Photo: Timo

On the pier at Santa Cruz, California, going to see the sea lions, there is yet another crazy in my path, in a town where crazies are ten a penny.

Busted teeth, matted hair, ripped, soaked clothing, he limps sorrowfully in the afternoon rain. His voice cracked, desperate. From ten paces he stinks of urine and sweat and probably both stale and fresh jizz, I’m guessing.

I saw him coming early and tried to side step, but he got me. “Hey brother can I talk to you?" I replied in French, “Je ne parle pas anglais" and he immediately meandered away, confused. I was really impressed with myself, even more self-satisfied than usual. I can both speak French and repel the advances of the homeless.

I patted my wallet in my pocket and went and checked the sea lions and watched them sleeping as icy water sloshed up the wooden pilings. I wondered why they have whiskers, surely they don’t swim through drainpipes with those fat bellies...

From ten paces he stinks of urine and sweat and probably both stale and fresh jizz

Walking back I saw the very same crazy at a food stand, lurking behind a middle-aged man ordering. I wanted to order something, but didn’t want the crazy to hear that I did speak English, after all. My need to remain in character thus furthered my hunger. The man was buying hot clam chowder, three bread rolls, a large cane sugar cola bottle and a slice of chocolate cake, on a tray. ‘Wow that crazy is standing right behind him, why doesn’t the man serving say something?’ I wondered. It came to 9 bucks 50 and he paid with his card. Before signing he turned around and handed the tray to our friend, who wheeled away to eat, hardly saying thanks, such was the raw hunger. “I don’t give em money, I never give em money," he explained to the man serving, almost apologetically, and now to me. “But I won’t begrudge a man food to eat. I won’t hold out food from a man." Suddenly I wasn’t feeling quite so good about myself. ‘This man is a better man than I,’ I thought. ‘Much, much better.’

Surf Consistency: 5  Wave Variety: 7  

Climate: 7   Budget: 4   Radness: 3

There is a concert in town and I order a red wine. “Five dollars" she says. She is attractive. I hand a twenty, she gives me a ten and five ones, so I can tip her. She puts it all on the bar rather than in my outstretched hand and lurks. Doesn’t move away. “Are you waiting for me to tip you?" I ask. “Sure." “OK well I do have a tip for you: Try saying ‘please’ when you ask me for money." It must be the guilt from earlier, I am lashing out. Plus, it appears I'm going through a kind of obnoxious phase.

Later, in another bar, I am with notable local photog/filmmaker Patrick Trefz. Trefz rolls a rolly and lights it triumphantly. A female couple next to us are chaining Marlboro reds one after the other. You can smoke in here? A smokey bar in America? Wowsers! Class action lung cancer lawsuits seem slightly further away in Santa Cruz than elsewhere.

Trefz tells me that Neil Young plays in this bar once a month, which is pretty impressive. “Actually it’s his wife that plays, but he always comes on to help her out, which is good, because she fucking sucks."