Yesterday this little beach town had such wonderful weather for all of its guests who had arrived from other towns so that they might partake of the sea. People living here have to wait until October before they get the town back because the rest of the year tourists taken over and pretend as if they own it. The stores, the roads, the beaches, the restaurants, the parking lots–all is taken over by people who don’t really live here, but would like to pretend for a day or two or week that they do. I feel lucky to be able to live close by, but away from all of the muckety-muck that goes on nearby. Just up one little road, around the turn, up a long driveway, and I am hidden from all of that takeover of the community.
The weather drew me down out of the mountains yesterday. The little towns up and down the coast put on festivals to celebrate all sorts of things. Wine, art, old cars, food from farmers, canoe racers from Hawaii, what ever glitter the chamber of commerce can come up with to attract dollars from other parts of the state. When one town on the coast does not have a festival another one does, and so the roads that connect the towns together become all bubblegummed up with traffic. No one can get anywhere. Nothing moves. It is like in an ice age, a glacier that has frozen into the form of a major traffic jam. When I drive over one of the bridges over the freeway, I am always amazed to look in both directions at the traffic, and see that it is stopped for miles both ways. So many cars idling their motors and going nowhere! I just want to go home and sit in front of my house where I have a view of the forest and read a book.
In the off season I can get to town or go to the ocean and avoid a lot of the heavy traffic. That capability is enough to make me want to continue to live here. And, if I really want to get mixed up in all the traffic I can do that as well, and I will eventually get to where it is that everybody else is going. When some of these warm October days roll around, I can actually get out on the roads and use them freely without all of the interference from the out-of-towners. The past couple of days were like that. I was actually able to drive to downtown Santa Cruz and drive out on the municipal wharf for breakfast on Sunday morning. So nice! And in the afternoon I was able to drive to another popular beach a few miles to the south of me, find a parking spot within just a few steps of the sand, and then get out of my car and take a long walk along the beach. Boy, this is the time of year to be alive!
I have not lived in this town forever. I have lived here for quite a long time though. My uncle was the founder of this town, my uncle several generations removed, that is; he came here on a ship from New York in 1841. He came for the lumber, making a fortune when California was still under Spanish rule. All that money was long gone before I arrived. So I was not attracted to this town because of my family history or because of money, but rather because of the excellent surfing conditions. There are more good waves within the city limits of Santa Cruz, then there are on the entire North Shore of Oahu in Hawaii. After 45 years of surfing and windsurfing, I have had to give up both of those sports. I just don’t have the strength, but I still love to go watch people ride waves. When I know that there are some good-sized waves in town, I will go out of my way to go to the cliffs where there is a good vantage point and watch these guys enjoying the faces of moving mountains that have come to town from far away. The land may change, and in fact has gone through many changes, in the years I’ve been here, and that will continue. The land developers are knocking down one-story buildings, and in their place putting up multi-story buildings as tall as the building commissioner will allow them. The ocean commissioner, however, has no authority over giant waves coming in on occasion. When word gets out that all the rules about tall waves have been broken by some major storm coming in off the North Pacific, surfers show up from everywhere and take over the town.
I drove past one of my favorite old surf spots yesterday morning after breakfast on the wharf. Sure enough, as I suspected, one of my old surfing buddies who I still hang out with from time to time, a fellow named Bill, was out in the early morning, surfing these small waves. He has been surfing in this same spot for 50 years. He is still there, such an icon to what this town means to so many people like myself who have spent so much time in these waters.
I called him up in the late afternoon yesterday. He didn’t pick up his cell phone. But I left him a message, telling him that I saw him in the water yesterday, and that his form was still pretty good after 50 years. It is amazing to think that the form of the town itself has changed so much, and to think that I can look out from 100 yards away at a crowd of 50 to 100 surfers, and be able to pick out my friend Bill from among that crowd. It gives me a rather grand sense that the town is still somewhat mine, even though that sense continues to diminish.