away people who were hanging out in front of New Leaf downtown.

"It's just classical music. It's on a timer, it starts at eight or nine and goes to two or three. They usually have either moved across the parking lot or thinned out so there's not very many of them around," Lautenschlager said.

All of which leads Nüz to imagine that the Viennese have probably already chalked up yet another cultural black mark against the Americans, now that we've succeeded in turning a classical art form into a human bug spray.

Vibe Protectors

First it was the Areola Rebel Forces. Now it's the Hackeysack Freedom Festival, which will be running nonstop until the city's new ordinances take effect this fall. (See www.corporateswine.net for details.)

All of which suggests the city is in for a challenging year, which is one reason why councilmember Tim Fitzmaurice says he is intending to run for re-election this November.

"The major issue in this campaign is the vitality of this community and its members in the face of economic challenges," said the former mayor, who led the city's effort to create a living wage and hopes to improve low-cost and senior housing, along with youth services, parking and the fire department.

With councilmember Keith Sugar having announced he is not running for re-election, the filing deadline for candidates has been extended to Aug. 14, an announcement that got Areola Rebel Forces spokesperson PMS Man calling to say that "ARF is still looking for a few good women" to run on the Art and Evolution Party platform, which seeks to "revitalize the economy through supporting art, preserving indigenous culture and protecting the vibe."


Nüz just loves juicy tips: Drop a line to 115 Cooper St, Santa Cruz, 95060, email us at , or call our hotline at 457.9000, ext 214.

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From the August 7-14, 2002 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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