Santa Cruz Good Times

Oct 09th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

‘I’ve been living here since …’

tom_honig_sI wanted to be the first to write about the upcoming 20th anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake, but then I read these words from Dan Gillmor, former tech guru at the San Jose Mercury News and the author of “We the People,” a call-to-arms for citizen journalism.

Writing in his blog, Mediactive, Gillmor talks of 11 things he would do if he ran a news organization (No. 11 is: no more Top 10 lists.)

No. 1: “We would not run anniversary stories and commentary except in the rarest of circumstances. They are a refuge for lazy and unimaginative journalists.”

OK. Point taken. Nevertheless, there is an important aspect of the 20th anniversary of that quake on Oct. 17, 1989. It’s just another signpost in the ultimate Santa Cruz game “Are you a local?”

Living through the Loma Prieta quake—20 years ago—is a pretty good marker of being a local. And that’s an important characteristic of Santa Cruz.

If you doubt it, go down to the next controversial Santa Cruz City Council meeting and listen carefully to the public comment portion of the meeting. Chances are that most comments will start out this way:

“I’ve been living in Santa Cruz since 1966, and I think …”

Or (in an apologetic tone): “I’ve only been living here since November, but in that time I’ve grown to realize …”

Obviously, living here holds some cachet. And living here a long time really scores points.

The earthquake is merely the most recent marker. There are others: the tragic storms and mudslides from the storm of 1982, the mass murders of the early 1970s, and even the big storm and floods of 1955.

Obviously, the tragedy and loss of life from those events remain in our memory; those killed in any of those disasters are still mourned by their survivors. For the rest of us, the stories of those days still mark our conversation—and, indeed, mark us as Santa Cruzans.

Yet even while locals wear the brand with pride, there are those among us worried about the “brand” and think it needs changing. Some in the business community and some younger go-getters talk about changing the image of a pot-smoking, anti-business, anti-change town. Others are quite happy with the way it is.

What is it that makes people so proud that they stake a claim to life here?

In the late ’90s, newspaper designer Bill Ostendorf, a resident of rural Massachusetts, arrived here to begin a redesign of the Santa Cruz Sentinel. His first task: get to know the town and decide whether the newspaper needed a rebranding. Should the name “Santa Cruz” stay in the masthead or would a generic “Sentinel” appeal to more people.

It wasn’t even close. “Santa Cruz is a place that people think of longingly, even if they’ve never been here,” Ostendorf said recently by phone. “Some wish they lived here. Even if they didn’t, they thought it was cool.”

Ostendorf’s first task was to drive around the area and get an overall impression. “It was old tourism, kind of worn down. It was hippie-like, with a lot of homeless people and stores that sold incense and there were places to buy ’70s clothing. But there was new money and new wealth moving in.”

“To this day,” said Ostendorf, “when I tell people I redesigned the paper in Santa Cruz, they say: ‘Oh, that’s cool.’”

Maybe that’s the image we’re looking for. “Santa Cruz—That’s Cool.” Not sure the Chamber of Commerce will embrace it. But then again—it’s not bad.

For the record, I came to Santa Cruz in 1971. I can talk with authority about the bar at Castagnola’s, the old Catalyst, the Cooper House or the grilled-cheese sandwiches at the old Horsesnyder’s Pharmacy.

But that doesn’t qualify me, alas, for local-dom. Too many natives get that shake of the head when they talk about the real glory days. My friend Mel Bowen talks about playing baseball on Capitola Avenue and a car coming by only every 20 minutes. Or another friend—you know who you are—who as a teenager had to chase an errant keg of beer down an empty Soquel Avenue hill when it careened out of a bouncing pickup truck.

A lot of the real old-timer Santa Cruzans ultimately left town when it got too damn crowded for them. Maybe those are the ultimate locals—the ones who saw the invasion, packed up their things and left.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger


Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share


Hot in Here

This ain’t no Burning Man—the MAH’s GLOW festival flames on


Mercury Direct in Libra, Columbus Day, Libra New Moon

Mercury completes its retrograde Friday, poised stationary direct Friday evening at zero degrees Libra. Mercury begins its journey through Libra once again, completing its retrograde shadow Oct. 12. Things should be a bit less complicated by then. Daily life works better, plans move forward, large purchases can be made, and communication eases. Everything on hold during the retrograde is slowly released. Since we eliminated all thoughts and ideas no longer needed (the purpose of Mercury’s retrograde) during the retrograde, we can now gather new information—until the next retrograde occurs on Jan. 5, 2016 (1.3 degrees Aquarius), retrograding back to 15 degrees Capricorn on Jan. 25. It’s good to know beforehand when Mercury will retrograde next—Jan. 5, the day before Epiphany. On Monday is Columbus Day, when the sailor from Genoa arrived in the new lands (Americas), Oct. 12, 1492. This discovery by Columbus was the first encounter of Europeans with Native Americans. Other names for this day are “Discovery Day, Day of the Americas, Cultural Diversity Day, Indigenous People’s Day, and Dia de la Raza.” Italian communities especially celebrate this day. Oct. 12 is also Thanksgiving Day in Canada. Monday is also the (19 degrees) Libra new moon festival. Libra’s keynote while building the personality is, “Let choice be made.” Libra is the sign of making life choices. Often under great tension of opposing forces seeking harmony and balance. There is a battle between our lower (personality) and higher selves (soul). We are tested and called to cultivate right judgment and love. When we align with the will-to-good, right choice, then right judgment and love/wisdom come forth. Our tasks in Libra. 


The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program


Film, Times & Events: Week of October 9

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments


Seoul Food

Santa Cruz’s new Sesame Korean is a great introduction to an ancient culinary tradition


Is there evil in the world?

Yes, some people don’t think right because they have been treated badly. Milo Robbins, Scotts Valley, Second Grade


Dos Aguilas Olive Oil

Aptos company is letting locals pick their own olives in October


What’s your biggest pet peeve?

When people say they’re “going down” somewhere, and they’re actually traveling north. Julia Ragen, Santa Cruz, Psychologist