Fear And Loathing In Marin: An Affordable Housing Oddysey
By Stephen Simac
I was a Hurricane Katrina refugee. Or at least I would have been if I'd followed through on my plans to visit the Big Easy before Labor Day. However, following through on my plans has never been one of my strong points. So I had to watch the disaster on TV instead of watching the waters rise towards my hotel room in the French Quarter.
I can't say I wasn't glad for that. My heart went out for those underprivileged people who got bused off to Texas, just like Barbara Bush's. I'd've done more for them but I was stuck in my own housing catastrophe. When I heard that some of the evacuees were being put up in hotels in Marin county, California with a free credit card for $2,500, I regretted canceling that voodoo and red beans tour I'd signed up for.
Not many underprivileged people can afford to live in Marin, a lucky few living on the fringes perhaps, but most have to be content with Richmond. It has better weather they say. I've always been a little afraid to get out of my car there. Melanin challenged syndrome.
I figured I might still be registered for that New Orleans tour, I had cancelled so late. Actually I hadn't even cancelled, just didn't go. I probably wasn't actually registered, unless voodoo works better than the telephone. But I could blame not being listed on a shoddy southern paperwork, if they even asked.
I called FEMA, but all lines were busy. I finally got through to someone who tried to sell me an Arabian horse. He said state and local officials were responsible for my problems. Try them first for help, or maybe some New Orleans parish. Perish the thought. I haven't turned to the Catholic Church for salvation since I was eight years old.
The Homely And The Needless
I decided to just go to Marin and throw myself on the kindness of strangers. Put on my best drawl, use a few French words like Chevrolet, blacken any food I cooked and let the Bonton Roullet.
It turns out the milk of human kindness had dried up, at least at the Mill valley hotel I stopped in. I explained that they could charge my room, meals, phone calls and pay per view TV charges to FEMA while I waited on the free credit card for me in the mail. I offered to whip up some crawfish ettouffee for them, then threatened to work my voodoo on 'em when that didn't work. They stood firm and didn't retreat, so unlike Italians.
This was going to be more difficult than I had planned on. Not that I'd done any planning, or I probably wouldn't have gone through with it. I used to know people in west Marin. Time to head to the coast. See if they still remembered me.
Even Cowgirls Get The Blues
Hopefully my more scandalous behavior had faded in their memories. Forgive and forget, forget and forgive, that's my motto. Oddly enough scandals are what people remember the longest. Have to wait for the onset of early Alzheimer's or something. Forced to camp for a few days, I was just glad that I had skinny legs and all. The local constabulary kept asking me to show them my calves, which I thought was weird. I'm not that good looking. Especially after camping for a few days. Still no reason for Ranger Rick to pepper spray me when I said I'd show him my thighs for a dollar.
That's when I decided to get a trailer and park it on the Big Mesa in Bolinas. It's a time warp out there they said in Stinson Beach, you could still do that. I called the county for help in locating a suitable trailer. After all I was a Katrina refugee. Some whacky county planner told me that FEMA was putting up evacuees in trailers, but you had to move to some hurricane ghetto in Mississippi. That sounded worse than Rohnert Park. They aren't too helpful in the pink monolith around affordable housing.
I hitchhiked north of Olema to a campground where a gonzo journalist had done a Richard Brautigan in his RV. Luckily he hadn't laid in there quite as long, since the fatal bullet had ripped through quite a few other trailers as well. I told them the deceased Mr. Thompson was my uncle, bipolar ran in the family. The manager was just glad to get rid of the trauma reminder, so I drove it away towards Dogtown.
Dead Poets' Society
I reconnoitered parking spots in Bolinas. Downtown was full of surfers and curbside mechanics, so I headed up the hill to the mesa. Marin county zoning generally frowns on people living in trailers, unless they are agricultural employees. I'd have to find a parcel where the absentee owner was growing blackberries or something and park it there. That shouldn't be too hard, since the price of Bolinas water meters was currently at half a million. They are an endangered species since the water meter moratorium some refugees from the East coast engineered in the 70's. Since then many Bolinas landowners have been paying parcel taxes for schools, fire stations and other community services, which they can't use without a meter. It's a kind of taxation without representation, but the locals like it.
I finally found a place tucked away down a dirt road that dead ended in a thicket of poison oak. I drove the RV deep into it until the beast was more or less hidden. I'd have to go out the convenient exit hole in the back of the RV.
First I thought about raising goats and selling the goat milk as a poison oak immunity program. That sounded like too much work. In general, agriculture is too much work for not enough money. That's why Marin ag workers get to live in trailers, because they'd never be able to afford the rents.
Finally it came to me. Poison oak essential oils, biodynamically grown. Sell it to high end spas specializing in facial peels. A dab'll do you, guaranteed to slough off old skin and deep wrinkles and regenerate fresh and shiny collagen rich skin. After a few weeks of agony. Beauty is worth a little pain. Wait'll you see the results.
When Are You Leaving
I was just drifting off in to a fantasy about how I would spend my agricultural fortune, when the neighbors arrived, en masse. "You're ruining the neighborhood" they yelled, their faces as red as if they had already tried the product. Still wrinkled though.
"How can I be ruining the neighborhood?" I asked, peering through the bullet hole. "This is an RV, not a trailer. I'm almost middle class. Besides there's nothing but shacks and abandoned vehicles around here as it is."
They weren't open to reason so I waved the .357 around, which had conveniently come with the RV. It's not my fault it has a hair trigger. Maybe the uncle was just cleaning it, after all. They scattered, but I figured I better look for a friendlier neighborhood, if such a thing existed on the Mesa anymore. Maybe it wasn't such a time warp after all. I'd have to ditch the RV, it was way hot.
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