Pacific Avenue, Santa Cruz

Who wants to go to the Rainbow Festival? What is that? Where is that? Who goes?

Who wants to watch a bum squeeze puss out of his disease-ridden elbow? Oh, why? Where'd you get that disease? Why are you showing me that?

Who wants to tie tennis balls to shoe laces and prance around barefoot through the streets while tossing them wildly in the air? Why?

Well, why not!?

These are questions that came to me while playing music on the main drag (Pacific Avenue) in Santa Cruz. One encounters a lot of confusing situations and people while hanging out on the street there, but my friend Mike and I took it in stride.

We performed some impromptu jams and earned a few bucks in the process. We also made a Swiss connection.

Annina is from a town near Bern, Switzerland. Strangely enough, I've been to Bern and so I commented to her on the bear pit that I visited there. She informed me that the pit has since been filled in and the bears are now able to wander freely in a newly arranged garden set-up. If your confused about the bear pit and why a town has one, take into consideration the fact that Bern means "bear" in German. Apparently, this is enough of a reason to have actual bears present in your city center.

Anyways, Annina was a very sweet gal. She watched us play music on a corner for awhile before asking us if she could share a tune of her own.

She sang her tune softly and strummed at a volume that was barely audible. We thanked her. She said she messed up a few times, and we acted like we hadn't noticed. She insisted that she repeat her song again, but get it right this time. In hushed whispery song she serenaded us again. We thanked her again. Now we're friends on Facebook. That's how friends are made in the streets of Santa Cruz.

Mike and I jammed out a ditty that sounded very French to us. We don't speak French or know any traditional French ballads, but the sound of the music seemed like it would fit in nicely in the streets of Paris. I imagined a lot of French being spoken in the background of this song.

It turns out that a certain young man liked our French-esque jam and so danced jubilantly around us as we played. He circled the pavement, shirtless, entranced, and losing himself in our impromptu French sound. His name was Nick. He had just moved to Santa Cruz from Grass Valley. He found a really cheap place to live over by the Santa Cruz Diner. He liked touching his girlfriend in front of us while we played our song. I guess our French music injected a romantic mood into the ocean air.

Our music also attracted an occasional bum intent on including us in his schizophrenic conversations. Dude, we'd love to chat, but we can't see who you're talking to!

I was sitting on my cajon, just thumping away, minding my own business when a homeless man captured my attention with an abrasive yell.

"Look at my elbow!" He cried.

He shoved a swollen, yellow, scabbing elbow into the area where my eyes had been gazing. I gasped as he began to squeeze puss from his infection.

"My God, man!" I declared. "How did that happen?"

He told me that it was his defense mechanism.

"Defense against what?" I asked.

He held his elbow high as if it were a sword or a lance.

"This is my defense against the greedy politicians and their lust for power and more control and taxes and George Sr. and Obama and cap and trade and...."

He began yelling louder and louder as he drifted across the street, thrusting his wounded elbow up into the air as he shouted.

"It was nice talking." I interjected.  

Then there was Jeffrey. He was a fairly normal guy; normal relative to the "normal" present on Pacific Avenue. He had traveled from Boulder, Colorado so that he could see the ocean. He offered us a smoke and invited us to the Rainbow Festival. I asked what that was.

"The Rainbow Festival is like a huge rally for peace. We meet up in Olympia National Forest and nobody can do nothing about it because, you know, it's a public place." he said.

"Thousands of people gather into a huge circle and hold hands while chanting "OHM" at the top of their lungs. The sound of that "OHM" is so freaking loud you can hear it for miles."

I said that this festival sounded really great and that I'd try to make it out there. He waved goodbye and swung two tennis balls attached to strings around his head in an acrobatic fashion. Jeffrey likes tennis balls, the ocean, and chanting.

After all was said and done, Mike and I counted our earnings. $18. Not bad for a day on the streets. We were able to pay for our lunch and coffee. However, the stories were the real reward.


...ramble on...

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