June 19, 2011

Summer Better Than Others

Good morning and greetings, summer solstice fans. This spring was a walk on the wild side on the weather front, as killer tornadoes, ravaging floods, raging wildfires, record-breaking heat, Anthony’s weiner
and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s love child all made national headlines. It was a very difficult time that many Americans and particularly Maria Shriver won’t soon forget.

But as Monday is the final day of our annual spring fling, I thought we
would look ahead to summer and all the fun that is Santa Cruz. When the words summer and fun are combined with free admission, all day-ride passes and a lost children’s center, we can only be talking about one place. That would be the only remaining major seaside amusement park on the West Coast, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

Before there was the Boardwalk, there was just a beautiful,lifeguard-free, white sand beach. Back in 1865, before Safeway, Starbucks
and Panda Express splashed onto the scene, an enterprising gentlemen named John Leibrandt opened a public bathhouse near the mouth of the San Lorenzo River. Holy SPF 50 ultra sweatproof sunblock, Batman! Soon other bathhouses followed along with boogie board rental shops as tourists of every race, creed and color began visiting Santa Cruz.

They had heard of the Catalyst and of the healing properties of salt water, so they traveled by planes, trains and automobiles to immerse themselves in this highly-touted “natural medicine.” This was bigger than clam chowder in a bread bowl as soon more stores and businesses opened including Sears, Jamba Juice and Pizza My Heart as tourists flocked to the central coast to take the cold water plunge.

The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk was founded in 1904 by local businessman and entrepreneur Fred Swanton, who wanted to create a Coney Island on the west coast. We’re talking Nathan Hot Dogs on a sour dough bun along with an amusement park full of fun, games and a variety of souvenirs to satisfy everyone from Grandma to the annoying friend who’s afraid to go on any ride. All this along an incredibly beautiful mile long stretch of the Pacific Ocean. It was just the way Spanish explorers envisioned this prime piece of oceanfront real estate
when they first sailed into Monterey Bay.

So Fred Swanton erected a domed casino on the beach along the mouth of the San Lorenzo River. Unfortunately, less than two years later, the building, much like LeBron James and the Miami Heat in this year’s NBA Finals, went down in flames, along with a salt water taffy stand. But this Santa Cruz-based visionary would not be deterred, and he soon built a new casino, ballroom, boardwalk, pleasure pier, indoor swimming pool, ashram and meditation center.

The grand opening of the new boardwalk inspired an inaugural ball, with one band being directed by John Philip Sousa and the other by Mr. Eddie Money. There was also a congratulatory email message from President Theodore Roosevelt and a twitter from Sarah Palin, who claimed that she was just on a summer vacation with her family and that this road trip had nothing to do with her trying to sell more books.

The Boardwalk’s top attraction is the Giant Dipper, a wooden roller coaster built in 1924, when Al Davis bought the Oakland Raiders. Giant Dipper creator Arthur Looff once said the ride’s design was intended to evoke a “combination earthquake, balloon ascension and aeroplane drop,” or how Bin Laden might have felt when he realized it was not Domino’s Pizza but Navy Seals knocking down his door.

Now, I don’t want to say that that I’m not a big roller coaster fan,
but if I want to experience the highs and lows, thrills and excitement and gentle terror that is the Giant Dipper, I’ll just watch my stock portfolio play along with the Dow Jones average. And I don’t even
have to be buckled in.

The Giant Dip was built in just 47 days at the cost of $50,000, or what I spend each year on electroshock therapy and Chinese food. The Dipper and the Looff Carousel are both on the United States National Register of Historic Places along with the new “Burger” restaurant on Mission Street. The Boardwalk itself is a California State Historic Landmark. For summer seaside fun with an assortment of rides and attractions that make visitors wish they could afford to live here, the Boardwalk is the place to be.

For today’s photographic faceplate we are serving up six shots of the
Boardwalk that you won’t find in National Geographic or Popular Mechanics. The first photo was taken during a pelican feeding frenzy in the waters of Cowells Beach. We continue with a shot from later that evening followed by more photos from this prime piece of real estate that considers the Wharf, Steamers Lane and Lighthouse Point close and personal friends.

On to the late night festivities. “Congressman Weiner has entered a
treatment program. Amazingly, it’s the only thing he’s entered during the entire Weinergate scandal.” –Conan O’Brien “Congressman Anthony Weiner has just checked himself into a treatment center for people battling chronic sexual dysfunction. Checked in? He’s already
there, it’s called Congress. Congressman Anthony Weiner has announced that he’s not resigning in the wake of the scandal. One thing we know about Weiner is that he knows how to stand firm.” –Jay Leno

“The Chairman of the Republican Party Ed Cox said that he would use the incriminating pictures from Anthony Weiner to defeat him. So now we have Cox versus Weiner. This just doesn’t stop!” –Jay Leno “Anthony Weiner wants to be mayor of New York City. So we may go from a guy that looks like a jockey to a guy that likes how he looks in
Jockeys.” –David Letterman “After searching online for eight minutes for pictures of a congressman’s penis you have to start questioning yourself. And now we find out Weiner’s wife is pregnant. The only thing that could make this right is if it turns out she got pregnant by Arnold Schwarzenegger.” –Jimmy Kimmel

“Arnold Schwarzenegger’s housekeeper says Maria Shriver became suspicious after noticing similarities between Arnold and her 13-year-old son. For instance, after serving as class president, he left the sixth grade with a $42 billion deficit. The housekeeper said the affair wasn’t all Arnold’s fault because “it takes two.” Then Anthony Weiner said, “Actually, it only takes one.”–Conan O’Brien

“President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner have agreed to play a round of golf together. Imagine the two of them at the end of that golf game? Boehner will be crying over his score and Obama will be giving three explanations as to why his score is actually better than it appears. One of bin Laden’s wives said he was a sex machine. In fact, he was the only man who could find her jihad spot.” –Jay Leno

That’s our last blast for spring 2011. Congratulations go out to my Santa Cruz-based parents, Lee and Daniel Gilbert, who on Saturday celebrate their 61st wedding anniversary. Being their oldest has really been a treat. Or as my father likes to say, “Lee, why didn’t we have a daughter first?”

So get ready for summer and we’ll catch you running the break. Aloha,
mahalo and later, NBA draft fans.

1 Comment »

  1. You had me at ‘summer soltice’.. Great work, you wise man.

    Comment by The Korleone Young and Restless — June 20, 2011 @ 12:56 pm

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