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October 21, 2020

Empty streets downtown | About Town

On Monday I clipped my bike to the 91X Metro Express bus on Water Street in Santa Cruz and came out to Watsonville. The express bus is just that — it whistles out to south county very quickly: I climbed off the bus 35 minutes later at Green Valley and Main. There were only 3 stops along the way; most of the time was spent on the Highway. I took the same bus home later Monday and got to downtown Santa Cruz quicker than I could drive without having to drive, park or fill my tank. There were only three people on the bus each way. The open windows let in a fresh breeze and it was, for me, a very comfortable ride, both ways.

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As the bus rolled into Watsonville around 9am I saw a man with a shopping cart loaded with stuff standing in front of the vacant lot at Main and Auto Center Drive yelling angrily at the empty lot. I see a lot of street screamers in my travels, folks yelling at the sky, trees, traffic. My cop buddies tell me it’s mostly methamphetamine abuse. Some of them yell at trash, others swish and flop their arms around, some sit gloomily on the curb staring at nothing. 

As I rode my bike through downtown it seemed unusually empty. No one was parked on Main Street and there was almost no traffic. It felt like a ghost town. I read recently that a large body of small business owners across the country have rounded up the idea that around 40% of their businesses will soon vanish, mostly due to the poor handling of the Covid-19 nightmare. Our president told us it would simply go away, like a miracle and that only a few people had the virus. Now 200,000 people in our country have died from the disease. Some miracle. In England their caseload of Covid-19 doubles each week. In India there were 87,000 new cases just last week alone.

A man was shot and killed in Pajaro last night near San Juan Road at Porter. Little info was available as of 4 pm Tuesday. Another man was reportedly injured in the same shooting incident.

Cal Fire officials are saying the CZU August Lightning Complex Fire in the Santa Cruz Mountains will be fully contained by Wednesday after scorching more than 86,509 acres, having burned for the past 36 days. Around 925 buildings burned. I’ve walked through many of those burned up homes over the past few weeks. It’s a crushing feeling, to stand in front of a pile of ash, punctuated with the last stands of things that did not burn, such as a fridge, a stage, a blackened pile of metal folding chairs, a twisted water heater, a warped metal frame of a patio table standing in was most likely a little corner paradise. 

I saw a Pyrex casserole dish melted like a cheap candle. I saw a child’s wagon, blackened and reduced to a useless shell. I walked past someone’s barbell collection, a spot where they probably used to work out and get healthy. No one in their right mind would imagine that one day those barbells would be lost in a sea of ash and the home that was once there would be an evaporated gas. Best of luck on the rebuild folks.

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