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One Life Style to Give for Her Country

They can lock me in a brick house without ocean or canyon views. They can force me to give up baby vegetables. They can make me drink tap water. But they can never get me to surrender the California life style--whatever that is.

Once I had a life; now I have a life style. But a recent poll showing disillusionment among Californians with California has led to a rash of “Is the Dream Over?” stories. They’re telling me that California doesn’t live here anymore.

Unaffordable housing, urban sprawl, gridlock, crime and support-group glut have led Californians to move to all kinds of weird places, like Oregon, so they can maintain the California life style.

One place where you can still cruise it is Santa Cruz, Calif. This coastside California in a capsule seems to be the perfect blend of S.F. and L.A. You’ve got your feminist-vegetarian-animal rights scene as well as your awesomely-inarticulate-surfer-dude scene. Redwood and palm trees. Forest and sea. Victorian homes and ticky-tacky apartments. Billboards on the boardwalk tout the unofficial town motto: “I Got Laid Back at Santa Cruz.”

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My husband and I were in Santa Cruz dropping off our 10-year-old at her first-ever overnight camp. It’s called Redwood Shadows and is on a hillside overlooking the town and the Pacific. The site also happens to be a University of California campus. So when I dropped her off, it wasn’t at some Cowabunga-by-the-lake. It was in the courtyard of Porter College-by-the-sea, flanked by sculptures and sculpted jacaranda tress.

Welcome to Camp California.

The American Dowsers Assn.--enlightenment as well as water seekers--were sharing the site for a weekend convention. They were selling divining rods and healing crystals near the camp’s registration tables. On the hall bulletin board, there were still notices from the spring semester--a “Sappho Dance” announcement and a “Condom Price List.”

Before I had time to say my emotional goodbys, my daughter (a native Californian) saw some boys she knew and whispered in my ear, “Get out of here.”

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My husband and I then drove across town to our own hillside. There, we stayed at an adult version of Camp California called Chaminade. Once a monastery and a prep school, it is now an expensive lodge, corporate conference center and gourmet restaurant.

We had a canyon-view room. We skipped the gourmet meal and went to watch the sunset from tiny Moran Lake Beach. There, a woman with a Miss California body took her first ride on a water scooter. When a wave wiped her out, she screamed to her friends, “There’s sand down my bikini!” My husband talked of nothing for the rest of the weekend but the young woman whom he called “Sandy.”

The next morning, we got up and hiked through the eucalyptus and redwoods, jogged a little on the jogging trail, swam in the pool, played in the gym and relaxed in the hot tub, sauna and steam room.

By 11 o’clock, we were driving along the coast. We stopped at an ollallieberry farm near Ano Nuevo Beach to pick berries. Then we had a lunch of fresh calamari, garden vegetable soup and sourdough bread still hot from the oven at Duarte’s Tavern up the coast in Pescadero. We got home in time to ride our bikes on a beautiful trail near home.

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As the Eagles said about the Hotel California: “You can check out anytime you want, but you can never leave.” The dream may be over, but I’m not ready to check out just yet.

Of course, the next morning we went back to being the frazzled, wasted, stressed-out drones we are the rest of the month so that we can afford one day of the California life style.


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