Going down to Santa Cruz is always a theatrical adventure, though it has lost a lotta charm since the earthquake as the rebuilding process incorporated more and more elements minus any character. I do love the T-shirt in one bookstore: "Keep Santa Cruz Weird" and the sidewalk guy covered head to toe in red flannel with just two little eyeholes & a top hat, playing a foil-covered accordion, standing on a box.
We ventured out for a "weird" fix—planned on the fly, just one night at our favorite Hindi Motel, where at checkout, we thought we'd ask the approximate meaning of the elusive words "Dhoom Taana" (song title from the Bollywood film Om Shanti Om soundtrack; much truncated version also used in SYTYCD, season just ended.) At my question, the young man behind the desk says "What?" I start singing the opening phrase, sort of tentatively, and his father raises his eyebrows, son says "Oh, you mean like in the film?" Then mother says "O, that means…", then all three at once begin to gesture meaningfully—like, uh, you know, well…Then father sings a phrase and waggles in time to the song, and then says "It means: Come out to all, dance and celebrate! You know, join the party!" I'm thinking "Bontemps roulez!? I've gone from Hindi to Cajun in a microsecond." Then mom says "You like Hindi films?" and I reply "Yes, I love Lagaan" and there is a chorus of admiring cries "Ah! Oo! Aamir Khan!! Yes, yes!". Then a piece of scrap paper appears and a pen, father begins to write "O, you will very much like this film" turns to family…? and writes "G-A-N-I-J-I" Mother says "No, no, no…G-A-J-A" as father scratches it out and begins again. Son has turned to the computer and googles it, shoots some rapid-fire Hindi at his parents, and mother starts again "G-H-A-J-I-N-I" as father scratches out the second try, and gets it right. As he hands the paper to me, "You should see him! He is very strong! Today is his birthday, he is 44," he gestures at his ribcage, "and you should see his eight-pack!" We are all beaming at this thought.
I think I was more on top of my game intuition-wise or I wouldn't have dared raise the subject. My aura was windex clear. Maybe that came as a result of my somewhat intense reflexology session the afternoon before, at a special place out on the beach. That night at the motel, I had slept like a baby without even unplugging the thrumming mini-fridge. Or you certainly might say it was in part the extensive walking in the downtown area, searching for a place to light for dinner. Not too spicy, not too noisy, not too $$$$...
So what drew us to this restaurant/bar on our third go-around, after forty-five minutes of false starts? Giant suspended blue globes casting a cool atmosphere; wide open stretches of mirrored walls; a respectable number of clientele. Okay, sounds good? Sounds good.
No sooner are we seated, (nice small table next to the wall, could we have water without ice, please? Our standard opening gambit,) and have couple of weighty menus to sift through, but a peal of giggly laughter erupts from the table to our side farther into the room. I reflexively glance over, just pass my eyes quickly, non-invasively, non-threateningly, to check her out. I see a cloud of thick blonde hair, a bright pink, peek-a-boo blouse showing lots of arm. A call-girl? Yikes. Then we hear the guy. They're on a first date; met online. He's cooing, he's booming, he knows everything and he's going to tell her all of it. But first he has to find out more about her. Probing, quizzing, commenting on her German accent, all with the finely tuned instincts of an old graying bull moose. Inexplicably, lots more giggling from her.
We've made our way through a fine first course (remind self: google "long-life soup") and asked the waitress if the ceviche is very spicy, and upon her assurance that it is not very spicy, not really, we go with that, which turns out to be a grave error. But next door the show continues. Did you know for example that Cleopatra was not only not beautiful, she was actually ugly? Truly. You wouldn't call Stalin handsome, now would you? Margaret Thatcher? No way. Well, there you go.
And did you know that, in point of fact everything is based on three things: Money, Power and...Sex. Money, Power and Sex. MONEY, POWER AND SEX. That's it. Money. Power. and...Shhhh...ex. Money, Power&Sex. That's all there is to it. Really. I'm not kidding. Money, Power and ...well, like, with economics, you see, for instance.
Take monkeys, for example. (We're now on our chicken stuffed with spinach & ricotta...quite yummy, but eating with burnt tongues.) Did you know that capitalism is readily demonstrated by the behavior of monkeys? You take some monkeys, see, and you pay them in bananas for completed tasks. They learn quickly that it is best to do the task quickly and get the bananas. Since they are paid by the task and not by the hour, they also figure out it's better to do a simple task fast and get one banana than to do a complex task that takes longer and get two bananas. (I'm having a very hard time looking at Rich and keeping a straight face through this.) Then the testers begin giving the monkeys tokens instead of bananas, thinking that, well, you know, they'll start saving up their tokens as soon as they catch on that they won't have to worry about being hungry, they can just cash in a token, and voila! food. That works fine, except then they try to tax the monkeys' "income" by taking 10% of their hard earned tokens. Well, they aren't having that, buster! Yunh-uhn. No sir. As soon as they get that figured out, they stop working at all, unless they get an immediate banana. So, as you can see, socialism never works! Hey, I have to use the boy's room. Back in a sec.
It takes all my will power to keep from turning to this sweet young woman whom I have not even met and hissing "He's already paid the bill! Flee for your life!" But no, the noise has increased, our chicken is consumed, our tongues are numb, it's late. Dessert hangs in the balance. Suddenly, he's back. They murmur unintelligibly for a few moments and then rise from their table to leave. And I look over just in time to see her smoothing her impossibly fluffy white skirt and running a hand through the hair hiding her face. She moves toward me and looks up.
She's gotta be forty-five if she's a day.