Saturday, April 17, 2010

Turbinado Sugar



I was in the health food store today picking up Blueberry jam and giving sunflower seed butter a try (tastes a little nuttier than peanut).
I saw a bag of turbinado sugar and a wave of memories from Santa Cruz came back to me. There's a bread store where I would buy baguettes and a cup of tea and pile in the turbinado sugar, listening to the rain on the plastic awning, reading the paper or a book of philosophy, wrapped in a blanket. The turbinado sugar represents that coastal california ethic of honey and philosophy, tea and fresh bread, street musicians on the corner with a tambourine and harmonica.

I'm struggling to get in the right frame of mind to write more about Santa Cruz. All the pieces are in place except my frame of mind. I'm not focused on the details as I know in my heart. I want to blame it on all these frivolous blog entries which strike to the heart of the story in 500 words or less. That's bullshit as far as I'm concerned. It'll entertain but it doesn't linger and it doesn't build into an out of control avalanche of images and dramatic concepts.

The sugar reminded me of the poverty, of saving for a week to buy that cup of tea and drinking it in the garden out back, pipe smoke drifting from over a worn fence. Maybe there were carp in the pond. A student or two would be nearby gravely bent over their texts, and the cup of tea in a big white mug was a thread of connection to civilization that I didn't have in the forest. This was before the sitcom Friends had made these cafe moments cliche and it was my first exposure to the california Kerouac might've known. I was in Yosemite the first time I lived in California and the Sierras/Central Valley are not really a cafe/turbinado sugar types of culture. Redwood City had elements of culture but it was mainly latin based. Santa Cruz was different. This is where everyone would use the same spoon to get the sugar, where styrofoam cups did not exist, where big groups of yoga lovers would pose on the beach, where ravens flew into the forest at night. I felt a lifestyle devoted to economy was not abnormal there. Fruit and nut communes were planned at every table. Social Justice workshops were free with the purchase of a blueberry muffin. The people in Santa Cruz believed that philosophy was an active noun.

My point is that this isn't an anecdote. This can't be tackled with 500 words and talking about myself every other sentence won't work either. My experiences were unusual while I was there so that will help piece together the ideas I think are valuable but the normally flippant way I write, unedited and stream of consciousness, is not the frame of mind I want to have. It doesn't work for a 15 year old story. But the turbinado sugar holds the key, those large brown grains, the way it sticks to the wet spoon, the way it slowly dissolves in hot tea, the way it represents the unrefined, organic nature of the Santa Cruz lifestyle. Yoga and washable menstrual pads and bike racks and needle exchanges and frisbee in the park and a guy who roller skated around in disco short shorts listening to a transistor radio. I'll have to buy some turbinado sugar to get myself in the right frame of mind. It's all about the frame of mind. I'm always in the frame of mind to whip off an amusing 1000 words about beating off when I was 17 years old, but it's a completely different perspective to paint a grand mural covering several years of turmoil.
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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.