If you are ever bored in Santa Cruz, go somewhere with heavy foot traffic and eavesdrop on the crowd. You will hear surfers discuss tides in sea lion barks, and bushy-tailed college students chirp and chitter about class schedules, and the jovial call of a man on the sidewalk with his face protruding through a sheet of cardboard that reads "Throw A Quarter, Hit A Bum!!!"
I recently overheard a memorable exchange between a scruffy haired gentleman of perhaps 40, and a family of four, while wading through the usual tourist season foot-traffic jam that crosses the trestle towards the boardwalk.
The gentleman was scratchy voiced and of a leathery, wind chapped complexion. The redwood duff on his jacket suggested he had been sleeping outdoors for some time.
He explained to the couple and their two daughters of around 10 and 13 years old that he liked nothing better than drinking beer in the sun with good people.
The mother, who was fair-haired and clad in white shorts and a pastel polo shirt, asked if he didn't often get into trouble with the police for public drunkenness.
The gentleman responded;
"Oh sure, the cops try to hassle me! But if I've been drinking I just act liked I'm a retard!" He howled with laughter, and scrunched up his face and curled his arms and started rocking his head back and forth.
"DDUuuhhDuhhh!" he said, and laughed again.
The mother and father fidgeted for a moment while their children stared, grinning.
"Does that really work?" asked the older daughter.
The gentlemen just laughed again.
The father said, "I can see how it would," then wished the man a good day, and herded his family into the crowd to shuffle across the trestle towards the boardwalk.