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Goldies 2006
Critics' Picks
Readers' Choice


Goldies 2006
Critics' Picks

Original Spin: Justin Wadstein shows how pizza can actually help burn calories.

Best Pizza Tosser
Kianti's Dude

Want to see something wild? Then head over to Kianti's and watch Justin Wadstein play with his food ... or rather, watch him play with your food. This 20-year-old pizza-tossing prodigy has just returned from the World's Pizza Spinning Championship in Las Vegas where he took first place, beating out dough handlers from around the globe, including real Italian pizza spinners. Wadstein's routine includes all of the standard pizza spinning moves--behind the back, through the legs, the old toss and catch, as well as a two at once number that is not to be missed. Kianti's assures its patrons that although the Justin Wadstein show is part of the restaurant's regular entertainment, his manhandled dough will not be reused for your meal. (Leyna Krow)

Sleepy John: Administering the music.

Best Place to Go to Music Church
KPIG on Sunday mornings

KPIG's Sunday morning live music show Please Stand By has been on the air seven years now, 370 shows, hosting at least five or six acts a week. So while I refuse to do any actual math, I figure that's in the neighborhood of 2,000 performances--most good, many great and some hitting that transcendent spot that lights up your chakras or your G-spot or whatever you're into. Having shown up at the station to catch several of these broadcasts--and even very occasionally subbed as host--I'm astounded at what this show and the musicians who appear on it continue to deliver to listeners every week. It's a crazy cocktail of old-school back-of-the-truck barnstormer concerts, Golden Age radio, interview show and that certain KPIG je ne sais quoi that makes everything a little freakier and cooler. Host Sleepy John gives the show edge working by the seat of the pants; Arden works equally hard to keep those pants from falling down. Throw in a crack technical and support crew, and a chance to hear your favorite artists from Robert Earl Keen to Camper Van Beethoven, and you understand why this is one of the few reasons musicians are willing to get up before the crack of noon. (Steve Palopoli)

Best Forbidden Film Experience
Santa Cruz Guerrilla Drive-In

Clandestine and proud of it, the traveling open-air cinema (best tracked through fliers in downtown SC) continues its elusive performances of such favorites as 12 Monkeys and Chicken Run. The winter weather drove the screenings inside to the Bike Church, which is where the collective programmed their most apropos film: Agnes Varda's magic The Gleaners and I, the cinematic manifesto of the Scavenger Nation. (Richard von Busack)

Photograph by Leyna Krow

A Shrubbery!: The Gretchell Street Hedge senses a nearby life form.

Best Macro Bonsai
Getchell Street Hedge

Like the Great Wall of China, the Getchell Street Hedge can in fact be seen from space, but, like Michaelangelo's David, its magnificence can only be properly appreciated in person. Unlike Mavericks, where the incredibly huge waves crash just far enough offshore to seem unimpressive, the triple-overhead Getchell Street Hedge lives right alongside the road and even slants menacingly over it, not so much like a wave about to crash, but more like a hungry, humanity-eating hedge that will one day uproot itself and terrify the good people of Santa Cruz with its braky maw, but in a twist ending actually save the town from an amphibious hedge-hating sea monster. Even more impressive is the ability of this 20-foot manicured cypress, on the west side of Getchell between Wanzer and Chase, to stand up to a bit of hyperbole, so do check it out. (Mike Connor)

Photograph by Felipe Buitrago

Patriot Act: Santa Cruz's monster truck superstar goes for the metal.

Best Monster Truck

If Dan Rodoni is behind you in the fast lane, you might want to let him pass. While all sorts of people are getting in on the whole patriot act these days, Rodoni's in a league of his own: With 1,500 horses of power, his Patriot is a four-wheel-drive supercharged beast that, despite its mass, catches massive air and crushes everything in its path as it lands. Rodoni's monster truck represented Santa Cruz this weekend during the Monster Jam at the HP Pavilion in San Jose. The 37-year-old Dan Rodoni has been in the world of four-wheel-drive and monster trucks for a while now: he started a local Santa Cruz shop, Central Coast 4 Wheel Drive, which he ran for about 11 years until in '05 he decided it was time to get behind the wheel and drive. Now, in his second year, he and his Patriot have been passing some laws of their own with the help of Phil Foster and the Tropical Thunder, who are also a part of the demolition team. They're currently traveling the West Coast with their crew to a score of venues to compete in head-to-head races and freestyle events, reaching the semis and finals almost every time. (Felipe Buitrago)

Don't Tread on Me: Coitus interruptus can be especially frustrating for the Ohlone tiger beetle.

Best Place to Step on An Endangered Species
Wilder Ranch

The Ohlone tiger beetle, which makes its home in scenic Wilder Ranch State Park, is working hard to facilitate its own extinction. Dark green in color, these beetles can be found sunning themselves in the middle of popular trails on warm days. Big fans of the work of their Liverpool Beatle brethren, the tiger beetles often choose to "do it in the road," copulating midtrail during their critical mating period, which just happens to coincide with the height of hiking and mountain biking season in Santa Cruz. Alone or in pairs, they make a satisfying crunch under Gore-Tex hiking boots. (Leyna Krow)

Best Place for an Illegal Beach Bonfire
Natural Bridges

Of all the places to set something on fire illegally in Santa Cruz County, I'd recommend Natural Bridges State Beach. It's both scenic and secluded with ample parking along nearby Swanton Boulevard. Pick up a Duraflame log and a pack of hot dogs from Safeway and you're set for the night. Those too cheap to pay for a synthetic fire starting log may also consider using wooden shipping pallets which can be procured/stolen from the back of Safeway, provided you're stealthy about it. (Leyna Krow)

Pirate's Life For Me: Beach Area residents celebrate new redevelopment plan.

Best Way to Drown Our Economic Woes
Pirate Village
South of Laurel

Many of the parcels in the Beach Area south of Laurel Street might not seem like waterfront property, but that's only because we haven't dug out the roads around them and filled them in with seawater. Think about it: the more roads we replace with canals, the fewer roads we have to maintain. Canals are also a romantic draw for tourists. But perhaps most importantly, more canals would increase residential interest in the seafaring life. In short, residents in the newly flooded Beach Area south of Laurel will be more likely to become pirates. And with more pirates living in the city, tax receipts from marauding will skyrocket. Currently, marauding represents exactly 0 percent of the city's gross municipal product, even though there are scores of wealthy, defenseless--and unsuspecting!--communities just across the bay that are ripe for pillaging. (James Cadwell)

Best Place to Go Nuclear

Did you know God hates vegetarians? He really does. Why the hell else would he punish them with a ridiculously small number of menu options at most restaurants? Gee, what would you like to eat today, Mr. Too Concerned About the Planet and Its Inhabitants to Eat Meat? How about: A SALAD! Bwah hah hah hah! Sometimes the controversial but rapidly improving fake meat technology is all that can get a vegetarian through. And there's nothing controversial about indulging in the Nuclear Bluff, one of the many meat-alternative options at Dharma's. A huge portion of real sandwich, it's meal enough to make even meat lovers beg "gimme gimme soy treatment." (Steve Palopoli)

Photograph by Leyna Krow

Creature of the Neary Lagoon: Hey, grown-up mallards are cute, too!

Best Baby Animals of Spring
Ducks in Neary Lagoon

Nestled snuggly between the Bay Street Water Treatment Facility and Arbor Cove Senior Commons, Neary Lagoon Park has long been a favorite place for transients to doze and truant teens to make out. But come April, you may want to slow your pace and raise your head as you pass, lest you miss the extreme adorableness of newly hatched mallards. So small, so fluffy, so often seen traveling all in a row, if you see only one cute baby animal this season, make sure it's a duck. (Leyna Krow)

Photograph by Leyna Krow

China One: Just the thing for students and artists on the one-meal-a-day plan.

Best All You Can Eat Buffet
China One International Buffet

There was a time when a business running a buffet in a college town would go bankrupt--literally eaten alive. Despite their constant poor-mouthing, students must be a little more well-fed than they were in the past, since China One endures. Of the various possibilities in this field, China One is the one that's most appetizing, offering platters of sushi, sautéed green beans and particularly good eggplant. It ain't swank, and maybe not a place to take a first date, unless both of you are writers and are getting accustomed to the one-meal-a-day plan. (Richard von Busack)

Photograph by Leyna Krow

Cafe Limelight: All this and manners too.

Best Place to Be Charmed by a Southern Gentleman
Café Limelight

Café Limelight happens to serve what I consider to be the best paninis in the entire county, but that's not why I go there all the time. No, I go to have the pants charmed off me by Limelight co-owner Billy Thompson. I may be a straight guy, but I'm telling you: when that lanky Southern gentleman lanks up to you with his incredible accent, impeccable old-school manners and friendly-like-Mom-just-called-you-in-for-dinner Chit Chat Du Jour, his charm knows no boundaries nor orientation. He would make the pope go weak in the knees. My heart is actually beating faster right now just thinking about the possibility of hearing a story about his grandmother next time I go there. Thompson and his friends have made Café Limelight the most fun place in Santa Cruz to hang with the waitstaff. (Steve Palopoli)

Photograph by Leyna Krow

Teatime at the Attic: Strange brews mix it up with the familiar at everyone's favorite indie-rock palace.

Best Place to Antioxidate With Your Date
The Attic Tea House

Even if you've already discovered the Attic as a place to see cool indie-type acts like Devendra Banhart, Dan Bern or Dead Hensons, you may not have noted that the Attic serves a bitchen cup of tea. Even a complete tea whore such as myself can find something exotic to tweak the taste buds in a barely legal manner. If you're a bit on the traditional side, get your feet wet with a fine Earl Grey (wait till it cools down, though, otherwise you'll burn your toes). Everybody else should jump straight into the crazy stuff, like Green Rooibos Oasis (my favorite), Lychee Red or Elderflower Gold. Militant Tea Party loyalists trying to win over their coffee-swilling friends should introduce them to Mate Chino or Roasted Twig (I haven't personally seen a Hoji-Cha there, but that's another good switch-up tea). When you're in the mood to raise a different kind of brew while you catch some live music, this is the place. (Steve Palopoli)

Bound For Glory: It took Santa Cruz sexologist Susie Bright to teach Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly how to be gay in 'Bound.'

Best Local Sex Choreographer
Susie Bright

Just one last tiny reference to Brokeback Fever, before it's given a nice long rest. That tent scene needed something. Gossip says that Hollywood is going to deluge whimpering American heteros with gay-themed images until our purple mountains turn lavender ... if so, then more than ever, the movies need the guidance of sexpert Susie Bright. Proof? Bright's weblog recently linked to the uncensored European version of the Jennifer Tilly/Gina Gershon duet in Bound, a film on which Bright is credited "Sex Choreographer." Even those who saw the cut version of that moment are unlikely to forget that scene; when Chuck Workman does the "lesbian montage" for the 95th Oscars, that particular tango will be the one that gets the big ovation from the Academy. Obviously, Bright is to horizontal choreography what Hermes Pan is to the vertical kind. (Richard von Busack)

Pacific Edge Co-Owner Diane Russell: Conditions inside the gym are considerably more pleasant.

Best Place to Climb a Wall
Pacific Edge Climbing Gym

Here's the way this works: you put on a harness. Then you tie one end of a rope to the harness. Hand the other end to someone you trust with your life. Now climb up the wall by placing hands and feet on the small chunks of synthetic rock. When you get to the top, let go and have faith that the person holding the other end of the rope will be kind enough to lower you to the ground in a smooth fashion (without letting go of the rope). Upon reaching the ground successfully without injury or incident, rejoice. Repeat until too tired to move. (Leyna Krow)

We Like to Watch: Why limit yourself to the view from planet Earth?

Best Ways to Spy on the Town
Webcams and GIS

Want to know what traffic is looking like on 17 before heading north? Log on to www.hiway17.com and have a peek on the webcam. Or go to www.seabreezecafe.com to make sure there aren't 500 people waiting in line at the deservedly popular Linda's Seabreeze Café. A live look at Steamer Lane is useful for surfers, and can be easily accessed at www.ci.santa-cruz.ca.us/pr/wharf/surfcamtides.html. Check out the South Harbor at www.stagecoach-wireless.com/Cameras/SCSH/Pos1.htm. But for the extra nosey, we've saved the best for last. While Google Earth is a great tool for zooming in on your reclusive neighbor's backyard from space, the County of Santa Cruz offers much better quality images on their GIS database. Simply open up Internet Explorer and visit http://gis.co.santa-cruz.ca.us/internet/wwwgisweb/viewer.htm, click on the "Jurisdictional Boundaries" layer and uncheck "City Limits." Then open the "Imagery" layer, check the box next to "Aerial Photo 6In Pixel (2003)" and zoom in to your target. It's amazing what you can see from space. (Mike Connor)

Best Successor to the Military-Industrial Complex
Santa Cruz

Yes, there is a vast conspiracy afoot in Santa Cruz, more sinister than anything Michael Crichton could have imagined. In his most recent book, State of Fear, he exposes the environmentalist conspiracy to save the planet via the so-called "politico-legal-media complex." Scary stuff, but not nearly as bad as what's happening here. Look at the signs: our wastewater treatment plant is covered in solar panels; two "environmentally friendly" stores--Eco Interiors and Solar Technologies--recently opened within blocks of each other downtown. Still not getting the picture? Let me just put it this way: I'm not waiting for the bioremediation companies to move into the old Wrigley's plant and start converting our organic waste materials into biodiesel; I've already barricaded myself into my garage and am going to sit here breathing sweet, sweet fossil fuel exhaust until ... well at least until after I take a nice, long nap. (James Cadwell)

Best Dog Run
Denise Denton's University House

Just how much money does it take to keep two dogs happy? Apparently, if they belong to UCSC Chancellor Denise D. Denton, the answer is around $30,000. That's $15,000 per pup for assured canine contentment at the university level. And what exactly do the dogs get for their 30 grand? While I can't be completely sure (Denton's around the clock security makes it difficult for even the most industrious of reporters to get a look inside the gates), I am willing to hazard a guess. For the University of California's money, I must assume that Chancellor Denton's dog run comes with fresh sod, new fencing, leashes, chew toys, a life-time supply of Kibbles and Bits, a flat screen TV and the first six months' payment on a hovercraft. (Leyna Krow)

Best Cross-Town Color Rivalry
Red Room, The Red and Red Lantern vs. Aqua Blue and the Blue Lagoon

Rivalries too often lead to violence, but this is one we can support, because it's fictitious. Alas, there is yet no explicit rivalry between the north and south sides of downtown, but if such a rivalry were to involve color-coded costumes, elaborately choreographed dance routines and men and women spontaneously breaking out into song on Pacific Avenue and no real violence, then by all means let the rivalry begin. And if Umbrella Man happens to get trampled during a fast-paced fight scene, then so be it; the pink thing is getting old, anyway. (Mike Connor)

Best Way to Get 80 People to Hang Out With You
Convene an 80-person task force

One way to make new friends is to convene an 80-person task force. We're pretty sure County Treasurer Fred Keeley isn't wanting for friends, but we're not completely sure. We're also not completely sure that sitting around talking about how to advise Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation on how it should deal with Highway 1 is the best way to get an 80-person task force party started. A Hawaiian theme might work better. Imagine 80 lei'd stakeholders playing ukuleles, drinking piña coladas and doing lord only knows what behind closed doors, because what happens at the SCCRTC stays in the SCCRTC. Now that's an 80-person task force! (James Cadwell)

Photograph by Leyna Krow

Midnight Madness: By day, a seemingly innocent theater, but after midnight ...

Best Place to Stay Up All Night
Del Mar Midnight Movie series

Two hours is simply not enough to contain the experience that is the Del Mar midnight movie. Between the Mystery Movie Marathon, the Jay and Silent Bobathon, the Lord of the Rings trilogy screening and the upcoming Serenity/Firefly craziness, the midnight movie is straight-up taking over the twilight zone between midnight and dawn. What will programmer Scott Griffin do next, show Andy Warhol's 24-hour-long movie Empire? It's never say never with this series, which has long been way ahead of the curve in giving film fans new and improved reasons to stay up past their bedtime. Nine, 10, never sleep again! (Steve Palopoli)

Photograph by Leyna Krow

Spot the Mystery: Stare at this caption carefully, and you'll see that it's actually slightly crooked.

Best Place to Be a Totally Sucked-In Sucker From Suckertown
The Mystery Spot

I lived practically across the street from the Mystery Spot for almost two years, and I never saw a single alien, werewolf or even Republican. So you might think I am one of those many Santa Cruzans who poo-poo the Mystery Spot. You would be, in a word, wrong. I love the Mystery Spot. When I lived by it, I would sometimes jog over there in the evenings just to hang with the UFO Vortex or the Reverse Gravity Vampires or whatever the hell is supposedly wrong with that place this week. I have probably taken the tour more often than any other longtime Santa Cruz resident in history. Face it, people, that little tilted wooden shack is the Taj Mahal of tourist traps. It got to the point where I would go just to hear the tour guides who had truly mastered their art do that part where they go "I'm not saying I know what's going on here, I'm just saying an awful lot of people seem to feel something's just not right around these parts." If Nixon had had a defense with that much mojo, he'd not only have come out of Watergate unscathed, he'd still be president 12 years after his death. (Steve Palopoli)

Best Non-Rehab Group
Tuesday Night Technology Group

Whereas many support groups help us not to do that which we think we shouldn't be doing (drinking, taking drugs, allowing big box stores into town), this group meets once a week at the Digital Media Factory, from 6:30 to 9:30pm, to kick the habit of chronic opposition. Here you'll find a few brave souls whose drop-in conversations dream out loud about the future of Santa Cruz, with only a limited number of the dreamland non sequiturs. Each week the illustrious hosts of the TNT group, Gerald Barnett and Don Steiny, invite a speaker to present a juicy topic for discussion ranging anywhere from urban planning to desktop novelties. Attendance is highly diverse, so come with an open mind and maybe a snack for the group. And don't forget the password: "OPPORTUNITY." (Mike Connor)

Photograph by Leyna Krow

Better Than Sea Monkeys: Amazing results in just one to two weeks!

Best Santa Cruz Houseplant

Think of it as the Chia Pet for the new millennium, but instead of being shaped like a turtle and covered in clover, it's shaped like your windowsill and results in respiratory illnesses for you and your family. No need to water it, the perpetual coastal dampness that seeps into your poorly insulated home should be sufficient to keep this delightful specimen growing strong year round. (Leyna Krow)

Photograph by Leyna Krow

Front Street Garage: You know, you really should learn how to hold it.

Best Place to Urinate in Public
Front Street Parking Garage

Hey, when you gotta go, you gotta go. But do you gotta go on the front wheel of my car? Next time, try Bookshop Santa Cruz or Metro (the bus station, not us). (Leyna Krow)

Best Byproduct From Our Future Desalination Plant

With the amount of salt we'll be able to crank out of the ocean, we'll be dumping truckloads of it directly onto our cows. When we dig them up--beef jerky heaven. (James Cadwell)

Photograph by Leyna Krow

Salem's Lot: Cigarettes and frosty beverages add up to party time at Laurel and Pacific.

Best Place to Loiter
Bonesio Liquor Store Parking Lot

Looking for a pack of smokes and a knife fight? Just follow the neon sign to the corner of Laurel and Pacific. All those "No Loitering" signs must really mean "Yes Loitering," because the parking lot in front of Bonesio Liquor is the happening place to be for the movers and shakers of downtown Santa Cruz. Proper loitering etiquette should include (but may not be limited to) drinking forties out of a paper bag, arguing with the cops and stabbing anyone who looks you in the eyes. (Leyna Krow)

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From the March 29-April 5, 2006 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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