If I worked for the Mendocino Coast Chamber of Commerce, I’d start a Welcome Wagon. I would design and deliver gift baskets to new residents. Mine wouldn’t be your run of the mill, welcome to our wonderful community, isn’t it beautiful, have a pizza on me type of basket. When someone decides to move here, they already know it’s a great place. My baskets would feature some of the more quirky aspects of our small town.
Let’s say you’ve moved to Fort Bragg. We’ll sit at your kitchen table drinking lattes from the Mendocino Cookie Company and start with the least controversial of topics—global warming. The weather along our coast is fickle. Some whiners complain it’s too windy or rainy or foggy. What sissies. They should not be allowed an opinion until after they’ve spent a winter in the Midwest. In the past few years, the effects of climate change have benefited our area, ushering in increasingly warm, sunny days. This makes it hard to remain a hater of greenhouse gases. To keep you focused, I’ll give you this bumper sticker:
The basket will include a copy of page 31 of the California Driver Handbook which specifies the right of way laws at four-way stops. On second thought, scratch that. Those laws are useless in Fort Bragg. Instead, I’ll add a flashcard printed with the rules of the game Rock, Paper, Scissors. This is how right of way is determined in our town.
If you find yourself at the corner of Franklin and Chestnut (an intersection complicated by left-hand turn lanes), you’ll know it’s your turn to move after you’ve been honked at twice, flipped off once, and rear ended.
The highlight of the basket will be my patented Taaka Vodka/M&M candy gift (made for less than ten dollars). As you open the Taaka to take a slug and toss back a couple of M&M’s, I’ll caution that this is a great place to live if you don’t have anything to hide. Similar to high school, gossip is a popular form of spreading “news” in our town.
I’ll tempt you to reveal your secrets by claiming I was once a roadie for Van Halen. If your story isn’t equally as entertaining, I’ll stir in a few spicy details before passing it around. You’ll become an instant celebrity.
Your basket will also contain a coupon for a free Gird Your Loins class at the Mendocino Sports Club. You can cash this in after you’ve made the mistake of opening your mouth to express an opinion and need to learn how to defend yourself from attack. We are a passionate and polarized community when it comes to such issues as the Dollar Tree Store or Taco Bell. Dare to take a side and you will be pummeled by the opposition.
When The Fort Bragg Advocate News asked for comments on their Facebook page regarding the future building of a Taco Bell, one woman innocently posted: “Yuck! We don’t live here, but plan to someday. One of the reasons we love Ft. Bragg is because of so few corporate chains.”
Poor, naive thing—she knew not what she started. The cannonballs fired immediately:
“Ft. Bragg doesn’t need you here.”
“Interesting that most of the ‘anti establishment’ nut jobs are not the people born in Fort Bragg but those who are transplants.”
“There’s enough of these lunatics ruining the town, they don’t need more.”
Her response: “Why are you all being jerks just because I expressed an OPINION?”
One of the greatest gifts of living here is the lack of suburbs. It’s difficult to remain a snob when you can’t huddle within your own socio-economic class.
More than twenty years ago, I took my first trip to The Purity. I stood in line with a man who had a wire coat hanger fashioned as an antennae around his head. He clutched a plastic gallon jug, half filled with red juice, to his chest and spoke lovingly to the box of doughnuts he was purchasing. I avoided going to that store for several months until I learned that trips to Safeway or Harvest put me in line with similar folks.
Like me, you’ll learn to accept people for who they are—not for the status they hold. As a result, you’ll have friends from all walks of life—from the intellectual to the illiterate, the wealthy to the poor, elderly to youngsters. Since this gift is far too large to fit into a basket, I’ll substitute a candy bar purchased to support Little League, a $25 gift certificate from Triangle Tattoo, a dollar gift certificate from the Dollar Tree Store, and a promise from someone to take you on a pub crawl through the Barmuda Triangle (the configuration of three of our oldest downtown bars: Tip Top, Welcome Inn and the Golden West).
Toward the end of our visit, you will question if you made a mistake by moving here. Quite the contrary—four-way stops aside—you are one of the luckiest people on earth.