Archive for the ‘Travel-obs’ Category

Willits Fronteir Days

July 6, 2009

Baz Luhrmann reminds us in his rap song “Everybody is Free to Wear Sunscreen” that it would be a good idea to move to northern California at least once in a lifetime, but to leave before becoming too soft. There is certainly a relaxed atmosphere in northern California. You will find acceptance and understanding more readily than judgementalness and ostracization. Everyone seems to be welcome and loved for who they are. I don’t know if this makes people soft. They look each other in the eye and are straightforward, not at all like the hyper image-conscious southern Californians, or the new New Yorker San Franciscans.

In the small town of Willits, nearly everyone can be dropped into the category of either a hick or a hippie. The hicks drive big trucks and listen to country. They drink American made beer and they ride horses. Their politics are libertarian and they may even go to church from time to time, if their luck at the bars is running out. If they grow marijuana, they do it to make money, not to save the world.

The hippies, on the other hand, have a socialist bent. They might ride their horses around town so that they can get rid of their car. More likely, they ride a bike because they can’t afford a car. The hicks ride bikes, too, but typically this is because they lost their license to drive by getting caught driving under the influence. The hippies may or may not smoke marijuana, but they will definitely be involved in environmental politics. They use less, they consume less, and they are less of a burden on society than the capitalist hicks in their big rigs. Of course, there are plenty of hippies on hogs, and those who steal water from creeks to grow pot. They will even protect their crops with NRA sanctioned rifles, but no one would mistake them for hicks. Tie-dye camo is still tie-dye.

The lines are blurry when it comes to hicks and hippies in Willits, but most everyone knows which one they really are. Once in a while someone will start playing basketball and listening to rap music, but in the end, they will probably revert to one of the basic categories. There are also many residents of Mexican descent who belong to their own Mexican version of a hick or a hippie

This dichotomy is mainly true of the older generation. With the younger generation, it is a whole different story. There is a melding of traditions that occurs, an interlocking matrix of ideas and beliefs that create a unique attitude. To help give the kids something to do, the town built a skate park. It quickly became one of the most popular social centers for the youth of the town. Skating is neither hippie nor is it hick. It is an open ended opportunity to be whatever the kids make of it. These are the skaters, the musicians, the artists and the athletes of a new world order. They are not soft, as Baz Luhrmann warns. They are direct and honest. They are educated and intuitive about the world around them. They may come from a small town, but they do not have a small town mentality.

Maybe they are soft. But soft in a good way. The way frontiersmen were soft-hearted. They had to be tough-as-nails to survive in the wild west, but soft-hearted and full of joy on the inside to stick with it and build a community. Willits Frontier Days makes me happy and proud to be an American.