Issue 35, Final Fringe

humboldt waterfronts

by d. Issue 26 05.30.2011

woodley island marina

it’s morning.  i’m home visiting.  my parents are out.  charlie comes by.  he wants to go on a walk with my dad.  my dad is out.  do i wanna go?  i put on my shoes.  charlie has wobby, a dog, along.  we take charlie’s green ford ranger.  charlie has a round face and a round nose and messy white hair and a big, shabby white beard and smiling eyes, sometimes gray, as i recall them, sometimes green.  he’s a big man with pain in one shoulder due to years of handball.  we stop at some place downtown he and my dad go to for coffee, and he gets a red-eye, and i get coffee black.  and we go to the waterfront.

a dreary, gorgeous, stinking and sweet-smelling thing, it used to be busy docks and train yard.  but the fishing industry went under and the only fishing happening off the docks was families going out on the weekends and casting lines, hanging out and eating lunch and such on those heavy, tar-smelling structures, little kids putting fish in buckets of bay water and watching them swim in circles.  and maybe that’s what got somebody thinking to convert the docks to a nice place for doing fun things at, like basketball.  so they tore down a warehouse or whatever and built a teen recreation center.  i was a teen, and it scared me.  the train stopped running and the tracks are grown over with and buried under things and dust.  and they put in a little parking lot and a nicely paved path and this outdoor amphitheater, and they got some big plans worked up for the huge dirty plot of weedy land the path is on today. but, as anyone can see, it all fell through and the weeds and shrubs took over like they are, and the homeless moved in and made camps—til a week ago the eureka police and a crew went through with bushwhackers and took out all the bushes for camping in unseen.

in the amphitheater now are some homeless people smoking pot.  on the bay in matching wood kayaks is an elderly couple.  the path is of smooth concrete, but you have to be very careful where you step because there’s the shit of dogs all over everywhere.  we weave and jump and circumvent and sip our coffee, and wobby takes a dump and charlie gets out a plastic bag and picks it up and ties a knot in it, and i hold his coffee for him.

it was the dream of his generation, he says, that this new society was coming on, and everyone was going, it’s about time, to understand that it was good to care about each other. and how everything was going to be fair, like how people with great jobs like doctors would work four hours a day, and people with crappy jobs like garbage collectors would work two hours a day, and everyone would be paid the same, and all this utopia was on its way like history.  but now, he says, it’s his generation controls congress.  and all of them bought up by corporations.  you want to understand the laws in this country, he tells me, follow the money.

a ways down from the amphitheatre, under the bridge that over the bay joins eureka and manila, is an unkempt cinderblock restroom, gravel lot for parking in, a floating dock with room for three small boats, and a washboard loading ramp.  charlie dumps the plastic bag in the trash.  beyond the restroom we take a path of rocks and rubble through a homeless encampment.  a man asks us for change.  he says something about how times are really hard and something about his wife and child and groceries.  i don’t have a cent on me.  charlie has forty-three cents and gives it to him and says there are free lunches at st. paul’s.  and as we’re walking away, the man says, fuck you.  and then he says it louder.  and then he hurls the money at us and says, fuck you, i don’t want your fuckin’ money.  fuck you.  and he keeps shouting that as we walk away.

and charlie says he just can’t tell, is obama letting us down, or is he just so smart and playing his cards so really close to his chest?  i hope it’s the latter, he says.  i really do.  he says that ted kennedy has dedicated his entire political career to national healthcare—thirty years—and still it hasn’t happened.  every month 3,000 people lose healthcare.  in the world, he says, the united states ranks thirty-seventh in its healthcare system, and the country that’s thirty-sixth is something like ukakistan or some-like name, some country nobody has heard of.  how can we say, he asks me, that 50 million people in our nation without healthcare is . . . okay?  he gestures to an expanse upon the dirt of what appears to be wads of stuffing and says it’s where the bushwhacker hit someone’s sleeping bag.

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d. is a graduate of the University of California, Davis, and the University of Charlottesville, Virginia.  d.’s work has appeared in Tattoo Highway (”what happens when a rose plucks coyote”), (”turangalila: an interview”) and Orion Headless (”the big boss & the beautiful orphan”).

bio image by bradd skubinna. “sensible people.” spring 2011. installation of strawberry baskets, bread bag clasps, plastic lids, plastic bottle caps, plastic toothpicks, pill bottles, broken reflectors etc…

Click to see larger bio image