Note: Much has happened to our country over the last four years. Many of us watched the Great Ship shudder and veer off course at that time. The following is a report I filed from the Lost Coast of Northern California a day after the 2016 Election – when I sought to get away from the political noise in favor of a redwood forest and came out of the woods to find that my country had done what I thought unthinkable. It resonates, if for a different reason today. And I hope the friends I made on that trip north are still with us and well. – J.D. O’Connor
I learned Donald Trump had pulled off one of the most stunning political upsets in this country’s history from a former Army helicopter pilot and newfound drinking buddy deep in the wooded canyons of Mendocino County.
We were sitting around a fire pit on a former hunting estate, draining the supply of 18-year-old Scotch Eric had brought in with him from Los Angeles earlier in the week, a small group of us watching a slow-moving herd of does graze in the meadow below us – coastal fog drifting in to moisten our faces. We were miles away from the nearest cell tower, thankfully, which was my reason for coming to this part of my home state in the first place. But Eric must’ve had a Sat phone or something because he took a call sometime before 1 a.m., putting the device away to lean over and clink my glass with his.
“We’re in,” he said, his face bright by firelight, flushed after an afternoon of abalone diving and exposure to the sun I’ve been lucky enough to have had this whole trip.
At first I thought he meant we were in for a long night of indulgence with a great single malt, but then I realized Eric was talking about Donald Trump.
I came down out of the hills Wednesday morning, slightly hung over, in need of coffee and some WiFi. I needn’t have worried about being cut off from news and information up here on the North Coast, because everyone was talking about the election.
“Hey, we have televisions up here,” scolded Lani, the barista at Gualala’s Surf Market, and the political discourse continued from her coffee counter to Ron’s barber shop next door. Ron has a million-dollar view of the booming 15-foot surf crunching the beach a short distance away from his back door, along with a steady stream of customers who were all talking about our future as a nation.
Ron carefully cut around Ed’s impressive ponytail, as much a local landmark in this little town as its beach. Ed grew the thing in support of Ron when Ron was diagnosed with cancer a couple of years back. He survived that but Ed (ex-military with five languages and a balanced right/left view) kept it going in his honor. They have a pact for Ron to cut the braid when Ed passes so it can be made into a remembrance fly swatter for Ed’s family. I only mention that because it is an example of the sort of forward thinking you see in these parts.
“All my kids called to ask me where they should go (post election) and I made a few suggestions,” said Ed, who has been pretty much everywhere except Kowloon and Singapore (“Never made it, heard good things…) “I’m staying here though. I don’t think there’s anything Donald Trump can do to me here unless he shows up and starts taking my trees.”
Everyone at Ron’s this morning was worried about what the new president would do with the EPA, Supreme Court, and the nation’s oil and banking industries. All seemed resigned to his appointment. Most seemed willing to accept the results of the election, while recognizing the depth of the national anger.
“I hear he won because a whole lot of angry, uneducated white males turned out to vote,” Chris Sanders said, “and that seems like a hell of a way to pick a president to me.”
I will seize this opportunity to point out that while I did not predict a Trump presidency, we did say that things could very well go to hell in a hand basket as soon as we left. From what I’m hearing, from people like Eric and Ron the Barber and our own stalwart tech dev Spencer McClennan – I guess you could say things have lived up to our expectations.
Stay cool in the 24/680, I just wanted to check in. Be nice to Spencer (we understand he has developed a slight twitch and now talks about helicopters in his sleep.) Hang in down there. We’ll be back when we run out of beach, gas, or Scotch – which ever comes first.