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The Unknown Coast



The Unknown Coast

By Hank Sims

We're going to have more on this next week, but we'd be remiss if we didn't once again note that the Mendocino Redwood Company has officially and (all but) incontrovertibly won. They will be the owners of the Pacific Lumber Co. by the time you read this, thanks to a Tuesday order from the folks in Texas bankruptcy court. Houston corporate raider Charles Hurwitz, a bad leftover from the Gordon Gecko era of American high finance, is gone. The patrician Fisher family of San Francisco, they of a thousand affordable clothing lines, is in.

It's over. It's over. Maxxam is no more in Humboldt County. Even the great resonant name of the Pacific Lumber Company is gone, sadly, though it had anyway lost some of its punch in the last few decades, not least because it had been transmogrified into hideous corporo-speak as "Palco." By the time you read this, "Palco" will have been rechristened the Humboldt Redwood Company, a name at least as stately as the one given it 150 years ago. It will continue to grow on us, like its namesake.

Is this the end of the Timber Wars? That was the gist of Anderson Valley Advertiser Editor and Publisher Bruce Anderson's line a couple of weeks ago. Anderson was appearing on KQED-San Francisco's morning public affairs program, Forum, to talk about the first volume of his memoir, The Mendocino Papers. A city-dweller asked Anderson the question -- hey, whatever became of the Timber Wars? And Anderson's reply was that they had mostly disappeared, at least in Mendocino County, thanks to the conscientious stewardship of the Fisher family, whose Mendocino holdings, when they acquired them, were much the same as their Humboldt County holdings are now – logged over and wrecked by short-term capitalists. Miracle of miracles, the Fishers seem to think more about the 50-year return than the six-month one. Opposition down that way has evaporated, Anderson said.

The opportunity to turn the page on 25 bad years of Humboldt County history was probably the main thing this paper hoped to see accomplished with the bankruptcy of Pacific Lumber, way back in the beginning (see "Armistice Day," Feb. 8, 2007). To put it in its crudest terms, the place is in a rut. Faction A rises up in fury to oppose the latest scheme put forth by Faction Z, which are never to be trusted. How do we know that this scenario has come to the end of its natural life? Faction A and Faction Z are every day more indistinguishable, if not in substance then in style. Like a long-married couple, they have come to resemble one another.

It's time to see start seeing the world new. If the Humboldt Redwood Company can stick to the path it has blazed down in Mendocino County -- environmentally and economically responsible management with an eye to the long term -- that in itself will be of huge benefit to the county's politics and its culture. The old drones will be shoved off the podium and into the corner, where they can scream at one another until they die. We can hope.


For my money, SoHum's Paul Encimer, owner of the great Redway bookstore and publisher of the Greenfuse newsletter, is pretty much the human embodiment of the best of the Humboldt back-to-the-landers. He's smart, funny, literate, self-deprecating, politically but not fanatically engaged, a pillar of the community. SoHum wouldn't be SoHum without Encimer and his partner, Kathy Epling -- a shining example of human goodness in her own right.

Therefore I was troubled to receive the following communique from Encimer last week about troubling goings-on down his way. Here it is, in full.

Your Rights Aren't A Privilege

My differently-abled son and I decided to take a walk the other night to see the full moon in downtown Redway, when the bright lights of a sheriff’s car pinned us against the lights of the local liquor store. The deputy wanted to know who I was and what I was doing. He wanted to see my ID. The reason given: the campaign against transients.

Transient? So what. Would it be a crime if my son and I were homelessly walking the public streets? The deputy called for back-up. Soon we had two CHPs in attendance. Having realized he wasn’t getting any more than “Paul Encimer of Piercy” and a reiteration of my narrative of innocent walking, the deputy told me “You are detained. Let me see your ID.”

I thought that once I was detained I was “supposed to” produce my ID. The deputy seemed confident that detaining me did the trick.. But, in fact, as a pedestrian legal etiquette does not require me to produce my “papers.” Walking isn’t a privilege yet, like driving. The county-wide campaign against transients, or trespassers, or homeless -- the name keeps changing -- would have us think differently. (Keep in mind: I was detained on suspicion, not of burglary or murder, but transience.)

Mark Twain once said the American people had the genius to produce the Bill of Rights and the good common sense not to use them. As the police state approaches, where everyone, everyone, has a profile, it’s become a question of: Rights? Use them or lose them.

-- Paul Encimer

If a police officers down SoHum way are demanding identification from passers-by without legal right to do so, that is indeed disturbing. It's typical of Encimer that this is his one and only point. To me, though, there's an equally disturbing corollary: Are you telling me that there's cops patrolling Redway who don't know Paul Encimer? That should be its own crime.

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