The Coastal Post - July 2000

Martha Stewart: Dazed And Confused In Bolinas By Stephen Simac

The front page story in the SF Chronicle about a rumor that Martha Stewart, billionaire queen of home decorating and leisure lifestyles, had moved to Bolinas, confirmed rumors that the paper had merged with the National Enquirer.

I hadn't been back to that seaside village since The Witches of Bolinas odyssey, but if Martha was there it would be a scoop for the Coastal Post. The Chronicle couldn't find her or a real story. Even the DEA couldn't find her there, a town of rumors thick as the fog that frequently shrouds it.

It's the world-famous town with no sign. Not enough tourists were coming to remote Bolinas, so as a publicity stunt locals began tearing down the road signs. By supposedly trying to hide they brought the media which told tourists how to get there. Well I don't recall how to get there, and there's really no reason to go except for the free parking for RV's and SUVs.

It's a little embarrassing to admit that I'm a fan of Martha Stewart but who else could make K-Mart upscale. Since Martha created a blue light special with her line of K-Mart paints, she's helping poor people gain fashion confidence. Nobody's worse than the new poor for garish and tacky.

I've been wanting to pitch my concept of trailer decor to Martha. Trailer Trash are an untapped market for her sense of style and marketing, eager to gain self-esteem through home improvement. Martha Stewart's TastefulTrailerLiving, "Your Life's Not Together, but Your Trailer Is."

Martha had to move out of Connecticut, because of extremely critical neighbors. She's heard that west Marin neighbors love the rich. As long as she's not building an affordable housing project, her Bolinas neighbors will welcome her.

They're generally hypocritical, often hypercritical, but they always need new blood because it's the town that fought to eat itself. Usually with rumors and gossip, once in a while an actual steak knife is used.

The Warp And The Weft

Lt. McQueeny of the Major Crimes Task Force of the Marin county Sheriff's department described Bolinas as a town "where drugs are interwoven into the culture." I thought it would be advisable to get warped for my fact finding visit. This was a scientific experiment, so don't try this at home kids. Through no faultline of my own I slipped into a time warp and entered the near future or a parallel universe.

I ended up in the near future, not in the Bolinas I had grown to love like a lame dog that won't fetch and farts liberally. It had changed. Before the locals suffered fools gladly, which they evidently self-medicated for. They were a little suspicious of strangers, but warmed right up when I produced some fool's gold.

I had expected to find Martha swapping bong hits with them, maybe buy an "I dosed Martha in Bolinas" T-shirt, grab a copy of her new lifestyle magazine influenced by Bolinas culture, "HomeSpunLiving." Featuring stories on Guerrilla Gardening, Bathtub Byproducts as a Home Business and Home Decorating with Road Signs.

This Is Kansas, Toto

Instead everyone in town was busy working, no pot smoke could be smelled, the dogs were on leashes and wearing doggie diapers, camping was banned and 4th of July canceled. All the parking spaces were taken up by resident's Range Rovers and RV's instead of VW vans and school buses. There wasn't a hippie in sight much less Martha in tye dyes.

I couldn't find anyone who had actually seen Martha Stewart, though they all had an opinion on whether she was responsible for the change in the town or whether it was the Golly Gee cult, the dot.commers, or the usual suspects.

I cornered a likely suspect Realtor, Tom Koi, who refused to say if he'd sold Martha a house. He called it confidential information as if he'd heard it in confession, and you know he's no priest.

Martha is so bourgeois, not the bohemian type Bolinasians fancied themselves, but the last hippie had evidently left Bolinas, driven out like the witches by housing costs.

Supposedly the new style of the wealthy is the BoBo, a post-modern blend of bourgeois and bohemian lifestyles. Martha is the arbiter of how to do the BoBo and the town looked like she owned it.

Even in this alternative dimension the town still suffered from the Bolinas curse. No matter how many restaurants in town it still takes an hour to get your meal, unless you eat at the Deli Museum, specialty the voodoo pickle. No wonder everyone looked like industrious zombies.

The Queen Of Spades

Bolinas has quite a few queens and grand dames, including Queen Esprit, a friend of Martha's, which is how the rumor got started. Supposedly she bought a house for Martha in town. Bolinas is succumbing to the affluent lifestyle cult spreading across Marin faster than oak blight. Martha is the high priestess of this nationwide cult, spawned by the high tech industry and the money thrown at it. Soon no one except the rich and their luxury servants will live here, and most of the workers will be trucked in from Petaluma or Marin City.

The Bay Area is a victim of the dreaded remodeling syndrome, where the wealthy buy houses and second "homes," build them bigger, fill them up with expensive stuff and drive out those who can't afford the jacked up housing costs.

Bolinas used to be different, where locals were happier collecting sand dollars than greenbacks, but now they were working frantically to pay rent or mortgages, SUV car payments or for remodeling. The indolent rich were reading MarthaStewartLiving, the magazine on how to waste more time.

No one had time to answer my questions until I cornered Darrel Van Rey, who claimed to be one of Martha's boy. He said he'd driven his RV into Bolinas from McBurning Man, one of the Stewart scouts looking for small towns to buy with her billions from going public.

"Bolinas.com is going 24/7 with live webcams, so the world can live vicariously through Martha Stewart's SmallTownLiving. The characters, and this town's full of them, including the dogs, have all been trademarked, we're putting them on Pez dispensers, with, get this local fruits and nuts flavors.

"When she first sent me here, it was like been there, done that in an hour, but I couldn't pass up the free RV parking. I told her this place needed an intervention, the locals could use some serious makeovers. It was rough at first but we put Prozac in their coffee and told them Work Makes You Happy and Free. Martha and K-Mart have bought the Gas Station and the Free Box and are building a new small town anchor store, the Bo-K."

I suspected his story, even his pseudonym, but the noisy industrial hum of jackhammers, delivery trucks, idling buses, chainsaws and powertools supported him. Workers were busy doing all the chores the wealthy didn't have time for, because they were too busy doing all the homespun things that hippies used to do, except their drugs are all legal.

They're following Martha's teachings, weaving the cult of affluent lifestyles into Bolinas culture, squeezing out the last of the hippies.

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