“Are you tired, are you weary?
Does life feel drab and dreary?
Despair not of this my friend,
I see happiness ‘round the bend”
Stephanie and I have been reciting this little poem back and forth to each other since 1976 when Princess Doraldina delivered it to us from her fortune telling booth in Hampton Beach New Hampshire. I don’t have that particular card anymore – but I did come across 3 others taped into an old scrapbook recently. They all share the same vintage graphic charm of 1944, with hand drawn illustrations and off-center type. I love these cards, and search out opportunities to get new ones whenever I can.
So last Sunday morning at 7am, while I was at the start of the Surfer’s Path Marathon set directly in front of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, I checked to see what time the casino would open, so I could come back, take photos, and search for a mechanical gypsy fortune telling machine.
I was in Santa Cruz for the weekend to cheer on my friend Adriana, who was in from New York to run her first-ever marathon. After the marathon started and various friends and family members ran support relays during Adriana’s run, I found myself with time to kill before I had to get to the finish line, and headed to the boardwalk.
The main casino arcade is a little more modern, with video games, shooter games, and a skee ball corner, but no fortune tellers mechanical or otherwise. Nevertheless, I loaded up a payment card with 5 bucks and set off down the boardwalk which was just starting to come alive for the day.
I spotted a more historical-looking arcade section with an original Laffing Sal in the front window. This boded well for my search, and as I entered this liminal space, sure enough, there right at the front, set across from the pirate’s cove indoor mini golf course, was Estrella, a slightly younger and hippy version of a Princess Doraldina-style fortune teller.
No longer a coin-operated machine, Estrella has been modified to accept payment by sliding your payment card and pushing a button, which I did, and received my first fortune card. This came from a perforated roll, as opposed to the original Doraldina cards, which were cut separately and would slide into a little brass tray, but I was still delighted. I took photos from every angle, and then just before moving on to her compatriot Pirate Fortune Teller nearby, figured that I would get a second fortune. For the total hell of it, I took a photo of the card as it came out of the machine.
I looked at the fortune card. And there it was. “Are you tired, are you weary…?”
Thunderstruck, I stumbled out of the casino into the sunlight, where I quickly texted a photo to Steph – the only other person in the world who could possibly understand the significance of this event.
Pure coincidence? Or some kind of spiritual guidance from a mechanical gypsy fortune teller built in the 20s? Who knows? But there you have it.
And, I am happy to report that the connection between penny arcade style and pirates is alive and well at Neptune’s Kingdom. Estrella is situated directly across from the Buccaneer Bay mini-golf course, where she gazes upon this fellow all day long.
I continued through the Boardwalk taking more photos and found a number of other splendid vintage machines, including a Grandmother Fortune Teller. This was a wonderful place to be early on a sunny Sunday morning.
Then it was time to get to the marathon’s finish line, and cheer on all the runners. If you ever want to feel good about humanity and life in general, I recommend that you go to a marathon finish line and watch people make their triumphant run toward the end. It’s really inspiring and as good as watching happy families reunite at an airport.