Friday, November 15, 2013

UNDER THE COUNCIL MADRONE (Yulupa to the Lost Coast)

Oct 2013

...I woke up in a hotel in Yulupa. It was cool and rainy, but the TVs said it was September.
Later that day I went outside and frolicked among some unusual plants, so reveling in the ways of folk here not pushing me to "keep moving" with the winds like in the other places I had been. A health food store was nearby, and amid the busy townspeople gathering food for the winter ahead, a couple of fellow travelers saw me and we shared our stories under some tall trees.  I learned that "Yulupa," known also as Santa Rosa, got its name from the golden sun sparkling on the waters.

Then I was on a bus headed north, and the news reporters kept saying something about a "government shutdown." The people around here ignored these claims and went about life as if this change had no effect. 
Passing verdant vineyards and golden-hilled live oak savanna, I felt a rush of euphoria and understood this was the path my faerie guide had laid out for me.  At each stop, I wanted to get out and feel the air but I knew I would be left wherever I got off. Night came and the canopy of giant trees engulfed us on the curvy, hilly highway. It felt as if we all were together in waking dreamstate on the bus, "somewhere in between" realms, as in a long dark tunnel.
 This was the space-time that the orcs and wraiths and mercenaries could show their faces to those innocent or unaware, and take advantage of them.

I called out to my faerie guide, asking that for the next body of water I were to touch, if she would appear to me in sparkling form and take me away for "at least a moment." My destination would have flowing water and giant old trees, and I badly needed the recharge.

By the sunset of the following day, I had stood on the fallen trunk of the "Council Madrone," the largest Coast Madrone tree in the world; washed my face in the hillside spring waters, and stood on driftwood at the Mattole Lagoon, a magical place where the small river breaks the coastal mountains to the ocean.

My gracious host, a mama-bear woods elf coming into her own, fed me and gave me shelter in exchange for community and land help. With her outdoor furnace on the hilltop, we cooked and kept warm using hot-burning madrone tree branches.

About the place-name "Yulupa":

coastline by the Mattole Lagoon.
About that "legendary peacemaker" the Council Madrone:

Thursday, October 24, 2013


the Eureka Inn

Eureka, CA, October 2013

From the thick woods of Humboldt county, Eureka and Arcata feel like big pillars of civilization, sister city-states on the Humboldt Bay guarded on three sides by rugged mountains. Of course, facing northwest on the Pacific coast, this area is often cool and foggy. I had heard tales of folk near Arcata who live in carved-out Redwood stumps; unfortunately, I did not get to visit these resourceful people.  There was only time for a few hours in Eureka.
Eureka, the county seat and more southern of the two towns, is known for its harbor and victorian homes and hotels. As we arrived in town, the fog rolled in and there was an  eerie silence in the air wherever we walked. It felt like rain could start at any time, and the residents were preparing. I wondered if that spooky vibe can be felt here year round, as my eyes fixed on a church steeple against the clouds.

the Vance Hotel

Ahead of us was the forest-green and white Tudoresque walls of the Eureka Inn. On the front stairs, a giant 'grim reaper' figure stood, pointing to the door, beckoning guests to come inside.
I chuckled at such a humorous display of Eureka's spookiness, then I remembered Halloween is coming up and it's probably a decoration! Still, it is an odd place to put an image of death, at the entrance to a historic hotel.
I kept thinking of the 90's Nickelodeon puppet show "Eureeka's Castle," like it was supposed to be a reference to this town and buildings like this.
Next we walked down 2nd St in Old Town, along the bay, by the (historic) Hotel Vance, Snug Alley, and  the building that is now Good Relations Lovers Boutique. Once, brothels lined these blocks, and the lingerie and adult toy shop perhaps honors that part of Old Town's histor.

the Carson Mansion
Overlooking the harbor is the huge, victorian Carson Mansion, once home to the "lumber baron" William Carson and now home to the Ingomar men's private club. Of course, it looks like the stereotypical "haunted house" image in pop culture, and again I chuckled at the unintentional spookiness of Eureka.
Palco Marsh

Down behind the Bayshore Mall is the Palco March, where trails wind through bushes and tall, wet grasses to the Humboldt Bay. It is the home of shore birds and other wetland wildlife, and not surprisingly, a large transient community of humans who probably enjoy the closeness of the mall amenities.

However, trash was scattered along the wet ground all through here, and the traffic (foot and car) probably scares away some of the wildlife. In fact, the parking lot goes directly up to the marsh, then to a big fence separating it from a set of abandoned buildings where some homeless folks were murdered some years ago, according to my friend.
(I have not been able to find any information about that incident online, however)

Along the bayside roads south of town, we passed more abandoned buildings and old train cars contained by fences. Hopefully more will be done to make these parts of town beautiful and less polluted, and to make better, safer spaces for the apparently large (by percentage) homeless population here. That is one truly scary thing one may experience here, without having to step into any (haunted) house or hotel.
As we left town soon before nightfall, with "Bela Lugosi's Dead" playing in my head from one of the shops we visited, the thick fog and that "eerie calm" hanging over town had spread inland.

Eureka Inn
518 7th St  Eureka, CA

143 M Street, Eureka, California

Good Relations.

223 2nd Street. Eureka, CA 95501

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Lake Merritt, sunset

Time Travel: I arrive in downtown Oaktown on a brisk October evening. Walking down San Pablo Ave, I pass Frank Ogawa Plaza and find it empty. There is a store that sells Oakland merchandise: "Oaklandish." I like the nebulousness of this new city motto. After a stop at a pizza joint I pull myself and my bags to Lake Merritt to watch the sun set.

For the time I have spent here Lake Merritt seems to be the regerative spirit of the city. Runners, human-walkers, dog-walkers, and boaters all converge here and of course it is a multi-cultural mix. Cute pug. Cute corgi. Happy ducks. Fishy smell. An inspired impromptu a capella band sings a new song. My Cali-seeking city-folk friends (you know who you are) will love this place. For me, a few twisty live-oak trees and a pretty sunset temper the cool breeze. Like in "The City," one must keep moving and go with the wind. Across the lake (which is fairly polluted still) is a wooded area with a sign "FAIRYLAND" that stirs my curiousity.  Hopeful, I trudge over with my bags and at a closer look read "Children's FAIRYLAND" and the trees conceal a theme park which is closed.  Grr. However, giant tablets with "One upon a time" and "Happily ever after" and a giant dragon-thing made of leaves  guard a sweet grove of large live-oaks (the city's mascot) which one could play and sleep under....

It is now dark and I find myself in the shadows of the live-oak branches. 
There are folks lying nearby; they might be asleep or awake. A man walks by as light hits my shadowy  bliss and he asks me if I am "moving out." "Of where?" I ask, taken by surprise.
"Of the park," he replies.
This makes my evening. From this point, I feel fairly safe and work a sweat 
hauling my baggage around downtown. At the bus station, I meet a Tunisian man and we chat about our travels  and historic Carthage which feels like a strange parallel.

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Softground CA FAE Floats around the Bay (Questing, Part 1)

San Francisco, California Full Harvest Moon 2013

from the hilltop looking north

Floating around Northern California is easy and difficult at once. As with the sea breeze, It's easy if you find a flow and keep moving but one feels resistance when stopping for more than a moment.  The hills block the breeze and also horizontal development, which really is a good thing when you've been in the more open desert.

There has been a call to spend more time in California, this time to look for a place to settle next. San Francisco is known for its strong queer, BDSM, and traveler communities. Why haven't I been able to find them thus far? Well, maybe because everyone, like me, is constantly moving...that's what travelers do, at least.   So, here I am, the Queen of Shadows, in temporary exile from the Sonoran Desert, on a quest in a dangerous magickal land less like Pixie Hollow (that's in So Cal) and more like Middle Earth.

Electronic dance music plays over the speakers of the kinky coffeehouse where I sit and write, the sun setting behind me leaving me wondering what wraiths might lurk outside tonight.  The energy here is good and black-clad folk of all genders fill the seats as the City's famous Folsom Street Fair comes in about a week. Plus, it's a full moon and several other events are happening around town, so it's a busy time of year for San Francisco.
I found this out last night when seeking  an "Inn" for sleep on short notice, and almost all of the local hostels are fully booked on a weeknight. (There are no hostels listed online for the East Bay or Santa Clara county).  The only one who had room for me was the Pacific Tradewinds Hostel on Sacramento St.  As it turns out, the Tradewinds is a pretty awesome place, perched on the 4th floor of a thin building a couple of blocks from Chinatown.

It's compact but the communal space
doorway to the hostel on the street
- kitchen and sitting area in one room
as you enter - makes folks interact with each other immediately. And, communing with other travelers is a major reason folks stay in hostels. Quickly, I met a couple of women and we shared our travel stories and so it happens that one of them is from the state where I grew up. The dorm rooms are small and I slept soundly, waking up for coffee and more travel networking. It's not a party hostel or a flophouse, but everyone there was open, friendly, and helpful. They offer you a glass of water as soon as you arrive, knowing you just climbed a hill and a few flights of stairs.

the Chinese Benevolent Association building in Chinatown
Today was warm and sunny, a treat for the city usually draped in fog, and so there were few ring-wraiths or spooks to be found wandering the streets.  A walk down Folsom St. to Rainbow Grocery ignited major kim chee cravings which would repel any vampires if they came  around.  The energy from the Mission Dolores was beaming, and a visit to my favorite power spot in the City gave my companions and I a needed charge.
the stained glass image for the Soledad Mission inside
the Mission Dolores Basilica
The stained-glass saints and stone statues in the trees gave solace and comfort in our directionlessness. Saint Inez looks me directly in the eye and gives me strength of spirit. Senora de la Soledad demonstrates the ability to concentrate in her solitude.

Back in the Coffeehouse I am distracted by a mix of conversations:
--"I did not raise you in this house to ask questions."
--"Are you going to see Daniel Ash?"

 Outside, it is cool, and the breeze blows strong. Feet stomp on the wood floors of Wicked Grounds where there is very little wickedness and lots of fae folk networking with humanfolk for the street fair and other events. I'llreturn here soon.  My quest leads me to the magickal forest, especially with the moon full and the equinox coming. Like the sea breeze, I must keep moving with the flow and find that pass through the hills.

Pacific Tradewinds Backpacker Hostel
680 Sacramento St  San Francisco, CA 94111

(415) 433-7970

Rainbow Grocery

1745 Folsom St  San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 863-0620

Wicked Grounds Coffee
289 8th St  San Francisco, CA 

(415) 503-0405

Mission Dolores is at 16th St. and Dolores St.