One of the reasons I started this blog was to jumpstart my writing. I’m the sort of person who writes in fits and bursts. It’s horrible, it lacks discipline and it’s a terrible way to develop as a writer. I can go for weeks on end angrily eyeing my computer, willing myself to sit down and start typing- but I won’t. (I’ll point out right here that I just cooked up a burrito and checked into twitter because I have the attention span of a four year old).

BUT, when I do write, I love it. I love looking back on things I’ve written in the past reading them with fresh eyes and most of the time, wondering what the hell I was thinking. I jumped on the blog thing early and I have two blogs from high school, that as of this writing, are still sitting on the web. Sometimes I’ll click through and read a few paragraphs, giving me a window into someone’s mind, who this far down the road, only seems vaguely familiar. I also had an earlier incarnation of this blog that I wrote some of while living on a ranch in Humboldt County. Sadly, at the time I was so poor/stupid that I let it expire and didn’t back it up. It saddens me to think that all the time and effort of that blog vanished into digital emptiness.

This is a long winded way of saying that I’m writing again, outside of this blog, which has made updates tough. All the things I’ve written on this blog, most of which are silly and inconsequential, have led me to this point, where I finally have something- an idea that is starting feel fleshed out. And I have a friend, Nils Parker, who has been willing to shepherd me through the process of development and help me shape the clay, if you will. So this idea, while a simple enough one, when you explain it in a few sentences, has captured my imagination and time. And that ever frightening word “pitching” is finally something that is within my reach (if I don’t screw it up). One day, when the outcome of this journey is certain, I’d like to share it with you (and if I can stay away from twitter and microwaveable burritos, I will).

But, in the meantime, dear reader, I’m going to start posting a few stories I wrote about my time in Humboldt County. The first of which is below.

Sidelines Bar is just a bar.

You can bring in food, but they aren’t serving any. It sits lazily on one side of the Arcata town square, never too busy (excepting Friday College Nights) and always has some real characters inside. The interior resembles a pretty stereotypical college/sports bar atmosphere, lots of signage, lots of TVs and fortunately (or unfortunately) lots of cheap drinks. Sidelines gets a wide variety of patronage- from the homeless guy selling weed on the streetcorner, to more wealthy HSU kids, to the numerous old weird guys who just seem to sit around and get fucked up and stare at college kids.

And there was the gorgeous 40 year old pool shark, wearing just nice enough clothes to stand out in flannel-heavy Arcata, whom every drunk saw fit to take a pass at. And there were the blacked out lesbians, who consistently rooted for the Raiders, in various stages of alcohol induced anger. There was Reggie, one of the few friends, if you could call a loose bar acquaintance a friend, I ever made in town. A rare black man in Arcata, who was seemingly dating at least 3 women at a time, constantly reaching for his phone and cursing with each text, both received and typed.

The draw for me was simple: I could be anyone in this bar. And of course that I could buy six beers for under 15 bucks. I only came once a week at the heighth of our willingness to trek into town (Big decision: do we go in on Friday and check out cute girls? Or come in Sunday morning and watch football?) and never enough to get recognized by more than a few of the real town degenerates.

My roommate had the habit of making up convincing back-stories to unsuspecting locals. He’s a tall, slim guy and one of his more inventive stories was that he had come to Humboldt to be a long range EMT. “Well when hikers get stranded, I trek into the woods to give them initial care until we can chopper them out.” I don’t even know if these guys exist- but goddamn did people eat that story up. It wasn’t that our story wasn’t interesting enough (two guys in Hollywood give up TV/Film work to live on a ranch 20 miles outside of town- people did tend to have questions), but I think he enjoyed the exercise of being someone else. And that’s just the thing about Humboldt. You can be anyone, no one. It’s a town of escape. “The Lost Coast” sits masked by fog, inviting people to come and lose themselves or find someone they didn’t know they were. I certainly fell into the latter category and maybe a bit of the former.

When you live 20 miles from town, one would deduce it would take a bit of planning to have a “bar night” and you would be right. Unfortunately for me, I suck at planning. I’ve never liked it, I hate people who are meticulous about it and at this point, my “career” and resume read like a list of jobs chosen via dartboard.

One Friday night, both my roommate and I had a bit too much to drink and had firmly placed ourselves in the “cabbing it” category. As we stumbled out of Sidelines, getting our usual “Who the fuck are these two?” glares from the two Samoan offensive linemen that worked the door, I grabbed my phone begging it to work. My phone and I had an abusive marriage- I abused the shit out of it and it only occasionally got turned on. And being that I lived on a ranch with no cell service, I rarely paid her any attention. However, this particular night, the sweet drunken nothings I whispered into her ear got me a signal and I rang up the one taxi service in Arcata.

This is my best recollection:

“Plaza Cab, how can I help you?”

“Hey there, unintelligible, cab, Arcata square… Sidelines.”

“Excuse me sir, you’d like a cab to pick you up at Sidelines?”

“Yeeaah.”

“And where is the drop off?”

At this point I remember looking at my roommate completely confused. I did know where we were going, to my aunt’s boyfriend’s house. But at this particular juncture (being in a strange town and more to the point, fucked up) I had no idea how to explain it to her. What I did know was that my aunt’s boyfriend lived near the flower farm where he worked.

“The flower plant.”

“The flower plant sir?”

“Yeah, the one in Arcata.”

Silence.

“Okay sir. The cab will be there shortly.”

Except the cab wasn’t there shortly. So I went back inside, had a beer and sat around, until it occurred to me to maybe call the cab company back. And as I recall the conversation went something like this:

“Plaza Cab.”

“Uhhh, hi, I ordered a cab.”

“Yes at Sidelines, you never showed up. I called your phone.”

“No you didn’t. I don’t have a missed call.”

“Sir, do you understand how cabs work?”

Now right here I said something very mean. I don’t quite remember what, but whatever it said it led to the next conversation with my roommate, after I demanded that he deal with the angry cab lady.

“Greg you jackass, you got us banned from Plaza Cab.”

“Why?”

“Does it fucking matter?”

No, it didn’t fucking matter and we were standing outside of Sidelines, no longer welcome to use the cab service and cold as balls. As the bar thinned out and closed down, we migrated towards the corner, where a number of well, homeless people, were hanging out. Before I relate the events that followed, let me once again state that both my roommate and I were in a severe state of fucked up, not to mention pissed off and cold. As we edged our way into the circle, my roommate tapped one of the bearded degenerates who seemed the least likely to stab us.

“Hey, how’s it going bud?”

“Hey, homeless mutterings, something about the wind.”
My roommate, God bless him, was persistent. Tapping him on the shoulder again.
“Hey- you know of anyone who could give us a ride home in exchange for cash?”

This seemed to register.

“You got any change?”

Or maybe not.

“Yeah man, I got some change, you think you could get us a ride?”

“Yeah, you take some of my change, with your change and go buy me some peppermint schnopps.”

This also seemed to excite some of the more coherent hobos around him. One other one chimed in.

“Yeah, get us some of that and I’ll get you a ride home.

So, my roommate, with palms out, collected change from the circle of hobos and shaking his head, marched into a liquor store to buy peppermint schnopps to attempt to get us a ride home from a homeless person. I’m sure his mother would be so proud. Upon his return, my roommate handed over the schnopps, which to my eternal regret I actually took a swig of and then proceeded to try and procure us this elusive ride.

“So you think you could give us a ride home?”

“Uhh yeah, you guys stay here.”

And with that he wandered off, leaving me and the roommate to ponder the feasibility of wandering around Arcata, drunk, in the dark, attempting to find a house next to a flower farm.