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Davis, California

Friday, April 12, 2024

Column: The young man and the sea

If you had to describe Davis to someone who has never been here, you might say something like, “No hills, some trees. Pleasant.” An accurate description, if not a detail-oriented one.

There’s no debating that Davis is a great place to go to school. I am, however, a staunch advocate of sometimes treating Davis like the town of Dodge and getting the hell out. This past weekend, I followed my own advice and opted for a trip down to Santa Cruz — a town renowned for its beaches and its stabbings. (At one point, Santa Cruz was a hotbed for serial killers.)

Anyway, I spent a lot of time on the beaches at night. If I learned one thing from my trip, it’s that dead seals and rocks look very similar on a moonless night. Some friends and I were strolling along when one of us made a startling realization:

Friend: “Aww, man. I just walked over a dead seal.”

Me: “No way. That’s a rock.”

Friend: “Check it out, man.”

I checked it out. I can safely say it was a dead seal.

Me: “Shit. Poor seal buddy.”

Rocks tend to feel, you know, like rocks. I kicked the corpse (lightly), and it felt like kicking a leather sack full of intestines, which is basically all a seal is anyway.

We shined our flashlight on it. Its shriveled yellow eye stared back at us. We could smell the decay, and there were bones working their way through its skin.

Needless to say, it was gnarly. It was, however, an interesting experience, and it was decidedly a non-Davis one. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but the chance of stepping on a dead seal on 8th and Anderson is unlikely. Here in Davis, we rarely have to deal with huge, dead animals. Maybe a squirrel or crow every now and again, but seals are different. It was kind of a sobering experience, but not that sobering.

We left the seal and kept walking along the beach. I kept pondering the dead seal and the ocean that had swept it to shore. The ocean is a marvelous thing. There is a certain vastness to it that is lost in a town like Davis. Here we have a quaint little neighborhood, but it is a small place. Streets, houses, trees and some fields if you go far enough, but nothing in Davis is really more than 20 minutes away from anything else.

Looking out across the Pacific Ocean inspires the opposite feeling. Sure, you know Japan is out there somewhere, but it’s wild to simply look out and see nothing but darkness. No distant city lights reflected off the clouds, no skyscrapers in the distance. Only the steady rhythm of the tides.


The only thing we have in Davis that even compares is the sky, but that, too, is restricted by water towers and huge old folks homes. (I used to live by one. It blocked out the sun.)

A lot of you younger people are probably just getting into the rhythm of life here in Davis. If you’re a freshman, you’ve established who on your floor is a tool and who isn’t, and how to make mixed drinks in the DC. You sophomores are realizing that Arlington Farms is an extension of the dorms, only without the people who study and where the RAs are the police. Juniors, you’re tripping balls about senior year coming up (It is coming quickly).

As I’ve said before, I am a fifth year. I know Davis, and I’m at the point in my student cycle where I’m preparing to bid farewell to this microcosm of a town and go out into that real world, escape Davis to explore the ocean that is the rest of the world. Quite the metaphor, I know.

Since this has been a more contemplative column, I leave you with a rhyme from Ol’ Dirty Bastard for you to mull over. “Here I go with the deep-tight flow, Jacques Cousteau could never get this low.”

That’s kind of ocean themed. Until next week, try to avoid stepping on any dead sea animals, both literally and figuratively.

WILL LONG also saw a bobcat over the weekend, and not the kind that hauls debris out of the old ASUCD Coffee House. Tell him your wildlife observations or just spin the existential carousel with him at wclong@ucdavis.edu.


  1. I find it troubling and bothersome that columnist William Long makes jokes about dead seals, there is nothing humorous about this situation. Every year thousands of dead seals are washed ashore because of human caused problems and some people (myself included) spend countless hours dealing with the bodies with the organization Beaches not Bodies. We would like to see our beaches be ´seal free´ so that we can enjoy more space for picnics and beach football. I hope Mr. Long will be more considerate of other people´s needs in the future.


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