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.