The rest of the world isn’t like this. That’s something that’s easy to forget. Pity the poor kids who grow up here and never leave until they’re off to college or their first big solo adventure and end up somewhere that has big, yellow, fangs dripping with gore like, oh, New York City. Or Dallas. Or for that matter, some parts of Los Angeles. Actually, San Jose can be a pretty strange, and it’s only 30 miles away. Maybe it’s The Hill that has to be crossed to get from here to there?
Santa Cruz is a bubble. For sure, there are other bubbles around the world. People from Ann Arbor might be able to appreciate the idea even more than Santa Cruzers because, well, Ann Arbor is stuck in Michigan. At least we have California around us, and one of the biggest bubbles of all, San Francisco is just up the coast.
Living here makes it easy to forget that in other places being gay is not something to inspire popular clubs and support groups in high school, especially not when “straights” are made to feel at home in them. Or that “the lowest law enforcement priority” in Santa Cruz is still something that a few seeds and stems can get you serious time and fat fines for in places where they’d never have a Medical Marijuana clinic located a few doors down from a school – or anywhere else. For that matter, can it really be that there are towns with even fewer than Santa Cruz’s nearly 60,000 people in counties even less populated than our 300,000 that don’t block up a big chunk of downtown every Wednesday and tie up traffic for a farmer’s market?
Some of what makes Santa Cruz so unique is the influence of the University of California. That’s a lot of world-class creativity and imagination bubbling out of one of the world’s greatest, most beautiful campuses. At least two programs at the very cutting edge of their disciplines call UCSC home, the Human Genome Project and exosolar planet research. Isn’t figuring out exactly who we are and looking for worlds orbiting other star systems – and being the world’s best at it – somehow just too appropriate for Santa Cruz?
Surely Santa Cruz has the most bike shops per capita in the US? Right up there next to what can’t help but be a close second or third for tattoo shops? And hot tub spas? Of course, that’s just the kind of thing to expect from one of the few towns in America that ever had a communist mayor. Or where Halloween may be the most ostentatiously celebrated holiday of the year.
See, the point is that in Santa Cruz being Republican is almost a public disgrace. The hateful, lying, deliberate, pre-meditated ignorance thing doesn’t play too well. Santa Cruz does have its Republicans, but mostly they’ve learned to be polite, respectful, and to keep any misogynistic, global warming denial and Dick Cheney posters behind closed doors. If Glenn Beck or Bill O’Reilly are ever seen on TV in a public place, it’s for comedic relief – or to reinforce the idea that yes, clowns really are very scary.