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Our Own Taj Mahal, 1967: Just kidding. This is, of course, the awful Santa Cruz County Building being constructed, or exuded. You can see John Bull Motors on Ocean Street, and Aero Radio and TV and the Court House Cafe on Water Street. This photo is being printed to prove that the county building never had a plan or design; they just built it as they felt it at the moment. Note, too, the beauty and aesthetic flow of the flatlands along the glistening San Lorenzo River.

Bruce Bratton

OUR FARMERS' MARKET. Janet Blaser, who manages both the Downtown Farmers' Market and the Sunday one at the Live Oak Senior Center, told me a lot I didn't know about the problems facing the downtown market. She says that websites direct traveling gypsies and scurrlies to the Wednesday markets in Santa Cruz as a place to stop on their way through California. So about a third of the hangers-out are here on buses traveling through. Another third are locals, students or whatever, and when they understand that they are ruining the farmers' business, they leave when asked. The last third don't understand anything and are there only because they have to be somewhere. People must remember that the market isn't owned by the community--it's a business operation. It's paid for and managed and operated by the farmers, and they operate on a very slim profit. When drums, noise and behavior keep shoppers away or make the place less desirable, the farmers lose. The market is a true alternative to mega grocery stores, and we're lucky to have it happening here. It's been here more than 10 years now. The Downtown Association will not give the market official recognition. The farmers can't change the day of the week, due to their other markets. Changing locations to San Lorenzo Park is not possible because you can't have a dirt floor. Janet has dozens of new plans for the market. A chef's registry, cooking demonstrations, acoustic music and agricultural nonprofit booths are some of the things planned. It makes as much sense to ask New Leaf Market to move or change because the tatterdemalions hang out there, too, doesn't it? Our Pacific Avenue street performers, with Tom Noddy's help, worked out a solution to existing peacefully on Pacific Avenue; the same can be done with the Farmers' Market. (Full Disclosure: I received three O'Henry peaches from Frog Hollow Farm while doing this interview. Those are the peaches that Chez Panisse served at their 25th anniversary party. They were also written up in the Merc. Next week I'm going to write more, and go for six!)

DARK PLEASURES. The Vertical Ray of the Sun was directed by Tran Anh Hung, who did The Scent of Green Papaya back in 1993, and it looks like it. Filmed in Hanoi, it's about the love lives of three sisters. The plot is so interwoven that the production notes come with a photo-guided family tree. It's beautiful and slow, and full of lies, denial and a nutty serenity that is very effective. Go warned, but go if you like films. Earl Jackson showed Atom Egoyan's 1993 film Calendar last week at his Summer of Love Crimes series at UCSC. I've never been a fan of Atom's, but Calendar was one of the most moving films I've seen. Earl says Egoyan's early films are masterpieces, and you can almost always trust Earl. Tonight, he's showing Marcel L'Herbier's Eldorado. which is all in French with no subtitles, but he says it doesn't matter. And like I say, you can usually trust Earl.

ENDING A NEIGHBORHOOD RUMOR. Here's what I heard, now that Polivio's, over in East Cliff Village near 17th, is closed. Developer Barry Swenson was going to tear down the building completely and put up a two-story structure in its place. Then all the shops, Mad Jack's Coffee, the liquor store, the drug store and everybody were to be moved into the new building. I forgot what else was going to happen to the rest of the village. I called Jesse Nickell at Swenson just to confirm all these changes. Jesse sez not true at all. They're going to clean up Polivio's, and new operators are going to open some new operation in that same building. No one has been given notice about moving anywhere. and everybody can just stop talking about that.

GARAGE ART. Now that Vicki Scuri's 17 steel panels of enameled hymns to gas engines, cars and rubber tires adorning our newest parking garage at Front and Soquel have been dedicated, the howling has begun in earnest. Many folks have been asking me (1) why an out-of-town (Seattle) artist was chosen; (2) why she was paid $90,000 ($5,000-plus each panel); (3) why cars were glorified, when we're doing everything we can to eliminate them and their by-products? I think those questions were raised when I was on the Downtown Commission, and Matt Farrell (City Parking Program Manager) had some kind of answers. There isn't much anybody can do about it now. I don't know what anybody could have done about it back then either, but call Matt at the Public Works Department at 420.5184 and tell him what you think about somebody's choice of public art. If you're getting a petition against those crass-looking pieces, I'll sign. Speaking of public art, I was never quite sure who created those awful looking things that frame the outhouses around Pacific Avenue. I sure hope those didn't cost very much; they look like Home Depot weekend projects.

SIDECAR ART. I got over to see Victoria May's art at Madame Sidecar's Fashions on Cedar Street across from Gabriella Cafe. Last year, Victoria did some hair shirts and safety-glass pieces. This year, Madame is showing her textile-based artwork on antique wig heads in the window. Stop by and see them. They're headgear made of organza, with found and organic artifacts. They represent states of mind and are subtle works that stay with you after you leave--dark humored, filmy things that remind you of cobwebs and attics. The art will be there until Aug. 17. If you wondered, Madame Sidecar's is named after the cocktail, which apparently is available at Pearl Alley Bistro, although I wouldn't know personally. Madame's shop is filled with carefully chosen new fashions from small labels all over the country. Yes, I know something about women's clothes labels, never mind how.

THE RETURN OF SAUL LANDAU. Landau packed the house when he spoke about Cuba to the People's Democratic Club two weeks ago. He's speaking again Saturday (Aug. 11) at 7pm at the Live Oak Grange, 1700 17th Ave., about Cuba and Fidel. He's also showing his film Cuba and Fidel. Saul's been to Cuba "75 or 50 times since 1960," he says. He recently spent two full days with Fidel in a closed session with some top Cuban officials. Go to this event and ask Saul what he thinks about Cuba's future; ask him about the success of the revolution; ask him about who's really behind the embargo; ask him what's supporting Cuba's economy. He's got amazing and not always comfortable answers and opinions. The evening's sponsored by the Cuba Study Group of Santa Cruz and the Friends of the Santa Cruz Public Libraries. Call 465.8272 for more information; tickets are available at the door. Bring cushions: the Grange chairs are also uncompromising.

S.F. MIME TROUPE'S COMING. The Mime Troupe's making its annual appearance in San Lorenzo Park on Saturday and Sunday (Aug. 18-19). The troupe will perform its original play 1600 Transsylvania Avenue. Get there before 2:30pm--that's when the music starts; the play is at 3. It's free, but they love donations. I'm not sure who's sponsoring them this year. The Mime Troupe (always pronounced "meem" by founder R.G. Davis) has changed a lot since the early days. Style, content and intent bear only a slight resemblance to the original. They're good, but different. Tickets at the gate.


Bruce critiques films every other Thursday on KUSP-FM (88.9) at 12:50pm. Reach Bruce at bratton@cruzio.com or 457.5814, ext. 400.

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From the August 8-15, 2001 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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