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(415)868-1600 - (415)868-0502(fax) - P.O. Box 31, Bolinas, CA, 94924

December, 2006


Letter From A. Broad.
The Ties that Bind-Rick

In the nineteen seventies, when our children were small, every six months or so one mother would arrive at the home of another with grocery bags full of clothes, for babies, toddlers and little children. The bags would be gratefully taken in, sorted, and used then the bags themselves stood ready to be refilled with still usable cloths and passed onto another mother. In such a way we began to build our generations new community.
In Bolinas that spirit gave birth to The Free Box. Now over thirty years old it has stayed in the same location, served the community and thrived. It is as used and needed today as much as it was when it began and is maintained by a few regular volunteers and some folks who cannot help but tidy up as they rummage through. For we all love rummaging, that searching for the hidden treasures and the Free Box in Bolinas yields up a high percentage of great finds.

I used to think that 'our' free box was unique. Unique in that way sometimes Bolinas people can think that our town, community and selves are. And or course that is true - to a point. But it was not until going to Telluride in Colorado over the Labor Day weekend that rounding a corner off Main Street I walked into another Free Box.

It is a beautiful Free Box. Sheltered under the eaves of a buildings overhang the compartments are divided like nesting boxes in a chicken coup with people coming by to lay their gifts and then others to reach in and check for golden eggs. Gus, a professional photographer and our guide for the film festival, says he furnished his entire home from the Free Box. Pickings were slim when I looked but I could see how it could be different on another day.

It was the Free Box that made me think more about the similarities of small communities that get discovered and changed than any discussion about real estate prices and how the people who live here can't afford to. How communities house the people who serve there and need to be built but they are high class mountain-air ghettos with not yet enough life to bring them soul.

Telluride is beautiful, gifted in it's mountain way with the same magic as West Marin. Snow water rushes down the mountain face bold and white before crashing into rivers that feed the lush green valley. In West Marin waves roll into all the beaches that surround us lapping onto this land peninsular that dares to jut out and face the sea. Both areas were relatively undiscovered in the sixties and seventies but the same wandering tribes folk of the new America drifted into each paradise and found ways to stay. It wasn't always easy. You had to be of service to the community as well as yourself to find and hold a place here.

Telluride is still considered a tough skiing resort and at first only the really good or adventurous came here to ski. Still, each year, Telluride will loose someone known by the community on the mountain. This annual death is a sobering bind for this community.

Death does bind us. Sometimes more firmly than birth. For birth is a new beginning. A family is created or increased and changes become evolutions that meld more or less easily into the community in which they preside. But death is different. There is a loss of the present, the now. Such is the case for Bolinas with the loss of Rick Klaes.

I remember when I first noticed Rick, maybe twenty years ago driving by the farm. Bolt upright, tall and proud driving Bill Albright's tractor off to some job on the Big Mesa. Encasing those levers with his big rough hands as gently as stroking a kitten, that cat would turn and play any which way he wished. I remember watching him drive by and thinking "Now there's a man." He drank then. He was known as a loud raucous drunk that got tougher as he got older and then weaker as he got sicker. But in those years he could return to work the next day. That was until Albright retired and the job ended. But Rick had nowhere else to go and, not so slowly, he became one of the street people of Bolinas and pretty soon the leader of the pack. He was rarely challenged in his role. He was not afraid of ending up in jail for a period of time. Pretty soon that became part of the rhythm of his year. There were times when he came back clean, sober stone-cold clear-eyes sober and fearful, pausing and hesitant full knowing of his future before crossing the street to his pals and the first beer of the day.

Rick was one of Bolinas' own. He had a girl friend and a dog. First one died and then the other. Janice was as wild and fiery as Rick, and their fights were legendary. A memorable one took place at St. Aidan's church in the rain one evening, when we served a Sunday Supper and had hot showers for whoever wanted one. Janice had stormed into the church and the shower to escape the war she had created - Janice, as all desperate women have done, had once again, provoked her man just to see how far she could before he lashed out. Rick, roaring his fury - at his inability to fix it for her, for himself and for the world charged in after her. Anna Phalen, bearing a cake, entering the same door at that moment and barely escaped Ricks fist, aimed at Janice. How hard he tried not to hit her.

When Boas died, again a hard fall, his woman, Emily, brought his remains to St. Aidans for a service. The church was then a refuge for the fallen. Boas was a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. But it was raining hard the day of his service and the van full of uniformed Marines were unsure of this church full of street people who were drunk, stoned or just more cold and tired than usual. During the service the marines waited outside the church until it was time to play the bugle and present Emily with Boas's flag. Umbrellas they marched out, faced Emily and her friends and placing the ghetto blaster on the ground, pressed play. As Taps squealed out of the machine they held flags aloft while one young marine stepped forward to present Emily with the flag for which Boas had fallen. Rick stood tall and with one hand took off his hat and placed his other hand across his chest. All the men followed suit, standing in silent tribute to a fallen warrior. For it is war out there on the street, make no mistake, war against the world that refuses to let you in - on your own terms.

Rick Klaes gave a face to our street folk. Like bad missionaries we didn't interfere. It was too late we all thought and maybe we were right. Rick was on his own path and he never pretended to be otherwise.

Ricks path came to an end this week. Tied down in a bed of safely and pain he died away from home and the sound of the sea that he loved forever. We will all miss him and Bolinas is the poorer for the loss of this man of the street.

This had been a Letter from A Broad. Written and Produced for you by Muriel Murch.

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