Santa Cruz Good Times

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Mar 05th
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Just Add Water: Episode II

greg7-6-2010Previously in Just Add Water:  Apollo sees a therapist and manages to manage his Aunt Xena’s new coffeehouse, Wholly Beans! Meanwhile, diva pal Sally takes on the Santa Cruz meter maids.

Peter, I’d like to introduce you to Jan. Jan, Peter; Peter, Jan ..."

I watched as Jan, one of my new employees, a short, long-haired blond gal who’s studying food politics at UC Santa Cruz, greeted Peter, our coffeebar’s dark-haired hunk with biceps, only to realize that the fact that their monikers make up one-third of a historic TV cult phenomenon, is totally lost on them.

I stared them down. “Really? Nothing?”

Peter studied me for second. “What? You trying to fix us up, Apollo?”

My jaw dropped and the thought of those unlikely Brady bedfellows. “Peter and Jan? Disgusting.”

Jan grinned. “Bloody ’ell,” she groaned using a fake British accent. “What’ so d’gustin’ ’bout it?”



And so began the first morning of my third week in coffeebar hell, the kind of place where white clothing only becomes a magnet for coffee stains—a lot of them.

Later that morning, Sally sauntered in the cofeebar, quickly settled into her typical corner barstool and quickly prodded me about my latest therapy appointment.

“Nothing major to report,” I sigh, leaning into the counter. “Seems like I was overly sensitive of my hyper-critical mother and my bully brother. You know: your garden-variety neuroses.”

“Speaking of bullies,” Sally mused, “I'm moving forward with my little lawsuit against the city."

I rolled my eyes. Last week, Sally morphed into a vigilant stormtrooper after one of the city’s parking officials caught her wiping off the chalk on her car tire. Now, she seems even more determined to take down the city’s parking officials.

“This doesn’t mean I have to escort you into a courtroom, does it?” I asked, serving her a cup of decaff.

She extended an open palm of toward me and smiled. “Absolutely, darling! I’ve received five more parking tickets in just the last six days. I’m pushing for ten. This way, when I do storm into that courtroom, they’ll be forced to drag half of the city’s parking staff in there with me."

“Go the distance, lady. Go the distance …”

Sally and I turned only to discover that the comment came from B.L., one of the official Wholly Beans! regulars. B.L. was a kind soul. He had already been a “regular” at the joint before I took over for Aunt Xena. While he lacked variety in the clothing department—the guy sported a colorful Mexican poncho—he beamed happiness and sunshine—and bit too much Old Spice. But his full silvery gray beard so nicely hugged his face. He was like a modern-day Grizzly Adams—only twenty years older.

“You want your usual,” I asked B.L., as I reached for coffee cup.

He shook his head. “Decaf today, Apollo. Just like Sal.”

Sally playfully patted the barstool next to her with her hand and encouraged him to move closer.  “At least I have you in my corner, B.L.”

I placed a cup of decaf in front of B.L. “Please, Sally. Don’t start.”

“I think what you’re doing is mighty good,” B.L. said. “After that happy-go-lucky fella dressed as a clown got busted for putting change in everybody’s parking meter a few years back, I always thought this town could benefit from an uprising.”

“Or a reality enema,” I chimed in, fearing that even the most modest ounce of encouragement would be too much for Sally. I had Aunt Xena’s coffeehouse to protect, after all—as much as it pained me. I didn’t want Sally causing such a stir that I would have to be questioned by the police. I needed less drama. Not more.

“You’re damn straight, we need an uprising,” Sally shot back.

Too late, I thought.

“Guess what I learned today,” she went on. “You know those savage, money-hungry meter maids call those little buggies they ride?”

B.L. and I shrugged.

“Interceptors.”

I laughed. “What kind of name is that? It sounds like a really bad Arnold Schwarzenegger movie.”

“Exactly,” Sally confirmed. “I mean, if marking up people’s cars was such a noble thing, then why name the very vehicle in which you’re carting your ticket-generating rear end something as banal as Interceptor? The only interceptor I want in my life is in the bedroom, darling. And preferably over 6 feet tall!”

B.L. held an inquisitive look. “Will 5’10 do?”

Sally took his hand and gave it an affectionate squeeze. “Nix the ’70s aftershave, darling, and  maybe I’ll let you buy me java some day.”

The entire exchange warmed my heart but confounded me all the same. On the one coffee-burned hand, it was fabulous to see Sally joke around with B.L. But on the other, I couldn’t help but wonder if her attack on the city was just another way for her to cope with losing her younger hubby a while back.

Regardless, with all of her enthusiasm for suing the city, she could at least direct a little bit of that toward, well, me. I still felt like an odd duck in Santa Cruz and I could certainly use more than just the “hit the therapist’s couch” line. And I desperately missed the city,  now that my Polish aunt had entered her fourth week of coma bliss, all that I seemed to be doing was working long hours trying to keep her ridiculous coffeehouse afloat.

Not that Wholly Beans! was awful—not by any means. The place held a hip vibe and Aunt Xena had gone for a fine mix of old and new—vintage couches and chairs juxtaposed brightly colored walls; royal purples and  shiny golds. A sunken lounge rested in the center of the joint and there was even a stage for open mic nights and other performances. Hell. Even I'd hang out here if I didn't have to run it.

The best part? The long L-shaped coffeebar, which was much like a regular bar in a tavern. It was the centerpiece of the entire place and the regulars just loved to sit there—and annoy the crap out of me with all the free refills. Still, Wholly Beans! did have some of the best organic roasted coffee beans along the Central Coast—or so said Aunt Xena’s business plan. And how bad could a store be that sat right across the street from a vintage record store?

But none of it really mattered to me that much. I missed writing; missed being in the writing business. Sally always told me that there were no accidents—that there was a real reason why the San Francisco Examiner was bought out and my job completely obliterated. My pride—or my ego—had been wounded. I sank into a bona fide funk.

And then … the whole Aunt Xena thing happened. Now, I was paying a bundle in therapy to figure out how to move forward in life

Jan, eager to please and all new and all that, rushed up and swiped Sally’s empty cup, tossing it into a tray of other unwashed dishes. She picked up a few empty cups sitting on the counter near Sally. “Sorry ’bout the mess luvs,” she huffed. “Been a bit out of sorts of late. Me bloody boyfriend’s been keepin’ me up, he is.” She leaned over the counter, her eyes rolling. “And not in the way we all luv. He’s studying to be a lawyer!”

Sally and I exchanged looks but I have completely accepted the fact that, even though Jan is a native California—born and raised in Barstow—she still, for some reason we have yet to determine—speaks with a British accent.

Intrigued, Sally grabbed  Jan’s forearm and leaned in closer. “Darling … did you just say lawyer?”

I perked up. “Sally—don’t go there.”

Jan just nodded like a good old English sheepdog.

“Give me his number. You’re little love fiend is going to help me embark on one of Santa Cruz’s biggest and bestest scandals.”

Jan set the tray of dirty dishes on a barstool and digging deep into her smock’s pocket, retrieved a card and handed it to Sally.

“Dick Richard?” Sally chuckled. She shot Jan a look. “You’ve got to be kidding!”

Jan shrugged. “Wish it was all a 'ha-ha' me-self,” she countered. “What can I say? I got me a Double Dick!”

“Well, with Double Dick as my attorney, then I’ll be doubly reward,” Sally shot back.

I checked the clock on the wall. When was my next therapy appointment?

Just then, I spotted Peter heading our way with another female job applicant at his side. “Apollo … “ he said, indicating the brown-haired, brown-eyed, twentysomething beside him, “this is Marcia.” He turned to Marcia. “Marcia, Apollo.”

He moved on. “Jan, Marcia. Marcia, Sally. Sally … Marcia.  Marcia, B.L., B.L., Marcia.

Marcia, Marcia, Marcia, indeed.

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