The Ugly Mug

So I think I left off with a bowl of spaghetti at Joe’s Pizza sometime last week.  Sure enough, I was able to finish that spaghetti, and ended up hanging out there until around eight or nine in the evening.  After dinner, I headed back to the van to find that I had a pink parking ticket tucked under my windshield wiper.  I had moved the car several times throughout the day so that I could avoid such a dilemma, and when I looked at the parking signs and compared them with the ticket I realized that I had done nothing wrong, so I’ll be fighting that ticket.  It was already dark, but I pulled out the camera and took pictures of the van and the parking signs from various places on the street.  Basically the sign said that it was a two-hour parking zone until 8pm, unless you had a permit, and that parking from midnight to 6am was prohibited.  Well, I had moved the van to this spot at around 6:15, figuring that I wouldn’t have to move it again until midnight, should I so choose.  When I got back to the van, the parking citation was time stamped at 6:40pm and said that I had no visible permit, which is true, but not against the parking laws.  So I’m not too worried; I followed the directions on the back and filed a written dispute for the parking ticket, and I’ll soon find out how they handle it.  Other than that, it was a pretty good day overall; with the farmers market, drum circle and a ton of spaghetti and garlic bread.

Thursday I went to the beach.  I figured my voice could use a rest, and I had a show at a place called The Ugly Mug later in the evening, so I just wanted to take it easy all day.  I did just that, and stopped at a pull off along the coast where there was a small surfing museum and a whole slew of people with wetsuits and surf boards.  I walked out onto a cliff that overlooked the ocean and spent hours out there; soaking up the sun, watching the waves smash into the rocks, and on the other side I watched a bunch of surfers catch waves for a while.  I think the coolest part was a tiny little “bay” if you will.  It was like a sliver of ocean that cut into the rocks, about fifteen feet across and forty feet long, and when big waves would enter the “alley,” they would work their way to the end and then crash on the rocks, shooting upwards in explosions of water and then churning the ocean up until the whole surface was covered in sea foam.  When especially big swells came in, water would shoot twenty to thirty feet in the air, and then it would drain back into the ocean, creating temporary waterfalls on the rocks.  It was awesome; sort of like watching Fantasia without classical music; just the sounds of the ocean battling the rocks.  Every now and again you would hear a giant “whump” as a wave crashed on itself and mixed with the rest of the water, almost like the sound you get if you take a five gallon bucket and submerge it in water.  Anyway, I sat on the edge of this cliff for over an hour, just watching this phenomenon.  I had brought a guitar with me, but I didn’t even get it out of the case; the ocean was mesmerizing all by itself.

I also spent a bunch of time on the other side of the rocks, watching surfers swim out and catch waves.  It’s a really neat sport, and I’ve always had an idea to learn how to surf, but the water here is a little cold for my blood.  Everyone here was using wetsuits, and with good reason.  I figure there’s a good chance I might find myself in a more tropical location for a while, and at that point maybe I’ll drop some money into a surfboard, but for now I’m content just watching from the shore.

When I left the coast, I headed to The Ugly Mug, and unfortunately I got a little turned around on the way.  I stopped at a Staples and got directions, and showed up at the coffee shop about twenty minutes before I was set to play.  Normally I shoot for at least an hour of down time, but in this case it didn’t matter cause the place was pretty laid back.  I didn’t realize it, but I had come to Santa Cruz just as there were record breaking winds, and there were over three hundred thousand people without power.  About forty of them were at the Ugly Mug charging their cell phones and such and drinking good coffee, so I had a rather packed house, thanks mostly to the wind.  It was a pretty good show; I played for about two hours and made some new friends, and afterwards the barista gave me some tips on local venues and invited me to play there again next time I’m in town.

After the show I was suddenly exhausted for no apparent reason, so I went and found myself a good spot to park for the evening and called it an early night.  In the morning I met a friend for breakfast and we went down to a restaurant on the water to see if we could see some dolphins over breakfast.  We didn’t see any dolphins, but I had a solid breakfast of eggs and french toast, bacon and sausage, and I couldn’t have been happier.  It was another beautiful day in Santa Cruz, and after breakfast we parted ways and I headed to another nearby beach.  I walked around for a good long while, and then came back to the van to give it a good solid cleaning.  It was long past due, and with a sunny day I had no excuse not to clean it.  Afterwards I got an early dinner and then went back downtown to set up and play on the streets.

It was now Friday night, so I was curious how things would be In Santa Cruz on the weekend.  I did pretty damn well with tips that night, and I only played for two or three hours.  There was a show going on nearby, and people were stretched all down the sidewalk waiting to get into the venue, so I was their pre-show entertainment.  I asked what bands they were all going to see, but I’ve since forgotten what the answer was; all I remember is that it was some variation of reggae.  Anyway, when most of the line had made it in the door, I packed up and headed back to the van.  I had been given a 24oz Sierra Nevada as a tip, and I couldn’t just drink that on the street.  I watched a western and drank a beer, and then crashed for the evening.

Saturday morning I went to Safeway to get some food for lunch, and I was surprised to find that they had a whole “lounge area” where people could purchase food in the store, and then hang out behind a railing at tables and couches and stuff.  So I got lunch, picked a spot on a couch and plugged in the computer to charge up.  Safeway has a deal with Starbucks, so most stores have free internet, and this was no exception.  I held down my plot for a couple hours while doing research and charging up, and then afterwards I went back to Pacific Avenue to busk for a couple hours.  I figured I would do it in two shifts; one in the afternoon and another in the evening, but it didn’t quite work that way.  I got there around 1:30 in the afternoon, but I broke a string on the fourth or fifth song.  Unfortunately I didn’t have a replacement for the one I broke, so I packed up and headed back to the van to grab cash for strings.  On the way I passed a homeless guy in a wheelchair, and he asked me if I could push him to the library a couple blocks away.  I had passed the library on my way there, so I had an idea where it was, and I told him if he could find a way to hold the guitar, I could get him there.  Sure enough, he balanced the guitar on his lap, and I pushed him seven or eight blocks to the library.  Afterwards I continued to the van, grabbed a handful of cash and went looking for a music shop.  I found a place literally two blocks from where I had been set up before, bought some strings and went looking for a new place to post up for a while.

I played for a couple hours and did alright, but not nearly as well as I had done the evening before.  My favorite corner was already taken by  a five piece bluegrass band when I started playing, but when I closed up the case to take a long break until the evening, that corner had opened up.  So I went over and opened the case again, and within ten minutes I had a guy come up with a mandolin and ask if I wanted to jam.  We played a bunch of classic rock, especially from the Rolling Stones, and he taught me two or three songs there on the corner.  We collected a couple dollars and a couple drunk guys who were out to enjoy the evening, and just hung around trying to sing harmonies to the songs they knew.  It was entertaining, to say the least, and one of the guys looked like the rockstar from “Forgetting Sarah Marshall;” sunglasses, boots, leather jacket and all.  They were drinking some sort of rum the whole time, and they were getting increasingly forward with all the pretty ladies that were walking by.  I just smiled shyly, and when the mandolin player called it a night, I took that as my opportunity to close down the case.

The two guys offered me rum, and said they were going nearby to pick up a “vat of rum that’s bigger than Dallas,” and asked me to come along.  I figured what the hell, a little rum would keep the blood flowing to my fingers and toes.  I was wearing a t-shirt and sandals, and when the sun went down it started to get cold.  So we walked down the street, and one of the guys disappeared into a building and came back with a paper bag full of vodka, rum, and fresh squeezed tangerine juice.  I had a water bottle with me, so he made me a concoction and we walked back up the street.  I was carrying the guitar still, and when we got back to that corner it was still free, and both of these guys were calling for more classic rock.  I pulled it out and played a bunch more songs, but I could feel my voice leaving me, and I was hardly making any tips.  Eventually I decided that I needed to put on some more layers if I was gonna stay outside, so I bid my adues to these guys, packed up my stuff, and headed back to the van.  It was almost eight by this point, and I was pretty well all played out for the day.  I did put on some layers and come back downtown without a guitar, but I didn’t stay very long.  My funds were pretty tight, and dinner was calling my name- so onward to Burger King!  I crashed early again, despite the fact that it was a Saturday night.

On Sunday I spent most of the day at the “lounge” inside of Safeway, drinking apple juice and eating turkey sandwiches while I checked craigslist and worked on a better resume.  I was able to find a couple things in the area, and set up an appointment to do some yard work the following morning.  It worked out pretty well in the end, but that’s a whole other story, and  I’ll save that for another post.  In the mean time, its time for dinner.. Til next time..


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