I apologize for my last entry. It was too long. I think a blog post should not exceed 1000 words, though today’s does by a slight margin. In trying to wrap my brain around the general incompetence of American first level employees, I incorporated unnecessary detail as a defense against the horror with which you are all, no doubt, familiar. Mea culpa.
We know the generation that now inhabits the service counter at cell phone outlets and Sears alike are almost always incompetent. I accept this without any Andy Rooney-like ravings.
In Mexico I experienced a great deal of ignorance from the same level of the work force; here I find a variation on the same thing, an arrogance based on a sales-driven economy without the necessary attendant knowledge that might make a salesperson helpful.
Miraculously, in our new adopted town of Fort Bragg (roughly three hours north of San Francisco), we have encountered a helpful and informed mentality among such close encounters of the first kind. We know from previous expeditions that folks in Arcata, Eureka and Crescent City (all north of here) are generally worse; we feel lucky to have chosen Fort Bragg. The question remains: Has Ft. Bragg chosen us?
After I’m elected mayor and coronated as the greatest thing to have happened to this town, I may have to resist the petition to re-name the town Fort Craig. For now, I am content to be incognito, though not without ambition.
We’ve only met one grumpy person in town so far, wispy, white-haired septuagenarian who breezed through the post office line without so much as a “beg your pardon” as he proceeded to the outgoing box with fifty-some letters. He’s probably into something-- whether Amway, Mormonism, or a new age newsletter, who’s to say? I just don’t want to be on his mailing list. Everyone else has been personable and helpful. And we’ve already made social connections; the manager of our cottage rental recommended us to a vet for our suffering dog, and the vet’s secretary inquired about the manager’s health, through which we learned the rental manager had been in a recent auto accident (without serious injury). She, meanwhile, informed us of the best Laundromats, a Thai restaurant, and other indispensable information. And she loves Kenyon and can’t stop petting him. Unfortunately she has pseudoxanthomatous elastica, a rare disease of the retina, from which she will eventually go blind. She can no longer read, but her spirit oss indomitable, reminding me of my Nordic ancestors in Moorhead, Minnesota. “What can you do? Just get on with it,” is their attitude toward any disability. “Make yourself useful and forget your past.” The luxury of self-indulgence sits at the opposite pole of survival. I am also reminded of a former poetry student from Chico, CA, Jill Beck (whose publications you can google) who now, from familial ascending spinal dystrophy, is paralyzed and on a ventilator, but to the last tried to communicate with me via her computer voice program. If any have news of her, please write me, as I have been very concerned about her state.
Tomorrow night is open mike at the Vienna Cafe, so I will play a few songs and read a few poems (under my manager’s direction Kathleen, who is likewise happy with our choice of locales in trying to establish a home again after a year-and-a-half of relative homelessness, though only sometimes accompanied by destitution). She plans to attend the local garden club, knitting club, and so forth. I shall assay the Rotary Club, the Coast Poets, while we have a choice between a Lutheran and Episcopal church for our spiritual needs as abject sinners. The Episcopal church sounds more promising, because for my besmirched soul they offer mass several times a week, while Lutherans make you suck up your sins for a month before you can receive the wafer-waiver, which baptism guarantees you even if hung-over from Saturday night. Their Sunday services also begin later than those of the Lutheran church, a distinct advantage when trying to sober up for God.
The whale festival is coming up March 18 and 19, where we can gather with the locals and hail the gray whales’ migration. The whales don’t obey those dates, of course, but are nearly guaranteed to make an appearance, though their float parade will clog the two-lane main street, I’m afraid.
Tomorrow we have an appointment to tour a possible rental, some 2.5 miles out of town with a stand of redwoods in the driveway and a huge, unfenced yard, flanked by neighbors with llamas, sheep, and horses. It has the fireplace Kathleen demanded, three bedrooms, two baths, and is rumored to be spacious. Available 3/21, it was the first place I scouted, and Kathleen gave it her external blessing, although she has a list for the interior portions with which the potential domicile must comply. Compared to rents in LA it is also very reasonable.
I would give out our new prospective address if I did not fear bad
luck. I have become somewhat superstitious since our last stay in Mexico, but up here on the coast with the Monterrey pines and the blessed ocean breaking on a rocky coast, that karma feels as if it’s dissipating; yet I am still not so confident as to trust the future.
Tomorrow night I begin my campaign for mayor, as noted above, with my performance at a coffee house. What my unsuspecting marks don’t know yet is how ubiquitious I plan to become in this town of a little over 6,000 souls. I recently read a biography of Benjamin Franklin which inspired me to public service—although his proposals both to the Pennsylvania and United States constitutions that salaries of public servants should not ascend to a level that might make them financially advantageous were soundly rejected.
A great man, certainly, Old Ben, though Jefferson likely gave the best advice about him: “A man of such genius should not be wasted in public service.”
Franklin was more a man of principle and silence than unbridled wit and entertainment. He listened more than he spoke; he subjugated his best ideas to the compromises his countrymen required; his greatest ambition was to be useful, which, although a Puritanical sort of ambition, or say Athenian, was fueled by his mild Deism, as he was no avowed Christian.
Almost all of America’s founding fathers were Deists, which always makes me bridle against this “Christian Nation” notion of current zealots. America was founded on the concept of natural rights and a just but distant God, the God of Newton and Pope. Later this led to the Transcendentalism of Thoreau, Emerson and Whitman, but let it never be said that the founding fathers were Christian—their God was too reasonable to require either a supernatural incarnation or a bloody sacrifice, Cotton Mather and the great New England Revival notwithstanding.
So pray for us that we may achieve a domicile in order to offer a permanent address to our creditors and junk mail. When Ed McMahon’s face arrives through Publisher’s Clearing House we shall feel truly at home. That actual letters may come is beyond our expectations; we expect our friends and family to use e-mail. (And that includes you, Aunt Pearl, though only an octogenarian. Kathleen’s mother, a nonagenarian, has already adapted to e-mail, so get with it!)
“He that isn’t busy being born is busy dying.” –Bob Dylan
I find it a symptom of advancing baby boomers that reading glasses at local convenience stores have become almost as plentiful as sunglasses. I hope that means we’re busy being born. At least some of us read.
It’s been raining here, so sunglasses are of little utility at present. We even experienced a bout of hail today but I was too slow to harvest the nuggets in order to avoid buying ice for our drinks later. If only I had been more prescient! But I did enjoy their clatter on my shoulder and the sidewalk. Rock candy from heaven.
Despite my best efforts I have once again exceeded 1000 words today. I can only hope their perusal was slightly more interesting than their non-perusal, briefly lifting the reader above absolute boredom. If I were to continue to write of our struggles without pause this blog might not have a happy ending, limiting its film rights value.
Yet if I change the general tenor from dire straits to poetry and garden clubs, will the reader find my reduced tabloid impact an anachronism on the order of bustles? Do follow and I promise some continuing adventures. For now, rejoice with us at the prospect of some stability in the land that I love—I mean the Northern California Coast, of course, not Gulag Bush.
Thine in Truth and Art,
C. E. Chaffin
(Restored to his favorite places: redwoods, the untamed ocean, whales, Monterrey pines, and the dark cedar green you can never get in Mexico. I will try not to mention Mexico ever again, but you know the grieving process takes some time.)
Alert: Friday, after I wrote this on my laptop, all our funds were again frozen by Child Support Services in violation of the judge's last order of September 1, when I was released from further child support. They have frozen funds I did not owe for an order that has been rescinded, despite my letters and their having been present at the last hearing. Ouch! Fortunately I have a hearing Monday, but how long it will take the bureacratic wheels to return the money to my account God only knows; meanwhile I have contacted my angelic sister for a short-term loan in order to maintain food and shelter. So our bad luck continues, transcending national boundaries, and impairing our credit for a rental at the same time. For this glitch I am truly not to blame, rather the incompetent judicial system, whose weaker sister in Mexico held us hostage for six months. And so it goes.... more anon. --CE