Great Expectations … for 365 days
How did you pronounce it? Formally—two thousand ten? Or casually? Twenty ten. If you’re like me, and odds are you’re more like me than you’d like to admit, you accidentally wrote it as 2001 sporadically for most of the year. Any way you addressed it, 2010 had a lot to live up to based on my intense research. (Disclaimer #1: To those of you who are not familiar with my method of intense research … it involves re-reading my own diary, talking to a panel of approximately three people—at least one of whom will undoubtedly be in elementary school—and Internet searches, which somehow always guide me directly to the “Buy it Now” list of Buffalo China on eBay.)
Judged purely on the cultural guideposts set for us by those who came before (mostly the low-hanging guideposts that we run into in the dark), it appears our current year failed on a number of levels. Perhaps the roadmap for the year wasn’t as plain as in previous times (1984—dystopia über alles, 1999—party like it’s, 2000—Y2K grid boogie), but we can’t deny that the expected goals were there for the realizing. All we had to do was stop, look or listen.
In the 1984 film 2010 (sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey), humanity, after completely blowing it here on our home planet, begins anew in distant verdant pastures with the aid of a binary-programmed guardian angel. So far, in real-life 2010, we are still rolling up our sleeves and excelling at the “blowing it” phase. Musically, Bad Religion’s 1996 song “10 in 2010” was an aggressive cautionary tale of the earth’s projected population of 10 billion living human persons in 2010. Alas, we failed here again, coming closer to a mere 6.9 billion. (Maybe we were too busy “blowing it” to procreate as destructively as predicted. Focus, people!) However, estimates of the total number of people who have ever lived range from approximately 100 billion to 115 billion. My point being that there are more dead people today than at any other time in our history, which, for the competitive among you, is really great. Turning to television for a more pedestrian vision of our current future, 1994’s made-for-TV movie, Knight Rider 2010 also seems to have got things wrong, as shocking as that may seem, and The Mad Max Monster Truck rally with optional talking custom Fords envisioned only takes place once a year in the Black Rock Desert. (Side note: Everyone knows only Pontiacs can talk, so I don’t know what the producers were thinking. Fords have nothing to say.) David Hasselhoff, the original Knight Rider, has far surpassed all expectations for his own 2010. Who saw that coming?
So although 10 billion of us didn’t lead a post-apocalyptic verdant interplanetary Garden of Eden existence (with or without a talking vehicle), the people I know personally and the masses I consider my community-at-large all trudged, traipsed and thrilled through the past 12 (or so) months with varying degrees of aplomb and apoplexy, as the situation dictated. (Disclaimer #2: many groundbreaking, earth-shattering and life-changing news stories in 2010 bored me to tears, or I have simply chosen to ignore, as journalistic license permits, so I will not be including them. For instance, the downward spiraling approval rating of President Barack Obama. It’s as if the boyfriend you tried so hard to land leaves the seat up just like every other man.)
Year-end reports tend to bring out the analyst in us. Can we categorize the year, give it an overall performance review, label it with a nickname? Somehow the closer we get to Dec. 31, the more we expect, or at least hope, that the year behind us will take on a definitive flavor, despite the disparate events embodied within. When it comes to end-of-year wrap-ups, we all become a little compartment-ally inclined. Let’s take a look at some (not all) of 2010 and see how it shapes up. I’m hoping we can come up with something better than Year of the Bieber.
The Sun Also Rises … On A New Year
2010 was the United Nations International Year of Youth, so, appropriately enough, it started on a Friday, leaving a full weekend to herald its arrival. Here at home, Downtown Santa Cruz hosted DIY revelers early in the evening, and DIY drinkers for the rest of the night. Thus marked the first of many official glitter-optional local events of 2010. A string of violence and tragedy closely followed, setting a tone that would continue in much of the year. In the Year of Youth, we lost too many, too senselessly. In the business world, we bade farewell to Pontiac, Saturn and Saab as GM trimmed its books, while the Cemex plant in Davenport also announced its shuttering. No more talking Pontiacs for anyone, or job security.
On the upside, locals looked forward to the opening of a third medical marijuana dispensary, which couldn’t come at a better time considering all of the heartfelt pain surrounding world events, or the jump in gas prices. Nobody likes to stand in a long line at the pot store—the crayon markings on the prescription pads tend to fade in sweaty hands. Awkward! Even better was the announcement that Fox and Time Warner had reached a settlement, causing a relieved exhale by the four people in Santa Cruz who cared. The rest grabbed the remote and inhaled.
By the way, as I look back month by month, I could easily repeat myself on a few topics, so I thought it might be best to get them out of the way here and consider them referenced hereinafter, sprinkled about where it seems appropriate to avoid the risk of boring you to death. (This is interactive journalism.) To wit, at least once a month, 1) a visitor/student/drunk was rescued from a nearby cliff or trestle, 2) a pile up caused by a visitor/student/drunk on Highway 17 clogged area commuters in their cars for hours, 3) a visitor/student/drunk was stabbed outside a local watering hole, 4) housing prices caused shock and awe in area visitors/students/homeowners, causing many to become drunks.
Thankfully, the afterglow of Avatar still hung self-righteously in the air and kept overall morale erring on the side of hopeful. Spearheading the Na’vi-mania was UC Santa Cruz student Sebastian Wolff, who decoded the peace-loving race’s fictional language after what I’m sure must have been at least three viewings of the Academy Award-winning film. And probably a different type of intense research and training than I utilize, although I do suspect the participation of an elementary school-age assistant.
Sports fans near and far had a banner year, beginning with the Vancouver Winter Olympics in February. This translated into the quad-annual retail bump in snow gear for retailers and increased danger on nearby bunny slopes for everyone. As proof, I will admit to having purchased snow pants and giving snowboarding a try. I believe I created a new form that will be popular with many amateurs: snow-board-standing-still-don’t-touch-me. Ruben Verges, home town representative on the Olympic Snowboard Half Pipe event, came through with seriously more polished mad skills and placed 15th. Santa Cruz was proud, and many were vocal to point out that the Olympics and elections were the only reason they owned a television. Good for you!
Off the snow, racecar driver Danica Patrick, of Go Daddy commercials fame (hey, I call it as I see it) became the first woman to race the Daytona 500. Media coverage of the race, and of Danica, has promoted a new drinking game that consists of taking a chug of your favorite beverage with each mention of the accompanying words in relation to the professional driver: sexy, vixen, sultry, temptress or sizzling. Unfortunately she crashed during lap 69 in a 12-car pile-up, which sounds sort of sexy in and of itself. Drink.
On a local women-in-sports note, the Santa Cruz Derby Girls began their home season at the Civic Auditorium in the spring, giving underemployed scalpers a hot ticket to hock on Saturday nights. Plans to suspend an additional thousand fans from the ceiling of the hall are currently under investigation, aided by Arial Dance Santa Cruz.
Of Mice and Men … Dogs and ‘Other’
In March, prompted by the Downtown Association, which is headed by Chip, who goes by only one name (Disclaimer #3: local journalists receive a $3 bonus every time we use that phrase), a civil code banning dogs in our downtown came under closer scrutiny after merchants voted to repeal the ban. The ban remains in place until the City Council reviews the proposal, but our dog-loving citizenry flocked to Pacific Avenue with their furry friends, in some cases three to a leash, a la Cerberus, the hound of hell, because we all know how dogs love to browse. (Sit. Stay. Fetch. Browse. Debit or credit?) Some applauded the move, others complained bitterly, while most simply went about their shopping lives, with some added swearing and foot scraping.
Speaking of swearing and foot scraping, the Academy Awards, which in 10 or 20 years will be part of the time capsule displaying this year’s essence, handed two of its most prestigious awards to Avatar and to The Hurt Locker. Well-made and ambitious films, popular and heartbreaking, neither provided my number one must-have in a movie: the proper montage. I would have liked to see our peaceful Na’vi on a shopping spree, trying different loincloths, hiding behind day-glo flowers and tumbling carefree to the base of a spirit tree. The Hurt Locker could have considered any number of light-hearted “where’s the device” clips, with “aha” and “hey, your boots are untied—not!” moments, just to give our blood pressure a little break. However, in the future I believe 2010’s representatives will cause the researcher to nod and recognize the era’s conflict and inner turmoil of those involved, regardless of language or color of skin. That seems fair to me.
2010 was a census year! As a child I imagined the census much like a search warrant, picturing a few armed government workers ransacking my house looking for people, televisions and radios. I think I watched too many Robert Stack movies as a kid. Of course as an adult I realize that nobody ransacks the house except for me, and that’s only to find a pen to complete the form. The big local push for households to participate stems from cutbacks to federal and state funding based on population numbers. A newly defined region, nicknamed “Santalinasville,” designates one urban area running from Salinas north to Davenport. With our paltry bursts of peopled homes in that large of an area we’re bound to lose out. The government will release the final numbers on Dec. 21. Here’s a fun game: Email me your guesses for Santa Cruz, city and county, and I will send a special award to the person who comes closest. No fair cheating— don’t go out counting everyone between now and then.
The April showers of lore failed to arrive, but news broke that an explosion occurred on BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, showering the waters, shores, birds and fish, communities, economy and media with oily crap. The charming accents of the British Petroleum representatives soothed for a bit, but were undermined by the content of their comments and strategies—more crap, still oily. What we did end up with are some of the most courageous outbursts of foot-in-mouth disease since Alexander Haig’s “I’m in charge here” gem.
“The ocean will take care of this on its own if it was left alone and left out there. It’s natural. It’s as natural as the ocean water is.” —Rush Limbaugh
… with a close second from BP CEO Tony Hayward: “There’s no one who wants this over more than I do. I would like my life back.”
April provided interesting statistics for the county, as a measly 33 percent of registered voters participated in the California Primary election, and the same number of people watched every game in the World Cup. I believe they were separate thirds of our burg, which feeds my suspicious mind—were the remaining third Russian spies? April was a pretty big month for good old-fashioned subterfuge, with 11 suspected Ruskies (yes, I said it) arrested in the suburbs near the East Coast while they baked cookies, attended PTA meetings, and infiltrated our youth soccer leagues, becoming Americanized in order to gain access to state secrets. If the Haitian earthquake and BP spill spawn major emotional film projects, I vote for the Russian Spy story to be made into a TBS sitcom. Will someone please get on this? (Sadly, all they had to do to gain access to state secrets was have a good Internet connection and be able to spell wiki …)
May Day came and went without much ado, unless you count the Downtown Santa Cruz riot that resulted in shattered retail windows, walls splashed with paint and graffiti, and masked marauders wielding rocks. The origins of May Day in pagan culture mark the coming of spring. Since the 1850s, it has also become a celebration of International Workers Day. Can we get a montage next year? Maypoles, rocks, flower petals, shattered glass. Aaaah, spring.
Oh! In June, the Guardian Angels set up shop in Santa Cruz. Remember them? With the army boots, cargo pants, white t-shirts, red berets and visible presence? This, along with the spies, really turned June into “80s nostalgia month.” Their one-day march from downtown to the beach and back sent a strong message, something along the lines of “Hey, that’s a nice little workout!”
The Sound and the Fury, and a Slight Itch
In early July, our local beaches insisted on exploding with fireworks despite the longstanding law banning such behavior. I blame the downtown dog owners, clearly scofflaws by nature. Plenty of witnesses gathered on cliffs to file citizen arrest reports, which were cleverly hidden in paper bags shaped like Fat Tire Ale bottles. Wily citizen vigilantes! The cheers, “ooohs” and “aaaahs” really sent those criminals on the beach a warning.
While illegal fireworks have become de rigueur in our town, so has discussion over the proposed rail line purchase by the SCRTC. If this topic interests you and you are looking for a lively debate with informed citizens, be forewarned—locating more than two unelected citizens who give a rat’s foot or, indeed, understand what the allure is, is more difficult than you might think. It usually stops somewhere after “What the heck?” and “I don’t get it.” Those among us who dabble in conspiracy theory have come to a glaring conclusion after weighing rail debates as well as those surrounding the La Bahia demolition and rebuild. There is murmuring that the real future La Bahia Convention Center will actually be built at the shuttered Cemex plant site and the rail line will transport all of those lucky visitors away from our pesky downtown and amusement park to take in the splendors of (and dish out the dollars to) the three restaurants, two art galleries, one store, post office, and elementary school that comprise Davenport. This will be much less taxing on the visiting conventioneers, allowing them to keep their mind on business (or getting rescued from one of Davenport’s spectacular cliffs).
While our Santa Cruz Actors’ Theatre is forced to relocate after 25 years in the same well-known and loved place, Green Day, the punk-pop superstars opened a hit musical on Broadway. I don’t know exactly what the correlation is there, but it causes me to scratch my head. (Or could that be a bed bug? The pest, on the wave of a very successful promotional tour of the east coast and vacation spots nationwide, has made its first appearance in Santa Cruz for an undetermined run. I foresee more “free” mattresses littering the streets of the county. My advice—just say no.)
September was gas and hot air month, with the gas line explosion in San Bruno claiming lives and homes, and hurricane season (technically labeled “hyperactive,” befitting the International Year of Youth) seeing eight named storms in one month! Here in Santa Cruz I believe we were discussing our own balmy weather and reminiscing about February’s “rogue wave” that became the media darling of this year’s Maverick’s surf contest. Delaware’s Tea Party candidate Christine O’Connell’s gas and hot air contribution followed a delicious train wreck of an interview on Bill Maher’s Politically Incorrect, and gave us a new T-shirt slogan trifecta: “I’m not a crook.” “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” And now, “I’m not a witch … I’m you.” I’d like to nominate a fourth option to the T-shirt wardrobe for the year: “Sha Na Na Reunion 2010: Well It’s Time To Go” (which, yes, could refer to a sundowning career or a prostate issue. It’s not for me to say.)
Fashion homage was paid (perhaps unwittingly) by Lady Gaga during the 2010 MTV Video Awards, where she appeared in a dress, bag and matching shoes made entirely of meat. Many were reminded of our own Ann Simonton’s 1982 bologna and olive loaf gown during the Myth America event here, and the chanting of supporters “Judge meat, not women.” I think the past 28 years has shown that not only will we judge meat and women, but we will also now judge fashion, cooking, singing, dancing, hoarding, apprenticeship, bachelors and/or bachelorettes, housewives, losers, curb appeal, relative intelligence to a fifth grader, what not to wear, and even a Kardashian or Osborne. All of that really makes me hungry. Mmmm … bologna.
Arms and the Man
October became a month for upper arm strength, which nobody saw coming. Did you? A new hobby popped up on the radar of the Santa Cruz Police—West Cliff Rock Throwing. Anybody can toss a rock into the crashing surf from our famous cliff side route, but it takes a real athlete with a specialized skill set to throw a rock at a moving car and then have the agility and cunning to hide. I have to imagine that a focused background in idiocy and giggling comes into play as well for these anonymous hobbyists.
The Boxer/Fiorina and the Brown/Whitman races also provided glimpses at professional slinging, albeit in this venue replace the rocks with million-dollar mud. Of course we can’t talk throwing in 2010 without giving a rather large nod to the San Francisco Giants, who walked across Philadelphia to get to Texas and in the end become the World Champions. Aside from two glaring fashion hiccups (the hideous black championship t-shirts worn in the victory parade – I believe they are referred to as the “Majestic” logo, but I prefer “Even Harley-Davidson can’t stomach these, SF can have them” and of course the infamous Thong, which we will not discuss further.)
Locally, inspired by programs in San Francisco and Denver, a new way to throw away your spare change was offered in the form of refurbished parking meters to be placed downtown, encouraging givers to donate to a fund (via the meter) instead of directly to a panhandler. Nicknamed “Homeless Parking Meters,” (or hobo-meters for the professionally incorrect) they were by no stretch of the imagination intended for reserving a sitting spot in fifteen-minute increments. The meters may receive a public art designation, which would then have the added bonus of forbidding smoking within 14 feet of each. So, unless you, the giver, are trying to multi-task and smoke while giving, this might just work. Practice answering, “Why yes, sidewalk sitter, I do have spare change. Can you point me to the nearest meter so that I can contribute to your administrative needs? Oh, please don’t sick your browsing dogs on me. ”
On a lighter note, 33 Chilean miners were rescued after more than two months stuck underground. The television coverage, viewership and tissue consumption during the rescue and reunion with families rivaled the first moon landing. It also prompted instant Halloween costumes for the lazy.
The Human Comedy, With a Twist of Tragedy
Thanksgiving travel arrived just in time for the new TSA Pat Down process, prompting outrage, protest and a barrage of topical comedy sketches that overshadowed the bigger news story in November— the release by WikiLeaks of more than 250,000 American diplomatic cables, most of which referred to “that pain in the ass, Julian Assange” and whether or not he was the originator and intellectual property owner of Bikram Yoga. (Disclaimer #4: I may be mixing up my conspiracies.)
As we head into the holidays, I feel a need to label everything I survey as naughty or nice. The global naughty list for the year would undoubtedly be topped by the Jan. 12 7.0 earthquake in Haiti, which claimed at least 230,000 lives and decimated a nation. And my vote for nice? The spring eruptions of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland, doing the best job of reminding us that humans shouldn’t take sitting in a chair in the sky for granted, and decimating an arrogant international airline industry.
Closer to home I might nominate a certain local elected official for some coal and every public school teacher for a gold coin.
In a few more years we’ll look back and see if, in hindsight, 2010 cooked down to a simple reduction, a thick roux, or just burned the pan black, but in a year of riots, volcanoes, meat dresses and bed bugs, a year that robbed us of JD Salinger and Alexander McQueen, what I suspect is that it was simply another weird year in Santa Cruz and beyond.n
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