April 23rd, 2009

I am a terrible, blasphemous slanderer. I am sad and ashamed. Last month, in the very space that I am writing in now, I said cruel things about one of my childhood’s magical places: The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

Notice that I did not use the word libel. It isn’t that I said anything untrue. It is dirty, loud, overcrowded and full of overpriced junk. But there I go again. There are always so many ways to describe a thing, so many different facts to give. Not to mention the power of changing the emotional frame of the same core statement, like a good political pollster. (How can so many people who don’t stand to inherit anything from anyone be so against estate taxes?)

Last month I wanted to tell you about the remarkable Natural Bridges state beach and somehow the way I found to get there involved, to borrow a great phrase from my brother, throwing my beloved Boardwalk under the bus. How unnecessary that was!

Now, I want to offer you another perspective: The Boardwalk is so full of people because it remains a great place to go. The rides are scary, especially the wooden artifact known as The Big Dipper, which is one of the world’s oldest roller coasters. This behemoth creaks and groans and drops you from 100 feet and feels miraculous every time. There is truly not a healthy morsel to be found on the premises, unless you count the apples buried underneath all that gooey caramel, but nor is there a McDonald’s or Subway or Starbucks to be seen. This is an amazing feat considering the seemingly unstoppable power of those names to find there way into, well, most every place that people go. It’s dirty because it’s the beach and beaches are not clean. The sunshine makes everything sparkle, but the cool Pacific takes the edge off the summer heat. Most of the people you see at the Boardwalk are smiling. I have been happy every single time I’ve been there and I’ve been going there my whole life. I sincerely hope that my dear Boardwalk can forgive me.

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