I’m a simple man really. I think most of us are. Well, the women folk are simple women, not simple men, but I think you get my point. For the most part we don’t want much more than to be able to live our lives and achieve some semblance of a dream of what those lives might be. These past few days I had the opportunity to experience my dream existence, but first…
For years, when I vacationed, I always needed a newspaper to start my day. Particularly back before the omnipresence of the internet, I had to make sure I read the newspaper. I had a need to keep in touch with the larger world, even when tucked away in a mountain cabin with my extended family, or relaxing by the ocean. Wherever I’ve been, I’ve needed the news. Things started to change over the past couple of years for a number of reasons. First, newspapers just aren’t what they used to be. Second, the internet provides far better alternatives and with phones and tablets and instantaneous connection, who needs the daily newspaper. And third, I’ve grown out of my dependence on the news when I vacation.
So, Wednesday, as a birthday trip a few weeks late, my wife and I went to Fort Bragg, California. I visited Fort Bragg a few years ago for a writing conference and fell in love with the place. A town of about 7,000 people right on the ocean, with a harbor, a central district with a few very good restaurants, and an area of the coast full of beaches and dynamic shoreline. This was right outside our hotel the evening we arrived.
We ate at Cucina Verona that first night. It’s a high quality restaurant owned by the classically trained chef. With really good food. On Thursday, we stopped at Jughandle State Park, where I took far too many pictures of waves and rocks.
We went from there to the small town of Mendocino, walked through the shops, had a quiet lunch and walked some more.
We headed back towards Fort Bragg, stopping at the Point Cabrillo Lighthouse …
… before visiting Glass Beach, which besides the Skunk Train is probably what Fort Bragg is most known for. So, here’s the deal, tourists come from all over to see Glass Beach. And why is that. Well, up until 1959, the beach was used as the town dump and the combination of fires that occur at such places melting down all of the garbage dumped there and the relentless action of the crashing waves created a beach covered with “glass jewels” of ground and polished pieces of glass and ceramic. There isn’t much left because tourists over the years have picked it clean, but still the idea fascinates me — a former dump turns into a tourist attraction. Only in America?
From Glass Beach we returned to central Fort Bragg so the wifey could wander around and shop a bit more while I partook of a beer or two. We ate that night at Taka’s — a Japanese restaurant known for its sushi. According to a guy at our hotel, the owner of Taka’s gets up at 3:00 every Tuesday morning to drive to San Francisco to personally select the fish he serves at his restaurant. I don’t do sushi, but the wife does, so I got the Teriyaki chicken and she got her sushi.
The whole day, I was essentially disconnected. I paid no attention to the news and didn’t get a newspaper.
On Friday, I went for a sunrise walk along the beach around our hotel.
We went out to breakfast and then headed to McKerricher State Park, a sprawling place that stretches along the coast for miles. There is a beach that stretches essentially uninterrupted for more than six miles. There are tidal pools and sea lions. There are bluffs overlooking some of the most dynamic combination of rocks and waves I’ve seen in the area. It is a beautiful place.
We saw a fraction of McKerricher before we headed away. Somewhere along the way, my wife was checking her phone and made some comment, based on a friend’s post on Facebook, about something happening in Paris. I had no idea what she was talking about because I had disconnected. But her comment drew me in and here we are.
I have spent the last 24 hours thinking about what I want to say about this latest terrorist attack, whether I want to say anything at all. But I have to say something. First let me start with something I posted on Facebook about an hour ago.
A pre-debate thought … with the Dems about to debate, CNN’s website suggests that the Paris attacks will be the dominant issue discussed among the candidates. Here’s what I’d like to hear them say and what I know none of them will say:
There is nothing we can do about it. As long as our nation inserts itself around the world, as long as we assert our power and dominance, as long as we remain dependent on foreign oil (which is becoming less so actually), as long as we are Israel’s staunchest ally, the United States will be able to do nothing about the scourge of Islamic terrorism. It is not a “war” we will ever win no matter how powerful we think we are because sadly, our “power” plays directly into the hands of the terrorists. No, rather than “doing something” about it, I’d like to hear a candidate speak honestly and suggest an alternative … a domestic alternative energy plan that would marshal our incredible resources to put solar on every rooftop and an electric or hydrogen powered car in every garage, weaning us from the one strategic reason for our role in the Middle East. We’ve done equally incredible things in this country before. We could do this as well. Only thing is that it would require a fundamental restructuring of our economy and would require breaking the hold of the corporate special interests that are dependent on things as they are.
What can we do about Islamic terrorism? Nothing, as long as we continue doing what we have been doing for decades now.
In response to a comment on this post, I also said this:
The entire political debate in this country is built around certain assumptions that absolutely must be challenged but it doesn’t seem like they ever will be.
I’ve spent my adult life fascinated with politics and with the Middle East. In college, I created my own minor in Middle East Studies. But I am done with the thing. We show no ability to learn from experiences and mistakes. And it’s because of what I said in that comment … our entire political debate is built around assumptions of what we must do and where we must be that remain unchallenged and have become articles of faith for our leaders and far too many of our citizens. As long as that is the case, there is no point talking about what we should do about ISIS, al Qaeda, and terrorism. There is nothing we can do. As long as we believe we must be everywhere, that we must be the world’s policeman, we will be the targets of those who chafe against our dominance.
Friday night, after two busy days exploring the Fort Bragg area, we had dinner at Piaci’s, a tiny little hole in the wall place that serves high class pizza (yes, some people may say say that’s a contradiction in terms, but not me!). The owner is … yes, a classically-trained chef. It’s amazing to me how a small place like Fort Bragg has attracted a group of chefs who turn out such incredible food. So, anyway, I’m sitting there with my wife in this place that fills my soul and I thought of what my future could look like.
In a few years, I’ll hopefully retire from my job — the one that has paid the bills and provided for my family for more than 20 years, but the one that isn’t really me. And I could find myself in a place like this.
Seriously, Piaci’s is a hole in the wall. As near as I could tell, there were three guys working the kitchen, one guy working the bar, and a woman working the few tables that wrapped around the bar. In a few years, I would love to work in a place like this. Near the ocean, so I could enjoy the scenery.
And hang out in (and maybe even work in) a place that provides the two essential ingredients to my life.
The thing is that this is the same thing that people want the world over. It is why terrorists can find safe havens and allies against us. Imagine the hundreds of thousands of Muslims who wish for nothing more than a peaceful life for themselves like the one I envision for myself but who have been deprived of that opportunity because of our country’s belief that because we have the power we have the right to use it. What do I want? For this to end, for we as a country to do something different than what has obviously failed for decades now. Am I hopeful? Absolutely not. I can only hope, I make it to an ocean hideaway before all hell breaks loose.
Thanks for reading. I hope for you and your family that you have the opportunity to realize your own dreams. No matter who you are or where you live. No matter your color. Your faith. Your gender. No matter what. You are a human being. You deserve nothing less.