I came to UC Santa Cruz in the fall of 2008. I was a junior transfer from UC Santa Barbara, looking for something more meaningful than getting drunk and stoned on balconies and beaches every day. Not to knock UCSB — I had a phenomenal time, met some friends for life, and needless to say, had a freakin’ blast. But I wanted more, needed more, and hoped UCSC would give me what I craved.
So, up the coast I came. I spent the first two weeks here on my friend Heather’s couch, cruising town looking for a job and familiarizing myself with what has, since my childhood, been my favorite place on earth.
I’d come up with my homie Alex, who’d also transferred from UCSB (trust me, it can be a gnarly place to live) and together we found a baller house on Sunnyslopes Court that was probably the nicest place I’ll ever live in for $600 a month. Things were good — our housemates were eclectic, a perfect sampling of who makes up the Santa Cruz community, and we were meeting people left and right. I thought things were going to be all right in SC.
A few months in, however, I became really depressed. I missed my friends in Santa Barbara. I missed walking around campus and seeing people I recognized. I missed the carefree laziness of a SoCal afternoon. I felt out of place, out of touch, and very, very off-kilter.
When I first got into town, I stopped by Westside Coffee to drop off an application. Hell, I’ll get a latte, I thought. I plopped down at a table with an oversized paper that’d caught my eye at the newsstand, a little rag called City on a Hill Press. On the cover was a hand manipulating marionette strings, and the cover story was an in-depth look into the clandestine privatization of UC Santa Cruz. ‘Damn, that was a good story,’ I proclaimed internally after absorbing the kicker.
Weeks of tears and endless bouts of loneliness and frustration later, I set up an interview with CHP to see about writing for the paper. I’d never done any sort of journalism before, save for two columns (bordering more on rants) that I’d written in high school. I didn’t know shit about interviewing or writing a news story, but desperate for some sort of purpose, I successfully found my way to the UCSC Press Center — the first of many challenges I’d endure in what became two years and one quarter with the paper — and met two students who’d forever change my life.
Daniel Zarchy and Samantha Thompson, newly minted as editors-in-chief, talked to me for about 20 minutes. Two days later, I got a call asking if I’d like to join the City News desk. Yes! Of course! Thank you, thank you, thank you! Zam, as we fondly hybridized their name, took a chance on me, and I don’t think they’ll ever know what it’s meant.
The rest is my history. I’ve written about everything from afros to zoning laws, state elections to 4/20 to public education to the degradation of the English language. Along the way, I talked to countless individuals, people yearning for their voices to be heard and their stories to be told. Santa Cruz opened up before me like a treasure chest. Its gems were always there, I just didn’t have the right key.
I’ve seen amazing talent blossom right before my eyes, and my peers find their voice through their pens and lenses. It still blows my mind that City on a Hill Press is completely student-run. We fund ourselves, we design ourselves, we fill it with professional-grade pictures and luminous content, and we nearly have conniptions when we see someone reading the paper. Above all, we teach ourselves because of the shameful lack of a journalism department at UC Santa Cruz.
I led this paper for two quarters with the lovely and talented Carley Stavis, sometimes hating the hell out of my life but always feeling the deepest satisfaction at putting out a paper every single week. I learned to love words (ephemeral, nefarious, somnambulant, loquacious, poppy — say them. They are delicious). One of my fondest memories is driving home on Empire Grade at 7 in the morning after pulling an all-nighter with former production manager Blake Chiao. We’d just sent off Primer, CHP’s summer magazine, the paper she, Carley and I had been putting together all summer, to the printers. I’ll never forget the morning light or laughing at absolutely nothing because we were so blissfully delirious.
City on a Hill Press has given me my passion, my greatest joy, and steered me toward the profession I want to do for the rest of my life. I’ve been honored to know every staffer who’s passed through our paper’s too-quickly-turning doors. I’ve learned the transformative power of information and marveled at the willingness of a dedicated group to get it out to the all-too-often reluctant public.
So, to Susan Watrous, a mentor, friend, and the wisest woman I know; to my whistle, C.B.; to Carley and Rod and Alex and Rachel and Rula and Hilli and Blake and Katie and all the staffers of City on a Hill Press, past and present, who fill my life with sunshine; to the Press Center, the only place I’ve ever been able to really work; and to you, dear reader, for having faith that we will tell you the truth and tell it well — from the deepest depths of my humble heart, thank you. You’ve given me something to live for.