Anderson Valley’s Black Site?

by Bruce Patterson, February 10, 2011

When nobility becomes the subject of baseless rumors, whispers give way to a roar of silence. Think about the poor, threadbare peasants cowering in the village in the shadow of Count Dracula’s crag-top castle. You happen into the village, step into the tavern and announce yourself by asking the assembled rabble who in the world built that insanely monumental, and yet somehow hauntingly dismal, shabby stone edifice perched like a vulture on the skyline? Instantly everybody’s words catch in their throats, they recoil in horror and resolutely face their moldering mugs of mead, their walnut heads sinking into their shoulders. Why the most courageous of the bunch, out of compassion and using muttered verbal code and subtle body language, warns you that in these parts strangers don’t be asking questions if they know what’s good for them.

Something like that is happening here now regarding the giant new land acquisition made by a person or persons unknown. Everything about the place is tippy-top secret, and supposedly all of the employees hidden up in there (nobody knows how many there are or where they came from) must hold to a lifelong Oath of Silence regarding all they have seen and heard or risk being prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Then, once everybody started wondering aloud just what these unknown entities had to hide, an army of security guards appeared and started patrolling the parcel’s boundaries and providing security for the gangs of imported laborers erecting a wrought iron estate fence topped with razor wire, motion detectors and night vision cameras. Because the security guards are all muscle-bound, silent, square-jawed, buzz-cut, blue-eyed and wearing khaki shirts, black leather weapons/utility belts hanging from suspenders, plaid Bermuda shorts and red and white Indonesian running shoes without socks, most people assume they are either East Germans, Frenchmen or, possibly, Teutonic Slavs.

Tongues really got to wagging once it was discovered that the plat map containing the estate’s boundaries is missing from the Hall of Records over the hill in Ukiah. Then when folks learned that images of the place have been erased from Google Earth — you get your spaceship positioned directly overhead and all you see is shimmering fuzz — word spread that Ms. Barbara Streisand herself is moving up here to finish out her Golden Years in sublime seclusion. But after Ms. Streisand’s publicist not just publicly denounced the rumor as absolutely baseless but added that Ms. Streisand most heartily resents the insinuation that she is entering into her Golden Years — she’s currently working on what will be her very best album, thank you — that hope was dashed.

Everything changed once the helicopters came. Unlike any of the sorts of the helicopters anybody had ever seen, like fat black spiders sliding down their webs from your bedroom ceiling to your quilt, these helicopters dropped straight out of the stratosphere. They disgorged their cargo into the deepest, darkest woods and then they disappeared straight back up into the same exact hole in the sky they’d appeared out of. Throw in the multiple reliable eye-witness accounts of caravans of blacked-out Hummer-Vees coming in and out at all kinds of ungodly hours, and how sometimes in the dead of night uninhabited canyons light up under batteries of floodlights, profundo organ music reverberating through the hills and, when the wind is still, sounds like screaming banshees, and folks finally realized what was going on. Obviously the place is a new Pentagon Black Site, the helicopters are bringing in boxed terrorist suspects and so American National Security is at stake. Since loose lips sink battleships, responsible folks zipped theirs. Keeping the National Security Secret to themselves made them to feel sort of, well, patriotic. From now on, the respectable folks resolved, whenever tourists asked what in tarnation could be going on out there in the tangled sticks, they’d pretend to have no idea of what they were talking about.

So everybody was as snug as bugs in rugs until, one stormy night, a prominent citizen jumped up out of bed in fright. What if some of them terrorist suspects escape their boxes and get to running loose in the hills? What if the facility makes Anderson Valley a target of the International Terrorist Conspiracy? What if terrorists are already here in hiding awaiting the encrypted order to launch an all-out sneak attack on the facility? What if they annihilate the garrison, loot their weapons, break out their comrades, grab a hold of the fleet of Hummer-Vees and come after local citizenry?

Well the fellah shared his misgivings with his neighbor, his neighbor did likewise and here pretty quick everybody, nagging doubts swirling inside their aching heads, felt like they was right back to square one. What if their assumption is dead wrong and the strangers ain’t All American Black Water Rangers but cannibal pod people from outer space? That’d certainly explain the behavior of the helicopters — why all along they were flying saucers in disguise! Other, more levelheaded citizens started worrying over the possibility that the facility was really a military training camp for the New Christian Army, the Cape Cod Minutemen, the Irate Moralist Militia or God knows what.

When the rumor spread that the Reverend Sun-Myung-Moon has secretly returned — that’d explain the organ music, at least — even more questions flew. Is Anderson Valley ready for a new Chinchilla boom? Do we have the qualified labor force? Are the proper tax incentives in place? How will a giant Chinchilla plantation affect tourist’s spending habits, homeowner’s viewscapes and the valley’s genteel ambiance? What if some Chinchillas get loose and weasel their way into the already weakened and depleted ecosystem? What would that do to people’s peace of mind, quality of life and property values?

“For Sale: Anderson Valley Dream Home away from the rat race. Top notch, cut rate, must sell. Towering redwoods, flowery meadows, expansive ridgetop views and marauding Chinchillas eating us out of house and home. Kittens gone missing, dog traumatized. Will accept best cash offer. Please hurry.”

With everybody feeling threatened in one way or another — was it the Mexican Mafia? Sir Rupert “Pee-Pee” Murdock? Renegade Mormon polygamists? Scientologists? Mel Gibson? — a raucous, sweaty, roiling shoulder-to-shoulder community meeting was held in the Grange Hall. After the assembled stakeholders, as well as concerned citizens, vented their frustrations, fears and resentments, they democratically decided upon a plan of action. Since everybody most strenuously agreed that they were entitled to some answers, an ad hoc committee was elected to draft a list of questions, research who best to submit them to, and then report back to the Grange Hall in three days in order to, hopefully, have a plan good enough to be accepted by unanimous proclamation.

Finally realizing that they’d let such yahoo foolishness to get out of hand, the entity back east on Wall Street brought in an official spokesman to clear the air, answer everyone’s questions and put to rest everyone’s fears. The spokesman landed in Ukiah, exited his Lear jet, marched into the nearest aircraft hanger, waved cordial greetings to the assembled press, stepped behind the podium and set the record straight. No, he asserted unequivocally, they were not affiliated with the Pentagon, nor were they mercenaries, a militia or a religious cult of any kind. Incorporated as the Transnational Institute for the Advancement of World Peace, in fact they were the exact opposite of a religious cult since they were steadfastly ecumenical. What they have built in Anderson Valley is a conference center and retreat — nothing more, nothing less. Any questions?

Of course, there were plenty of questions, some simultaneously shouted out and others bubbling under raised, waving, hungry hands. But the spokesman laughed and good-naturedly shook his head. Claiming he had to say goodbye because he was needed in Dubai, he handed out brochures and invited everyone, assuming they could pass a security check and afford the fee, to attend their conference coming up this Easter week. While everybody was transfixed by the holographic beauty of their full color brochures, the spokesman made his exit.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *