Captain John Smith, reporting from Santa Cruz

The guy at the Santa Cruz bus stop introduced himself to me, twice, and each time he made the same joke (about me looking like the historical/colonial John Smith) and laughed as though it were the first time he’d ever heard such hilarity — so it came as no surprise to me when he told me that he had taken the bus to Santa Cruz (as opposed to driving) so that he “could get real fucked up.”

The first time he told the joke, the guy next to him started rattling off the top of his head all of the facts surrounding the historical Captain John Smith and Pocahontas. The guy really knew a lot, and he was still going, later, when we re-introduced ourselves, me saying my name was “Jon,” and he finishing by telling me that my last name was Smith, like the guy the English guy.

Other signs of intoxication included:

  • Speaking at length about his success in finding what he had come to shop for (a Pocahontas costume), despite the fact that the only thing he had with him was an over-sized IPA bottle that he quickly drained when the bus pulled up to the curb.
  • A seemingly ability to hear Ozzy Osbourne songs (“just the way Ozzy does it”) in the random grunts of a stranger on the bus.
  • Seriously offending said stranger by talking to him at length about Ozzy and the supposed Ozzy song that the stranger had been supposedly grunting.
  • Asking a man whose shirt was unbuttoned if he could button it up, please. (In return, the man kindly grunted his consent, sort of closed the shirt without buttoning it, then continued reading his paperback. Five minutes later, the shirt flopped open again, but no more was made of the incident.)
  • Getting off the bus fifteen minutes before he said he was going to get off.
  • Immediately getting back on the bus.
  • Getting off the bus, again, after retrieving the flannel shirt he’d left. I had just started saying “But I thought you were heading to—-” when he turned and made it out before the bus doors closed.

All in all it was a great bus ride. It’s like what folks like to say around these parts: Keep Santa Cruz Weird. 

I think a lot of cities have this saying, but I’ve never heard it used quite as much as I’ve heard here in Santa Cruz, nor with quite the same kind of enthusiasm that you hear around these parts. “Keep Santa Cruz Weird” is sort of a matter of pride, attaining the status of a mantra or even a town motto.


Published by

Jonathan Erdman

Writer. In the summers, I live and work in the incredible state of Alaska, in the bush community of McCarthy, as the Executive Director of the Wrangell Mountain Center. When not in McCarthy, you'll typically find me in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, writing and working with local activists. My primary writing project right now is a novel set in remote bush Alaska, of the magical realism genre wherein an earnest and independent young woman finds a mysterious radio belonging to her grandmother, a device that has paranormal bandwidth and a disturbing ability to mess with one's mental stability.

Consider this post an invitation, an invitation to comment and collaborate ~ In Solidarity, JE

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