A week ago this morning I was talking with Richard Salzman about the Balloon Track. The conversation produced this gem which I couldn’t get out of my head all day today.
“Your friend Brian Morrissey is a nice guy. But make no mistake, he’d be very happy if he could turn make US 101 look like the I-5 Corridor from San Francisco to the Oregon border. And he’d crucify kitchens on church doors!”
Okay. I made the last part up. But the king of hyperbole’s point resonated loud and clear during my last 24 hours in Medford. But for the immediate presence of gorgeous hills, it looks like Redding, Chico, Oroville, and Yuba City. Sprawl thrown out seemingly without care, as if aesthetics were completely irrelevant and nobody ever heard of civil engineering. Locally owned businesses far and few, hidden off the main drags where a solid wall of corporate logos lines each side of every major artery, which is pretty much every street within a few blocks of the freeway. I’d been there many times before, but I’m looking at these places in a different light now. I may not be just passing through them. If you believe Salzman, I could end up living in one.
These towns and cities didn’t start this way. The courthouse areas of town are usually the older areas, where the architecture retains some character. Medford is no exception. The courthouse, built in 1910, is pretty. Across the street is the old library in a beautiful golden brick building built in 1911 with glass in the windows bearing that distortion from age surrounded by gorgeous wooden frames. It was set in a park of sorts, beneath old and twisting oak trees. Unfortunately, it’s boarded up, the library having been moved to a more modern (and probably more safe) concrete and glass setting downtown (the “downtown” being curiously empty on a weekday – I had no problems finding parking anywhere. Is the economy in trouble there?).
But as you’re standing by the library and looking over to the courthouse, if you look to the left you’ll see two very drab and gloomy concrete boxes – the justice center and the county prison. Not just ugly like in Eureka, but dreary, almost as if the designers wanted to put defendants in a mood as they approach. Maybe the facade should bear the Dante quote – “Abandon hope all ye who enter here.” (My masthead motto is a play on that, by the way, for those who were wondering).
Again odd, nobody came in or out of any of the buildings while I was there, about 20 minutes before my depo started a block away. Not one person. I felt like I was in one of those old last-man-on-Earth movies, but for the cars and bicyclists driving by. This was about 12:30!
The trip up was a minor adventure in yesterday’s weather. I needed gas at Crescent City. My gas card is for Shell, and apparently there’s no such gas station in Del Norte County. I got distracted driving by Home Depot and trying to imagine it on the waterfront in Eureka and all of the sudden I was out of town. I figured there must be a gas station at 199 and sure enough there was a blue sign reading “gas, food, and lodging.” Made me happy, because I didn’t want to double back as I was hoping to reach the Collier Tunnel before it got dark and weather was nasty. But alas, the sign lied. It led me around a loop to another street with the same sign pointing left. I drove by a motel with all the windows dark and a tanning salon. No lodging, no food, and more to the point, no gas. And no indication there had ever been gas. Right after that was 199, about a hundred yards from where I turned off it. I tried the other side, but gave up quickly deciding to head back into town. I had no idea there was a station just a few miles up the road, which I figured there probably was but after the blue signs lied to me I didn’t want to take any chances on losing more time.
I stayed at the Best Western on Barnett Street. A nice place, the experience only being slightly marred by the presence of two tour buses with their generators running all night. The hotel folk were mum about whom they were, saying only that it was “a performing arts group.” One look at the roadies loading up the next morning made very inadequate the description “a performing arts group.”
As usual I imbibed in my cable TV fix. There was Bill O’Reilly ranting about the fact that while WalMart and most of the other major retailers are going to be saying “Merry Christmas” this year, some outfit called “Best Buy” will be saying “Happy holidays.” Bill took that as an affront.
Jon Stewart chimed it with some of his blue state elitism many of us love in response to the president talking about his relationship with Harry Reid. Apparently they’re both from western states and they’re both “plain talking” prompting Stewart to comment that the president was making much of the fact that they both shared a time zone (are Nevada and Texas in the same time zone?) and speak English. I flipped the channel while he was interviewing some boring actress.
AMC was showing Jaws which I hadn’t seen in years. I noticed for the first time that the actor playing “Quint” was also the guy who played the gangster who was played in The Sting. And also he was one of the spooks in Three Days of the Condor. Versatile actor. Who is he?
Does Nancy Grace talk about anything other than rape and murder? And is her face capable of any expression other than a scowl?
And so on. I go through the exercise just to be sure I haven’t changed my mind about cable.
I want to like Medford. I like Ashland and Jacksonville. But that’s probably where the local rich folk live, kind of like Trinidad and increasingly Arcata. But the first thing that hits you as you drive in from the north is some huge gaudy building on the side of a hill east of the freeway. What is that thing anyway, and why was it built? It’s totally out of place, almost like somebody wanted some sort of permanent memorial along the lines of ancient pyramids or the Tower of Babel.
Alright. I’ve got the elitist snark out of my system for the night. My deposition went very well anyway. And I had a great meal at a mini-chain called the Black Bear restaurant right next to the hotel. The portions are huge, so I got breakfast out of it too.
On the trip back I saw two or three “Get us out” signs much like the one I’ve been reading for years in Ukiah. It’s a Bircher sign of course. Details here. Ever read the Blue Book? A fascinating read. Welch thought that Soviet military prowess was a myth and that the arms race was a communist plot to destroy our economy. I guess by some estimates that one backfired.
And the fruit police were closed up. What gives? California not worried about the med-fly anymore?
And a warning to men using the restroom at the Collier Tunnel rest stop. The ADA handrail at the rear keeps the toilet seat cover from standing up properly, worse than when you have those fuzzy things on them. To quote a comedian I can’t remember, “a simple biological function became a major feat of engineering.”
No, Home Depot doesn’t look like it belongs in Crescent City. But honestly, I’m more turned off by the casino at the Klammath River.