Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A Vacation of Contemplation

Back to the office and back to reality. After a glorious week of laying at the beach, and hanging out with old friends in sunny Santa Cruz, I have returned to Sacramento so I can skate and hang out with new friends. Having been commuting between Sacramento and Santa Cruz pretty frequently as of late, I have been starting to notice all the subtleties that make Santa Cruz such a unique place.

Obviously the main difference would be the fact that the ocean is a stones throw away and the weather is to die for, but there is more that makes Santa Cruz a place of amazement and awe.

Growing up in Santa Cruz, you don't really see too many chain stores. There is three McDonalds in the whole county. Never had a Wal-Mart, and just got a Home Depot. As a young child, I found this to be very annoying. I mean I didn't have my first in and out burger until I was 19 years old, and we had to drive like an hour to get it too.

Now that I have spent some time in Sacramento, I begin to realize that this isn't a bad thing at all. It seems here there are WAY too many chain stores. It seems that creativity and ingenuity are stifled here and are replaced with Wendy's and Taco Bell's. Being a Vegetarian now, It sometimes seems hard to find a nice salad or a good boca burger, where in Santa Cruz, it's as easy to find as a Jack in the Box is here.

The city of Santa Cruz is very protective about what kind of businesses they will let into town, but it seems as of late that a bunch of big chain stores are starting to infiltrate my little beach town. I already mentioned the Home Depot, and now they are almost done putting up a Best Buy too. Sure things are much cheaper at huge retail conglomerates, but where is that money going? Most likely it is going straight to Home Depot headquarters which I assume is very far away from Santa Cruz.

If the people of Santa Cruz start buying all their products from these stores, then all the local businesses that provide the same exact products and services (and believe me there are a lot), then they will be forced to close their doors and go out of business. Then guess what, they will be replaced with another chain store, and one by one, business by business, Santa Cruz will be the new San Jose

So the question is what can we as consumers do to preserve the integrity of individuality and creativity? An even better question would be how can we bring a little more of it to areas where it seems almost diminished? The obvious answer would be to go and spend money at businesses that embrace such qualities and emulate them in their place of business, but they are not always easy to find.

When I first moved here, I found it really hard to find a place that served quality, creative vegetarian food. Then my friend Jayson told me about this place called Sunflower Cafe in Fair Oaks, and we went there one day and I loved it, and now eat their pretty frequently. Then I got thinking that if it wasn't for Jayson, I would still be having to eat bean and cheese burrito's every time I want to eat out, and if more people like me knew about this place, they too would frequent it. If enough new business floods in their door, then maybe they can start opening new locations which I would love because driving out to Fair Oaks every other day for lunch isn't by any stretch of the imagination fun.

Now don't get me wrong here, I don't want the whole world to be like Santa Cruz. As a matter of fact there is a number of things that I wish I could change about that University run town. I want the whole world to be like the world you want it, the way your parents and children want it. Let's make business a democracy again where your dollar is a ballot as opposed to a hierarchy where the corporations at the top tell all us peasants that make up the consumers what we want.

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