All having occurred in the past 20 hours.
I got up at 3 AM this morning. My son Will, a drummer living in Santa Cruz, wanted me to come down and see the gospel choir he’s been playing with. I figured I might get a little surfing in, hence the early hour. The Golden Gate Bridge was stunning. There were very few cars, and the rust red color of the bridge was a contrast against the blue black inky sky. I’ve grown up with the bridge, been under it in a kayak, and all the way to the top one warm night, yet it still takes my breath away each time I see it. “A thing of beauty is a joy forever,” or something to that effect.
When I go to Santa Cruz I’m on automatic pilot, down Highway One. Except this morning I get past Pacifica and learn that Hwy One is closed, so backtrack to 280 and take the road to the coast (to Half Moon Bay) from Crystal Lakes . This is kind of a remarkable road in that it has miles of concrete retaining walls, like 60-80′ high, all made to look like natural rock. It’s a technique road builders have developed in recent years. When you get close to the coast, there are a bunch of metal sculptures by different artists, pretty unique, and a whole bunch of nurseries. You can buy strawberries, cherries, and corn at roadside stands, and the Flying Fish Cafe is a great little funky seafood roadhouse.
Relief to be out on the coast. I’ve been making the San Francisco-Santa Cruz trek for over 50 years now, and I love the route. It hasn’t really changed that much in all this time. So I’m driving along, heading south, the sun coming up, and here’s a raccoon lying on the side of the road so of course I turn around and come back. It’s a beautiful raccoon, shiny coat, just recently killed, so I pick it up.
I should explain that I have picked up dead animals over the years and skinned them. After skinning, I stretch them out on a piece of plywood and salt the hide, then after a week, send it off to Bucks County Fur Products in Quakertown PA, and 6 weeks later I will get back a clean tanned hide via UPS. I have a beautiful skunk skin, 2 squirrels, an exquisite bobcat, and most recently a beautiful little long-tailed weasel. Now I’ll have a coon skin.
Heading on down the coast I spot this little driftwood beach shack:
I come into Santa Cruz around 7:30, get 2 crumb donuts at the donut store on Mission street, then pick up a latte at Coffeetopia a few blocks down and go to check the surf. It looks good. I have a few hours before the gospel choir, so suit up and go out at what we used to call “Inside Pleasure,” now known as 38th Avenue. The water’s warm, the waves good. It’s crowded but there are good vibes. One guy is surfing in just his trunks, no leash, a 50s touch. Fun! As I am getting out of my wet suit I spot surfer Paul Nelson, with this tattoo:
Santa Cruz is where Southern California starts. It’s warmer. It’s looser. There’s a hint of the tropics. People are mellower. There’s a car culture. Hot rods, vintage cars, huge 4x4s, hot sports cars.
Lots of Harleys. There are also a lot of 50-60-year old retired guys sitting around at coffee shops without much to do. I’ve got ties to SC. I was a lifeguard there in the mid-50s and, ahem! according to my mom, I was conceived there. When I went to Stanford I got into surfing and ended up spending more time in Santa Cruz than in Palo Alto. Jeez, Santa Cruz in the ’50s, it breaks your heart to think of it then. Before wet suits, before foam boards, before the University of California.
On the way down and back, I listen to Jerry Lee Lewis – The (Complete) Session Recorded in London – I was never a Jerry Lee fan, he seemed like such a jerk. But Lordy, is he good! This 2-volume set is a masterpiece. Baby what you want me to do?
Then on to another kind of music. The Inner Light Ministries in Aptos. It turns out to be a huge crowd and the 48-person choir, led by Valerie Joy, who also sings like an angel. It is GOOD! I hadn’t expected anything like this. After some preaching, the choir comes back out and a wisp of a girl with strawberry blonde hair comes out and sings in a huge voice, she reminds me a bit of Patti Smith, it’s a rockin’ number. Reverend Deborah Johnson talks about balance. She leans over to her right and says, “You get really high,” and then leans to her left and says “then you’re down-down-down.” Better to try to stay balanced, she says, than go through this teeter-totter of ups and downs. The choir finishes with a reggae number that has everyone up and dancing. This has turned out to be pretty darned good day! I head back up the coast with my raccoon.
Here’s a gorilla in Half Moon Bay. Hey, ain’t life rich?