Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Wealth is a very dangerous thing to hold in one's hand

"We don't smoke marijuana in Muskogee."
— Merle Haggard
THE HEADLANDS CAFE, Ft. Bragg, CA — Lots of vineyards and shit around here.

Did you see the movie Sideways? I am in it, it is me, if you take out the sex and the wine and most of the other stuff.

In Santa Cruz I stayed with Russell Brutsche, who did the art for the cover of Iowa Terror.

Rus is a self-described old hippie, art major, who rents out his home to a family and lives in the garage in back with no TV and no overhead.

I met with the folks at the Peace & Justice Center then went for a walk with Rus in the woods. Rus told me about art and peace and shit and I looked around for Bigfoot. He told me about an action being planned at the local military recruiter's offices to commemorate the death of the
4,000th American soldier in Iraq.

The next morning back up through Oakland and San Francisco, up through Sonoma and wine country. Can you imagine the amount of labor it takes to put those vine contraptions together?

There are cows lounging on the green hillsides like Roman senators, some big sheep.

I turn left at a busy intersection in Willits, headed for Ft. Bragg.

Lots of redwoods around there and shit.

Winding, winding, up, down, it's almost like the highway headed north out of Los Angeles they call "the grapevine." It's third gear straight up, in the dark, then eighty miles an hour straight down with semis and SUVS all around you, curving, and you are going to die. It takes you
about half an hour to descend down to the plains around Bakersfield, like an airliner approaching landing.

Excuse me. ... I'm going to put on my earphones and listen to Jerry Jeff Walker sing about Charlie Dunn, too much jabbering around me.

I spent most of yesterday stopping to pee. Some days are like that. Some days aren't.

Regular readers will recall that during last year's tour I got caught in traffic in Chicago and had to let fly on the floor of my car. I got home and Ruth asked me what's that smell? Nothing. I can't smell anything. I left the windows down all summer. It's fine now.

Yesterday I missed the turn for GG Bridge, Hwy 101 North, and ended up on the filming site for that old TV show "The Streets of San Francisco." Woah. That is when you think you are going to die. Trapped in a big city at an endless red light, you are lost, you have to pee so bad, so bad. And you will die.

And then you don't.

"It's a half an inch of water and you think you're gonna drown."
— John Prine

And then there is the GG Bridge.


But it's foggy and you can barely see well enough to drive, let alone admire the bridge. But the family back home doesn't know that. You can still tell them you have been to the GG Bridge — in San Francisco, and you did not pee in your pants or your car! You are quite the old Dad. Your car will not stink this summer. You are a hero.

Lots of ocean around here and shit.

I did not know that. You come out of the winding roads and maybe you have not stopped your car to throw up and you cruise into Ft. Bragg and there is the goddamn ocean right there, crashing against the rocks.


Seagulls swooping and shit. Some are mostly white, others are mostly grey. They are big, like ducks, like the mourning doves in Tucson.

And it's whale time out there. If you stare long enough you might see one. Greys. You don't.

I did a book signing at Cheshire Books. Nobody showed, but the owner, Linda Rosengarten, took time to sit and tell me the history of the area, about the mill, the fishing, the Pomo Indians. I guess Ft. Bragg was named for Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, "the home of the airborne and special forces operations," which was named for Gen. Braxton Bragg.

The mill is closed, a toxic waste dump dilemma, the salmon and halibut are gone, the Pomo are walking the streets, and Braxton Bragg is dust.

And they had a dinner-with-the-author meal at five at Mendo Bistro, very fancy.

We had a table for eight, but it was just me and Linda, my guide for the day. Linda is very nice. She is deaf so I have to look at her as I talk. We both order mahi-mahi. I've never heard of it. It's okay, but it makes me think of eating cocker-spaniel. We also have mashed potatoes. I like those.

Afterwards Linda went to the library to set up chairs and I went back out to the ocean, past the turn to Pomo College, to call Ruth and sit and watch for oceans, for God, for sea turtles.

There were two people besides Linda at my thing. It was good. We talked about 911 and elections and the government and protesting.

I spent the night at the home of Ft. Bragg city council person Meg Courtney.

She had a late meeting, but in the morning we had coffee and bagels. She said one of the big issues of the night before had to do with marijuana.

Seems the citizens of Ft. Bragg are haggling over how much marijuana to smoke.

Back home we don't talk about marijuana. We talk about whether it is moral to mow your lawn on Sunday.

I am glad there is a place in this world that they are not worried about going to hell for bagging grass on God's Big Day.

Meg and I ask each other why marijuana isn't legal. I wonder why we have millions of "this Bud's for you" commercials and then we go and put people into prison for years and years for smoking marijuana.

Oh ... on the way up I saw the sign for San Quentin. I looked right. There it is. May it burn. May the walls crumble. May the Pomo Indians rise up again, may the forests grow back and the fish return.

I'm back ...

I watched Zeitgeist again last night, on the CD that Michael and Maureen Smith gave me in Santa Cruz. It scares the shit out of me, especially that first part about religion.

The intro by George Carlin is also great.

But it's like — there is no God and shit — that is a lie, too.


Okay, on to Chico. I'll be staying with Marylyn. I knew her back in Omaha in the days of resistance of the '80s.


— Mike

For those of you who have time, here is a piece of mine that is in Cost of Freedom.

It's from Terror Nation, Mainstay Press, 2006.

This is Charlie, who is in the mental institution in his small Iowa hometown for writing anti-Bush letters to the editor.

Here is one of his letters.

To President George W. Bush,

Sir, I cannot help but disrespect you, no matter how hard I might try not to.

I was raised to respect authority: mom and dad, teachers, the police, the President.

But that's unlikely anymore.

I am older and I cannot help but see certain things ...

Sir, I must tell you, because you do not appear to know: compassion is the most important thing, the only thing that really, really matters.

If you were truly a man of God, I would not need to inform you. And it is the poor who are most important in the world.

Wealth is a very dangerous thing to hold in one's hand. I fear it is too late for you. No, of course I must take that back. It can never be too late.

What I mean to say is that it appears you will not change, that you are
a lost soul.

And no matter who it is, that is never something I could be happy about.

Even for you.

— Charlie Johnson




March 25: Chico
CSU Campus
Glenn Hall, Room 212, 6:30pm
526 Broadway 95928
(530) 893-9078

March 26: Eureka, CA
100 Fires Bookstore

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