Monday, July 26, 2004

Issue 9: Santa Cruz

The Firm’s big summer trip is a weekend in Santa Cruz, a beach town an hour and a bit from San Francisco. Santa Cruz is known for surfers, fish tacos, and it’s laid-back vibe.

I drove down Friday afternoon, and I was surly by the time I got there because I hit beach traffic. Luckily, the early birds had been busy setting the mood – beers on ice, tunes, sombreros (??) everywhere. The firm rented out the whole inn, and it was utterly fitting – seashells on the windowsills, weathered wood, a big patio with lawn chairs. From the patio, walk down 8 stairs and you’re on the beach in less than 30 seconds. The beach is essentially private because it is nearly closed off by rock outcroppings on either side.

People trickled in. Rebecca and Danny taught me the proper way to drink a Tecate – lime juice, salt and Tapatio hot sauce on the tab top, pop it open and drink as much as you can. Much yummier than you’d think. (Then again, Danny bailed on kayaking the next morning by calling Rebecca on her cell because he was too sick to leave the bathroom.) By dark, nearly everyone had showed up, so we took the show to the beach and built a bonfire (legal in Santa Cruz.) If I remember correctly, upon request, I taught Tom the sun salutation yoga series. There’s nothing like doing Seven Points Pose in the sand.

Half the group went kayaking the next morning (minus a few people who were "not up to it.") We saw sea otters (so cute! the puppies of the sea), an inquisitive seal, and dolphins (I spotted them!) We had to stay at least 100 feet away from marine mammals, great in theory – but they don’t know the rules, so, for example, the seal kept trying to check us out. Either you stop paddling and stare down the seal, or you try and casually paddle away.

We all retired to the inn to nap and prepare for the big event: KARAOKE! The festivities began before dark. Wayne started us off with "The Copacabana", a bold selection. More libations. Matt can actually sing. More beverages. Mike and James, both summers, performed "Baby Got Back" – another gutsy move. More. I flipped through the song book with Kevin and ended up singing bits and pieces of practically every song in there – thereby proving the accuracy of my college roommate’s claim that my superpower is knowing the words to every bad song every recorded. More drinks. I sing "backup", i.e. I hold the microphone and try to back away as much as possible, on "All My Exes Live in Texas", and "Material Girl" (Kevin’s eventual selection.) We all sang "Imagine" – as cheesy as it sounds, it was a really touching moment for me. I love that song, and it made me feel close to everyone there. More drinky-poos. And big karaoke finale (which I participated in) – BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY!

I woke up early the next morning and had the beach all to myself. I spent some time with my journal and reflected on what the summer has meant to me. It’s been one of the best summers of my life, and also one of the most solitary. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and it’s definitely not a complaint. In some ways, the way I view the world has shifted, and in other ways it has just solidified.

After breakfast, everyone packed up and checked out. Kevin and I decided to "cruise Santa Cruz" and drove around getting lost. We found the boardwalk, took pictures of the surfing monument, picked out our dream houses. I’ve come to know my fellow summers so well – from his face, I can tell when Kev wants to ask a question, is lying, or disagrees. (He’d make a lousy poker player.) Aaron and I know not to make eye contact if something funny happens in a meeting because we’re the worst gigglers in the bunch. James has such an off-kilter pacing to his stories – it keeps you guessing. Andrea has the easiest laugh, and that makes you feel like the funniest person alive. It’s going to be hard to leave them … like the end of so many other eras, I know it will never again be like it is right now, this particular mix. I’ll see Andrea and Mike in DC, and I know all of us will keep in touch. Hopefully, most of us will end up at the firm, but it will still be a change.

It was hard to leave Santa Cruz, and the beach traffic didn’t help. I could easily see myself living there: walking on the beach in the morning with my dog, living by the ocean. If Santa Cruz could be bottled, it would be pure relaxation: sun, sand, and the odd comfort the ocean always gives: you are so small in the world.

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