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[whitespace] How to Get Funky on the Westside

Living La Vida on Mission and Almar

By Ami Chen Mills

DURING MY LAST LIFE in Santa Cruz, I was more or less an Eastside girl. I lived in Soquel, on what I considered the best street on the whole planet, Cherryvale Avenue. My favorite beach was 26th Street. My favorite writer's haunt, Mr. Toots. I liked the funky feel of Pleasure Point with its bungalows, surf trucks and banana trees. I vowed when I left, I'd be back.

After a couple years away, I moved back to the Westside, so I'd have access to Highway 1 and the City. At first, I regretted my choice to live on the Westside. West Cliff Drive seemed groomed and sterile compared to East Cliff, its homes more staid and upper-crust, side streets and setbacks far too wide. All I saw on Mission Street were gas stations and fast-food outlets. Apparently stuck in the suburbs, and relegated to shopping at Safeway, I began to despair.

Then I discovered, tucked in a tight corner of the Safeway strip mall, Westside Coffee. With its surf photos and living jungle decor--replete with live parrots--I began to think maybe a bit of funk poked through Westside streets like crab grass. Because you encounter what you're open to, Westside funk started showing up all over my radar. Santa Cruz character--eclectic, zany, human-scale--is alive on the Westside at places like Westside Stories, a simple and elegant used-bookstore with an extensive spirituality section, comfy reading chairs and free-book bins. Both Westside Stories and Westside Coffee are in the Safeway mini mall, otherwise known as Almar Plaza (which could stand a real plaza).

The more coffee shops, the better. Now Coffeetopia, all the way from the Eastside, has opened a branch in the Palm Center (which needs a few palms) on Mission Street, featuring local art, computers for rent, and colorful young people manning the counters who are not forced to watch training videos, wear funny hats and deliver your order in 60 seconds or less.

Café Brasil, in a small, rain-forest greenhouse with yellow trim, fully qualifies as funky, and is beautifying the neighborhood. Café Brasil just expanded its outdoor patio for patrons waiting to be seated for Brazilian-style breakfasts of eggs and cream of corn, or with spicy cocota cream sauce. For a funky, fast Westside lunch, try the smoky and delicious barbecued chicken burritos fresh off the parking-lot grill at La Esperanza Market, where you can also buy Coke in glass bottles.

I'll take my funk where I can get it, so I've gotta plug the Longs Drugs pay-on-your-honor copy machine. I am almost moved to tears every time I make copies on that thing, and this one small concession to human being-ness makes Longs all right with me.

What else? Well, it's funky that we've got two of the cheapest gas stations in town, Rotten Robbie and Beacon, and there's Vasili's Greek Food, Love Me 2 Times vintage store, Ferrell's Donuts and more. We've also got our own nude beach here on the Westside, to match the Eastside's "Private's," part for part. If you don't know where it is, I'll let you discover its whereabouts (as I did) on your own. As for me, I guess I'll stay on the Westside. I planted two baby banana trees in my (spacious!) yard, and I'm beginning to believe the funk is where you find it--and plant it.


Ami now spends her weekends hassling her neighbors to mow their lawns.

Beacon Service Station
335 Mission St., SC (426.3595)

Café Brasil
1410 Mission St., SC (429.1855)

Coffeetopia
1723 Mission St., SC (425.6583)

Ferrell's Donuts
2227 Mission St., SC 423.4348)

La Esperanza Market
1204 Mission St., SC (429.1214)

Longs Drugs
1700 Mission St., SC (457.8039)

Love Me 2 Times
1331 Mission St., SC (429.6210)

Rotten Robbie
1906 Mission St., SC (426.7270)

Vasili's Greek Food
1501 Mission St., SC (458.9808)

Westside Coffee Co.
849 Almar Ave., SC (427.1300)

Westside Stories
847 Almar Ave., SC (457.2021)

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From the September 22-29, 1999 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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