My mom bravely came to visit me in California. She’s never been to the West Coast until now and I haven’t been here very long either so we planned to spend half of the two weeks she would be here on the road exploring. This is the beginning of our adventures…
Mom and I have never really had this kind of adventure before. Sure, we’ve taken trips together but not in such an unusual environment, spanning so many miles, over so many days. The first day was pleasant considering the lack of sleep we both experienced the night before. She was still recovering from the flight and the time difference, not to mention, her usual propensity towards anxiety. She wasn’t comfortable at the warehouse. It’s cold, damp, dirty and crawling with people she didn’t need to meet in order to feel out of place. Besides that, she’s not accustomed to sleeping on a couch or being woken by random noise in the middle of the night. In part, her anxiety and discomfort were enough in proximity to invoke the same in myself. To add to that, I had been sick with a bad cold or flu and spent several interrupted nights with unavoidable pulmonary exercises in which it seemed I was attempting to turn my lungs inside out. If she were asleep at all that night, I’m sure the noise I was making didn’t let her stay that way long.
We were quite lethargic all day, somewhat irritable, but overall we had a good day together. We drove south along the Pacific Coast on Route 1 and stopped for a quick stroll along the famous boardwalk in Santa Cruz. The sun was bright but the wind was still cold. Luckily, the chill kept the crowds from overflowing. The days of heavy winter rain caused pockets of flooding so the beach was still dug up in some places, bulldozed into piles to protect the affluent homes clinging to the cliffs nearby.
I knew the boardwalk would be touristy enough to be attractive to Mom but I have to admit I found it unexpectedly enjoyable. We were greeted by the sound of the rickety wooden roller coaster clanking up the impending incline, its quick release and the shrills of its sparse thrill-seekers. We didn’t go on it. We’d both done that kind of thing already.
The scene was pretty typical- fatty food vendors, the modest Ferris wheel, games that involve shooting water from a gun into a clown’s mouth, the badly dressed animated gypsy witch in a scratched acrylic box ready to tell your fortune for ten cents- though now it’s likely a dollar. We came to the old carousel coated with a handful of people. I’ve never been one to be too amazed by these types of things but this particular site was so well preserved it had an air of unearthliness. The horses, forever frozen in motion on their skewers, were exquisitely painted and the lights glowed yellow from the ornate spokes above. Along the walls, three maybe four original Wurlitzer organs were encased, each taking a turn playing their originals as the horses pumped up and down in circles, each active organ’s pieces came to life as they went- a cherub holds a smile older than us both while he beats a worn dot into the drum that sits between his knees. The music was perfectly classic, with an eerie dissonance that gave it a melancholy foreboding tone. I imagine it didn’t help my perceptions that upon researching this place I learned that the boardwalk was used in the filming on the 80’s vampire movie, Lost Boys. Though Mom didn’t have the same context when she also commented about the music. The generally quiet crowds, the roar of antique carnival machines and that creeping music definitely gave you the feeling that even though the sun was out and it was the middle of the day, there was something lurking behind you.
Mom and I were feeling a bit playful so we took a fast photo together in one of the embellished mirrors that hung high around the walls of the carousel, quick enough that the photo wasn’t particularly well composed but at the least we didn’t linger long enough to incur any issues with security for climbing part of the wall to get that high.
We also came to a more modern arcade section that was pretty campy but I spotted a section in the back that looked like a trailer park of photo booths, all designed after the old ones that barely fits one person on a stool behind the flimsy curtain. I had always wanted to have a photo strip like the old ones when they were a vertical strip of 4 black and white prints. There are photo booths everywhere now but they’ve been made more fancy with grotesquely campy colored borders or backdrops. But there was one in the old-style that Mom and I used. These photos weren’t great either but that’s not really the point. I’ll be able to look at that cheap strip of paper again and know in that moment, Mom and I were having a good time, being goofy, being ourselves.