4.24.2008

Frosty Brews and Frosty Basil: It’s SPRING!

Spring is a wondrous time of growth, rebirth, and other stuff. It's the season we all look forward to. For some, it’s about hope: will this be the Cubbies’ year? For my friend Jeff in Chicago, it’s all about “Sundress Day,” when girls take advantage of that first warm, sunny afternoon after a long winter.

This is my third spring here at Crazy Pete’s, and I’ve come to anticipate two post-winter events more than any others: the planting of our garden, and the opening of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.

The boardwalk is the kind of place I dreamed about as a kid, a carnival for the senses: bulbs twinkling on a warm night, the occasionally roar of a crashing wave over cheesy rock music, saltwater air on the skin, saltwater taffy on the tongue. It's got an old-fashioned appeal, right down to the prices (sort of): seven bucks will get you a 24 oz. Coors and the world’s largest donut.

If you’re still hungry there are delightful options in the boardwalk's two culinary groups, Food on a Stick, and Deep-Fried Things That Shouldn’t Be. In the first category you’ve got your corn dogs, hot dogs, cheese (yes, on a stick) and artichokes. In the second you’ll find classics like Twinkies and Oreos, plus more questionable items like the strawberry goo and chocolate-chip soft serve wrapped in a flour tortilla and then dipped in the fryer. (If only it was then wrapped in a blueberry pancake and served in a commemorative Taco Town tote…)

The boardwalk also has some great rides, including the Looff carousel, built in 1911, and the Giant Dipper, a wooden coaster built in 1924. The carousel features a ring dispenser where, as you fly past, you can reach out and grab a ring (or two or three with real agility—use both hands) and try to fling it into the clown’s mouth. Nowadays the rings are made of steel, but it used to be that they were iron, with a rare brass one thrown in the mix. If you got a brass one you’d get a prize—usually a free spin on the carousel. (Hence the saying, “Grab the brass ring.”)

So--spring. Two weeks ago, it was in full swing. Sky and I were at the boardwalk, splashing down the Logger's Revenge to keep cool, and drinking frosty beers. The garden at Crazy Pete’s had been planted:

That’s the squash patch in the back, and the main garden next to the deck, where we’re growing tomatoes, corn, peas, beans, lettuce, and carrots. Up on the deck is my basil. Four sweet pots of it. YES, it is wearing a Russian scarf. You see, that one day two weeks ago when we walked around in bathing suits in Santa Cruz, it was so hot up here that the plants got sunburned. Some died. It was Sundress Day, dammit. It was spring.

We made a basil cabana from cheesecloth, and when that wasn’t protection enough from the April sunshine, I draped the herbs with my scarf.

However, spring is notoriously fickle, and recently, the scarf’s been more useful as shelter from the wind and freezing temperatures.

"Freezing?!" you scoff. "I mean, maybe you had a cold spell, but c'mon--you live in California. It's late April. Get real."

But that, right there, is ice. I watered this morning and a few minutes later, an ice crystal had formed--right on this leaf’s sunburn.