“Between every two pine trees, there is a door leading to a new way of life.” —John Muir
Bovine tribalism: It’s not often that you actually get to watch it in action.
About four in the afternoon last Monday, my pal Tommy and I found ourselves at a roadhouse called The Barn, just north of the town of Clearlake, California, on the southeast corner of Clear Lake, up in the country that contains a lot more than a bunch of precious redwood trees.
Unless you know all about the mountains north of Santa Rosa, California, you don’t know anything about them, or the people who live there.
We’d been warned by a bartender in Boonville to stay away from Clearlake—dangerous, a drug town. I said I thought I could handle it, because I’m from Chicago. She gave me a look that said, “Chicago doesn’t have anything to do with it.”
We’d ridden rented motorcycles to get there—picked ’em up in San Francisco, about a two-and-a-half-hour ride south along the straightest line. And seeing we were riding motorcycles, we didn’t take the straightest line. In fact, we’d been booming around those mountains for a couple of days, and discovering that not all of California is the California we think of.
By the time we walked into The Barn, we needed the first Coors to steady our nerves from the road behind, and the second to give us courage for the night ahead, which would be spent at a place I won’t go into, because our host doesn’t want the marijuana cartels knowing anything about it. We slept in rooms with closets full of guns, let’s just leave it at that.
Sitting at the bar, though, we gaped at our phones checking work emails, as we pulled ourselves together from the twisty ride there. A guy asked us if we were texting each other, and we laughed.
Three guys sat at the bar—regulars, about 60. Fox News was on above the bar, the sound dim. The guys watched it, waiting for a chyron to give them a prompt. Something about the Clinton Foundation getting active again now with the trouble in Ukraine. “Fucking Clintons!” one of the guys sez, and all three guys start grousing for a few minutes about the Clintons, until one of them brings up somebody the Clintons once knew that “killed himself on a park bench.” What was his name? “VINCE FOSTER!” one of the guys sez. “Vince Foster!” And on like that, until they run out of Clinton material, and things quiet down.
Eyes go back to the TV, absentmindedly. Chyron mentions something about Biden.
“Fucking Biden!” And on they go from there, for a few more minutes, before quieting down—before the next chyron gives them more material.
They’re not even listening to the stories. They’re just waiting for their next jolt. It’s like watching rats, in a science experiment that’s not reflecting well on the rats.
Beings aren’t born conservative (or liberal) or addicted to loathing and fear. We let ourselves get that way.
Can’t we try to get ourselves back?