Ideal Bar and Grill feature in Winter 2020 SANTA CRUZ STYLE

Opening as the Ideal Grotto in 1917, the Ideal Bar and Grill has weathered industry ups and downs, inclement weather, the Loma Prieta earthquake, and the COVID-19 crisis to remain an icon of the Santa Cruz Wharf. You can discover why in “Idealizing Santa Cruz,” my feature in the latest edition of Santa Cruz Style. First, Joanne Cecchettini reveals the stories of the Ideal’s 1950s heyday, when her uncle Joe Olivieri owned the restaurant. (Cecchettini, known to many as the founder of beloved Capitola shop The Bridal Veil, is one of the most entertaining interviewees I’ve ever encountered!) Then, current restaurant manager Stacy Levesque explains the Ideal’s blueprint for success, and how the staff has adjusted to meet customers’ needs during the pandemic. In Santa Cruz County, you can find free print copies here. The online version appears here.

GoFundMe benefit for Santa Cruz musician Yuji Tojo

You may have seen Santa Cruz songwriter/producer/guitarist Yuji Tojo perform at countless benefit shows, or during his longtime residency at the Crow’s Nest. (If you’re curious, Tojo discusses his colorful career at greater length in Going Coastal’s “The World At Your Ears” chapter.) When the COVID-19 pandemic placed concerts on hold, Tojo continued to write and record in his home studio in Ben Lomond. (As Aaron Carnes revealed in last week’s Good Times cover story, Tojo built his house and studio by hand.) This past summer, Tojo’s home and studio were destroyed in the CZU Lightning wildfires. Fawn Lisa has set up a fundraiser to help the artist rebuild, and has raised nearly $18,000 of the $20,000 goal. For more information or to donate, visit Lisa’s GoFundMe page.

Book your holiday weekend shopping!

I confess that I’ve never been one to brave Black Friday in stores, and the mood this year is not festive. Nevertheless, whether you need holiday presents or just a treat, discounts certainly help! For instance, you can get 20% off my book Going Coastal (as well as any other books in your order) by entering the code AllBooks2020 during checkout at, now through Cyber Monday. You’ll appreciate the quick and friendly service, and the knowledge that you’re helping indie authors this holiday!

Also through Cyber Monday, my storefront offers free shipping on all orders. (Remember, you’re not limited to the books I’ve listed in the shop! Use the search function to find more books, puzzles, Funko Pop dolls…the sky’s the limit.) Since discounts many of its items, this is a fantastic deal. Your purchase will help independent bookstores, and I will receive a small affiliate commission, all at no further cost to you. Everyone’s happy!

Not to be outdone, Bookshop Santa Cruz offers tempting Small Business Saturday incentives. Spend $15 or more, and you can choose a free audiobook among these selections through Cyber Monday. (I plan to nab the Lindy West title, since the print version made me laugh maniacally.’s offer also works for a purchase of $15 or above.) Readers’ Club members who spend $25 or more on Saturday will be entered in a raffle for BSC’s top ten books of 2020 (worth over $275)! The store provides socially-distanced browsing, or shop online at home using my affiliate link. (Any purchases through the link earn me a small commission, at no extra cost to you.) Enjoy, stay safe, and have a wonderful holiday weekend!

RSD 2020, Part Three: Back To Square One

I just couldn’t drag myself to Santa Cruz for a third time this week, so I’m observing 2020’s final Record Store Day the same way I tried to spend the first: searching for today’s wares online. I still need to hear the Church’s Gold Afternoon Fix, but it doesn’t look like there are bonus tracks on the vinyl. Cheap Trick’s Out To Get You! looks intriguing, but most of the songs appear on other live albums. If anyone has opinions on Jon Brion’s Synecdoche, New York soundtrack or Booker T. and the M.G.s’ McLemore Avenue, please advise! Of course, you can just comment with your RSD picks.

For anyone bemused by the notion of three Record Store Days in one year, the following Art Brut song is for you. Amusingly enough, the band did release something fancy for the UK RSD after all, and the concept is cool.

RSD 2020, Part Two: Good Intentions

After checking out the belated Independent Bookstore Day festivities at Bookshop Santa Cruz this morning, I felt ready to brave this month’s Record Store Day at Streetlight Records. COVID-19 jitters and the wildfires kept me away last month, and I was unsure how I’d react to any long lines in the narrow aisles today. I was relieved to see plenty of browsing space when I arrived, and headed for the RSD bins. After combing through the handful of discs there (notably the Cradle reissue featuring the young Suzi Quatro), I learned that today’s releases were available behind the counter. I saw the printout of items, but couldn’t find what I sought. (I admit that I wasn’t eager to handle a piece of paper, so my speed-reading skills may not have been up to par.) Did anyone have good luck? I’m intrigued by the Marty Willson-Piper album, but I thought Hanging Out In Heaven had been a prior RSD release. The Hotrats’ 10th anniversary reissue of Turn Ons sounds tempting, though it causes multiple dilemmas for me. I’d bought the original version (with no extra tracks) long ago, only to gnash my teeth at news of a fancy CD/DVD boxed set this past April. Of course, the boxed set has eluded many devoted Supergrass fans for months, so I’m unsure how to proceed…

RSD 2020, Part One: Confessions of a Wayward Shopper

I admit that my potential Record Store Day participation today was in doubt from the beginning. While there would be plenty of COVID-19 precautions in place, I was nervous about lining up for RSD festivities in the small space of Santa Cruz’s Streetlight Records outpost. Factor in the smoke and haze from the wildfires, and I grudgingly realized that I’d be staying home. (I stopped by Streetlight yesterday to snap up the new Lemon Twigs and Old 97’s CDs, but I still feel guilty about avoiding the event.) Since Amoeba Music is currently closed for all in-person browsing due to the pandemic, their RSD selections went online this morning. I have no report regarding what’s available, since I’ve been unable to reach the site all day. Rest assured, I feel shame for letting you all down. Since there are three(?!) Record Store Days this year, I’ll try to plan for September. Meanwhile, if anyone had luck online (or braved the lines in person), feel free to let me know what I’m missing…

Check out my new affiliate storefront on Bookshop!

You savvy readers likely have heard of, the new online bookstore that supports independent booksellers. Not only is Bookshop an appealing alternative to Amazon, it has served as a lifeline to many shops forced to close their physical doors during the COVID-19 pandemic. I couldn’t resist joining their affiliate program for authors, so now you can enjoy browsing the Coastal Book Gal online storefront on Bookshop! Right now, the store features my book Going Coastal along with some titles I’ve extolled in past posts. I plan to add plenty of other books: those by writers I’ve interviewed, some by friends of the blog, and others I simply enjoy reading! Don’t see what you want? Search by author, title, or 13-digit ISBN number to find the perfect book. A percentage of each purchase will go to me and to independent bookstores all over the country. Not only will this incur no extra cost to you, many books are offered at a discount! It’s a win-win, and a lot of fun for anyone missing their favorite bookstore’s shelves. (I’m working on updating the “Shop with Coastal Book Gal!” sidebar, but thanks to WordPress editing glitches and my own excitement, I thought a separate post was in order! By the way, I remain a proud affiliate of Bookshop Santa Cruz, so those who prefer that shop’s website are encouraged to use my affiliate link.) As always, I’m grateful for your support! Naturally, I’d love some book recommendations from anyone inclined to comment…

ETA: Not only books! Today I stumbled onto an impressive puzzle selection in the search bar, not to mention 40-plus pages(?!) of Funko Pop vinyl figures for sale. Please explore and have fun!