Chapter 8: An Introduction to the City Bureaucracy

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When I was in high school, one of the keys to getting by is being in the “right” group.  Or if you're not in the “right” group, at least being in some group.  So maybe you weren't much of a jock, but you had a good voice and joined the choir.  Maybe you weren't a brain type, but you were stellar at auto shop.  Or whatever.  And rarely was there any cross-over; you tended to stick to your group.

One thing that was continually astonishing to me about Tosh was that he seemed to get along with so many different groups of people.  Students and cops, crazy homeless people and University faculty members, anti-gun peaceniks and bow hunters; you name it.  But even so, I was still surprised that this dope-smoking surfer dude with a pony-tail had so many friends inside City Hall, and in the county government.  And even further, it later turned out—his friendships and acquaintances extended up the Peninsula to the City and beyond, out into the East Bay, and only Tosh knew how much farther.  My Dad was like that, too, able to talk to just about anybody; I think it's one of the things I liked best about Tosh.

Our first port of call was the Santa Cruz county government offices.  Sitting right on the river just the other side from downtown, it was a big, ugly pair of concrete buildings that were clearly built in the 50s to look “modern”, and now just looked like . . . a big, ugly pair of concrete buildings.  (The City Hall, on the other hand, was just off the mall in a small set of buildings that looked like an overgrown ranch house.  And if that doesn’t express Santa Cruz’ MPD approach to government, I don’t know what does.)

To my surprise, Tosh didn't take us inside, but rather brought us out near the front door at around 11:30 or so and then just plunked down on a bench by some ugly concrete planter boxes and . . . waited. We had had to walk quite a ways, unfortunately; it appeared that Tosh's agreement with the campus parking Nazis didn't extend to the county of Santa Cruz.

“Tosh, why are we sitting out here?  Aren't the people you want to talk to in there?” I pointed at the ugly pile of concrete that was the city building.

Tosh shook his head.  ”We're avoiding publicity.”  Then he didn't say any more.  Sometimes Tosh's habit of assuming that you're following his thoughts is flattering; this time it just kind of annoyed me.  I was tired; the concrete was cold; it was nearing lunchtime.  Finally I realized I was going to have to keep poking at him to get the information this time.

“Avoiding publicity.”

He was staring at the door, and didn't seem to have heard me.

“We're here to talk to someone from the government, right?” I said.

“Mm hm.”

“They're all in there, yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“So?”

Finally Tosh looked over at me, surprised.  Didn't I get it?  C'mon, Zack; get with the program!  ”Lunch!” he said, as if that answered everything.  And for a change, the penny finally dropped and it did.

“We're waiting to take someone to lunch.”

“Well, yeah,” he said.  He politely refrained from adding, “Duh!” or “Obviously!”, which I appreciated.

“And if we go in there, we'll be in the register.”

“Right!” he said.

“And you're afraid of calling him because, I dunno, our phone is tapped?”

He furrowed his brow.  ”I know it sounds paranoid, but Ralph actually found that the house phone was tapped last year.  His guess was because his Dad had once consulted at Lawrence-Berkeley labs, or something.  But we were definitely being tapped; we had the phone company come out because we were getting weird noises on the line, and they found a device on the line.”  A quick smile.  ”What's more likely is that if we call her directly, whoever puts us through will remember it, and I don't want to get her in trouble.”

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