Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Curse of Santa Cruz

Summer time in the Sierra Nevada foothills usually means brilliant sunshine, warm (OK, hot) daytime temperatures, and night time skies clear and dark enough to see the Milky Way.

It's beautiful here, but sometimes I get homesick for the coast.

But not really for the coast; for Santa Cruz specifically.  This is a little strange, because the only time I spent in Santa Cruz was the 6 year period between graduating college and moving up here.  There's nothing really binding me to Santa Cruz - family and childhood friends are mostly in southern California, I didn't go to college there, the cost of living was nothing to feel nostalgic about, and so on.

My husband, who spent many more years there than I, tells me that there is a curse on Santa Cruz.  Actually, there are several, but the one that he related to me goes as follows: 

Hundreds of years ago, Europeans arrived in California.  The Spanish set up missions and pretty much terrorized the native population.  90% of the indigenous people died, and most of the rest were displaced, forced into servitude on the missions, and made to assimilate Spanish culture and language.  It was not happy fun times to be an Ohlone, that's for sure.

One particularly bold shaman is said to have given the Dominican padres this message: "You can come here.  You can take our land and force us to change our way of life.  But you will never be happy here, and you will never be able to leave."  

As my husband tells the story, the curse applies to every outsider who moves to Santa Cruz: once your move there, you will never be happy, and you will never be able to leave.  Santa Cruz grabs your soul and hangs on.

I was feeling a bit of that this morning.  I wasn't missing the rising crime, the meathead college students, the high rent, the traffic congestion, the dippy faux hippies.  What I was missing was the morning fog, the sound of sea lions barking, the smell of salt in the air, the quick walk you can take in any direction and find an independent coffee shop, the rows of Victorian houses on Walnut Street, the sound of the carnival rides at the Beach Boardwalk, the vague humming of the ocean, the Nickelodeon, Castle Rock (which will be closed in a few months thanks to the new state budget), Pacific Edge Climbing Gym, The Crepe Place...

Sometimes it's tempting to peruse job postings, look up homes for rent, fantasize about coming back, even though it's not where my people are, it's not where I'm from.  But it has hints and shades of a home; I could never really be happy there, I know.  But I don't think I'll ever be able to leave.

1 comment:

Boomer said...

Yeah, Santa Cruz is pretty frustrating. Accepting, but not all that welcoming. Beautiful, but you need the cost of admission. Progressive, unless it's something that actually calls for personal sacrifice.

The best parts are the parts that nature provided, and the people who came here -- through the university or on their own -- to live open-mindedly. And a Mike's Mess, of course :-).

Oh well, nothing stuffy and self-righteous about Santa Cruz that a good housing crash wouldn't clear up right away. Look us up in a few years.

And congrats on a readable, thoughtful blog. Consider yourself bookmarked.

"Boomer," downtown Santa Cruz.