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A Forest of Grumps

grumpy guy
A guide to Santa Cruz's clear-cut Top 10 cantankerous curmudgeons

Text by July St. James
Illustrations by Steven DeCinzo



FRIENDLY, KINDLY, HAPPY-GO-lucky folks--what is it about them that makes us want to push 'em down a flight of stairs? Give us the Real McCoy--the natural-born, down-home grump. No air kisses, no "Have a nice day," these folks travel through life mercifully oil-free of that superficial lubricant usually greasing social intercourse.

There are lovable grumps, dour grumps, whiny, bitter or troublesome grumps. They are defined by two admirable traits: a troubling disregard for your opinion of them and a hair-trigger impatience for bullshit.

To be singled out for outstanding grumpiness in Santa Cruz ain't easy. This politically correct little burg--busy repressing its seething hostilities beneath a compost heap of peace, love and tofu--makes finding a good old-fashioned grump a hard day's work. But for our readers, no effort was too great. (See what I mean?)

Join us, then, as we wander the streets and byways of Santa Cruz past and present, visiting our town's Ten Biggest Grumps.


lee quarnstrom cartoon

Lee Quarnstrom San Jose Mercury News columnist. Lee is perhaps the most famous grump in town, having already garnered a 1996 Metro Santa Cruz award for "Best Grumpy Columnist." Feral pigs, bicyclists and Robert Norse have all been knocked flying by a periodic curmedgeonly roundhouse from our outraged local pundit. Like the best grumps, Lee wields a stiletto-sharp sense of humor honed from years of sitting through our version of guerrilla theatre: the county supes and City Council. And speaking of the City Council, toss a one-liner to ...

Celia Scott SC City Council member. Many report that grins, chuckles or guffaws emanating from our Redwood-lovin' councilmember are rarer than spotted owl sightings. Admittedly, it's damn hard work saving our city from mean-spirited Republicans, money-grubbing developers and anyone else who would disturb our delicate Feng Shui, but Celia--loosen up! And speaking of mean-spirited Republicans, we can't avoid ...

Carolyn Busenhart Anti-tax political candidate. What Celia Scott is to the drum- circling, crystal-worshiping, warrior-woman left, the tax-cutting coiffurist from Soquel is to the county's cut-their-benefits rightwingers. With a rallying cry of "Let them eat cake," battling Carolyn continually tilts away at the supervisorial seat, threatening to throttle any tax that gets in her way. She don't like po' folks, she don't like free handouts and she definitely don't like revenooers. But speaking of free handouts, don't forget ...

Robert Norse Homeless activist. It's sort of embarrassing when you're leading and nobody's following. If you're gonna be a provocateur, study Abbie Hoffman, dear. The wildman Yippie might have been neurotic and manic-depressive, but he wisely avoided the hallmark of a Crusader Grump like Robert--taking himself too seriously. And while we're on the subject of taking oneself too seriously, there's always ...

Ann Simonton Anti-pornographer. Once she was just another babe modeling swimsuits for Sports Illustrated. Then Ann got enlightened and the next thing you know she's dressed in baloney to protest beauty pageants. This is good, this is funny, this is in-your-face protest. But pretty soon she saw women's sexploitation everywhere she looked and gradually morphed into the Carrie Nation of nookie and got a tad too grumpy about our constitutional right to skinmags. And constitutional rights bring us to ...

Doug Rand Resource Center for Non-Violence co-founder. Doug gets the heebie jeebies around anything that goes "bang." So, no toy guns in the hands of children, no Navy ships in the harbor on the Fourth of July, no Army band playing on the wharf. We, too, support the concept of nonviolence, but sometimes you just want to smack him upside the head and remind him to not be such a Gloomy Gus. And things that go bang remind us of ...

Al Noren Former sheriff. This Mark Tracy fella is the new breed of sheriff--a political animal that knows how to oil troubled waters and soothe the savage partisan hounds baying at your heels. What old Al so wisely understood was, why bother? You're the sheriff, for God's sake, the head dick, and you've got the biggest guns in town. Al wasted precious little time making nice and playing patty-cakes with press or politicos. He said what he thought and stuck by his severely politically incorrect views. And we loved the habitual old grump for it. Speaking of "habit," that brings up ...

sister julie hyer cartoon Sister Julie Hyer Dominican Hospital CEO. Not unlike the Catholic-school nuns of yesteryear, Sister Julie inspires terror in those who dare attack her precious flock. Forget Singing Nun or Flying Nun, this is MBA Nun with an attitude and iron fist. But administrators--the only staff not threatened in Dominican's latest cost-cutting layoffs--love her anyway. And thinking of finding love in all the wrong places, we can't help but be reminded of ...



Randall Kane Catalyst nightclub owner. Randall just might have been born this crusty, for all we know. Or maybe it comes from listening to drunken stories and blaring music night after night for 25 years. However, this guy's funnybone and no-BS attitude have won him a rabidly faithful following, making the Catalyst closer to a family than a workplace. And, when we speak of familylike workplace, we just can't help but mention the biggest grump of all ...

DeCinzo Political cartoonist. Although he's one of ours, the compassion-challenged cartoonist makes the rest of us vicious, snarling cutthroats here feel like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. DeCinzo is the wry type of grump who doesn't take himself--or your precious little feelings--very seriously. Darkly anti-social, it's rumored that he only gets warm and fuzzy when goring your sacred cow or reading about it later in our Letters pages.

You can keep your peaceful, contented, well-adjusted souls. I'll take a room full of Quarnstroms and Busenharts over one Santa Cruz blissninny any day.

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From the August 6-13, 1997 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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


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