Spent some time in Santa Cruz this weekend. This is a place that’s near and dear to my heart because of the many fond memories, but it wasn’t quite the same this time. The afternoon was pleasant, featuring a lovely brunch and a nice beach interlude. Once it started to get cold, we made our way back to town and sat in a cafe to read as the sun went down. But as the daylight disappeared all the town’s charm seemed to go with it, replaced by loud, crazy-sounding voices and a vague sense of weirdness closing in. A mysterious figure dressed in orange from head to toe, including an orange surgical mask covering everything but his eyes, did a slow pimp-walk up and down Pacific Ave. The guy at the table next to us had started declaiming loudly about his penis, so it seemed like time to go. Out on the curb stood a friendly-looking fellow with a cup full of something, making an inquiry to every person who passed. It sounded like he was saying “Weed?”, which seemed very Santa Cruz, and whenever someone stopped he would hand them a bit of what was in his cup. On the way out of the cafe, we decided to stroll by just to see what would happen. Upon closer listening, though, what he was actually saying was “Bead?” and what he wanted to give us was not even a bead, but some small piece of plastic. We politely declined and headed for home.