The Coastal Post - November, 1995

Magic Flees Marin, The Dying Of The Dream


Marin County lost many of its icons this year. The Flea Market is homeless, the Renaissance Pleasure Faire is shifting to Contra Costa county, Gary Giacomini is retiring, Jerry Garcia died, and Inverness burned.

These were some of the archetypes of Marin's image as the center of a hedonistic, environmental, liberal, hippie/rancher/artist elite lifestyle. It's as if big portions of Marin's magic fled like rats from a rotten ship.

Mt. Tam still looms over us like a Sleeping Lady, claiming her young men for immortal lovers. Tamalpais is the spiritual heart of Marin, with the Pt. Reyes Peninsula her unwilling mate on the Pacific Plate, snagged by her ample thighs as he strains to be free. Their sexual juices made Bolinas Lagoon.

So the natives told Sir Francis Drake when his pirate ship, the Golden Hinde, scraped ashore in West Marin in 1579. The buccaneer and his brigand men had hedonistic encounters with the coastal Miwok in New Albion, his homesick name for Marin. While their ship was repaired, Drake buried gold he'd plundered from New Spain somewhere hereabouts.

History scuttled along. Europeans have been scurrying about like white lab rats in this geological time maze. The last 25 years or so, an environmental freak flowered here. Like engaging in a rare sport, the humans of Marin carved out an ecological niche, a lifestyle and mindset wildly successful in reproduction for a brief nanosecond, a meteoric flash in a pan being ground into scrap metal by the tectonic forces of global economics.

Flea Market forced to flee!

This year they all left at once. The Marin City Flea Market was magical for many years. Lately it had become more commercial, but the Marin City parking lot was still a place where people could shop cheaply, incubate small businesses, recycle worldly possessions and found objects, and meet and greet on Sunday mornings.

The county hated it because not one red cent went into their sales tax rathole. The churches hated it because it was a capitalist religion bigger than God Almighty and his many sons. The stores hated it because more people were shopping in mud and dust than in air-conditioned malls. It's gone.

Marin City community sucked off its half million dollar a year parking and vendor fees tit, like bloodsuckers on a cash cow, vaguely organizing it, never improving it and unsuccessfully fighting to keep it.

The Flea Market was a true entrepreneurial zone, with no affirmative action. It was buy low, sell cheap for many years, gradually becoming more upscale and pricey. It had something for everyone and its demise will be felt in the communities it created and sustained.

The manager of Olema Campground expressed an interest in hosting it to the Coastal Post, with some reservations about trash, parking and permits. A Flea Market in Olema would return it to its funky roots; it might even slow down the Sunday Morning Motorcycle Ride.

"I don't want any sendoff!"

Gary Giacomini is retiring after sitting on the Marin County Board of Supervisor's since "the beginning of time," in his own words. In the same breath he said, "and will be there 'til the end of time," during a Buck Center for Aging debate. (He spoke for the I.M. Pei center. It's the jewel or thorn in his political crown.)

I questioned him afterwards. Did his mean he wasn't going to retire, or was he being apocalyptic? I told him the Coastal Post had planned to write a nice little sendoff for his retirement to ranching, but if he wasn't really going to retire, we'd have to keep nipping at his nuts. We can't help it. We're like a bull terrier—toro, toro, toro—we just want to grab his snout and hang on. It keeps down the bullshit.

Now Gary's a good ole boy, easily irritated and he never forgives. He's still pissed at the Coastal Post because my ex-girlfriend, ex-CP reporter, lured him into an interview with her fine self and then burned him. I know how he feels.

"You'll be the last to know if I'm leaving. I don't want any damn sendoff from you," he shouted at me while the elderly voters of Strawberry Village milled around us. That's pretty much what my ex told me the last time we made love. Her face wasn't quite as red as his.

The Coastal Post and Gary Giacomini go way back in their relationship. Maybe this is the way they all end. We're going through our files for a nice sendoff for the Supervisor, if he is actually retiring.

We've been the burr in his saddle. If he's hitching up for higher political grounds, I'm worried for his blood pressure. He might want to watch his fat intake.

Breasts, buns, oak forest

The Renaissance Pleasure Faire has finally, finally, MAYBE had to move out of Marin County. The Blackpoint oak forest which has sheltered its magical space is about to be bulldozed for a golf course and luxury houses.

Three hundred year old oak trees are scheduled to be pushed over into the mud this winter. Their centuries of growth will be "mitigated" by planting seedlings with low survival rates.

The Pleasure Faire epitomized the hedonistic Marin lifestyle with an abundance of breasts, temptingly bodiced like warm loaves, bared chests and stuffed codpieces. A romantic illusion of leather and feathers, turkey legs and lusty wenches in peasant dresses.

The Coastal Post was mailed complimentary tickets, which I snagged. I went to the last day of the Renaissance Faire in Marin. A Moste Delyghteful Daye was had by this reporter who struggled to keep a neutral, objective, journalistic tone, being trained in the old school of look but don't touch reporting. In the end, she felt so good that tabloid journalism on steroids could not capture the magic of Marin's Renaissance Festival.

It's a sad loss for Marin, but the upscale residents of Blackpoint have cheered a big huzzah! For these neighbors, the traffic, the Gypsy carnival atmosphere, and the lowered property values from the Faire. The shamans of Blackpoint chanted while stroking their putters, "Why don't you just leave and make no further contact." Now it's gone, the wildest party ever, with afterhour parties going even more medieval.

The Renaissance Faire will probably thrive over in Contra Costa county. A corporation bought it out. They're more interested in counting cups than creating magic. The whole Renaissance concept is too optimistic for the millennia fever which will sweep the nation in the next decade.

With the way economic and environmental forces are headed, Marin should be the first to host a Dark Ages Faire. Somewhere on the foggy coast would make it easier to wear all those heavy costumes. Maybe in the burnt section of the Pt. Reyes Peninsula. Or at least a Miwok village with Drake and his merry men consorting with the original Marinites.

Jerry's dead, where will his children play?

The achingly sweet tones of Jerry Garcia's guitar touched the souls of millions. He smiled over the Grateful Dead's modern Elysium rites until his heart gave out. He died alone in a Forest Knolls detox center.

Too much fat, too many cigarettes, such a big heart. We are more than the size of our arteries, and his music will live on, recorded on bootleg tapes. But where will the pied piper's children dance?

The Grateful Dead without Jerry is like the Beatles without John. It can be done, but what's the point? Better the Dead should get to work on fulfilling his vision with the vast fortune created on his broad back. Unfortunately his vision was as vague as poor Mrs. Buck's last will.

Surely if he hadn't been addled by drugs he would have made some provision for his millions of kids. Some place for them to gather for ritual dances and parking lot marketplaces.

Where there's a need, the market fills it. Hippie World, a magical realm outside the way of time and logic, could only be sited in Bolinas. Put it on the Web and they would come. You're on The Further Bus to Hippie World theme park. Sex, drugs and rock 'n roll will pack those aging baby boomers into a town with tye dye t-shirt shops, bordellos, herbal tea cafes, surly locals, and plenty of free parking.

Funiculars and gravity trains

Now I could justly be accused of trying to choke West Marin with automobile traffic and kill it with tourism, if I didn't have a grand delusion. I mean master plan. Bring back the rail transport and sailing ferries Marin used to have.

Make them even lighter, more comfortable and faster, and come up with new ones which are inexpensive and energy sustainable. Tax automobile transport at its full cost to help recreate Marin's original transportation system.

Passenger destination stations are essential for rail transit, and Hippie World, the Dark Ages Faire and the Olema Flea Market would generate funds for West Marin trains.

Mountain bikes can be a bigger part of the transportation mix, ride-sharing can be actively encouraged. Single-occupant vehicles can be seen as welfare leeches.

Humans are valuable, humans create wealth. Sometimes we overlook the obvious in fulfilling our own selfish needs. Soon the diminishing amount of land available for growing food, the rapidly eroding soil, diminishing ground water, and the increasing number of humans will conspire to turn our attention to growing food.

When there is very little land to grow food and even less soil, everything will be seen in a different light. Open space will look like potatoes. Broom will be valued as a nitrogen fixing, compost cover corp. Human dung and urine will be seen once again as fertilizer and farmers will compete to lure passersby into their shitter just as the Chinese did. The dead will be buried for compost or their ashes returned to dirt.

West Marin will be farmland again when potatoes are worth more than gold. Mansions and lawns will be dismantled to uncover soil. We already have one monocrop valued like ore that has helped many farmers. If we diversify in the future, we could all be farmers.

Don't think of them as tourists, think of them as visitors who leave something behind. Something to help the flowers bud and the tubers grow.