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Woodrose Scenes

The iconic Woodrose Cafe in Garberville, California started in 1977 and was our unofficial community center for forty years, a local institution which is still going strong. At her thirtieth birthday party the owner and founder Pam Hanson did a strip dance on the counter. Sitting in there with coffee and breakfast I first heard on the restaurant radio the news about the Jonestown Massacre in November 1978 and nine days later that San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor  George Moscone had been assassinated.

When I moved to the little country lane where Pam lived just outside town in 2001 I noticed that her next-door neighbor had a small sign in the back window of his truck cab saying “Boycott The Woodrose.” Pam had warned her manager not to hire her neighbor for a waitress job, probably aware that she eventually tires of and fires most of her workers. She hired her anyway, good help is hard to find, and sure enough before the year was out Pam fired her and her husband put the sign in his truck.

Pam approached me and offered to trade Woodrose gift certificates for bags of “especiale,” the mini-buds, also called babies and rejects, which were culled from the manicured pounds of marijuana which went to market for thousands of dollars back then. Once a year I met her in one of her outbuildings where she took a rigid box of  ready-made gift certificates down from a shelf, signed them, and wrote the amount on each one. The first time I just got hundreds but as the years went by I requested twenty-fives and fifties as well. 

Those were the glory days trading minis for two to three thousand dollars worth of gift certificates each year. I walked up to breakfast practically every day, traded with other restaurants, gave them as gifts, took friends out to eat, and ordered takeout lunches for trim crews. 

When this started she gave me $1400 in gift certificates for every pound of especiale, then over the years the price dipped to $800, finally bottomed out at $400, and then the deal was over when the price of pot tanked. (Before me Larry Carpenter had worked the same trade with her until he died, she told me.)

When I ran out of gift certificates I took a friend for breakfast at the Woodrose and brought thirty dollars in quarters with which to pay. In a cash economy there's always oatmeal boxes full of change sitting around. 

When I got the bill I tried to pay with the quarters but the waitress brought me some empty paper money rolls and said “You have to roll them up.” 

“I don't wanna,” I said.

“You have to roll them up!” she insisted.

“I don't wanna, times are hard!” 

She was like some mother, I was a recalcitrant child, and my friend was thoroughly embarrassed. Finally I thought what the fuck, broke the stalemate, and paid with real paper money. As we were walking toward the door I thought, “But this means they win” and I turned and bellowed loudly, “Boycott The  Woodrose!” 

A couple hours later I got “the call” from Pam. “The waitresses think you're a jerk,” she said. 

“Yeah, probably,” I replied.

A couple days later Pam called again. “The waitresses aren't mad at you and you can come back anytime.” And then she apologized to me.

Pam finally sold everything: The Woodrose, her home and rentals, and moved up to Ferndale. I noticed she was back in town the other day, put together a collection of my latest stories, and stalked her down at the Chautauqua deli. 

“Pam, I know you're one of my biggest fans so I brought you some stories,” I said, offering her the folder. 

“Not anymore,” she said. “You wrote something about a 'Woodrose Lesbian'.” Huh? I did? So what? 

“Do you have any especiale?” she asked.

“Well, sure, call me or drop by or something some time,” I said.

I drove the mile home feeling bad--one of my biggest fans didn't like my stories anymore. When I got home I thought oh fuck it and made up a big bag of minis for her. I stalked her down again in town, gave her the bag, maybe a life-time supply, and drove back home with a smile on my face, feeling good again.

That was the last time I saw Pam.

Mexico Bullfight

All that was left of a tattered banner waving across the street was the head of a bull pointing its horn up the side street. Did I want to see a bull mauled today? Sure, why not, if the ring isn't too far away. It was in the next block and I walked past the ticket-taker without paying as the last fight of the afternoon began.

As the big black bull came loping out of the gate four matadors lead it in a dance around the ring. Then Mister Big with the lavender cape took over and distracted the beast while a man with two barbed spears crept up and jabbed the hooks into the upper back of the running bull. It bellowed gruffly, drooled, then sweated white pus from the top of its face. Two more spears were jabbed in, the attacker ran to save ass, then leaped over the wall. The bull bled down its back and tried to shake off the three-foot-long decorated spears which swung wildly against its body until one finally did fall off.

Sometimes one, sometimes four matadors let it around the ring until the main man took over, his bright red cape hiding a sword. They danced to the music then he drove the shaft into the area behind the neck. The bleeding bull groaned, dashed at another lavender cape, and an armored horseman lead him to alongside the stands where a spectator pushed the sword deeper in.

The three other matadors returned and flashed lavender directions to the frenetic animal and this time the bull scored, pierced an arm, and drew blood. The man limped off then quickly returned and landed another sword into the neck of the staggering bull.

So this black creature was hanging three spears, two swords, and pissing its life away as the kids yelped around me. The four drove it into a corner then mind-fucked it, switching off constantly until the beast kicked at the lavender flags. One cape was put on the ground, the bull bent over to look, and down into his neck came the killer spike, then again and again—this was a hard one to kill.

The main matador with the bright red cape aimed carefully and drove the length of steel into the spinal cord of the dreaded spectacle. The bull jerked, groaned, and fell to a giant sweating bloody heap. The crowd thundered approval and the handler came with a dagger and finished the job carving out the cord with his arm in up to the elbow.

The horses came out to pull away the carcass and the crowd roared. One spear lay twenty feet into the ring and before I could get it an official handed it to a little boy.

“A ver?” I said to the boy. (Can I see?)

I looked at the man while the carcass was being harnessed, held out my hand, and the kid gave me the spear. The beastly remains were pulled across the floor of the arena as the people cheered the loudest yet, all eyes on the bloody amusement.

I jumped down the steps, out the door, then ran through the gate not stopping until I'd gone two blocks up Hildago street with my souvenir. I walked home past the faire then drove the bloody shaft into the skeleton of a dead avocado tree.

Last Chance For The Cleveland Browns

It was the year of Brian Sipe and one degree in Cleveland when I arrived at Municipal Stadium for the NFL playoff game between the Division Champ Browns and the big bad Oakland Raiders, the Wildcard team, on January 4th, 1981. Outside the stadium I bought a ticket for just $2.50 it was so cold.

We were standing at the end of the aisle watching the game unfold while moving constantly to keep warm. Strangers all, we were slapping each other on the back and hollering whenever the Browns made a good play. Oakland's kicker Matt Bahr was practicing with his net while Don Cockroft, Cleveland's punter and kicker, was nowhere to be seen--maybe he was saving it for the game?

It was a snowy icy day by windy Lake Erie. The chill sent many home at half-time enabling me to find a great seat in the upper deck although some nearby season-ticket holders grumbled as I squatted. 

I looked down and saw what football was really all about: There were the receivers running their patterns, the cornerbacks and safeties maneuvering into position; the quarterback faded back and the linemen came together. It was all happening at once before my eyes, much different then the partial view supplied by television. However if I turned my head and coughed, missing a play, there was no instant replay to watch.

When the crowd roared I had to cover my ears. These were the fanatics who disputed every referee's call. I said, “Hey I'm for the Browns but that really didn't look like pass interference.”

What? The fanatics bellowed, wrong the beloved Browns?

The teams scrambled around on the frozen field and Cockroft couldn't convert thirty-yard field goals but the game was still close because his shanked punts rolled thirty-five to forty-five yards on the slippery turf keeping the upstart Raiders back in their own territory.

With two minutes to go Oakland scored leaving the Browns down by two points on their own twenty yard-line. Time for one more last-minute comeback by the team which had been dubbed the “Kardiac Kids” by the insensitive press.

Sipe smoothly hit his receivers as the Browns moved up the field and when they crossed the fifty yard-line we could feel the comeback. Then they moved the ball down past the 30 and onto the 18, the fans in the stands were going wild!

There were just forty-seven seconds left, first down on the 18 yard line trailing 14-12. It would have been a 35 yard field goal on the day Cockroft went down.

“Just be careful!” I tried to yell to Sipe but the crowd was going crazy and I had to cover my ears. Brian Sipe went for it all and got nothing, the pass was intercepted in the end-zone by the soon to be Superbowl Champ Raiders.

60,000 of us quietly filed out of the stadium, losers. Cleveland still out of it and it doesn't look good in the gridiron future.


  1. Wineguy September 15, 2021

    Ya, the old Woodrose was great. Large portions, delicious food, not expensive and park right at the door. thank for the memory of the past glory of Garberville…

    • Paul Modic September 18, 2021

      Ah those potatoes!
      Must be a secret recipe.

  2. Bruce McEwen September 15, 2021

    I washed dishes at the Woodrose, before I found the AVA, and it was a great place to work. I loved the sign from Woodstock on the back door.

    • paul modic September 18, 2021

      I think I heard you met “H” in Whitethorn when you came back for a sabbatical the next time.
      I DO have a few colorful stories about that character…
      (always enjoyed your reporting–when crime comes back will you also?)

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