Welcome Wagon

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.

DSC02395The 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.

tacobellWhen 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.

Another Purity Tour

For those of you who live here and have never shopped at The Purity, shame on you. You need try it once, you really do.

1601216_10152514599931844_6959477211714285536_nWhen you walk into the store, head to the right. Lift your gaze. You are now officially welcomed to The Purity.

The welcome sign happens to be above my favorite section of the store—the place where the Cyrus O’Leary’s cream pies are displayed. Buy one. Do not read the nutrition label. Eat it. Go bonkers with delight.

beercornerAlso toward the back of the store is The Beer Corner! I don’t know of any other store that has such a special place to gather between 8-8:15am with those who ran out of supplies overnight and again between the hours of 4-6:00pm with those who need to refresh their inventory.

icemachineThink all they have is chocolate cream pies, beer and Taaka Vodka? Think again. They also have ice!

coffeeYou can even buy a cup of coffee. I must confess I’ve never tried it, but it’s at The Purity so it has to be good.

purityatniteFor extra fun, venture to The Purity after dark. It’s sometimes my favorite time to shop because it’s so mysteriously beautiful and I can sneak in and buy a chocolate cream pie while wearing my pajamas.


The Purity is open until 8:00 every night; 7:00 on Sunday.

Go now. Buy something yummy. I guarantee it’ll make you happy.

Taaka Taste Test

In mid-December, alert reader Laine enlightened me with a scientific fun fact: if you take a bottle of really cheap vodka and pour it through a Brita Water Filter, you can turn it into expensive-tasting vodka.


DSC02395If you’ve read this blog or followed my Facebook page for any length of time, you know I’m a fan of Taaka Vodka. I have never consumed it, but did use it to invent a fabulous all-occasion gift that can be made for under $5 (see the July 25, 2012 post). Taaka’s parent company Sazerac was so impressed that they sent me a tee-shirt.

DSC03278On Christmas Eve, I had a captive audience of liquor enthusiasts in my home who were willing to test the theory:

Taaka + Brita-filtering = Expensive-Tasting Vodka.

I spent a great deal of money on Ketel One ($26.99) and $6.99 on a similar-sized Taaka. The Brita Filter cost about $5.00. DSC03275

When I purchased the Taaka at The Purity, I felt the need to explain the pending experiment to the cute little pixy checker. (I’ve alerted all Purity clerks that if I ever claim to buy Taaka for personal consumption they are to call the police and request a mental health evaluation).

The clerk advised that it was best to run the cheap vodka through the filter three to four times. What a great suggestion! Thank you cute little pixy clerk!

DSC03281With the help of my friend MW, I set up a blind taste test. The four volunteers—Harrison, Laine, Jacob and Erica—were each presented with three shot glasses.

The first was unfiltered Taaka Vodka.

The second contained the expensive vodka.

The third held the four-time filtered Taaka.

Are you ready for the unanimous results?

DSC03283The unfiltered Taaka was chosen the most expensive! Each of my vodka connoisseurs claimed it flowed smoothly across the palate.

The Ketel One tasted like rubbing alcohol yet was voted #2. (I learned something about my volunteers that I’m not sure I want to know—apparently each has sampled rubbing alcohol.)

The filtered Taaka was rated #3.

So there you have it. Why spend $26.99 on expensive vodka (or $5.00 on a Brita Filter) when you can simply pour Taaka directly from the bottle and have a smooth, satisfying experience?

(I think alert reader Laine deserves a tee-shirt.)DSC02589

Tour de le Purete

If you live here and have never shopped at The Purity, shame on you.

You need to know what you’re missing.welcome.com

When you walk into the store, head to the right. Look up at the back wall.

The welcome sign is above my favorite section of the store—the place where the Cyrus O’Leary’s chocolate cream pies are kept. Buy one. (Caution: Do not read the nutrition label.) Eat it. Go bonkers with delight.

Also toward the back of the store is—


You can gather here gather between 8:00-8:15am with those who ran out of beer overnight and again between the hours of 4:00-6:00pm with those who need to refresh their evening inventory.

Think all The Purity has are chocolate cream pies, beer and Taaka Vodka? Think again. They also have—


Just look at all these healthy cereal choices.

These cookies are gluten free and truly delicious. The WOW on the package is what you’ll say after you eat the first one.


I haven’t tried these, but don’t they look good? Buy them and tell me what you think.


Thought only your high-end stores carry fancy-dancy crackers?

You probably don’t even know you can buy cup of coffee at The Purity. It’s not Starbucks or the Mendocino Cookie Company, but it’s good coffee. (I confess I’ve never tried it, but it’s at The Purity so it has to be good.)coffee

You might want to explore shopping at night. I love The Purity after dark because it’s so mysteriously beautiful. I can sneak in and buy a chocolate cream pie while wearing pajamas. If I run into anybody I know, chances are they’re also wearing pajamas.purityatnight

The Purity is open until 8:00pm Monday-Saturday; 7:00pm on Sunday.

Shed that cloak of shame. Go to The Purity now. I promise you’ll love it.

Nice Car!

Sometimes when I chauffeur Gary to his grocery outing, my Preferred Parking Place at The Purity (PPPP) is taken.

This spot allows me a 180-degree view of Franklin Street and the ability to witness any manner of craziness while I wait for Gary to do his shopping. My second choice is the handicap spot nearest the store’s entrance (we have a disabled placard).

On this day, as I sit in the car in parking place choice #2, a guy in a small beige pickup with a black canopy over the bed swooshes in on my left to create his own a handicap spot closer to the door.

I want to tell him, “Just because there’s a few feet of curb painted blue doesn’t mean this is a designated handicap spot.” I’ll bet he doesn’t even have a handicap placard. I’m tempted to get out of my car and check. But this isn’t the gym. I’m not moving.

I’m bitter that my view of Franklin Street is now limited to 50 degrees, and only when I crane my neck to look out the driver’s side window.

Staking claim to the PPPP

I’m not able to go to The Purity every day and I don’t have all day to hang out there (at least until I retire when, sorry kids, you’ll have to put up with comments like, “Why does your mom hang outside The Purity all day?”). My precious time spent in the parking lot must allow the potential for maximum return.

I hear the approach of a vehicle that sounds like it’s running on a diet of chili beans. A blue mid-sized pickup with large patches of rust cancer is shaking and rattling into what is clearly designated a loading zone (curb painted yellow = loading zone) to my right. Like the small beige pickup guy, this driver creates his own parking space.

Amid the clinking of change, I hear mumble, mumble, “bottle,” hacking coughs, animal-like grunts, “bottle.”

The pickup door opens with a nasty groan. A passenger emerges. With a painful grunt, the truck door is slammed shut.

The man looks like a collapsed pup tent. He stumbles as he steps onto the walkway. His knees don’t fully bend, and he has to lean to one side and then the other to propel himself forward. His head is like a bobble doll threatening to send him flying backwards. I’m ready to leap from the car to assist if he falls.

I estimate he’s in his mid-thirties. His facial features are limp and his lips clumsily hold back saliva. His auburn hair is thick with a natural wave. With proper care and conditioning, it could be lovely.

He stops directly in front of my car, and wobbles to face me. He strains to focus as his left eye lingers at the outer portion of the socket.

“HEY!” His voice is the quality of nails shaken in a tin can.

I smile.

His top half swaggers from the hips. “THAT’S A NICE CAR!”

“Thank you.” He’s right. It is a nice car. It’s dark red and kind of sporty and gets great gas mileage. I give him a little wave.

He raises his left hand and uses his wave to assist him in turning towards his original path,the change rattling in his pocket as he makes his way into The Purity to buy his bottle.

The Best Gift Ever for Under $10

For this project, you’ll need:

  • 200ml bottle of Taaka Genuine Vodka located (for anti-theft purposes) behind the checkout counter at The Purity.
  • A bag of snack pack M&M’s (you can’t find these at The Purity; try Rite Aid).
  • Thin ribbon (you should already have some).
  • Hole punch (you should already have one).


1. Punch a hole in the corner of each pack of M&M’s.

2. Cut a 12-inch of longer length of ribbon.

3. Tie the ribbon securely around the neck of the bottle. Use the ribbon to string together  about four packs of M&M’s.

4. Tie the ribbon.

5. Flip the bottle over and repeat above steps on opposite side.

6. Cut long lengths of different color ribbon. Use scissors to curl each piece of ribbon. Secure the ribbon to the wreath with your original piece of ribbon. Curl that ribbon, too.

Voila! For less than $10 (the M&M’s will cost more than the vodka), here’s what you end up with:

Now you need to determine who’s going to get this great gift. I gave mine to a friend after her third (and youngest) child went off to college.