Coast Guard Cutter Rush




Louis Martin

  IT'S FLEET WEEK in San Francisco. The big ships have come into the bay, and the Hell's Angels--or is it the Blue Angels?--roar overhead. Well, even if you're against the military on general principles, it IS kind of impressive.  
  It's also very blue and clear out. There is a kind of vacancy in the sky, a sick emptiness, that comes with fall. And the air is chill too. Not cold, not unpleasant, but smarter San Franciscans have put back on some of their clothes. When that happens you know that Summer has come to an end.  
  Great gray ships come into the Bay. A battleship, a carrier, the Coast Guard cutter "Rush," and even a sleek black submarine moving like a snake through the water. And these vessels are joined by the many white sails of privately owned vessels, their owners striving for one more day of fun on the Bay. At noon the bells of Saint Peter and Paul on Washington Square add lofty music to the scene. Their notes seem to ascend into the high blue vault, dragging the last of summer with them.  
  Downtown on Kearny there are sailors. Young kids in uniforms, they are headed toward the cheap shops, the eateries--not towards Le Central, Moose's, or the Empress of China. They are also--what's new?--headed in the general direction of the "girls." They won't have trouble finding them. They, too, wear uniforms. The high skirt, the loose blouse, the heels--these are the clothes of their trade.
  SOME HUNDRED AND FIFTY miles to the north, on the Mendocino coast, it is clear and sharp too. On the North Coast the temperature drop is a more serious reminder that Summer is gone. There the clothes were never removed and if there are hookers, they are hiding deep in the woods.  
  Along the road into the town of Elk, also known as Greenwood, little piles of redwood needles line the road. Green and brown of country, with its sweet smelling air, are welcome relief to the blues and grays of the City. The quiet is an antidote to the noise of traffic, sirens, neighbors hi-fi's, and the great clatter that is the city. In Mendocino an insect makes a fuss and is heard.  
  At Orchard Hill there are workers sitting on boxes between the rows of apple trees. They look tired but happy, the work of harvesting the apples almost done. The weight of fruit released from their branches, the trees enter a period of inactivity as Winter slowly descends upon the hill. Later on the trees will look like ghosts.  
  Winter is serious business in the country, and the wood pile is a measure of a person's good sense or lack of it. Check out your neighbor's wood pile and you will know more about him or her than you would from a TRW credit report.  
  Failure to have a supply of properly dried wood in the country guarantees you a miserable Winter. Of if you live "in town"--that is, in a rural village with a single market, post office, and gas station--and you wait too long to order your wood from your woodcutter-logger-handyman, you are going to be at his mercy. That is something you don't want. He will drain Broegger's pond and sell you rotting stumps for ten dollars each.  
  The road to Elk winds along the Greenwood Ridge between two watersheds, the Greenwood and the Navarro. Associations have sprung up to protect the watersheds from logging companies, whose purpose being to make money by cutting down trees, cut down as many as the State will let them. Their approach seems to be that of the rutting teenager: short-term. The tension between big business operating in the boonies and rural activists, usually city transplants, is not pleasant to witness.  
  MAKING MONEY in the city has more respectability than in the country. In many ways money gives the city it's purpose; it's its mantra, its "raison d'Ítre." To lose money and live in the city, well, only a fool does that. Might as well move to the country if you want to be poor. Then you will have lots of company.  
  And if you live in the city you will want to spend some of your money. Especially in the fall when the blues and grays may get you down. Prove there is at least some point in having the stuff. And what better believer can you find than your stomach? Not hard to convince it that the green stuff is nice to have. And while you're convincing your stomach, why not have a drink or two as well? A Martini, a Manhattan, a Lusty Lady--something you can't get out in the woods. Your stomach will be convinced all the sooner.  
  Oh, and maybe it will clear up your head too. Because fall can be such a rambling state of mind. Need more convincing?  

Proper wood pile, Elk, California