Here’s my family, down on Pacific Avenue, the hub of our town. There’s three generations of us, and we want to make a picture! You ask passers-by the world over, "Won’t you take our photo so we can all be in it?" Here’s a metaler or something. We ask him. He passes by with a sneer.
He is from the University, you see, very young and anxious about cool. What if he does something that means he ain’t? Like do touristy stuff. Pah on that!
Our kids were born in this county and we’ve all been here since the early seventies.This is heresy, but I’m curious. It has to do with Town/Gown, I suppose, like in plenty of movies, like Breaking Away and Good Will Hunting.
My town is now Santa Cruz, and I arrived just as the sixties were very slowly winding down. (They aren’t completely drained yet.) Before 1960, Santa Cruz was a sleepy Italian fishing village, it is reported, conservative and scenic and uninspired. It was founded originally by the friars who came along the Pacific coast, setting up missions and enslaving the natives and inflicting unspeakable horrors upon them.
The University is a liberal arts showcase. Immediately you had these 19-year-old sociology stoonts parading down the hill with clipboards to lecture wiry old fishers about how the world should be. (It didn’t help matters at all that they were dead right most of the time.) So the U grew in its pastoral splendor overlooking the emerald bay to become a local political powerhouse by pure dint of numbers. The city council lurched left, and the streets were marked nuclear-free, and the Sandinistas were welcomed at our ports while the US Navy was banned, and there was even an Ugly Law which forbade employers or landlords from refusing to rent to citizens who were too tall, too fat, or pierced.
In a recession, the local treasury is draining just like the sixties, only the U is still growing, and needing utilities, such as water, which is always at drought stage or just above in our region. Whenever there are issues which involve someone paying, the ones voting are the stoonts here for a quarter or two and the ones paying are the landowners who are billed property tax. As in all matters in our fine democracy, the position of anyone is that there are good ideas out there and someone really needs to pay for them.
A letter to the editor of the local fishwrap (also at ebb tide) on a current expansion debate tells us the advantages of a university are "too numerous to mention." That avoids a lot of itemizing, I suppose, but I wonder, just what are these advantages?
Now, don’t misunderstand, while there are plenty of Esthetic Studies and History of Consciousness majors up there, many times you will see science articles quoting professors from our U. What I’m wondering is, would not this field of study exist on other grounds with other property owners paying the bill? (This is a similar question to the one perris posed. While they provide volunteers who create the Homeless Garden Project for class credit, their growth is costing us redwoods and water, and I’m just wondering if I’m a phillistine for musing about an abandoned campus reclaimed by the wilds.
Renata Adler, in Speedboat, has something to say about our City on a Hill.