I love August in Southern Humboldt –- triple-digit temperatures, the air hazy and thick with the ever-present smell of smoke and the hellish red tint it lends to the sunlight. Everybody’s nervous: nervous about fire, nervous about water, nervous about fish, nervous about their crop, and nervous about helicopters. Don’t forget the helicopters. Ya gotta love helicopters.
Yes, to see SoHum in all of its glory, come in August. They say sunlight is the best disinfectant, and one August afternoon in Garberville will remind you why. Nothing can survive there. In Garberville, every fiber of your being will tell you that the sun wants to kill you. You will try to accomplish whatever you went there to do, but you will become ever more stressed, fatigued, irritated and confused by the minute, as the sun steadily beats the shit out of you, until you finally realize you must flee for your life.
For miles around, the forested hills mitigate the harmful effects of solar radiation, but Garberville has the only substantial assemblage of concrete and asphalt in the area, and it concentrates sunlight like a magnifying glass. The locals have cut down damn near every last tree in town to insure maximum solar gain. They really don’t like people hanging around town.
The proliferation of wildfires in our area seems like a wet dream for our local merchants. Every cafe and restaurant in town has a queue of at least six clean cut young men in uniform, just the kind of customer they’ve always wanted. Now they’re everywhere. I had to wait in line for lunch behind a whole platoon of regular Army GIs. I don’t think that ever happened to me in Garberville before.
2015 is shaping up to be an exceptional summer for smoke in SoHum. We love smoke in SoHum. As anyone who lives here will tell you, we have the best smoke in the world here in SoHum. Pot smoke, cigarette smoke, diesel exhaust or good ol’ wood smoke — whatever your favorite flavor, we’ve got plenty of it here in SoHum, and we’ll happily set fire to a car, a homeless person or a pile of tires to spice it up for you.
Personally, I really love the smoke. I know it’s killing me, but for some reason I appreciate the air more when I can see it, and I find warm smoky air particularly comforting It might remind me of something from my childhood. I vaguely remember that my grandfather smoked a pipe and kept the thermostat too high.
Speaking of too high: I love smoking weed so much that I hollowed out my toothbrush and attached a bowl to it so I can smoke pot while I brush my teeth. That’s how much we love smoke hare in SoHum, and we’ve become connoisseurs of the finest smoke. We’ve developed our appreciation for smoke to a high art. We prefer to call ourselves “smokiers,” rather than “smoke snobs,” but it’s just our way of celebrating the pure joy of breathing contaminated air.
And nothing compliments the light-headedness that comes from breathing contaminated air on a hot summer day like the ominous reverberations from the incessant beating of rotor blades. Few sounds strike more fear into more hearts around the world than the sound of an approaching helicopter. Locally, decades of conditioning by CAMP have effected us deeply. This year, the choppers are all fighting fires, but they remind us of our PTSD … all day.
So, please, visit SoHum in August and you’ll get a warm welcome. You’ll see us at our best, and taste the air when it’s thickest and creamiest.
John Hardin blogs at Like You’ve Got Something Better To Do.