John Hardin / @ 7:43 a.m. / Op-Ed

HARDIN: Landlords Threaten Last Bastion of Hippie Culture in SoHum


Photo by Kathy Epling, from the Tiger Lily Books’Yelp page.

The more they try to beautify this town, the uglier it gets. The people with money in Garberville think they can cover up injustice with a fancy new facade, and blot out dysfunction with a fresh coat of paint, but the more they try to cover it up and push it away, the more their ugliness sticks out like a sore thumb. We see it in the hideous orange fence that surrounds the Town Square, excluding everyone from our central commons, and now we see more of it in actions taken against Tiger Lily Books.

Tiger Lily Books, also known as Paul’s Bookstore, at the north end of Garberville is the last surviving hippie business in Garberville. Paul Encimer has been a pillar of this community for decades, and few people have done more to serve the community than he has. In fact, that’s why the landlords and their manager say they are evicting him.

In the “Two Week Notice” dated 9/23/16, they claim that Paul is in violation of his lease because “the premises are being used to store and distribute goods other than books.” Further, they demand that he “must not store food, clothing, or items/provisions other than those that relate to a bookstore and not to distribute such items from the premises.” Paul, and his recently deceased wife Kathy, have, for decades, helped match donations to needs in this community through their bookstore, and Paul still maintains a community free box in front of his store. If you have extra coats, blankets, tents or sleeping bags, Paul knows who needs them. Apparently, charity is grounds for eviction in Garberville

By far the biggest distribution of food that happens at Paul’s Bookstore is the, once-a-month Mountain People’s Food Buying Club. Members of the club order food from a catalog, at wholesale prices, and once a month, a truck unloads a pallet of groceries in front of the bookstore. The whole club helps unload it and sort it all out. This cooperative community grocery project rose out of the ashes of the long defunct Co-op in Ruby Valley, which Paul was also involved with. The Co-op in Ruby Valley was a central hub of back-to-the-land hippie culture, back in the day, and when the Co-op went under, that culture retreated to Paul’s Bookstore. Paul doesn’t just run a bookstore, he keeps that culture alive.

Besides being the place to pick up a book, meet the cool people in town, and catch up on the latest gossip, Paul’s Bookstore has cultural and historical significance. For a short time, after the rednecks killed the Indians and cut down all of the trees, but before the dope yuppies sucked the salmon streams dry, a bunch of idealistic young people, called “hippies,” inspired by new ideas and psychedelic drugs, moved out here to escape the rat race, and to learn to live differently. Those back-to-the-land hippies gave us alternative energy, owner-built homes, composting toilets, organic farming and California sinsemilla. Paul cultivates the last surviving remnant population of “back-to-the-land” hippies in SoHum, at his bookstore in Garberville.

The achievements born from this brief flowering of a creative counterculture stand in stark contrast to the long, dark history of violence, exploitation and stupidity that otherwise characterize the history of white settlement in this area. For this reason alone, we should preserve hippie culture wherever we find it, but we’ve been told, time and time again, that hippie culture is the key to our economic future as well. Will we ever learn? Today, hippie culture has all but vanished from the hills, but it still survives at Paul’s Bookstore in Garberville, at least for now.

Paul’s Bookstore keeps hippie culture alive, and reminds us of what community looks like. Not only does Paul keep his shelves stocked with the ideas that shape hippie thinking, he also lives up to the ideals of hippie culture. He has opposed every war since Vietnam. He still has the sea turtle costume he wore in the “Battle for Seattle” WTO protest, and he has chained himself down inside his congressman’s office. Paul has organized free meals, and run emergency shelters. Paul is a fountain of knowledge about hippie culture, community organizing and non-violent resistance, and he’s all too eager to share that knowledge with anyone who’ll listen.

Today, the dope yuppies circle him like sharks. Drug dealers dominate the local culture now, and they bring an entirely different set of values from those of the hippies. Drug dealers don’t care about community. That’s why they became drug dealers in the first place. Drug dealers only care about making money, and drug dealers like to show off their money.

Drug dealers care a lot about their “image” because they can’t talk too much about what they do for a living, and because dealing drugs is a pretty low-status job. So, drug dealers use their money to appear wealthy and sophisticated, to draw attention away from the the very sleazy nature of their business. It’s the same way with strip clubs and pornography. The marque reads “Entertainment for the Discerning Gentleman,” only because the sign reading “Live Nude Girls” brought in enough money to renovate the club. They didn’t change what they did for a living, they just changed their image.

Now that a new cadre of greedy, image-conscious dope yuppies have taken to laundering their money through Garberville’s downtown, they’ve declared war on anyone who doesn’t have the look they’re looking for. They’ve made it clear that they don’t want no commie food club or hippie free box in their town, and they sure as hell don’t want anyone to give food, warm clothes, sleeping bags or tents to people who need them. They want to get as far away from the “hippie” look as possible, and Paul just doesn’t fit into their sharp new upscale image of Downtown Garberville.

It’s not enough that SoHum’s drug dealers exterminate charity in their own heart, they insist on sterilizing the whole town. When they say, “Oh, I’m sorry, we don’t have any services for poor people down here in SoHum,” they say it like it’s a strange coincidence. They should say “We’re greedy pricks here in SoHum. We don’t share, and we like to bully people. If we find you asleep, anywhere in this town, we just might beat you to death with a stick, just for kicks. Not only that, if anyone in this town tries to help you, we will crush them. That’s how little we care and how much we want you gone.”

You can’t build real prosperity from greed, injustice and exploitation, and you can’t escape the poverty created by the War on Drugs. The profits of prohibition are cursed. The skeletons hidden behind the new faux-stone facade going up downtown, and the bodies buried under the Garberville Town Square will haunt this town for generations. Paul’s bookstore on the other hand, stands as a shining beacon of hippie culture in a vast, dark, violent sea of predators and bottom-feeders. As a community, we can’t afford to lose it.

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John Hardin writes at Like You’ve Got Something Better to Do.


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