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[whitespace] Meat Dress Meat the Press: Beauty pageant protester Ann Simonton's meat dress captured national attention in 1982.

Only in Santa Cruz

A modest celebration of municipal self-love

By Hiya Swanhuyser

ORIGINALLY, THE PHRASE "Only in ... " referred to Marin, the smuggest town this side of France. But self-satisfied towns everywhere have taken up the siren call, using it to boast about the things they like as well as explain away less appealing aspects.

Santa Cruz is the acme of "Only In-ness," the town simultaneously most stuck on itself and most likely to be voted class clown -- the silliest as well as the snobbiest.

Forthwith, a selective sampling of the reasons we love ourselves so much, the reasons everyone ought to love us so much and the sources of our (we love to talk about this) uniqueness.

Anyone with a shred of egalitarianism can have their spirits lifted by the sight of the dancing group in P. Bartczak's mural at the corner of Pacific Avenue and Water Street. The Mohawk in particular is unique: it's proof that someone thinks that people with spiky hair are sweet and good, as represented by their hair. But the whole group is happy, free and interlaced, recalling the utopian visions of antiwar posters from another era.

The Miss California Pageant was once only in Santa Cruz, but only-in-Santa-Cruz activist Ann Simonton wore a dress made of meat to protest it, in one of the most effective commentary actions known to feminism. The cold-cuts sheath was designed by local artist and visionary B. Modern, now a costume designer for Shakespeare Santa Cruz.

Debates rage over whether it is faster to take 17, 280 or 101 to San Francisco, but they are moot. The point is, getting there is half the fun. By most accounts, the hill route is maybe 10 minutes faster. But who cares? Just north of town past Western Drive, the scenery of Highway 1 changes dramatically. Smooth grassy hills ripple off to the right while one of the wonders of the known universe sits serenely out the driver's side window. Some people live their whole lives dreaming of such a sight: flat, blue water, imposing on the horizon one of the only straight lines in nature. Balletic pelicans often skim along the coast, paralleling the car's trajectory and speed. Cliffs rise in the distance, splitting earth from sea from sky. But don't forget that 10 minutes -- it'll cost you.

One of life's greatest challenges is to remain flexible, to change with the times and keep up with the rest of the world -- unless you're a quirky tourist destination like the Mystery Spot, in which case it's best not to change at all. Our advice to the Spot: keep your guides; do not under any circumstances change your graphic design; and ignore those nagging desires to expand.

Out on beautiful West Cliff Drive lies the tiny, unique, fascinating Surfing Museum. Dedicated to the memory of surfer Mark Abbott, the museum is housed inside the lighthouse that watches over some of the world's most famous surf: Steamer Lane. "The first surfing in North America was here. Three Hawaiian princes came to Santa Cruz to attend a military school and surfed in 1885," says Jesse Shank, a Parks and Recreation employee. The museum's charms are packed tightly together: pictures of the Santa Cruz Surfing Club, a shark-bitten board, a small gift shop and a Mavericks video in constant rotation.

The FCC may not like it, but for the rest of us, how cool is it to say that we have the longest-running independent radio station in the country? At Free Radio Santa Cruz (96.3-FM), dedicated freaks of different stripes keep programming on the air and blasting out into the world through donations, volunteer work and sheer refusal to give up. This "bad" attitude continues to make possible the broadcast of underrepresented music, talk and news. The news team is perhaps the hardest-working group: one correspondent reported live from a Seattle jail during protests against the World Trade Organization.


Lend a Hand: Reaching out after 9-11.

South Pacific Rim: SlugFest returns after a decade's hiatus.

Find the Right Roommate: Home is where housemates are.

Make Your Head Glow: Sage advice for neon locks.

Make Your Trash Bloom: Worms can make the most out of compost.

Cheap Eats: A food critic's guide to budget meals for students and people with student budgets.

Stop the Viagra Ads, Please! Putting the Kibosh on spam.


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From the September 26-October 3, 2001 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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

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