Under the Boardwalk
Have you ever been to Santa Cruz at night? It’s as much the same as anywhere else once dark, at least at a glance. Once the sun sets over the horizon however, Santa Cruz is something else entirely when look at closely- intimately. The suburbs are quiet, the city dulls into something dirty and tired, and yet the Boardwalk roars with people, music, and rides. The peddlers call over one another, trying to sell items that are less than fresh, last minute deals for games that are rigged, and half-hearted attempts to those not already in line for the last ride of the day. The crowds begin to thin, as sunburnt families head for the exit despite their screaming children’s pleas. The employees secure their booths, velvet ropes, gates, clock out and breathe a sigh of relief for another workday worked and over. The Boardwalk is closing, it’s time to go, time to leave, time to vacate the premises if you please.
It’s here you’ll find the members of the Freehold, blending in with the tourists as employees, as homeless, as vacationers themselves. The light’s blink and their miens flash- just for a second- and almost without notice. A circus tune winds up over the speakers, a goodbye song to those who visited and paid their dues. The shops are all closed, the rides are all at a stop, and the last of the happily exhausted lovers, friends, and families exit towards the parking lots. It’s 11 o’clock and park is shut, the day is over, but the night has just begun for the Freehold.
The lights blink and buzz to life again, as the circus tune changes into something ethereal and welcoming. The smell of fresh popcorn, cotton candy, and vomit oozes from the place, as the rides hum into movement once again. You can hear the far away cries of happy children, a roar of delighted screams, and the never ending sound of beeps, and bloops, and bings. If you were to see the Boardwalk for the first time right this second, you would see the age. The paint is peeling, one in four neon signs has a blinking letter or three, and it is so, so filthy. It’s oddly serene though when this empty, only the grunts and groans of the aged park, willing itself to turn on and please once again is heard. From the outside, however, the Boardwalk is dim, quiet, and obviously closed. Only those invited in can see, only those with an old printed ticket are invited, and only those invited are Lost.