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1453coverwebThe Year in Review In 2014

Santa Cruz stunk. Not in metaphorical way, either—from fish die-offs to a drought-induced bathing downturn, we literally smelled bad. Hopefully one day we can all look back and laugh about it, so why not today? Yes, as is our dearly held tradition, our staff went back and collected the strangest Santa Cruz news that we could remember trying to forget this year. The good news is that the news is not all bad; that is to say, for every dumb criminal, there is a cuddly sea creature (actually the ratio is like 3-to-1, but we’ll take what we can get). And this year was weird in so many different ways: freak-outs by natural forces, freak-outs by animals, freak-outs by politicians, freak-outs by people on Pacific Avenue—OK, there were a lot of freak-outs. Santa Cruz had some setbacks, but there were some karmic victories, too. As a community, we all argued over big issues and sometimes got, uh, kind of carried away. Let us now carry you away in a different sense, back through the last 12 months of crazy, Santa Cruz style.

JANUARY

LIKE BABY, BABY, BABY, NO

Barely allowing Santa Cruz residents time to file away all of 2013’s ridiculousness, Justin Bieber kicked off the new year by tweeting that he and his father were going on a road trip with some friends in an RV. Soon after, the Canadian-born heartthrob was spotted in Santa Cruz with his girlfriend Selena Gomez, according to numerous reports. (OMG, the same Selena who had broken up with him just days earlier!) The on-again, off-again pair reportedly hit up Pogonip, and Bieber even lovingly posted a video of his dad wiping out on a Segway under some redwood trees. Predictably, Beliebers flocked to Aptos to see “Jelena,” many hanging out around Seascape Resort for hours. A source close to Gomez later denied the trip ever happened, which makes sense, since it’d be pretty hard to fit that much ego into one vehicle.

THIS REALLY HAPPENED, EVEN THE SEA LION PART

Silly puppy, train track bridges are never safe for doggies! When a chow chow walking across a train trestle bridge by the Boardwalk fell into the San Lorenzo River, a pooch-lover called in the fall. Boardwalk security officers responded, and, as they approached, they saw the dog treading water in circles and tried to whistle it ashore. A sea lion swam up and pulled the dog underwater. He later resurfaced, floating unconscious toward the officers. The officers then began performing CPR until the dog started coughing up water and breathing on its own.

FEBRUARY

CHEW THIS ONE OVER

Last year, the confusingly named real estate magazine Estate (like, it’s not real?) published a list of the “Best U.S. Cities for Hippies,” and Santa Cruz wasn’t on it. “Never again,” said a bunch of really high people! So when Santa Cruz Labs posted a picture of “Reef Jerky,” the newest exploration into munchie madness from Santa Cruz-based company Badfish Extracts, weed enthusiasts all over the world united to make it an instant Internet sensation. Combining a cowboy’s love of beef jerky with a cowboy’s love of marijuana (OK, yes, the cowboy is Willie Nelson), it took third place in the 2014 High Times Cannabis Cup, and is no doubt the most delicious and yet frustrating THC-infused food ever. Unconfirmed reports of an epidemic of sore jaws continue to spread through Santa Cruz.  

BEACH ACTIVITY SHOOTS UP

What a year for spectacle along the Santa Cruz coastline, right? The whales! The anchovies! The hypodermic syringes! Yes, the debate over drug needles in Santa Cruz took a super-weird turn on Feb. 11, when Seabright Beach had to be closed for several hours due to dozens of used syringes found on the shore. Twin Lakes and Its Beach were also treated to this unusual tide, and by “unusual,” we mean really gross.

SQUEEZEBOXED OUT

While it’s true that the protection of citizens from accordions is one of the most persuasive arguments for militarizing America’s police force, it still seemed all kinds of wrong when beloved street performer the Great Morgani (aka Frank Lima) was threatened with a $300 ticket for performing in front of the Verizon store on Pacific Avenue. The guy’s a local legend, and he already has to wear lycra—isn’t that punishment enough? This was more fallout from the 2013 downtown ordinances which, among other things, mandated that street performers stay 14 feet away from all street features—buildings, benches, trash cans, sculptures, etc. Lima had written permission from Verizon to play, but bailed when SCPD officers (who seem even less enthused about having to enforce these rules than the rest of us are about having to ignore them) pointed out that businesses have no say over the justice system of the sidewalks.

MARCH

Heather Honeypot

Hey, sexy Tim Goncharoff, I was just sitting here soaking in the bath, painting my nails black (remember? ha ha!) and thinking back on this year. I still think it is so unfair that you had to call off your Santa Cruz City Council campaign in March because those jerks at Santa Cruz Weekly said you had been making up Facebook profiles of sexy-talking, lingerie-clad women and then using them as sock puppet accounts to support your political positions. SMH. It’s no wonder those freaks got bought by Good Times! Or was it the other way around? It’s so hard to think about when I’m all alone in this hot, hot water, wearing only a Catwoman costume! Anyway, don’t you worry, sugar, our day will come. It’s like that time you posted on Facebook that Barack Obama had written you personally and said: “I wish you all the best.” Isn’t it amazing that everything can be real? As real as me in the bath, writing this right now? XOXO P.S. See you at the hot-oil party tomorrow!

MY WAY OR THE HIGHWAY 17

A study by Civinomics found that Santa Cruz tech workers who commute to Silicon Valley would be willing to forgo, on average, 9 percent of their salary in order to be able to work locally. As he momentarily considered whether to join them on this side of the hill, Google CEO Larry Page asked: “Wait, what’s 9 percent of a non stop procession of dump trucks full of money?”

APRIL

DON’T FAKE TAZE ME, BRO

A total of 20 Banana Slugs were arrested in the early morning sunlight of April 2, followed by two more arrests the following morning, during a two-day protest of what graduate student employees in the UC system say are unfair labor practices. These Slugs were of course UC students, since slimy, yellow actual banana slugs don’t give one goddamn about labor relations, and think of graduate student employees mostly as giant shoes that are scary. The protesters were arrested without incident, except for one young woman who was accused of striking an officer in the head, and a student who allegedly writhed on the ground pretending he was shot with a Taser, for some reason.

WHERE WE RANKED AS A CITY

Following last year’s god-awful excuse for a winter—a time so dry and sunny it saw cherry blossoms popping out as early as January—the San Lorenzo River reached historically low levels. In April, the Santa Cruz City Council unanimously approved water restrictions for 90,000 water customers—the first mandatory cuts to water use in 25 years. It was a thirsty summer, to say the least, permeated by the scent of sponge-bathed bodies and mellowing yellow.

MAY

SERIOUSLY, THIS SUCKED

Weekly protests erupted in the breastfeeding community when Dominican Hospital nipped the contract of longtime lactation consultant Janet Hoover, alleging financial mismanagement—a charge Hoover denied. Hoover got fed up with fighting, but luckily someone at Sutter Health was keeping abreast of the story. They latched onto Hoover’s nurturing ways, and hired her to work in the maternity ward.

I BET YOU SAY THAT TO ALL THE CROWDS OF TECH ENTHUSIASTS

Former Apple evangelist and general success in all things Guy Kawasaki came to Santa Cruz to talk about the importance of charisma among entrepreneurs. He encouraged people to smile more, and explained, “Crow’s feet are a good thing. Ladies, you are not getting older, you are getting more enchanting.” And that’s why he gets to do talks about the importance of charisma among entrepreneurs.

DON’T FRACK WITH US

With a 5-0 vote from the Board of Supervisors, Santa Cruz County became the first in the country to outlaw fracking, the controversial method of extracting petroleum and natural gas from the surface of the earth. Critics of fracking point to the fact that about 25 percent of the chemicals used in the process are known carcinogens, which could contaminate the groundwater supply. Not that anyone around here is worried about a bleak dystopian future brought on by water shortages or anything.  

JUNE

AND THAT’S NOT EVEN THE WORST THING THAT’S BEEN IN THAT BAG

It’s generally safe to say that when you go to visit the father of your child in court, where he’s being tried for a gun-related offense, you should leave your illegal firearm at home. But give local woman Brisa Santillan some major props for audacity in her attempt to sneak her side arm past a metal detector and X-ray machine in a diaper bag. And doing it all with her 6-month-old on her arm! Truly, today’s modern parent faces many challenges.

THROWING AWAY YOUR VOTE

If you were depressed by the results of this year’s elections on a national level, don’t be! Turns out there’s plenty to be depressed about right here at home, like the fact that your ballot might have been among the 573 lost in Santa Cruz County during the primary election. The mail-in ballots were postmarked on or before the election, but arrived the day after polling stations closed. Newman!

JULY

NO MORE MR. KNIFE GUY

The local debate over a hypothetical “sanctuary camp” for the homeless in Santa Cruz got a lot of attention when photographer Helbard Alkhassadeh, who runs the site StabSantaCruz.com, posted a heavily trafficked opinion piece online called “Santa Cruz is About to Make a Huge Mistake,” in which he hit the panic button over the idea, theorizing that such a camp would drive down real estate values, attract the mentally ill, and raise crime rates. His call to write city councilmembers in opposition, however, seemed a tad dramatic, as Santa Cruz is not technically about to do anything in regard to a sanctuary camp, and there are no plans to even consider a plan. Alkhassadeh’s site keeps track of stabbings in Santa Cruz, which explains why he has more time on his hands, since the number of incidents has dropped from 72 in 2009 to 19 this year.

WILL, YOU PLEASE COME BACK

Fans who vilified the decision by UCSC to stop funding Shakespeare Santa Cruz, one of the area’s most beloved artistic institutions, actually put their money where their mouths were, crowdfunding a new independent version of the group to the tune of $1.1 million. Thusly did the rechristened Santa Cruz Shakespeare return to the Glen on Fourth of July weekend, staging a new season that was successful enough to allow them to expand their schedule in 2015 (tickets for Macbeth, Much Ado About Nothing and the non-Shakespeare The Liar go on sale in April). In conclusion, some quote from a Shakespeare play!

AUGUST

THE FISHENING

The month of August opened with a ripe, rotting-fish aroma, which hung over the Santa Cruz Yacht Harbor and intensified in the hot sun. At its peak, the fishiness reached motorists as far away as Highway 1—even after their windows were rolled tightly up. The source of the stench, which has carved itself forever into the local psyche, was a massive school of anchovies, whose inexplicable decision to all swim into the harbor at once the night before was the last mass-decision they ever made. Starved of oxygen by so many anchovy bodies in such a small area, thousands went belly up. It was the worst fish die-off Santa Cruz has seen in many years, leaving a thick slime on top of the water. Somehow, volunteers endured the stink to haul them off to the landfill, a process that took several days.

DUDE, IT’S TIME TO ADMIT YOU HAVE A PROBLEM     

Santa Cruz has had its fair share of stupid criminals, like the one who held up a bank by writing a note on his own deposit slip. Or the woman who stole an IRS check from her friend and ended up having to pay back her friend’s debt when she went to cash it at the bank. Then there was August’s unidentified man who robbed a 7-Eleven with a semi-automatic handgun … for a carton of cigarettes. The man, who had a goatee and mustache and was wearing sunglasses and a dark bandana, is still at large, and apparently can’t quit whenever he wants.

SEPTEMBER

HE’S GOT US ALL LICKED

What else is there to say about the world’s longest tongue, except that young Santa Cruz comedian and artist Nick Stroeberl is clearly the future of human evolution? Besides not needing a napkin, we can only hope that he’s also able to pick his own nose with his 3.97-inch tongue—highly efficient, and saves paper. Stroeberl has even got tongue celebrity Gene Simmons kicked to the curb. Can we just ask where he measures from?

PLEASE DON’T HACK SANTA CRUZ

We all know Santa Cruz has had some public safety issues, but at some point you have to ask yourself: “Do I need to take this machete with me to Pacific Avenue?” One 24-year-old woman’s answer was a resounding “Yes!” Arresting officers didn’t agree, nor were they swayed by her Hulk-like resistance to rubber bullets and a stun gun. Hey people, let’s keep Santa Cruz weird, but not, like, insane weird.

HOW MUCH IS THAT ATROCITY IN THE WINDOW?

When an installation popped up in a Gap window on Pacific Avenue in September featuring a row of black “1969” jeans hanging from nooses, a lot of people probably thought, “Oh, I get it. The name of the jeans references a tumultuous year of race riots, freedom rides, and police brutality against civil rights protestors in the wake of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. These jeans are being hung by nooses, commonly associated with lynchings. A photo of African-American actor Michael Williams is inexplicably adjacent to these jeans. THIS IS A TOTALLY LEGITIMATE WAY TO SELL PANTS.” Psych! No one thought that.

ADORABLE HERO SAVES ADORABLE DOG

Some pretty messed up things happened in September, so when a baby-faced angel of mercy committed the ultimate act of selflessness, it got us all teary-eyed. When Heather Swallow took her beloved pooch, Magnolia, on a midnight walk one evening, the canine was sucked into the rising tide. Clayton Knipe, who had stopped to admire the evening view, heard Swallow’s terrified cries for help, and jumped into action—bounding over the rocks, he went to investigate and fell into the water, fully clothed. When Magnolia swam to Knipe, he heroically shoved her onto a rock, back to safety. But then Knipe had a difficult time competing with the thrashing waves, and … suspenseful pause … was finally able to pull himself out. Dog saved, owner happy, and humble hunk made into an insta-hero. He told the Santa Cruz Sentinel, “I don’t need a gold medal or anything.” Swoon.

OCTOBER

THEN TAKE A LEFT AT AUTOBIOGRAPHIES

Around 1:30 a.m., on a seemingly peaceful Saturday night in downtown Santa Cruz, a sonic boom erupted on Pacific Avenue, drawing a crowd of stumbling passersby as they made their way home from the bar. There was no bomb, and no one was hurt, save for some shelves and a couple of hundred books. A motorcyclist had crashed headfirst into a window of Logos Books & Records, apparently mistaking the bookstore for a shortcut. When asked if he was OK, the motorcyclist replied only with a 1,000-yard stare as he paced back and forth. Intoxicated pedestrians walked freely in and out of the bookstore’s new temporary entrance until police arrived on the scene.

I DO NOT THINK THAT WORD MEANS WHAT YOU THINK IT MEANS

Considering that acts of civil disobedience are as commonplace as street performances in Santa Cruz, it came as a shock to many when SCPD Deputy Chief Steve Clark announced on the evening news that city council candidate Leonie Sherman—who was arrested for hanging a banner at a WTO protest 15 years ago—was actually an anarchist. Now, translated from the Greek, “anarchy” literally means “without rulers,” which kind of fundamentally exempts someone running for political office from being considered an anarchist. Sherman supporters and linguists expressed outrage, and she lost two weeks later.

MOIST VALUABLE PLAYERS

Despite the lack of cutting-edge solutions to this year’s ongoing drought, like a spit catchment system or a urine recycling unit for the home or office, the Oct. 16 Santa Cruz Water Supply Convention was well attended and deemed a success. Proponents of water conservation gathered from across the world to showcase their strategies and inventions to the people of Santa Cruz County, but the complete absence of cosplay worked to dampen the event’s excitement, especially for those expecting an appearance from Salty, the walking, talking desal plant, or Chet, the infamous water-diverting pot grower from the Santa Cruz Mountains. Oh well, there’s always next year.

NOVEMBER

HOT MUGSHOT GUY NEEDS DISCIPLINE; AMERICA VOLUNTEERS

A man arrested Halloween night on Pacific Avenue for attacking a fake Fox newscaster with a tennis racquet ended up becoming a national news story himself. The original frenzy of media coverage stuck to the “Only in Santa Cruz” angle. The second, just days later, focused on Sean Kory’s dreamy mugshot, and had women across the country asking, “How are those green eyes peering so deeply into my soul?” “Will his dreadlocks keep me warm at night?” and “If I cut my hair, will he think I look like Andrea Mitchell?”

ALL THESE GUYS ARE PROBABLY ANARCHISTS

In local election results, former Watsonville Police Chief Terry Medina came up short in his battle for the county’s 4th District against lovable, bumbling County Supervisor Greg Caput. Capitola voted against increasing hotel taxes from 10 to 11 percent, because that obviously would have ruined the tourist economy. A homeless man stole a red election suitcase, which police later recovered on Mission Street. And County Treasurer Fred Keeley’s name was noticeably absent from the ballot, having announced his resignation so the position could be merged with the county controller. The former assemblymember has often remarked that, early in his political career, someone told him, “You can either be feared, or you can be respected.” He claims to have chosen to be respected, but now is the time for us to confess: Keeley, we’re terrified of you.

DECEMBER

ABOUT TIME OTTER THOUGHT ABOUT GETTING HIS OWN PLACE  

Animal physiologists in Santa Cruz rejoiced as Taylor the southern sea otter turned 21, making him both old enough to legally drink and the oldest animal of his species. Taylor has played assistant to scientists at the Long Marine Laboratory in their research on otter physiology and natural history since 2005. Though his muzzle is gray and his eyesight is far from what it used to be, his trainers attest that he’s in great health. Taylor is still able-bodied enough to enact a reign of terror upon any bivalve that crosses his path, and his age certainly didn’t show when he dismembered his shrimp-adorned birthday cake while doing underwater barrel rolls.

SPOILER ALERT: THEY ALL DIE

Winter (quarter) is coming, as students from UCSC’s introduction to mechatronics class executed their final project: a Game of Thrones-style capture the flag match waged between student-built autonomous robots. Dubbed Game of Drones: A Clash of Slugs, the competition offered a venue for undergraduates to put their engineering skills to the test. Each team was represented by a single droid and given the task of navigating a foam core castle to retrieve an opposing group’s crown. When the gears finally settled, house Lansistor had laid claim to the throne, and some nerds got really excited.

THY WILL BE DONE AND EVERYTHING, GOD, BUT THAT WAS KIND OF A JERK MOVE

Santa Cruz citizens were delighted when the recent Pineapple Express storm brought much-needed showers to our water-deprived county. But the celebration was cut short when an 80-foot fir tree collapsed from high winds onto a sixth-grader at Gateway Elementary. The boy was trapped for 15 minutes before firefighters broke out the chainsaw and rescued him. When asked for comment, principal Zachary Roberts shared that he was truly stumped. “Unexpected,” Roberts said, “very unexpected.” Gateway Elementary Principal Zachary Roberts does not panic easily.


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