what I learned this week: teepees, redwoods and pit-bull service dogs

by Janelle Hanchett

So…I spent most of this week in Santa Cruz – at the beach and at the Boardwalk (an ocean-side amusement park for those of you who aren’t from these parts)…and it was simply fabulous. In every way. Except that my daughter wasn’t with us. (She comes home Wednesday and I am so freaking excited. I need her back in her bed, in my house, safely. With me.). Anyway we stayed in a perfect, funky beachside motel, built a fire on the beach and chased waves and got great sunburns in the unseasonable warmth. We sat in the hot tub in the cool morning fog, walked in a redwood grove, made friends with drunk motel neighbors and collected shells (not necessarily in that order). And as I mentioned, we went to an amusement park.

Every time I go to an amusement park, I am reminded of why I really can’t stand large clusters of humans, in any location, but ESPECIALLY at amusement parks. I mean it’s just depressing – the shit one observes. It makes me wonder how we’ve survived as a species for this long. And why we should continue.

So rather than the usual “what I learned” list, I thought I’d generously share with you a few of my favorite sightings this weekend, pretty much all of them at the Boardwalk.  If I went the rest of my life never witnessing these things again, I’d be A-OKAY.

  1. Women who smoke while pregnant. I should have empathy. I should. But I don’t.  I hate them.
  2. Sweatpants with letters on the butt. Not as bad as smoking while pregnant, but close.
  3. Toddlers being fed soda. Always a win.
  4. Hysterical screaming toddlers left in strollers to cry and wail incessantly, for the joy of all those around them, while the parents sit unaffected, usually eating fried foods.
  5. Kids being bullied by large beer-drinking humans, who are really annoyed that the small person they chose to bring into the world is now bothering their sorry white-trash selves as they attempt to get their drink on. I saw a man shove his boy and a mother shake her son’s head. FUCKERS I want to hang you by your toenails from telephone wires.
  6. Tween girls in super-slut outfits. Yes. Right. Let’s start out the objectification of our daughters AS SOON AS possible, so they really learn their ultimate value and purpose (which is, of course, to be hot. Duh.).
  7. Shirtless frat boys in board shorts, slicked up with sun lotion, complete with tribal arm band tattoos, tall cans of Budweiser and really loud voices, directed at impressing twiggy 19-year-old females, who flip their hair. A lot.
  8. The obligatory asshole who parks his (or her) enormous truck diagonally across three parking spots, when there are only 5 spots available. Not nice, dude.
  9. People who walk at a snail’s pace…then stop, suddenly, in doorways, to do WHATEVER, even though there are approximately 487 people behind them, trying to get by.

But I can’t let our little vacation stand in such a negative light – because other than the morass of sad humanity at the Boardwalk, the trip was absolutely lovely and there were some incredible moments. Here are some highlights…

  1. We walked into a redwood grove of giant, towering, mighty trees, thousands of years old, so awe-inspiring and humbling and celestial that we instinctively hushed our voices there…it was weird. Even Rocket whispered.
  2. On that same hike, we saw a banana slug, just kickin’ it on a fence post…a moment that I believe may be one of the most joyous, defining ones of Rocket’s life thus far.
  3. Somehow, I ended up having a 15-minute conversation about sexism with a male transvestite. He said “I just can’t stand the way they treat US” in his deep gravelly voice and I smiled and loved him.
  4. The beach across the street from our motel (in Aptos) was full of wood, deposited by storms and overflowing creeks, and protected by the environmentalists who demand it stay where nature left it. One may think this is a negative thing – large pieces of wood all over the pristine sand. BUT, all that wood and sand results in rare and stellar fort and teepee building potential. We were not the first ones to discover this. In fact, the whole beach was dotted with teepees, lean-tos and forts of various style, size and quality – the building and discovery of which stands second only to the banana slug (in terms of highlights for Rocket).
  5. We shared a fire on the beach and ate s’mores with a lovely family who were so nice and loving toward their kids that it was almost alarming – even Mac said “those women were good mothers. There were just so loving toward their kids. We really should try to be more like that.” And then I laughed. Because I’m shooting for less psycho-bitch crazy. One must be reasonable with one’s goals. (Besides, I think lesbian mothers have a leg-up on us heteros since they don’t have grown men in the house to piss them off all the time.).
  6. We saw a man in a wheelchair being towed along by a really smart, proud, enormously muscled (and focused) pit-bull. It was like a punk seeing-eye-dog and it was RAD.
  7. I watched my son bury his own head in the sand. Not figuratively. It was really cool (I think) to watch somebody do something that weird. And messy. And sandy. I mean the whole damn thing was under the sand. My mom took a picture. I’ll show ya’ll later.
  8. Georgia had her first experience in a pool. She loved it (after she discovered it was water and she could bang it, just like the bath).  Rocket also suddenly learned to swim. Really. All the sudden he put his head down and kicked and moved his arms and moved across the pool -and I thought to myself “thank God. FINALLY those swim lessons did something.”
  9. But mostly I just had those moments of looking around at my kids and husband and realizing I’m happy. That I’m living the damn dream. I’ve been handed gold and I don’t need more than what’s right here and it’s all good in this damn crazy town neighborhood.  (Now…if only I could remember that when I’m not on the ocean basking in California sunshine…)

I have SO MANY pictures but I’ll post them tomorrow. It’s 10pm and I’m exhausted and sunburnt and I gotta work tomorrow and I just KNOW Georgia’s gonna wake up 3 times tonight. Shit. My life sucks.

Damnit. Already forgot #9. Oh well. It was good while it lasted.

Happy new week, folks.

12 Comments | Posted in weeks of mayhem | April 17, 2011
  • Christina

    ~ LOVE ~ Glad you met some good people to help balance out the crappy people.

    Always my favorite. My BFF grew up in Aptos (me in Santa Cruz). Your story makes me feel all dreamy and a little homesick.

    • renegademama

      you LUCKY LUCKY woman. no wonder you’re so damn cool. we always say “wonder what it would be like to LIVE here…” and we get all dreamy… 🙂

  • Mommy's Paradise

    I’m glad you had a wonderful time, in spite of those other things you witnessed. Even here in paradise we have those, maybe not #4 and #5 but definitely the rest. Close your eyes and stick to the cool highlights you had, #9 for sure. Hope you night was ok.

    • renegademama

      I like that…closing my eyes and going right back to heaven…right? 🙂

  • melanee

    you crack me up!!!

    • renegademama

      I gotta admit, sometimes I crack myself up. I know that’s pathetic and slightly odd. But it’s true. It’s really a relief though, to know somebody else thinks I’m funny…ya know?

  • Michelle

    Well your trip to the beach went better then mine…you being in California and me being in freezing New Hampshire. While you got sunburned I got pelted with sand blowing at 50 miles per hour. Can’t wait for summer to get here!

    • renegademama

      UNCOOL!! One should not get pelted with airborne sand — ever! Oh well…it’ll be better soon, right? Cheers.

  • Shan

    1-9 the first… I have a fantasy of attaching a tongue depressor to a professionally printed on both sides, square but with rounded edges sign. On one side it would say, “You’re an idiot.” The other side, “Your driving sucks.” I think about this often.

    1-9 the second… the good lessons never stick. They must be continuously relearned. Lucky you that Santa Cruz is so conducive to the experience.

    • renegademama

      All I can say is…I freaking love your comments.


  • Kimberly

    I’m not sure I could stomach the Boardwalk now that I’m old and crusty. I assumed it would be exactly how you described it. Damn kids these days…

  • Nancy

    I love the traveling I get to do through your sharing!!

    Thank You Ssssoooo Much:)