This is Genius
In this oh-so-polarized country of ours, it's important to give voice to the voiceless, to make sure people hear the unpopular opinions of the day, right? After all, without unpopular opinions we never would have had child labor laws, women's suffrage, the civil rights movement or an end to the Vietnam War. But we live in a day and age when it can be hard to give voice to an unpopular opinion even a trivial one and that's a problem.
If we can't honestly discuss sports fandom, drum circles and prayer flags, how are we going to talk it out on real problems, like accessible healthcare, income inequality and racism? In this issue, we start mostly with the easy stuff to prime the pump — I'm pretty sure I just made that term up — so we can maybe move onto the heavy stuff. So take some time to read and consider, and please join the conversation at www.northcoastjournal.com and on Facebook.
What could go wrong?
Wait, This is a Terrible Idea
Within minutes of someone broaching the idea of an unpopular opinions issue, Jennifer Fumiko Cahill piped up: What's with that Bill statue at the zoo?
Oh, lord. Here we go.
It's bad enough that our national politics is a virtual train wreck, now we're going to go out of our way to insert wedges between us? Do we really need to fight over the proper uses of mustard dill sauce and the San Francisco Giants? If by prime the pump, you mean weighing each of us down with enough hatred and resentment to ensure no ground will be gained in the next healthcare debate, then we might be on the right track. I mean, with all the true horrors at play in the world right now, we're going to take aim at a statue of a beloved chimpanzee?
Did I mention that this is a terrible idea?
Hold the Larrupin'
Do what you will with poultry, grilled fish, a turkey sandwich or salad, but keep Humboldt's beloved Larrupin' mustard dill sauce the hell away from lox. Is it the flecks of dill that make this crime against salmon seem like a good idea? Some poor Nova Scotian or worse, an Alaskan without that cushy Canadian health insurance worked hard to catch and cold smoke or cure that salmon, to bring out its delicate texture and rich fat. What are we paying, $10, $20 or more per pound? And then we go ahead and drown it in sticky sweet dressing. Neither lox nor its Nordic cousin gravlax can stand up to this abuse, to say nothing of the bagel beneath it forced to bear witness. Maybe our sturdier, spicier smoked local salmon has a fighting chance against the onslaught of canola oil, turmeric and sugar, but don't our precious few salmon deserve better? Stop this madness at once.
Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
I Don't Like Eureka
I love this town, but it's no romance. Romance is for places like Ferndale. We can "like" places like Loleta the way you think your barista is cute or your friend's friend is charming. My love for Eureka is the same kind of love we're forced to admit for our bullying siblings or least hip musical tastes.
I love driving back from the hot, mosquito-choked inland and seeing a thick belt of fog on the horizon. I love the prefabricated houses built on the remains of old farms, sitting next to the dilapidated Victorians with Tibetan prayer flags in their eaves. I love my old Craftsman, the first home I've owned, my neighborhood of pit bull owners, young parents and retirees. I love WinCo, at all hours, and, yes, with all of its people, united in our thrift and utilitarianism. I love riding my bike to work on cold mornings, down quiet side streets, past the renovated churches, past the auto repair shop already blasting classic rock, with the scent of wet pavement in my nose. I love the dive bars, the sagging garages, the gunmetal sky, the mildewed sills, the slight air of entropy that infects everything. Oh, and I love all of the other things as well, the ones people come here to see the coffee shops, the waterfront, bookstores, the parks but none of these things seduce or charm me.
I don't like Eureka, but I don't think I'll ever be totally done with it. Isn't that love?
Baby is not Boss
Attachment parenting is bullshit. This philosophy, that a baby must be kept close at all times, should be breastfeed on demand, belongs in your bed and ought never to be put in a stroller is, to put it mildly, insane.
To put it more strongly, attachment parenting is a lucrative movement in which so-called experts sell books exploiting the cultural pressure placed upon parents to be infallible and manipulating the natural desire parents feel to make sure their children grow up to become successful, happy, well-adjusted adults. If one only follows this recipe, the theory goes, babies will forever be content and a mother will have fulfilled her blessed role like the angel we demand she be.
The problem is, this theory is half-baked. Yes, parents should love and care for their kids. Of course. But there's no science that bears out the concept that waiting on one's child hand and foot results in anything other than an exhausted parent whose self-neglect certainly won't guarantee perfected offspring. Sleep training, strollers, cribs these can be great! Or if you love co-sleeping and hauling your baby around in a Bjorn, do that! What matters is that you love them in a way that makes sense to you and never feel shackled to a theory based solely on making money for its proponents and unattached to any facts at all.
You're Probably not a Warriors Fan
I get it, you like the Golden State Warriors. They're damn good and heck of a lot of fun to watch. And I'm sure you're rooting for them. It's just that being a true fan short for fanatic demands more than simple admiration. It demands loyalty, and I can't help but wonder where all these blue and yellow hats, hoodies and jerseys I see parading through Humboldt County were hiding just a few years ago, you know, back when Stephen Curry was just a skinny kid with flimsy ankles.
It's easy to be seduced by the poetry that is the Warriors on the court these days the unselfish play, the gritty hustle, the swishes. So. Many. Swishes. But if you've spent much of the last four decades rooting for the Lakers, Bulls, Kings and Spurs as the Warriors missed the playoffs 29 times in 35 years and went 15 without an All Star you don't get to claim allegiance now.
Let's back up a bit and be really clear. If you're over the age of 35 and think of Chris Webber as a Sacramento King, you're just not a Warriors fan. Think that's unfair? Then tell me about Tom Gugliotta, P.J. Carlesimo, Todd Fuller and Marcus Williams. Can't? How about Ekpe Udoh, Speedy Claxton and Monta Ellis' moped? Drawing blanks? That's fine. It doesn't make you a bad person. It just means you're not a Warriors fan.
Editor's note: For the record, despite being born and raised in Oakland, I am and will always be a Lakers fan.
Fear and Self-loathing in Humboldt
Now, at the risk of totally alienating myself from the ranks of Humboldt County sports enthusiasts, I'll get one last thing off my chest: Fuck the Giants.
As a lifelong Oakland Athletics fan, I can say that the Giant adoration up here has always confused me. After all, if Humboldt County were a baseball team, it would certainly be the A's a scrappy squad from a blue collar city that just can't seem to have nice things not the team with the $180 million payroll, sleek uniform colors and a new stadium full of hipsters.
And maybe that's just it. There's an undercurrent of self-loathing here in Humboldt, where we often seem convinced we can't have nice things and trip all over each other bickering about it.
The thing is, Humboldt, we can have nice things. We just need to look in the mirror and love what we see looking back. It's OK that, collectively, we may never be as well groomed or high salaried as we'd like. And it's OK to admit we may never get the sparkling infrastructure we surely deserve.
But we're going to keep scrapping and there's a lot to love about that.
'From Here' Doesn't Make You Better
I am a fourth-generation local on both my mom and dad's sides of the family. My family name is on stones in pioneer cemeteries in rural corners of our county. I love my family but I'm not convinced of the practical value of being "from around here," other than I can spell place names correctly and have a shirttail cousin in every town. Some of the people contributing the most to our community have a Humboldt tenure younger than my sourdough starter. Our fetish for "localdom" is weird.
But maybe that's me exercising my privilege, like a fish breathing through gills with no concept of water. The only other place I've lived long-term, San Francisco, was full of transplants and immigrants. I never got frozen out for pronouncing "Duboce" incorrectly. (FYI: I have always called it "the 101" and it's not a big deal.) I can never fully understand what it means to be shut down for not being "from around here." Being a medium-sized fish in a small, warm, familiar pond chock-full of cousins can be stifling sometimes, but it's ultimately a comfortable place for me.
So let's get uncomfortable: I am the descendent of an invasive species. I inherited my privilege of place due to the systemic murder, rape and enslavement of the Wiyot, the Yurok, the Hupa, the Wailaki, the Karuk, the Lassik, the Nongatl, the Sinkyone and the Mattole. I'm going to be honest with you and say I don't totally know what to do with that inheritance. It's not something I can cover in 200 words, or maybe even 200 pages. I am terrified of doing it wrong, this apology. But I am more terrified of not doing it at all.
I cannot forfeit being "from around here." Invasive species or no, this little pond is my home. I love my name and the people who gave it to me. What I can do, until I am given better direction, is insist that being "from around here" should be less important than what you do once you get here. If you have an old name, a grand name, then use your life to make it stand for something you can be proud of. Maybe if we all cherished our legacy as much as we do our history, we could sprout some legs and move forward.
Never have I been warned by so many people to drop a subject. Don't do it. People will hate you. Are you out of your mind? Here come the torches and pitchforks. It's been nice working with you. But it's time for the cramped Sequoia Park Zoo to get rid of Bill the Chimp's memorial exhibit. (Quickly looks over shoulder.)
Of course people are attached. I know about his tragic backstory stolen from the wild, performing in a British circus where he picked up boxing skills and a smoking habit before local school children raised money to buy him and that he performed for the queen and once hung out with Jane Goodall. And sure, when he finally passed at the age of 61, he was like a loveable drunk uncle about whom everybody has a story. People actually smile recalling the time he lobbed his feces at them. A co-worker told me, not without fondness, "I think he masturbated in front of my mother once."
Keep the statue somewhere, if you must, as a memorial both to Bill and the archaic conditions modern zookeepers have abandoned. In fact, the zoo's master plan over the next several years includes nixing the space and expanding to include large predator exhibits. It's time, Humboldt. Say your goodbyes and let him go.
Jennifer Fumiko Cahill
Facebookers Weigh In:
"Prayer flags = red flags"
Kirsten Tamara PeachyKeen
"Drum circles are even worse than playing a stereo in public spaces. I have yet to hear a drum circle with good rhythm, and I've stumbled across many in Humboldt. No one wants to hear that, take it home!"
"GMOs are a benign, beneficial technology that helps improve nutrition, lower food cost and reduce the environmental impact of farming."
"I support a tourist rail that would also serve as light rail public transit since both colleges are near a rail line and almost all our large communities are connected by the rail corridor. ... I do not support turning our bay into another shipping port."
"Ten hours a month of compulsory civic service (along with greatly expanding what civic service means) for all Americans would do wonders for community building, solving social problems and create alternatives to 'call the police' when dealing with the needs of people."
Stephen Seer Snively
"Whole Foods and/or Trader Joe's would be good fits for Humboldt County."
Christine Winters Johnson
"It would be feasible and vastly less expensive to give the homeless and the addicts all the services they need than to stand by and watch them destroy themselves."
"Taxis that do not provide accommodations for users of wheelchairs should not be allowed to operate!"
"Eureka is spending too much money moving homeless people around instead of designating a place where they can legally live."
"You don't have to eat organic to be healthy."
"Vaccines save lives."
"Flouride aren't makin me dumb"
"There are no more hippies in the North Coast."
"The Bayshore Mall is the best thing in Humboldt."
"Tomo's is just OK."
"Cash is so Humboldt!"
Helen McKenna Ridley
"Unions exist so whiney losers can keep a job."
"Can't speak up. I must live here."
Joe AshenbruckerOnline Exclusive Bonus:
Actually, Fidget Spinners are Pretty Cool
They are currently banned at my daughter’s school, even though she’s been trying to get me to take her to a doctor who will write a letter that states something like, “this little girl needs a fidget spinner in school because it will make her get better scores on tests and because I said so.” I don’t know if that doctor exists, so my daughter must currently leave her fidget spinners on the coffee table.
Sometimes I pick them up and play with them while I am writing. They are pretty fun. I managed to get one to balance on my nose. I got two of them spinning at the same time on opposite hands and then switched them around, all while listening to “You Spin Me Right Round Baby” because I’m going to take this act on the road. Did fidget spinning ruin my productivity and prevent me from completing basic tasks? No. I liked doing some spinning while I moved through my many emails. Good thing they’re banned at school because that means I have two at home I can play with.
Now homemade slime. Homemade slime is the worst.
— Cutcha Risling-Baldy
An Unpopular Opinion
When queried — approached, tasked, ordered — by the editor to contribute an unpopular opinion to this issue, I found myself taken aback. “Aren’t mine all?” I replied silently. Seeking any sort of guidance, I was met with “Just be yourself.” Reassurance of a sort, I suppose.
Lacking any sort of editorial framework or support, I cast about. Assuming that (both) readers will have already made up their collective mind about my cinematic opinions, I sought some new and fertile ground wherein I might cultivate unpopularity.
First it occurred to me that I have never particularly enjoyed California rolls. As a formalist, I balk at the very notion of cheese in sushi. Also, the combination of flavors works undeniably better on a bagel. But this only delves into a narrow demographic; as a specialist in poor self-opinion, I knew I could go deeper in my pursuit of widespread ire.
Finally, it struck me. And it was right in front of me all along.
The Georgia Romeo is perhaps the worst fashion misdemeanor every perpetrated. Maddeningly ubiquitous in Humboldt County, it is neither boot nor slipper and can only be justified as a signifier for having given up on style altogether; it’s the worst.
— John J. Bennett
Stop Inviting Me Over to Sell Me Shit
Listen, I am telling you this as your friend/total stranger acting on behalf of your friends. Nobody wants to go to your home business party. There it is, the thing your actual circle of beloved people are too kind to tell you and so they come and sit in your living room and smell candy-scented chunks of wax, sift through jewelry they don't need and pass around purses in dread of showing up at the next wine-and-hard-smiles event carrying the same goddamned bag which, come to think of it, is at least good for screaming into when you tally up how much money you've spent trying not to hurt someone's feelings.
It's not a career. It's a vicious circle of peer pressure-driven consumerism that is unsatisfying and uncomfortable. If, indeed, in your hearts you are a merry band of entrepreneurs, join forces and build a business that serves an actual need and your schedules. But abandon this folly before every last one of your pals turns to hawking tights or cookware out of sheer revenge because if that happens you will need a much bigger bag in which to scream.
— Jennifer Fumiko Cahill