Saturday, August 8, 2009

Pay it Forward

“Pay it forward, Man!”
“Don’t pay me back, but pay someone else back.”
“It is called paying it forward.”

There are no hippies like a Humboldt hippy. Walking down the streets of this sleepy town of 15,000 is like taking a step back in time. Everyone here smokes pot, which is not surprising considering that Humboldt County is the marijuana capitol of the United States, and most of the people walking around have beards and long hair or dreadlocks. I have not been to any other place where I wanted to take pictures more badly, or felt like I was less welcome to take pictures. Pedestrians here have the right of way, and there is a legal cap on the number of large corporations that can be located within the Arcata city limits.

I have been told that people here rebel by not smoking pot, and being well dressed and well groomed.

I love Arcata. I love the rain, and the orientation toward local everything, and I really love the burrito bus, where you can get massive, juicy breakfast burritos for about $6.50. I am staying with my friend Meredith and her boyfriend Nathan. Meredith works at a video store, and Nathan does accounting for Planned Parenthood. They rent an awesome apartment above a dentists office, complete with thick green carpet, stainless steel appliances from the 70s, and a massive wood burning stove in the middle of the room.

It is hard for me to image that they would ever use the wood burning stove, because the temperature here pretty much always stays between 70 and 40, with the main variance being in the amount of rainfall that they get at different parts of the year.

Staying with Meredith has been a vacation for me. I slept and read for most of yesterday afternoon, which was good considering that it was my first real break in a month. At night we sit around and play Wii bowling while eating sushi and enjoying a drink. During the day, when we are not resting, we wander around to the different stores, co-ops, glass shops, thrift stores, restaurants, etc.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Bagpipes Anyone?

Steep hillsides, covered in dark green red woods roll over the edge of jagged cliffs into an ocean of perfectly blue water. The coastline of northern California is like no other place that I have ever been. It rivals Alaska for beauty. The side of Highway 1 is cluttered with pullouts providing incredible views, and access to small, empty beaches. The beaches are like small alcoves, carved into the cliff face, and dotted with, tidal pools, caves, kelp, and small pebbles, only slightly to large to be considered sand. The occasional seal can be heard barking on the rocks further out to sea. Many places along the road permit open range cattle grazing, a n activity that lead to my first ever experience in the United States of seeing a cow walking along a paved road.

The coastline seems to stretch on forever, draped with the winding snake of highway 1. Finally, the highway passes through Fort Bragg, a beautiful little art town, before it turns slightly inland and joins highway 101 at Leggett, the home of the world famous drive through redwood. 101 then proceeds north for another hundred miles before finally passing through Eureka and arriving at Arcata, possibly one of the most beautiful towns I have seen in my life.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

There and Back Again

I will definitely give San Francisco an A for style. I am not a huge city person, as you have probably gathered from previous posts, so I generally do not have much to say that is positive about a place as large as San Francisco. The thing is, in spite of the bumper to bumper traffic, the choking pollution, and the roaring noise of the street, San Francisco still somehow managed to stay on my list of places that I enjoyed.

I think that a large part of the reason why I like San Francisco is that people here make an effort to make their city look nice. The air is polluted, but the streets are clean, the houses are packed onto the street like sardines, but they are all attractive, with bright paint and detailed masonry. There is a beautiful park on the north shore of the city. The park is a large circle with a crescent shaped lake on one side which is mirrored by a crescent shaped building on the opposing side. At the center of the park is a massive dome, like a gazebo for giants, with two great arms extending to the north and the south. These arms are a series of 80 ft (maybe?) columns supporting stone arches reminiscent of the aqueducts of Rome.

The crescent shaped building houses the Exploratorium, a single massive room filled with displays and interactive exhibits that allow visitors, mostly children, to learn about all kinds of things including sound, light, kinetics, genetics, and geology.

Only a short drive west from the park is the legendary Golden Gate Bridge. There are really no words to describe the bridge except massive and imposing. It took me close to an hour to walk across the bridge, long enough for the weather to change from sunny to billowing fog, and definitely long enough for me to be glad that I had thought to bring a jacket. I did not remember how cold the north really is, even in summer.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Tan Butt

It is amazing to finally see trees again. I knew that I missed them, but I had no idea how much. Southern California is basically a big desert. The cities in that part of the country feel like they were built just because there was nothing better to do with all that empty land. When you reach Bakersfield the scenery finally begins to change from scrub brush to a never ending orchard. The orchard extends far into the north and gradually shifts into beautiful rolling hills of grass and low trees. Finally, as you make the ascent into the mountains surrounding Yosemite the pasture land turns into a forest of massive evergreens.

It is in this evergreen forest that I have determined to take up a new hobby, naked hiking. There are several reasons for this new hobby of mine, not the least of which is my white butt. When you are naked, you become much more aware of your environment, which is a good thing if you are a photographer. Naked hiking also makes you much more cautious about other people, which can in turn make you more likely to notice wildlife. Finally, I already did it in Big Bend and I would hate to break my streak (pun intended).

Alone in the Dark

Ostrand Lake is the first truly solo hike that I have ever been on. The hike is a slightly strenuous 6.2 mile hike to a beautiful mountain lake. I arrived early and selected a camp site that was on the opposite side of the lake from the handful of other people in the area. After making camp, I took a quick dip in the clear waters, and then stretched out nude on some smooth rocks, with nothing but some ants and a pleasant breeze to keep me company.

That evening, after enjoying a can of beef stew cooked over hot coals, I got out my bible and began to pray and read. I had a question that needed answering, and a request that I wanted to make of G-d. Is it wrong to beg G-d for something that you know is not right? This is what I needed to know as I lay there doing exactly what I was wondering about. I spent nearly an hour pleading with G-d, wondering why he designed me to have such strong desires that I could not fulfill at this time. Wondering why he built me so that I longed for exactly the kind of person that I cannot be with.

The only true comfort that I had was a passage in scripture that kept coming to mind where G-d promises that he has plans to bless me and not to hurt me.

“L-rd, I really need you to do something for me. I need you to change circumstances so that I can be with the one that I long for, or I need you to provide me with someone better.”

I feel selfish, like I am doing something wrong, when I pray like that. I don’t believe that it is wrong to beg of G-d when begging is all that you can do. David seemed to beg God for things on a regular basis.

What do you think?