A very good friend of mine from grad school is staying with us for a few days, on what turns out to be her first sojourn to this Left Coast of America (don’t hold it against her, she is a Brit after all). So far, she is not well impressed, mainly because every single crazy person in our entire town seems to have come out of the woodwork to welcome her.

It all started when we were driving home today from picking up no less than five (5) slices of cake to taste as potential wedding delectables. While waiting at a stoplight, we saw a woman (that moniker is still open to debate) crossing the street in front of us who looked like she’s been popping ‘roids morning, noon, and night for most of my lifetime. She was quite simply ripped, and her teeny bikini top and bike shorts made sure that you knew all about it.

Stopped at the same light was a guy on his bike, who clearly could not believe his eyes upon beholding this sight and had to turn around and look at the drivers next to him (i.e. us) to confirm it. Sure enough, we had the same incredulous look on our faces, and we were all turned in the same exact direction. The expression on his face made us all start cracking up… it was a beautiful moment.

Next, we were sitting at a downtown cafe partaking in some pre-dinner and movie drinks, when suddenly my friend looks over my shoulder and says, “What is that?” I had a sinking feeling that I knew what had provoked this reaction. Sure enough, it was the Pink Man. God I hate that guy. Anyone who lives here knows what I mean, and anyone who doesn’t, well, consider yourselves lucky.

At this point, Santa Cruz isn’t exactly putting its best foot forward as far as my friend is concerned. But it gets worse.

We took our seats in the movie theater just in time to see the previews start, which boded well for the rest of the film experience. However, as soon as the guy in front of us spoke up during the third preview, I knew we were in trouble. It was giving us a glimpse into the wonderful world of the upcoming Simpsons movie, and his comment (voiced at the top of his lungs, of course) was, “What’s that guy’s name – Albert?” He meant Homer. I don’t trust anyone who don’t know who Homer Simpson is. Even if you were born under a rock in a barn in Siberia, you know who Homer is. Gimme a break.

But no such break was forthcoming. In fact the loud-voiced comments continued for the entire movie, with increasing volume and frequency as the film’s tension rose. About half way through, his own girlfriend walked out on him. Bad sign. And all this despite continued “Shhs” by the crowd, a warning by the stewards, and threats coming close to violence from the extremely tough-looking guys sitting all around us. (That Transformers crowd, you know. Notorious.) This guy was walking a very thin line.

Finally, at the climax of the movie, the stewards mustered enough courage to evict said miscreant, and even then only after a great deal of frustrated exhortation by the crowd. Homeboy stands up without much fuss, but then proceeds to return all the widespread contents of his backpack to their proper places. One at a time. Very slowly. Standing in front of us.

OH EM GEE. I was about to get homicidal. Do not mess with my mindless action movie, fool.

We finally got rid of him, to widespread applause, and were able to enjoy the remaining 20 minutes of the movie in relative peace. But the weirdness was not yet over.

On our 40-minute walk home, we managed to pass many a drunk and disorderly without incident. Just as we were nearing our destination, however, a really nice black BMW slows down alongside. The girl driving leans out the window and very clearly and forcefully says, presumably to my fiance, “Take your two b**ches home,” and drives off.

What??? Where the hell did that one come from? We were too mystified to even be offended. Who says something like that, anyway?

So yeah, perhaps not the best introduction to my good old town of SC. But the evening’s madness was balanced by a delightful day of sunshine, ocean, good food, lots of cake, and the company of two people whom I love very much. And that’s what Santa Cruz is to me… a little bit of crazy and a whole lot of beauty, all wrapped into the one place I am proud to call my home.

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