Santa Cruz is a weird place. It is an almost perfect place for me to live out the later half of my mid-twenties. The other day while working hard at the Togo's I slave away in I came across an article in one of the more famous counter-culture magazines so prevalent in Santa Cruz. It is a highly enjoyable article and I would encourage y'all to read it. Without going into too much detail it deals with secession, the declining middle class in California and neo-serfdom. I oughta write to him and suggest F.A. Hayek's The Road to Serfdom to put on his reading list!
My first week in Santa Cruz was spent on the streets. I slept on park benches, in bushes, and got into a hostel one night when things got too cold. I told myself before I arrived that it would be just like my travels in Europe, and the only difference would be that I would be working and "getting educated" instead of partying and taking lots of pictures.
Instead, I found myself once again playing the fool, and have since realized that I am not the profound and infinite source of wisdom that I thought I was. This is not to say that I did not enjoy myself, or fail to learn a great many things of practical importance. Perhaps the most satisfying occurrence that flowed my way was the following delightful encounter:
I must briefly mention that I had to carry not only my backpack full of school supplies, but also a certain amount of bare necessities needed to survive in 2009 California without being harassed by state troopers. The duffel bag was not that heavy, but Santa Cruz, unbeknownst to me at the time, was suffering from its worst heat wave in almost a decade. Although I have tolerated much worse climatic conditions in my short time here in this life, I have to admit that the combination of street-level hustle, hot hot heat, and the lugging around of all my necessities without having a home base left my body tired and my spirit deflated. I am getting older, but not yet wiser. :)
Anyway, as I was resting at a bus stop an old rickety Chevy truck pulled up in front of me. Now mind you, I was taking a breather on one the busiest intersections in the Santa Cruz area (I had just done some shopping at Safeway - bread and salami!) so the volume of traffic and noise was rather loud. As I was was surveying the traffic spread out before me my eye caught that of the gentleman riding shotgun in the old rickety Chevy. His appearance was that of the common, aging hippie in this region of America: long blondish-gray hair, and thick beard, dark sunglasses and a Grateful Dead T-shirt accentuated with tye-dye coloring. He had the grin of someone wise and with something to say. I could tell he was looking me up and down, trying to read my soul and peer into my heart. Suddenly, his voiced boomed out to me, "Hey kid! Which way to the freeway?!"
I blurted out that the freeway lane was about three lanes over, and that he would have to try and find a place to do a U-turn. "Thanks dude!", was his reply. An uncomfortable silence pervaded the intersection. I then spoke up, "You know, if you cruise down about three blocks straight ahead, you'll hit another light that takes you to the freeway. That might be a little easier." The old man grinned.
"Hey kid, you're alright. Things are looking up. Jesus has his eye on you," he said matter-of-factly. With that the traffic light turned green, and the unruly mob roared off in to the unending distance, spewing forth their noxious gases and obnoxious onslaught of tailpipe tomfoolery. I laughed to myself. Jesus may have his eye on me, I thought, but it's only to have a good laugh every once in awhile. With this thought, my mind instantly wandered over to Ghana, and I began to ponder their belief in God and all that such a belief entails. The West would do well to learn from African theological and spiritual thought. My hike back to school was enjoyable and uneventful, as I was able to ponder the meaning of God, Jesus, nature, suffering, and the wonderful time I had in Africa with my family and my beautiful lover.
The next day I was hitchhiking to work from school when a little old lady driving a van with a handicapped emblem on the license plate pulled up and offered me a ride. Her name was Claudia - Claudia Albright - and she had a room she'd been wanting to rent out for a long time. The only problem was that nobody wanted to rent it out because of her four dogs: two french bulldogs and two more highly expensive dogs of which I cannot remember the name of the breed. This week is a marked contrast from my first week in Santa Cruz. I am forced by Claudia to eat breakfast every morning and to eat a massive dinner after work and school. I have a warm bed to sleep in and I am paying a below-market rate for my room. It's funny how things just seem to fall in to place provided you do the right thing, and be true to yourself.
The moral of this long and tedious story is never judge a man by his appearance. Or maybe its don't lose faith in the workings and meanings of the things we cannot comprehend.