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Farewell from McKinley's Statue


Thank you, next. - FILE
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  • Thank you, next.

Oh, hi.

Well, this is awkward. I mean, I figured we'd run into each other at the farmers market or whatever before I left. That's breaking up in Humboldt for you. I would have turned around and given you an out but, you know. You heard I'm leaving, right?

Yeah, Canton, Ohio. The old stomping grounds. We haven't set a date yet but it shouldn't be too long. I've got my presidential library there. Technically it's also a museum. With a planetarium. Oh, did you not know I was into planets? Because I am. Canton is really into planets, too. It's not a contest but I'm pretty sure this thing they're building for Obama in Chicago doesn't have a planetarium. Canton's even paying to get me there. I was like, "You don't have to do that, Canton," but they were like, "You're worth it," and I was like, "Oh my god, I'm crying." But I think it was actually just that corrosive stuff vandals splashed on me.

(Silent staring.)

Water under the bridge, though. Once I'm in Canton I'll have a buffed and bronze revenge body in no time. Point is, this next chapter of my life is going to be about me.

It's almost embarrassing how into me Canton is. There's the McKinley House and my gravesite, which is this enormous thing with steps up to this very stately dome that doesn't smell like weed. And there's another statue. Which is fine. He's a little chubbier, a little too casual, if you ask me, with the hand in his pocket and the open jacket like he's here for after-work drinks but whatever. I'll tell you one thing, they don't dress him in Poseidon drag for any oyster festival. They don't get wasted and climb him, either, and they sure as shit haven't snapped off his goddamn thumb.

OK, I guess that wound is still raw. I think we could both use some closure.

I heard some of you are upset I'm leaving. I'll probably miss you, too, when I'm coattail-deep in Ohio snow. (Unless I'm indoors — that would be amazing.) But like I said when we broke up — specifically when I broke up with you but it's not a big deal — we were never really that connected. I never belonged. I never wore patchouli or swapped kombucha SCOBYs with you, and you never invited me to juggle or join your drum circle. And it wasn't just Arcata — McKinleyville hasn't exactly embraced me in its marketing campaign, either. "Where horses have the right of way?" Really? Not the president you're named after? Just saying. But it's not like I ever gave a speech in Humboldt or had any historical ties beyond the Native people I hurt by signing a document 3,000 miles away with a pen that's probably under glass in Canton. Even a statue of Jack London would have made more sense. He was hella racist but at least he had a bar fight in Eureka. What? After 100 years in Northern California I say "hella."

Maybe if I hadn't gotten shot in the belly I'd have made it over here when I was alive, but I didn't. Hell, if I'd known then when to leave the stage, maybe I'd have survived that gunshot.

You ever wonder what would have happened if I hadn't survived that earthquake in San Francisco? If Haig Patigian had pulled my busted pieces from the rubble of that foundry and melted me into piggy banks and door knockers? How would your life, this town have been different?

Our relationship only started because that fanboy rancher George Zehnder met me once. That always creeped me out, by the way. Are you really that into quashing resistance in the Philippines? Weird, bro. And in the end, democracy — actual voting, twice! — settled my leaving. After I dumped you.

Some of you are worried we're throwing away our history. Thing is, you can't erase history by taking down a statue — trust me, I'm about to be installed in a museum of everything I ever did, wrote or said, good and bad, which, when I think about it, freaks me out a little. Taking a statue down just announces a shift in what you celebrate, whom you consider. And that's history: change. Maybe think about letting me go as not fighting the history taking place now.

Not that you want my advice but don't rush to put up some rebound statue in my place. Take some time to think about who and what really means something to you. See how you feel with an open space, a clear view across the plaza. You never really needed me and you might find you don't need anyone. Just remember the good times we had out on the lawn. And that I dumped you.


Bronze President McKinley

Jennifer Fumiko Cahill is the arts and features editor at the Journal. Reach her at 442-1400, extension 320, or jennifer@northcoastjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter @JFumikoCahill.

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