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Fort Bragg: My Hometown

Fort Bragg -- where the streets are straight, the fish are biting and the bars stay open in all weather.

When I was a mallet-headed brat, we used to drive down to the ocean and toss our garbage off a little cliff. Sewage poured forth from great pipes at the same spot, and folks acted as if this was a good and reasonable plan. You can still find trash pile on the rocks there; engine blocks molded into the cracks between rocks, softening strips of rubber, rusted wheel rims, a great many boot soles and bits of plastic. Of course the greatest treasure is "Glass Beach" were decades worth of litter has been pushed by tidal action into a colorful mess of water worn glass chips.

This product of blindness remains to remind us of how our actions -- our cycle of consumption and "disposal" -- stay with us. It must have seemed just too easy then, and it was.

Nowadays we haul our garbage to the landfill out behind Caspar where the gulls and ravens feed, and bulldozers push soil and garbage into ever higher mountains. As the population of Fort Bragg increases, the days of the Caspar landfill’s usefulness dwindle. Somewhere we trust mighty intellects are devising new schemes for ridding us of our waste.

The ocean, as if motivated by revenge, pushes its breeze through the sewage aeration pond system on the point beyond the Georgia-Pacific mill. The smell of shit rides this breeze through the mill and into town.

* * *

Wasted Lives — I'll call him Bob. He’s long and slim, somehow stays alive. He has a girlfriend, Cindy. They walk around, mope around.

In the fall of 1986 they camped down on Pudding Creek in a nest beside the water just upstream of the railroad tunnel. I went in there and poked around after rain evicted them. They had built a kind of hut in a burned-out stump, using scraps of wood they had dragged from the pile of wreckage left over from when the tunnel caved in in 1976.

In fact, it looked like they had spent a few nights in the broken boxcar which still lies on its side at that end of the tunnel. They left a lot of clothes. Worn-out jeans, torn brown corduroy jackets, socks, a few ratty sleeping bags were there, half buried in silt. I suppose they just couldn't take much of their shit or maybe it was wet and they knew where they could get more.

Potatoes were sprouting inside plastic produce bags.

I found a deck of cards, dog-eared, moldy, marked with red and white wax which had dripped from candles mounted in candle notches built into the stump. Lumps of wax, bristling with grizzled old matchsticks, sat on crates they’d used as tables and old railroad ties they sat on.

A least three and sometimes four people lived in the damp little camp. These days I see them frequently wandering the streets. Sometimes I see them camping down on the beach at Noyo Harbor. I guess the cops root them out wherever they stay before too long.

This fellow Bob once told me he spent time in Boonville, playing a kind of sport involving men running full speed at each other on the street in front of a bar and butting heads. Does anyone know if this still goes on?

* * *

God damn hippie — when I ride my bike downtown with the baby in her little seat, people point at her and say, "Look, how cute." And then they look up at me, grinning the grin of simple happiness. The fatter, stupider ones let their faces express confoundment. You can easily see their thinking, "That happy little baby is being hauled around by some kind of long haired god damned hippie." There is much more ironic conversation in my life now. It used to be easy to clam up and sink down, but when you pack a baby you find yourself talking to all kinds of different people.

When you live in Fort Bragg you live with contradiction. 

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