Letters from the road: Stitches out in Red Bluff

Hello Morgan! Greetings from Red Bluff, California! The Golden State enjoys a reputation as one of our country’s most liberal places, but I do not think the people responsible for propagating that reputation have spent much time here. On the one hand you have San Francisco and Los Angeles and et cetera, but on the other hand you have pretty much the rest of the state, which ranges from mixed-bag to Palin-esque (in terms of both attitude and policy preferences). It’s a big, weird, politically schizophrenic state.

Red Bluff lies somewhere between mixed-bag to just-right-of-mixed-bag, or at least that’s the sense I get. I’m not sure why I’m going on about this, other than that I drew my proposed California state mascot and I guess felt compelled to explain it using information that I assume you already know.

But here I am in the state that gave us Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, gay rights, and a world-renowned state university system.

I like Red Bluff. Or at least I like substantial aspects of life in Red Bluff. I like that it’s not a big city, I like the hills and oak trees that surround the Sacramento Valley, I like the proximity to the mountains, and I like the hot, dry summers and cool, rainy winters. Over on the coast the culture is I think what you’d get if you could put Ken Kesey and all the characters from his book Sometimes a Great Notion into a superpersonality supercollider. Over here it’s more like Jonh Steinbeck and pre-sobriety Johnny Cash raised a child together and it turned out to be Red Bluff.

The more I write, the more I think I really like Red Bluff best when I’m just passing through.

I spent a couple days down here at my aunt and uncle’s place after taking about a week to travel north from San Francisco along the coast and then through the mountains. I had the staples removed from my legs back in Santa Rosa, and I had the remaining stitches removed from my legs a couple days ago thanks to the help of a family friend. The “examination table” for the procedure was the La-Z-Boy recliner in my aunt’s living room. I think I got better health care here in Red Bluff than I did on any of my follow-up visits in Santa Rosa.

Hello, Morgan! It’s now mid-afternoon and I’m about thirty miles north of Red Bluff. Redding is warm and sunny and the air coming into town was hazy with the smoke of forest fires burning to the east. The fires are big, and Red Bluff was a little hazy this morning, but this is really something.

I’m sitting at a picnic table above the Sacramento River, looking at the Sundial Bridge, a pedestrian/bike bridge designed by a guy named Santiago Calatrava, who I don’t think was super well-known when he designed this bridge, but has since become Mr. Hot Stuff. He designed the transportation hub for the new World Trade Center site, and … I don’t know, also a bunch of other stuff. The point is, Redding was into Santiago Calatrava before he was cool, which I guess means the Redding city planners are architectural hipsters.

I watched a short-ish documentary about the bridge on Netflix. From what I remember it seems like the bridge was a controversial project whose construction was a hard-fought victory. I think it’s a good-looking bridge. In fact I would probably describe it as funky, but that’s mostly because I’m listening to a funk mix on my headphones, which engenders positive feelings and a tendency to describe things I like as funky. (Conversely, when I listen to the Democracy Now! podcast, I feel depressed about the world and have a tendency to identify things I think are undemocratic.)

So, here I am in Redding, listening to 1970s funk and enjoying the warm weather and campfire-scented air. And I’m eating cherry tomatoes from my uncle’s garden, with a side of dry-roasted peanuts. I think peanuts and tomatoes have a brain-clearing effect, because after yammering about funk music and a footbridge I don’t know what to write about next. In fact, I must have paused for a good five or ten minutes before writing that last sentence, just staring at the river.

Okay. Golly, I’ve eaten a lot of peanuts and spent a lot of time staring at the river. I don’t know why this place is called Turtle Bay. It’s clearly a river, not a bay.

Later today I drive north toward Oregon. My friend Tom is getting married in Portland on Saturday, and I want to be there for the shindig. It’s essentially a de facto college reunion for me. After that I’ll be orbiting Portland for a while, I expect, trying to draw out the summer, camping and doing what hiking I can.

I don’t think I have a good conclusion here. I like rivers and bridges, maybe? I’m not sure what the take-home message is there.

Click to embiggen.

Click to embiggen.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *