Sunday, November 15, 2009

Santa Cruzing - The Fall Edition

Autumn in Santa Cruz surprised me.  I expected crowds given that the colleges are back in session. UC Santa Cruz has 15,000 students and Cabrillo College has 13,000 so I thought the streets would be teaming with young people.  As it turned out, Santa Cruz was much quieter and mellower than in the summer.  The Holiday Inn  was half the price of the summer rates and we had no problem getting into any of the restaurants that were so busy this summer (with one exception as I will describe below).

We arrived Thursday night and immediately went to meet our daughter and her beau at the Santa Cruz Diner where I was able for the first time in my life to order from the senior menu!  I had a typical senior type meal--french toast and scrambled eggs-- nice and soft for those old teeth!  I enjoyed tucking my napkin in at my collar and tucking into a dinner special for a measly $3.49!

Friday we ran some errands--car repair, book return etc. with our college students and then headed out with g-ma to see the UCSC campus.  UCSC has a residential college system similar to but a little different from the one at Yale.  Students join a college upon matriculation and stay with that college through graduation.  The college is mostly for housing and dining but it also has faculty members who are affiliated with it (and thus have offices in the college) and offers a core course for freshmen.  I gather there are themes to the colleges.  I was told, for example, that Porter College is a liberal arts college.  See here for more information about the college system at UCSC.

UCSC also has a beautiful hilly campus with fabulous views at times of the Pacific Ocean.  Students have historically been more counterculture at this UC than other campuses (except Berkeley, of course).  Looking around at the throngs of students going to class I felt transported a bit to my own college experience in the early 70s.

We also drove to Cabrillo College which has its own fantastic views of the ocean.  However, Cabrillo was empty on that Friday.  Apparently few students take classes on Friday.  Classes are offered on MW and TTh with the Friday classes consisting of the dreaded 3 hour challenges to attention and sanity so most Cabrillo students show their smarts by avoiding Friday classes.  It was also the Friday before a holiday Monday which may have decreased the already small group of people who attend on Friday.  I had a parking lot almost all to myself which apparently is in stark contrast to parking problems at the school during the rest of the week. (Although nowhere as bad as the parking at Santa Monica College which "drove" both of my children to seek other education options when they could not attend class because they could never find any parking, not even in the satellite lots).

Community colleges in California are experiencing huge enrollments and significant budget cuts right now, making it difficult to attend a public college in CA.  The UC and Cal State universities have raised tuition and cut budgets forcing more students into the community college system.    Most of the schools have wait lists a full month before the classes starts and lines of students out around the building to get into courses on from a wait list.  At CCSF someone put up signs saying a course was closed, even though it wasn't, to get an advantage of getting in from the wait list.  CCSF reportedly now has over 100,000 students, up from 70,000 last year and making it by far the largest college in the state.  Hats off to the students who navigate the CA community college system.

But I digress.  Back to the Santa Cruz trip.  Friday night we had dinner at Kianti's ,  a pizza/pasta place in downtown Cruz.  Last time I tried to go there on a weekend evening, the wait was over an hour, but this time we walked right in.  The fun part of that dinner was the show put on by the wait staff.   It turned out our  waiter was the star of the show,  twirling rubber pizzas while dancing to "Footloose" and jumping on a ledge between tables.  The rest of the staff had choreographed steps to three or four songs--  e.g. "Dancing Queen" and something from Grease.

Santa Cruz has a very nice independent bookstore,  Bookshop Santa Cruz .  We went there twice although I spent most of my time there on my iPhone reading an e-book.  We also went to Walnut Avenue Cafe twice because g-ma loved the blueberry pancakes beyond measure and the rest of us thought our food was good too.  This restaurant was the only one where we had to wait.  On Sunday morning we had a 40 minute wait but luckily there was a Starbucks around the corner where we drank coffee outside with a screaming female schizophrenic ("What are you looking at you rich dick!!" insert more unmentionable invective)  while waiting for our table.  Santa Cruz downtown is a showcase for the state of mental health care in our state.  Many of the homeless seem to be schizophrenic and paranoid, which raises the age old question of how to deal with the homeless mentally ill.  Like the subject of the Soloist,  these people do not always want to come inside where it can get crowded with the presence of all their demons.  I leave that subject for another day.

Saturday we left the Cruz and spent a lovely day in San Francisco.  We lunched in Sausalito and enjoyed a perfect sunny view of the city and the water.  Pelicans entertained.  During the evening we went to a reception at a Peruvian restaurant where Paul was honored for his work in settling the Wiwa case in NY.
The CHP gave us a parting gift on the way back to Santa Cruz that evening-- a fix it ticket for not having a current registration sticker on the car.  Santa Cruz police also noticed that problem and gave us a ticket the next day for parking without a current registration sticker.  What cities will do for money!

Sunday we headed home on El Camino Real for most of the way.  I found a wonderful Lebanese restaurant on Yelp in Santa Barbara called Cafe Zaytoon.  I had chicken shwarma of magnificent taste and quantities.  The atmosphere was quite lovely too with firepit tables throughout the courtyard.  My friend David told me zaytoon is a variant of the arabic word "zaytun" which means olive.  Interestingly in the trivia contest of the night I bested my husband who believed Lebanese spoke Arabic when in fact as I said they spoke Lebanese, which is derived from Arabic and Aramaic but its own separate language.

Eventually we got home after being in gridlock on the 405 as the result of a 5 car pileup.  Although the delay was annoying, I was grateful we were in the gridlock and not in the cars that were part of the pileup.

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