A startling new survey published in the July 8 edition of The Independent reveals that SoHum’s street kids and homeless population, so often talked about as “a problem,” are actually what people most love about Garberville. Indeed, twice as many respondents said they loved Garberville’s scruffiest and scrappiest as anything else about the whole town.
No one in the survey said they loved the shops. No one in the survey said they loved the Theater, or the Town Square, or even the marijuana.
Only one respondent said they loved Garberville’s restaurants, and from the accompanying photo, it’s obvious that she has never ordered anything that wasn’t on the kid’s menu, and never picked up the tab. Other also-rans in the “most loved” survey included: people’s tolerance, the fact that there are no stop-lights in town, and one woman I’ve never seen before in my life said she loves that “You can walk down the street and everybody knows your name.”
It appears that sexual attractiveness at least partially drives the love affair with this oft vilified segment of the population. A respondent from Carlotta answered the question “What is one thing that you love about Garberville?” with the answer, “Definitely all of the hotties that frequent the Veteran’s Park.” Her honest enthusiasm shows as clearly in the expression on her face as it does in the words between the quotes.
Clearly the lean, rugged, free spirited young men who live out of their backpacks and take refuge at the Veteran’s Park have caught this young woman’s eye. From Carlotta, it takes longer, and uses more gas to come to Garberville, than it does to go to Eureka, where she could find anything else she needed, at a better price. Instead, she came to Garberville, to see “the hotties that frequent the Veteran’s Park.” Apparently, it’s the homeless beefcake that brings home the bacon for Garberville’s merchants.
The Jim Demulling Memorial Grove, aka Veteran’s Park, a little patch of land at the North end of town, squeezed between a parking lot, an on-ramp and Garberville’s main drag, became a popular hangout mainly because it is the only place in town where people can sit in some shade, socialize, eat lunch and relax without being hounded by shop-keeps to spend money or move along. Usually inhabited by a colorful cast of interesting characters, and their dogs, Veterans Park soon evolved into SoHum’s cultural center. It is, by far, the friendliest, most welcoming place in town, especially for a newcomer.
Today, “Veteran’s Park” is the epicenter of an economic boom in Garberville’s otherwise stagnant and dying downtown shopping district. Like the people fueling this emerging economic engine, the entrepreneurs who serve them have found imaginative ways around Garberville’s exorbitant rent prices, and this seems to be the key to their success:
Chicago Bob’s Hot Dogs opened up a while ago in a mobile food cart on the main drag, but just across the street from Veteran’s Park. Chicago Bob brought something to Garberville that this town desperately needed. That is, lunch for less than $5. Bob makes a great hot dog, with all the fixin’s. If you haven’t had one, you should.
Just last week I noticed a new food truck operating directly adjacent to the park, advertizing tacos for $3. “Right on!” I say. I haven’t tried their food yet, but they had a dining canopy full of people when I passed by, and no doubt full of people like the woman from Carlotta, who came for the hotties, but stayed for the tacos.
It’s refreshing to see some entrepreneurs with good sense and moxie in Garberville for a change. This new economic growth really livens up our little town, and I applaud these business-people for recognizing the potential, and filling a need, rather than complaining about it and trying to make it go away.
If you ask me, the ones who should go away, are the stodgy old business owners who would rather complain about the people in front of their store, than figure out how to meet their needs at a price they can afford.