Monday, July 21, 2008

Rediscovering California

Confession time: I have very mixed feelings when it comes to the topic of living in California. A lot of it has to do with being in Silicon Valley- most of it was built within the past 20 years, meaning it's incredibly generic so you could be anywhere, and you need to drive most everywhere, and I'm really not a fan of either point. I really don't think you will catch me going out of my way to live in Silicon Valley in the future.

On the other hand, the rest of California I get along with because it's some of the most gorgeous scenery to be found anywhere and some very unique towns and cities (read: not Silicon Valley). As a result, I've been spending the past few days restoring my faith in California, which involved heading to some great towns to the south of here. The first of these was Santa Cruz on Thursday afternoon- my roommate attends UC-Santa Cruz and had a few errands to attend to, so a few of us tagged along. I still have no idea where the roller coaster is located (the first thing everyone's asked), but I've learned a few important things. Like how, for example, when visiting UCSC, you need to watch where you're going-
That's right, tree protesters. UCSC is built on a hill overlooking the surrounding countryside (resulting in a view that makes one ponder why one went to school in Ohio exactly) and it's built on an old ranch purchased with agreements that you cannot build on over 30% of the land or have buildings taller than the trees. As a result the entire campus is gorgeous and it's like going to school in a giant forest- yielding many more "why Ohio?" ponderings from me- but they want to cut a few down around the science parking lot to build a new building and some people don't like this. As a result, they snuck into the trees a few months back and have stayed up there ever since.
The best shot of the tree protesters I got- if you look carefully, you can see their blue tarps covering their platform and their sign hung between the trees. I was advised to not get closer for a better picture, however, because there's a likely chance of them throwing stuff at you...

By the way, I also learned that these are professional tree protesters. Apparently mere amateurs are not good enough to protest in trees... Though I wonder now what kind of person ends up as a professional tree protester. Someone who really had a thing for tree houses as a kid perhaps?
A shot taken of me in a store in downtown Santa Cruz modeling a really colorful hat. I always wondered where hippies get their gear, and the answer is if you go to places like Santa Cruz there are whole stores devoted to the hippie "look" under the guise of being a store carrying stuff from all over the world or some such. This particular store was of that variety to an actually entertaining degree- they even had Maori jade necklaces right down to the same symbol I have, but my stone is obviously much prettier. I'm sure everyone in New Zealand will be happy to hear that they're hippies according to the stores in Santa Cruz.

Another note: the Santa Cruz bookstore is now close to the top of my list of favoritest bookstores ever, which is really saying something. One could probably devote a whole day there easily, and my roommate was telling me how whenever her dad comes to visit her going to the bookstore is always the first thing he wants to do. Not surprised, really...

But anyway, with that I will shift an hour's drive south on the coast to the town of Monterey, which I hit up this past weekend. Nice little spot though it was crawling with brumbling motorcycles (apparently there was a big race there this weekend) and the weather was a bit chilly and foggy as it is prone on the California coast. As is an indication to how perpetually sunny it always in my part of California, however, I actually loved the fact that it was cloudy all the time since it was different.

When going to Monterey there are a few things it is obligatory to check out, such as the world-famous aquarium and Cannery Row, but my favorite attraction hands-down were the sea lions. They (and the otters, though to a lesser degree) are quite ubiquitous in the water and on the shores around and they're really cool to watch-
A beach covered in sea lions. We only noticed them the second time walking this way, actually, since they almost looked like a bunch of rocks, but of course it's just a bunch of lazy sea lions. So cool, so cute...
My favorite sea lion, who can be seen in the water in the lower left of the previous shot. As it turns out, while sea lions are very agile in the water they really aren't on the land, meaning they move a little with their front flippers but mainly by wriggling their front bodies and slowly bouncing forward. This probably isn't the most fun thing to do and this guy was apparently too lazy to attempt it, as the tide was coming in but he was staying put. As a result, with every wave all he'd do is raise his tail up high so he wouldn't get completely wet, and continue on with his lounging. Silly lazy sea lions.

So in short, I rather like California but on a selective basis (which would make sense, as we're talking about a rather big region here). Will have to pick something new to explore for the rest of them I think... oooh, or I could go to the Santa Cruz Bookstore again...