One reason I love this city of just under 60,000 people is that unlike any other town of its size, it never fails to surprise me.
Yeah, it's small enough to run into someone I know everywhere I go, but it never fails to show me something I would never expect.
Witness Wednesday's Chamber of Commerce gathering at the Cocoanut Grove, the place with one of the best views in the city.
I joked on my KSCO-AM talk radio show, "What's Left," earlier in the day about whether the pot shops would have a booth and give free samples. Santa Cruz residents, many of whom seem to have licenses to shop in the stores, call them something else: medical marijuana dispensaries. What I call pot or weed or ganja or herb, they call simply, medicine.
"Ha, ha," my engineer Dave Michaels joked. "They would never have that there."
So, imagine my surprise when I turned a corner and saw the familiar leafy bud on a sign. Imagine more surprise when I saw the samples of cookies, ice cream, aftershave, you name it, made from marijuana.
And then imagine further my shock when one of the people staffing the booth was one of my journalism students at Cabrillo College (nicknamed Cab-rehab by some).
"We are the first dispensary to be a Chamber of Commerce member," said student reporter Jalima Gold, in her mid-20s. "We are a legitimate business."
The weed emporium—I mean medical supply—is called Creme de Canna, and it's located, appropriately enough, next to the city's only hospital, Dominican, in what was once a doctor's office. It's a nonprofit and was in that part of the Chamber's exhibition, along with the jewelry made by exploited teenaged prostitutes and other calls to arms to help make things better.
"Creme de Canna provides the highest-quality medicinal cannabis, edibles and extracts at compassionate prices," says the brochure she handed me.
No pun intended, right?
I had to hold back from correcting the typo in the next paragraph, about how "Creme de Cana belives"—belives? I guess the copy editor was taking too much medicine. That one gets points off even at Cab-rehab.
Despite the healthy-looking samples, they would not give out a cookie or ice cream cup, even to my friend with a license. No weed samples at all at this shindig, despite the fact that the wineries had no problem pouring plenty for those who paid $5 to enter the showcase of local businesses.
I wondered if I wore a leafy green Patch shirt, would they think I was a competitor?
And next year, will the Chamber add a cocaine or ecstasy booth? Don't laugh. In Santa Cruz, almost nothing is out of the question.
Remember, seaside towns put things along the coast to worship the gods, like Neptune or Poseidon, or whatever name the god of surf goes by these days.
Santa Barbara has its unsightly oil rigs, reminding people of the wealth floating around and its cost. Moss Landing has the biggest power plant on the north coast, reminding people that if they aren't careful, there could be a lot more East Coast-style ugliness around.
Santa Cruz offers the gods the Giant Dipper, its wooden seaside roller coaster. There may be up times and down times, they seem to be saying, but it's always going to be a lot of fun passing through.
Or, as the Grateful Dead once sang—that is appropriately enough the rock'n'roll band that is at great cost archived in the city's University of California library—"I may be going to hell in a bucket, but at least I'm enjoying the ride."