Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Slice of Heaven

Loved the town, loved the landscape, loved the people...but, man, the weather!

Big Dog and I finally left Arcata on Thursday after boring each other with constant reminders that this was July, despite the freaking cold.

"It's the coldest summer on record!" locals told us, but locals are used to the cold and wet. By the time we drove out of there, we were ready for some warm, dry summer weather. (San Francisco, which is always my favorite place to spend the night, was also too cold and wet to fully enjoy.)

Back in Central California, I am blissing out on the stunning weather, the apricots that are still happening, the peaches, plums and nectarines that are coming into season... Enjoying a slice of heaven before Hell Week begins.

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Saturday, July 18, 2009

They're Here!

Just love the colors...

Oh, and we are just wrapping up Mirabelle Season. These amazingly tasty yellow plums ripen all at once. A very short season makes them even more delectable!

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Saturday, July 11, 2009

Picture Show

A few visuals while I have my fast(er) internet connection...

Love the greeeeeeen!

The Periwinkle House (not so periwinkle in this photo)

Victorian Ladies...


...and big...

A most cooperative model!

Funky Humboldt

Don't ask Big Dog

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Sunday, July 05, 2009

Ten Reasons to Love This Town

I'd been to Arcata several times in my last incarnation (figurative, not literal.) Coming from Big Bad Tokyo, it seemed like the cutest, quaintest, teeniest town I ever visited. Now that I am spending so much of the year at The Ranch, where the nearest town is even smaller (but not nearly as cute or quaint) this place is bustling!

Aside from the fact that we have actual internet connectivity at a 21st century level, there are many reasons why I still love this place.

* It will always be Hippie Central
While some of the original flower children have "grown up" ("And a few have become thorns! Ha ha ha!" cackles Big Dog with glee) there is always an influx of newer, younger bohemians looking for that Utopia, keeping Arcata the most left-wing town in the U.S. (as far as I know.)

* Big Business (note capital letters) is not welcome here
"That's why the area remains depressed," bitch the old-timers who may have once been happy to panhandle for food money. "It's too anti-business here!" Yes, they burned down every McDonald's that tried to open shop in town until Mickey D finally got it. "You don't deserve a McDonald's!" they said in a huff on their way out. There IS a McDonald's out on the edge of town, but if you want burgers, you can get great ones at V&N's or Stars, so who needs terrible fast food? There are no Starbucks, no Barnes & Nobles, no Bed, Bath & Beyond, no Sears, no WalMart... I think the only franchise/chain outfits are Safeway, Longs, and a gas station or two.

* Everyone is Community Minded
Actually, the town is very supportive of its businesses. Everyone makes an effort to buy local. So if you have a unique product or service (or even a not-so-unique product or service) this is a great place to start. On our first night back, we met a young man in a local bar who told us about his upcoming mead business. "Mead? You mean like the beverage?" I asked. Sure, I read about it in old novels, but... He told us about how he's already gotten his honey sourced and his label designed. "It's going to be a honeycomb between two redwoods with a bee on top!" Sweet!

* Creativity Abounds
And they never put on that "I'm an artiste..." attitude. The first time I came here, I met a big group of artists. They were awesomely good, but many had day jobs as car stereo installers, sales clerks, etc. "I can't believe this!" I told Big Dog back then. "If these people lived in Tokyo, they would be the biggest sensation! They'd actually be rich, I think." Every small town has its group of artists, but the people here are really, really good. It must be the long, dark winters. Central California is just too nice most of the year to be sitting inside making art (as I am finding out very quickly!)

* Economically it's depressed, or is it?
"Any big business that set up shop here would be able to employ thousands!" bitch the pro-business minority. True. The small mom-and-pop businesses just can't compete that way. (Nor would they be able to compete in any way if some big box store came this way and actually made it, though that is highly unlikely.) There aren't a whole lot of jobs. No wonder so many people get involved in growing/selling pot. It's relatively easy to start up such a business, you will have lots of experienced people to help you, there's a very good market for the product, and, best of all, until it is decriminalized, the 420 business is tax-free! So, on the record, the median income here is pretty low, but in actuality, who knows. Students pay their way through college, couples buy nice homes with plenty of cash, etc. all without having to sell your soul. And most of them probably have prescriptions that allow them to grow their own anyway, so until they sell to non-prescription holders, it's all legal. ...Right?

* Materialism is the scourge
You won't know that there are any wealthy people here because no one wants to be perceived as materialistic. There are tons of junker cars, junker bikes, thrift stores. Everyone looks like they are wearing 30 year old clothing. (In my case, I really am!) Here, Big Dog and I are not the eccentric weirdos we are elsewhere.

In every way. From the Green Party (Arcata elected the first-ever Green party city council majority in 1996 and was the first city in the nation to pass a law nullifying the USA PATRIOT Act) to its eco-consciousness to the land around, everything is green, green, green. It has the most amazing wastewater treatment system in the Arcata Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary, was the first municipality to ban the growth of any type of Genetically Modified Organism within city limits (with exceptions for research and education,) and has more hydroponic supply stores per capita than anywhere else (needs fact checking.) And there's been an on-going campaign to preserve the Headwaters Forest from logging for years.

* It's Young
More than 30% of the population are between 18 and 24, and the median age is around 26 years. The City Council, and at times even the mayor, is sometimes composed in part by college students. (There's a college student in the Council right now.) But more than actual chronological age, it's a youthful town. Or maybe I should say, ageless. My mother who came to visit a few years ago couldn't stop giggling over all the grey-haired "youngsters" skateboarding around town. We all think we're 18 here.

* It's got a Heart
And I don't mean compassion for the homeless, but a geographical heart. Most American towns no longer have a center. Arcata still has its Plaza and what an active plaza it is! From the weekly Farmer's Markets to the start of the annual Kinetic Sculpture Race to the Oyster Festival to the weekly protests to all the "freegans" just hanging out or sleeping, it is a plaza much like the zocalos of Mexico.

* The Local Baseball Team is named after one of my favorite foods
Arcata is home to the Humboldt Crabs, the nation's longest continuously operated semi-pro baseball team that's played every season since 1945! And they serve soy dogs at the ball park.

Okay. Now, here is one reason why I may not love this town as much in the years to come:
I see more and more people here who seem to have come only because of Arcata's cannabis reputation. They have no social or ecological awareness. They are disrespectful of others. They come here, live in the shrubbery by the freeway or in the Community Forest and leave behind tons of trash. Plastic bottles, plastic bags, grungy blankets. Their use-and-discard mentality has no place here. Somehow they think they belong because they don't work and don't own property. They should have stayed in Idaho...or Utah...or wherever.

The other reason why not to love this town? It's that four letter word that starts with R......

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Thursday, July 02, 2009

Behind the Redwood Curtain

After a long, frantic week of socializing, visitors and tidying up the ranch, we escaped gorgeous, sunny Central California to arrive in misty, magical Humboldt.

Not only are we behind the Redwood Curtain, but shrouded in fog. We're very hidden here in Arcata, a pretty little town of fanciful Victorian architecture, colorful denizens and majestic redwoods.

I remember the greeting we got a few years ago, as we just arrived and were driving through downtown Arcata. At a stop sign, an old hippie stood in front of our truck and "flew" his glass pipe over the hood of our car. It was like a benediction.

"We're back in Arcata!" Big Dog and I laughed.

No such welcome this time, but I'm impressed with the creative men's fashions. Men in long, flowing black skirts, men in kilts and leathers, a guy with dots tattooed over his eyebrows... it used to be just flannel and dreadlocks.

Aside from the fun of being in a town that's sort of trapped in the 60's, it was also good to get away from the ranch. As much as I love it there and as much as I think it IS paradise, I've recently found myself becoming more...what? bourgeois?...when I stay there too long, much to my disgust. I'm getting way too protective of everything there. ("Don't hang your exercise equipment on the fruit trees, JD! We already lost one apple tree!" "The kids are leaving too much crap all over the place!" "Daddy McC shouldn't have called the sheriff on our neighbor! No one in this valley wants the law to show up on their property!") The Road to Satori takes a backslide.

So it's good to be here, in a completely empty house, sleeping on foam mats, having only an odd assortment of stuff left over from Big Dog's student days. Old T-shirts work well as pillowcases. Empty pie tins make decent plates.

"You guys are way minimal!" commented Big Dog's high school buddy, J., when we met him and his wife for dinner in San Francisco on our way up here.
"You guys are zen!" laughed his wife.
True, we don't have much at the ranch, at least not stuff, but I get really possessive about the trees, the hills, the land. When in fact, in this life, ownership is only an illusion. Nobody really owns anything and so thinking that you do only makes for unhappiness.

Like slack key wonder Makana said in Hawaii, "Access trumps ownership." You understand that when you let go.

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