Sunday morning, 9:30am. I put my wallet and coffee mug in my tote bag with the other things I need, get in the car and drive about a mile to a free parking place on the cliff above Capitola Village. Capitola is the quintessential “Quaint Seaside Village”. The morning fog is still pretty thick, and I’m wearing several layers of clothing, just in case the fog blows away before I come back. As I walk along the cliff, I can see the wharf through the fog. Despite the cold weather, there are people on the beach, and kids playing in the water.
A cyclist passes me, rings his bell and waves. Someone I know? Ah, I see that attached to his bike are the same things I keep in the totebag. He’s one of us. I walk down the hill past the Venetian Court condos. They’re the cutest part of the village, and on the National Register of Historic Places. The pink one on the end (visible in the above photo) is in practically every painting, photo or postcard of Capitola. Some are lived in year-round, others rented to summer vacationers. Then I walk over the Stockton St. Bridge. In September, at the Begonia Festival, floats come down the creek, covered in begonias, and must be short enough to pass under the bridge so they can float around in the lagoon. The bridge will be solid people, and the beach crowded, too, for that event. Today, it’s just the usual summer tourists. At the end of the bridge is Stockton Bridge Grille, my favorite restaurant, where I always go for my birthday dinner.
I continue walking along the Esplanade. The first block is all restaurants. I cross the street to the Mercantile Building, and fill up my coffee mug. Something to keep me warm. Then continue along the Esplanade. The next block is all benches overlooking the beach.
I’m starting to see people I recognize. Someone is getting a stand-up bass out of his vehicle. There’s a small park at the end of the Esplanade, and artists are setting up booths.
I pass them and head to the bandstand, climb up where the others are assembling, as it’s nearly 10 am, and start pulling things out of the totebag. First the music stand. I’ve had it since I played clarinet in 5th and 6th grade. Then the music book, and finally… the ukulele. Yes, I’ve taken up ukulele! Santa Cruz has a HUGE ukulele club, and they get together frequently. I first saw them perform at the Museum of Art and History last winter. They were having a blast! And I knew all the songs they were playing! I decided this was something I’d like to do. I used to play guitar in High School and College, so learning the uke chords was easy. Finding a cheap used uke took some time- they get sold fast around here. But in May, my husband and I celebrated our anniversary in Pacific Grove, and I found a cute one in an antique store down there. It even has “Hawaii” painted on it. I downloaded a PDF of the songbook, and started learning some chords. My friend Carly told me about the group that plays in Capitola on Sunday mornings. She’s been playing for years, and has a really nice uke. There’s also a group (called “Sons of the Beach”) that meets at another beach on Wednesday late afternoons, but I do Scottish dancing Wednesday nights, and at that same beach on Saturday mornings, but I’m at the Heritage Rose Garden then. And there are several other get-togethers every month. The Sunday morning time is perfect for me. About 20 to 25 people show up. The bass player also plays kazoo and train whistle on the appropriate songs. Sometimes there’s a drum or guitar player. Tourists and locals gather nearby and listen to us. Little kids dance in front of the bandstand. The most confident players stand at the front of the bandstand. Those who don’t know the harder chords yet, or can’t always change chords fast enough, tend to stand at the back. I’m getting to know all the ones in the back row.
Everyone is very friendly. Those who have the music book share with those who don’t. Once we’re all set up, someone calls out a page number, and we all turn to the page and start strumming the first chord. The bass player gets us started- “One, two, three… ” and we all start singing and playing. There are a lot of old rock n roll tunes, some old cowboy and country music tunes, surfing songs, folk songs, Hawaiian, some gospel. People call out numbers and we play the songs and sing for an hour and a half. Then they call out #222. That’s the last song- “On the Road Again”. So after that, we all pack up our things and get on the road again.