Wednesday, January 17, 2007






I looked down at my cell phone. There was no signal. There is never any signal outside of town.

I entered Pogonip at the end of Spring St. You can leave Caitlin’s Condo and walk over to the entrance. The Park connects to Henry Cowell. You can see some pretty big Redwoods there.
“I want to see some really big ones.” I said hugging a tree. “Can you imagine this thing is alive for almost two thousand years?” There were burn marks on the bark from a fire back in 1900. Redwoods love fire. It kills off the competition and makes room for their teeny tiny pine cones to root. The pitch of the tree is fire resistant and the branches are way up high.

Caitlin isn't so interested in big ones.
“What I really like.” She told me. “Is how they make a circle of trees. “ Something about them sharing a root system.”
“You mean they are all connected into one giant living organism?” I said.
“Yeah, something like that.”
“Camping inside a circle like that and seeing the moon, that would be something.” I thought.

I went for a hike in one of the many parks surround Santa Cruz every day except for one. That day I looked at Real Estate with Caitlin's mother. She is an agent. If I could find the right Victorian in the right spot I would buy it in an instant.

There are bigger trees at Big Basin. One tree, the Mother of the Forest is about 350 feet high or lets say thirty five stories tall. Yeah thats right. Go ahead and count up the next big building you see. There is a large orifice on one side and I don’t need to tell you what it looks like. Not that I am afraid of the word vagina. VAGINA. See? You can walk inside. I would love to spend the night inside one of these trees or build a house in there and live like a Hobbit. Can you imagine what kind of dreams you would have?

The biggest ones are further up north. I thought about making the six hour drive up there but nobody would go with me. That’s what I want to do. Hike into the mountains and search for the secret box canyon where Hyperion is. Hike for days.

The most spectacular hike I went on was Big Sur. The mountains roll into the sea there. There are bays below nestled into the cliffs that are inaccessible by foot. In fact there is a sign stating that 80% of the rescues performed in that park are by rangers trying to save hikers who could not resist the siren call of those rocky enclaves.

On that day Caitlin told me about her disintegrating marriage to Matthew. “Here we were in one of the most beautiful places on earth and he had nothing good to say about it. He kept saying things like ‘Nothing feels so good as a dick in your ass.”
“Yeah.” I said. "That’s a bad sign.”

The sun was setting in Pogonip when my phone rang. That was a relief. I had been wandering around lost for a least an hour. I was by myself on that day. The trails at all the parks I went to were very poorly marked. You might get a trail head in California but then after that you are on your own. Never hike there without a whistle, compass and flashlight. I answered the phone. It was Caitlin.
“How are you doing?”
“Well, I think I was very lost but now I think I know my way out. Yeah, I can see the road. I’m pretty sure it’s the right one.”
“That’s good.”
“If I see any Mountain Lions I will call you.”
“Ok, Just don’t CROUCH DOWN.”

Monday, January 15, 2007

Santa Cruz

Two or three dolphins were following us. We were walking along West Cliff Avenue, the road that winds its way across the cliffs of Santa Cruz's beach front. We passed a rocky outcrop whose flat top had been transformed into a rookery for cormorants and pelicans.
“We have cormorants in Central Park.” I mentioned to Caitlin. “We also get Egrets. They put fish in the North Meer and they showed up. I guess you don’t have to put any fish in the ocean. Not yet.”

Seals were floating on their backs preening themselves. One barked at us as we passed. Now and then the dolphins black silhouettes would emerge from the waves and then disappear back into sea.

We passed a snazzy red convertible with an old hipster behind the wheel. He had long perfectly groomed long gray hair and jet black sunglasses. He was kinda L.L. Bean styled but more Patagonia and North Face. Everybody wears some sort of hiking shoe. No street shoes like me. Nothing New York City on their feet. He smiled as we passed. I imagined him a hippie forty years ago.
"We have tons of guys like that." Caitlin said. "They never grow up."

As we drew close to the town center there was a tent on one of the promontories. Druid rock filled the air with irish harps, wooden flutes, and mystical electric guitars. Below us more silver haired hippies, now in wet suits took turns catching the waves on their surfboards.
"That's Steamer Lane." Caitlin said. "That's where the Beach Boys were talking about when they sang about Santa Cruz."
"Yeah." I said. "And the same guys are still down there."
"They will be until they die." Came her reply with a wry grin. "It's very territorial."

There is one main drag in town, Center street. Well you could also say Center and Front st. Front is more for cars and Center for pedestrians. On every corner of Center there is somebody carefully positioned to catch the loving kiss of the California winter sun. In the warm afternoon they strum or pluck their guitars and sing.

There are three art movie houses and a half dozen yoga studios downtown. There is a penny arcade. Just around the bay you can see a roller coaster. There is a lingerie shop where the sexy asian owner prances around in her wares. You can walk from one end of "The Mall" to the other in about ten minutes. At the far end of town is a perfect English tower clock. Nearby the post office sits, looking like a miniature Roman temple.

Homelessness is an art in Santa Cruz. Many young people make their way here. They come down from the mountains and villages and join the bands of elder street people whose crenelated, sun burnt faces illustrate years of battle with the elements. They live in beat up vans, sleeping in oily down sleeping bags. They beg and sing and do Tarot card readings. There's a guy who tells jokes for loose change. They wear hooded sweatshirts, baseball caps on their long matted hair, dark sunglasses and black army boots held together with tape.
"Its the Unibomber look." according to Caitlin.
“Yeah.” I thought. “That IS a look.”

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Pacific Coast Highway 1

You could use a bunch of superlatives, like spectacular, breathtaking or amazing, but they don't speak to the minds eye. Instead, google Pacific Coast Highway 1, better yet, images: "Big Sur". You will see, rolling green hills plunging hundreds of feet down to a turquoise blue surf. You will see the giant polished black heads of knobby skulled gnomes rising from the inky blue surf. You will see white crystal waves crashing into their open mouths.

Now set yourself down on that little black hardtop that snakes along the coast. Do 90, no, 95. Your hair is golden, streaming behind you. Imagine Brian Wilson sitting in the back seat of your convertible. He is strumming a guitar and singing softly to you.
"Round Round, get around, I get around."
Forget the August sun. It is January and the air is crisp, yet the sun is kissing every inch of your body.
That's the setting. That's were this all takes place.

Caitlin met me at the airport. She was wearing purple, fishnet stockings, purple suede disco shoes and a mid thigh psychedelic purple dress. I got a big smile and a big hug as I entered the waiting area. We breezed out of the parking lot in her Mini-cooper.

Minutes out of San Francisco it got good already.
"How did they save all of this?" I asked her. "There are no billboards, no concrete, no neon, no endless strip malls. I don't even see a single gas station.
"Im not sure." She smiled. "But I'm pretty sure my mother had something to do with it."

Here is my guess based on absolutely no research. It was the beginning of the 21st century. Roosevelt was president. They had seen what had happened on the East Coast. Somebody begged him. Somebody big, with vision.
"Please Mr. President. Don't let that happen here."
And he stopped it. With his pen he stopped it.