If I could open anything, it would be a shop that would allow many different artists to come, create and sell their things. I feel like there are so many people out there with such great talent, but there’s not a lot of places for people to practice or sell their stuff.
Santa Cruz | Artist
I spend an inordinate amount of time in Downtown Santa Cruz. I enjoy the shops, restaurants and outdoor markets, but what really keeps me coming back are the people. As a child I was tutored in people-watching by my parents, mostly in and around the old Cooper House. I also learned the craft of categorizing—not with malice but with a sense of appreciation and enjoyment. “Salty Sea Captain!” my dad would nudge toward the pedestrian passing by. “Jesus!” I would add, nodding at the young shirtless, bearded man passing by. (It was the ’70s. Everyone looked like Jesus.) This playful genus and species game is still fun, though not always politically correct. “Yoga enthusiast!” and “Prius driver!” are well-worn, as are “Self-Employed Tech Guru!” and “Non-Contributor!” There is one declaration that seems absent these days—“Bad Boy!” Where have they gone?
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I couldn’t help but rub it in—a little—last week when the big, bold blizzard hit my hometown of Chicago—Elmhurst, to be specific. “There’s nothing like driving with your top down in sunny 70-degree weather,” I joked to my Polish mother on the phone. She groaned and I immediately feared I’d never receive a homemade pierogi ever again. In truth, I missed being there. Actually, there’s nothing like a blizzard. It forces everything and everyone to stop. (Hell, I secretly wanted to take a Snow Day of my own!)
A little over a year ago, I played the role of narrator in a show called “Jugtown U.S.A.” The show concept was simple: Play a retrospective of the hits of early Motown on jug band instruments. Musical parts were reorganized to accommodate instruments from the hillbilly wedding party scene in the movie Deliverance, were there actually such a scene. Drummer Olaf Shiappacasse played a finely arranged pile of debris, including a washboard, cardboard suitcases, hubcaps, and pie tins. Matt Bohn built and performed on a more playable interpretation of the washtub bass, substituting a galvanized washtub for the usual curvy body. Along the front of the stage, ready to play the parts of strings and brass, stood an array of jugs, partially filled beer bottles, kazoos, and megaphones.
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I began last week’s column with one word: Change. Maybe this week the word should be Transformation. It’s a fitting word, especially as the aftermath of last week’s upheavals in Eygpt continue to sink in. Transformation is good, but even better when one is aware of what kind of transformation is taking place—a quest for rights, freedom, democracy? Today in America, there are many who fight for those very same things. And while the culture’s obsesson with modern technology can sometimes distract or blur our focus on those who are making strides for greater civil rights, their efforts are nonetheless commendable and deserve notice, too. Civil rights activist Terrence Roberts spoke at UC Santa Cruz's 27th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Convocation earlier this week. A few weeks ago, Santa Cruz Next saluted a “quad squad” of locals forging ahead in innovative ways in their attempts to unite the community through their individual “progressive” projects.