Thursday, June 03, 2010
This Is No Place to be Addicted to Another Place: How to write about your hometown – and should you?
Santa Cruz, I love you and I hate you! There’s something to be said for writing fiction about your hometown, but just displacing it several hundred miles to the north, to a place that’s kinda like the other place but not exactly. If you've never been to Santa Cruz, CA, here’s a helpful little video tutorial on what it was to be a Santa Cruz youth in the 80’s and 90’s.
Not to get all McMurtry on you (ha! as if) but growing up in a small town skews your perspective on the rest of the world. And, despite the beautiful and cosmopolitan UC campus, Santa Cruz felt like a small town, where “The Valley” referred the San Lorenzo Valley (the woods where aging hippie bikers raised their families), where going downtown was a day trip and you only went “over the hill” – to San Jose – once or twice a year, maybe to buy your prom dress at Valley Fair mall (except I didn't) or to attend Lollapalooza at Shoreline Amphitheater (except I wasn't allowed to back in '94, the fest's best year).
And of course for the last several years there has been a campaign to “Keep Santa Cruz Weird." The high cost of living has forced out most of the old school, good-natured weirdos -- the ones with public cats, unicycles and mismatched converse -- so now all that’s left are bourgeois New Agers, guys who work in sheet metal and true teary-eyed psycho tweakers... Still, walking out to the cliff’s edge on a moonlit night, the slight breeze matching your body temperature, you peer out into the seductive, twinkling abyss of the Monterey Bay, knowing that the skin of the Pacific Ocean is hiding the fullness of its rare depths (the two-mile depth of Monterey Canyon is equivalent to that of the Grand Canyon). You wonder: Can any of this be real?