Living in the Bay Area, you're just far away enough from the ocean that you never see it unless you make it a point to see it, which means you never see it. If you can manage to get your act together, it's there waiting for you. It's there in all its touristy, on-the-beaten-track wonder, until you hit the Capitola Pier.
You might've heard of Santa Cruz. Vintage boardwalks and dive-y burrito shops by day, street musicians, marijuana, and poorly lit roads you don't want to walk down by night. Then there's Carmel, where you might go hungry trying to find a restaurant amidst the art shops - but if you're looking to drop a hefty sum on a copper sculpture of a dolphin, you couldn't be in a better place. And let's not forget Monterey, home to too-famous-for-its-own-good Cannery Row, thousands of moon jellies, and barrels and barrels of tempting saltwater taffy.
But then there's Capitola. Just south of Santa Cruz and topping the list of coastal cities you can drive to by day from the Bay Area. There's the quirky rainbow houses lining the beach...
There's an abundance of fishermen toiling away from morning till night...
And then there's the most melancholic pier you will ever step foot on.
Every ten feet or so you come across a weather-worn plaque. A weather-worn, poetic, heart-wrenching plaque for someone who died too young - no devotee was over 60 - someone who was loved much and often and may have loved the sea even more. There are children, there are mothers, there are fathers, and there are friends - all young people taken too soon. Surely not by the ocean beneath their memory? Surely not willingly off the wooden boards bearing their names? But just as the ocean never gives away its secrets, the stories on this pier are equally as elusive.
In a sense, these purposefully elusive stories are sandcastles turned to bronze. A fleeting memory in someone's mind, made to last forever. If there's one reason to come to Capitola, it's to see the layers of sandcastles: sandcastles on the beach crafted by tiny hands and washed away in minutes, and sandcastles turned to bronze: memories living on forever.