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Stay Local Every Time That You Can

April 30, 2016

As the last area of the continental United States (at least the “lower 48”) to be explored and developed by Europeans, this part of the new world generally finds itself at the leading edge of movements and trends. We’re not always certain that this is a good thing. For example, consider the adoption (in the ‘70s and ‘80s of the mullet hairstyle which, believe it or not, can be traced to the writings of 6th century historian Procopius of Caesarea. More recent anthropological evidence tends to credit David Bowie, Rod Stewart, Billy Ray Cyrus, Joan Jett, and Paul McCartney (among others) for sporting the hairstyle, and with typical Paul_and_Linda_McCartneyrock-star influence, convincing a young audience with questionable judgement that this was a good idea. While still seen in some parts of the country (including northern California) the style has thankfully fallen distinctly from favor. It’s just a matter of time until—like the Shasta Ground Sloth—it disappears completely from North America. [If you’re in doubt, note: Losing the sloth? Bad. Losing the mullet haircut: Good!] We can expect that sometime in the future, the remains of a human with a mullet will be, like the sloth, found only in and around the La Brea Tar Pits where future generations of inquisitive young scientists might exclaim “Look mom, in the goo; a mullet-man from the 20th century. Wow.”

For those of us living along the south coast of Mendocino County, traveling to the city via the Golden Gate Bridge is a journey of three hours or more, depending on [a] our knowledge of some backroads and short-cuts (no, I can’t share the secret routes so don’t ask), [b] the annual increase in traffic in Sonoma and Marin, and [c] the ever present road construction of Highway 101—resurfacing, widening, repairing. In fact I overheard a conversation at a restaurant in Sausalito last week, where two couples were discussing moving out of Marin entirely: “Dahhling, the traffic here is, oh my god, just like L.A.” Clearly she hasn’t driven through, in, or around Los Angeles lately. Nevertheless I get her point. Many of us on the Mendocino coast talk about Santa Rosa traffic the same way, as if it’s the equivalent of attempting to catch a flight from LaGuardia by crossing midtown Manhattan on a Friday afternoon.

Trends are low on the list of most visitors to the area. When traveling up here most tourists seem pleased with the local business offerings: sandwich shops, restaurants, hardware stores, grocers, inns, office and business support, wifi, music stores, book sellers, and more. Besides, most are here for the legendary views along Highway One. Nevertheless, for those who crave Taco Bell, Safeway, Holiday Inn, and Home Depot, they are all represented in the county. They’re just not present along the Coast Highway from Bodega, the Russian River, and Jenner on the south, to Little River, Mendocino Village, and Caspar to the north. Those American icons of fast food and warehouse consumerism are as hard to find here as the Shasta Ground Sloth. Most locals and visitors like it that way, and most of us happily recommend a local business to fill the travelers’ needs.

We’re not perfect. Too often, like being afflicted with a facial tic, some locals will let slip a corporately-programmed response. Do you recall the scene in A Christmas Story, where the Macy’s Santa asks Ralphie what he’d like for Christmas? Overwhelmed by the moment Ralphie blurts out “a football” instead of his real desire for a Red Rider BB Gun. When you’re not prepared to answer the question, you never know just what will come out of your mouth. We are, as I suggested, inundated with advertising, images, slogans, and brands, which means we must think about a response. And yet, many of us moved up here to—in varying degrees— get away from corporate brands, and 21st century uniformity. Or at least that’s what we like to tell people.

Having lived in Mendocino County for a decade, I regularly observe members of the county’s population—those in the media and out—answering a question with their own pre-programmed response. For example, authors flogging their books during an interview on the radio say “my book’s available at Amazon” possibly in a mistaken belief that there are no retail bookstores left. And the radio hosts reflexively echo the “go to Amazon” theme as if they are suffering from Tourette’s. It’s like being asked for a recommendation for having lunch in Gualala and replying, “I hear Commander’s Palace in New Orleans is really good.” A well-trained parrot could do as well.

I’m here to say No More. I’ve decided to take a page out of StateLibQld_1_89868_Revival_meeting_at_the_Olympic_Theatre_in_Charters_Towers,_1912the tent revival handbook. So let me hold the Lighthouse Peddler in my left hand, and raise my right hand. From now on you are healed. Henceforth you will happily and faithfully extol the virtues of shopping, staying, and spending locally. Brothers and Sisters, as you return to your daily lives, go forth and spread the word. Look into the eyes of friends, family, and strangers alike. Offer your countenance, softly smile, and tell them that a new day is coming and the time is nigh. As a good book says, “there is wisdom, beauty, and blessings in spending your money locally.” Besides. As my old friend Arnie Orleans might say, ‘it couldn’t hoit.’

David Steffen

©2016 David Steffen



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