Tuesday, August 5

15 Days Of Vacation

Day 16: Dick's Place, CA

It is easy to have a love/hate relationship with Mendocino. On the one hand are stunning coastal cliffs swathed in salty fog thrown up by the crashing surf, weathered grey clapboard construction of houses and stores, tiny gardens bursting with blooms all year round, an exhilarating carefree freedom facing into a Pacific wind. On the other hand are the overpriced tacky shops marinated in the affected personalities of the shopkeepers, and the passive/aggressive rudeness of overpaid software aristocrats from the San Francisco Bay area. If you put on your far-sighted point of view, you can enjoy the former while overlooking and laughing at the latter.

Some may recognize parts of Mendocino from Murder, She Wrote, where many exterior shots were filmed. The town is small. You can walk the entire town at a leisurely pace in less than an afternoon. But don't let the size fool you; this is a beautiful place. There are some nice trails that allow you to roam the grassy headlands, or descend long stairs to small beaches littered with driftwood. Gather some up for your own ocean-inspired creation. Grab some salami, cheese, and sourdough at the market, slice 'em up, and have an unplanned lunch at the picnic tables provided. Watch out for the seagulls, they're sneaky li'l bastards. At night, the moon shines on the rippling waves, so clear you'd swear it was a school of iridescent fish, or the ballet of sea pixies.

There are some shops worth a look, too. The science-themed toy store has some neato goodies for kids and childish dads. (That would be approximately 100% by my estimation.) The bookstore has a fun selection of unusual books, a great kid's section, and groovy stuff like stickers and stationery. Make sure to stop at the candy store and get a candy apple, or some turtles, or an ice cream. (Say "Hi" to the resident geese up the street.) One of my favorites is a back alley store devoted to birds. It's a delightful assortment of feeders, houses, whirligigs, mobiles, birding books, and other fun stuff. Watch the pine siskins raid the copious feeder outside. There is one shop I can't figure out. It's owned by a crazy-uncle-packrat guy and crammed full of musty old paperbacks, rusty old swords, and dusty old . . . things. There's an upscale garden shop, a nice shell shop, a homey Irish shop, and several dozen or more shopping sprees for blankets, linens, soaps, cooking gadgets, candles, etc. Then there are pretentious jewelry shops, wine shops, art galleries, B&B's, endive-and-radicchio restaurants and How the hell can you make a living selling this ugly expensive crap? shops. This is where you and the kids put your chocolate smeared noses and candy apple sticky fingers against the glass and laugh. Simple props like pinwheels, balsa wood gliders, and cheap plastic whistles are at their finest right here.

I saved the best for last. It's called Dick's Place. That's it. Real simple. It projects a refreshing "Yeah, it's called Dick's, so what?" vibe. It's got the plank floor, the wobbly stools, the old jukebox, and the true hallmark of any fine drinking joint: the buzzing pink neon sign of a martini glass out front. I've heard many complaints about Dick's over the years, always from the type of folks we previously laughed at. If you got your head on right, this is a fantastic place to observe the human animal. I have always found the clientele and staff affable, if a little gruff. If you don't pretend to be anything special, you'll fit right in.

There are grizzled biker dudes that can't keep their voices below 115 decibels. There are delicate 200 pound barflys. There are mud stained lumber workers. There are Renaissance Faire jewelry making chicks. There are the deli employees who tell the real stories about the tourists from the privileged classes. There are those two guys that are laughing right now, but will probably rumble later, and be back to laughing again tomorrow. There's the piercing-eyed artist who creates pieces from castoffs she finds on the beach. There's the guy with the Robin Hood beard, eight silver dragon rings, and a beat up guitar. There's the 98 pound pool shark, showing off her two inch cleavage in an attempt to sucker some drunk into a round of 8-ball. No matter how they look, they will all gladly trade a bad joke, tell you what's wrong with your clothes, answer a question or two, and maybe share a round of shots with you. Occasionally you will find a partner that is opposite you in so many ways it's like looking into a funhouse mirror. It's not your reflection, exactly, but you recognize something there. I have struck up two hour friendships with a crude road crew worker, a sultry hippie gypsy, and some local geezer and his dog. Oh, my yes. This is a BAR. Bar par excellence, from the huge nicotine stained mirror to the desiccated gecko in that bottle of rumtequilawhiskey something. I don't know how long Dick's has been here, but gauging by the feel of spirits (and *hic* spirits), I'd say about 400 years. Even if it's only 80, I'm sure 400 years worth of living has taken place.

Take a seat by the window. Gaze southward, past the window's gold lettering, to the serenity and confidence of the northern California coastland. Watch the well-heeled doctorate idiots avoid Dick's like the plague. Absorb the real life they are missing and wouldn't recognize if it rear-ended their BMW. Bask in the heady orange glow of the setting sun, the babble of a lovable funky people, a good stiff drink, and your own superiority.

Teasers on this trip: Glass Beach, Noyo Harbor, Skunk train, pygmy forest


tiff said...

You make everything sound like I have to go there Right Now.

How you DO that, KF?

Edna said...
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