The bluffs between Redway and Garberville have been closed for a few weeks now. This two mile stretch of road hugs a sheer cliff of crumbly sandstone which descends precipitously into the churning waters of the Eel River below. With this narrow pass closed to all traffic save kayaks and canoes, these two tiny towns, Redway, and Garberville, which once orbited each other like binary stars, now face separation and isolation.
More than just a major inconvenience for everyone in Southern Humboldt, this severed link may forever mark a division point in SoHum culture. Evolutionary biology and island bio-geography can tell us a lot about what happens to populations and cultures who become isolated from each other. They tell us that subtle differences within connected populations, can lead to marked differences between closely related, but isolated populations.
Today, the subtle cultural differences between Eastern Southern Humboldt, including Garberville, and everything that drains into it down the Alder Point Rd, and Western Southern Humboldt, including Redway, and whatever hasn’t already fallen into the ocean West of it, seem small. For instance, people from Eastern Southern Humboldt are more likely to push a junk car over a steep cliff, whereas people in Western Southern Humboldt generally set fire to junk cars along the roadside. Over time, however, and in isolation, these minute differences often evolve into distinguishing characteristics. Unless the bluffs are repaired soon, the difference between East and West SoHum may become as stark as the difference between North and South Korea.
Today, the differences are subtle, but noticeable. In Garberville, for example, when someone sees someone else passed out on the sidewalk, they call the Sheriff. They say: “There’s someone passed out cold on the sidewalk in Garberville. Isn’t that illegal? Can you come down here and arrest them?”
Whereas is Redway, if someone comes across the same scene, an unconscious person in the sidewalk, they would call an ambulance and say something like: “Hey man, there’s, like, somebody laying here unconscious on the sidewalk. I just thought that this kinda seems like one of those health-things that you guys help out with.”
Over time, these subtle differences may become magnified. In the future, Garberville may get 35% of the electricity it uses from the alcoholics it incinerates, while everyone in Redway will get CPR certified, but hope they never have to use it because they were pretty high when they took the course.
Another subtle difference between G,ville and R,town has to do with self image. Garberville is a much more image conscious town than Redway. I think there are about five guys in Garberville, including the Jehovah’s Witnesses who wear a sport-coat and tie. Karen Miclette and her crew at Karen Miclette Insurance always dress professionally, as do the people at the banks and credit unions. When you add them all up, that’s a whole bunch of people in uncomfortable shoes and stiff scratchy collars, wondering why the rest of us can’t make more of an effort to look presentable when we’re in town.
Besides the people who “dress for success” around town, there are quite a few people who have an idea about what Garberville, and specifically, people in Garberville should look like, and they put a lot of effort into keeping up appearances.
Redway, by contrast, just makes itself comfortable. The polyester uniforms worn by the employees at the Shell station might be the most formal attire you’ll see on your visit to Redway, where most people can’t even keep their ass-crack covered.
In the future, Garberville might have hidden cameras all over town, and big screen monitors on the back-side of street signs. When you pass one of them, you will see the least flattering picture they took of you with a caption like, “Do you see what you’d look like on TV?” or “What would your mother say if she saw you dressed like that?”
Eventually, bouncers will come and escort you to the the edge of town. Meanwhile, Redway will look like a clothing optional retirement community with lots and lots of dogs.
These are just a few of the ways that long-term closure of the bluffs between Redway and Garberville could negatively effect our unique SoHum culture. We need each other, East and West, to survive, and thrive as one whole community. Redwood Drive must be repaired, now, before it is too late.