Fort Bragg Rolls Out the Red Carpet (with me in it)

I thought you might be interested in my experience visiting Fort Bragg, Monday March 26th. It was a day trip for me but I was on my own for three hours while a friend fulfilled a contract.

My first stop was Headlands Coffee where I ate cookies and drank coffee while flipping through a book catalogue. There was time after to window shop. The bookstore had a used copy of Season of the Witch in their window. I considered buying a second one to lend out. Maybe after lunch.

Since it had been awhile since I was in Fort Bragg I thought I’d check out the mini mall in the old Union Lumber Company building. Final destination here was the Mendocino Cookie Company but first, a tour of the shops, slowing down to glance at the historical photos plastering the walls.

As I turned the last corner before the Cookie Company, someone vacuuming the carpet quickly turned off the machine and says to me “Let me ask you something” and proceeded to make accusations about me hanging out and not being there to buy anything. The phrase “You can’t hang out here” was repeated several times. My only response was “I’m heading to Mendocino Cookie Company. I’m a tourist.” He didn’t believe me. “Just remember, you can’t hang out here.”

I ate enough cookies earlier so I bought a Cappuccino to drink while making some notes in my catalog. I still had some time to cruise Main before lunch. On the way out I stop at the shared rest room. Someone was using it. So I’m waiting in the hall when the homeless patrol guy walks up to me and says sarcastically, “Still being a tourist?” I needed to find out what the problem was.

I go into serious conversation mode. “Look, what is the problem? Tell me what it is I’m doing and I won’t do it.” I hold up my cappuccino cup. “Look, I’m a customer.” Hallway police: “You can’t hang out here.” “What is hanging out?” “You can’t be here for over an hour hanging out.” Finally, a piece of information. “When you stopped me on the way to the Cookie Company I hadn’t been here for more than a half hour looking at the pictures on the wall so I was well within this range. Aren’t we supposed to look at the pictures?”

He acted like he never heard me but he didn’t ask me to leave either, which I was planning to do after the pit stop. Struggling to make sense of his behavior I do an analysis of my appearance – clean shave, clean clothes, no stuff except an Air Mac computer on my shoulder and a convention tote bag for a few papers. My best guess is, it must be the army raincoat. I grab the lapel of my coat in a final desperate attempt to break through to this guy. “Its been raining. I’m from Clearlake so I had no idea what the weather was going to be like here. THAT’s why I’m wearing THIS (pointing to the coat) which makes me look like a homeless person.”

I feel satisfied that I’ve solved the mystery but he just shakes his head and stalks off. During the whole encounter someone who was obviously the building’s manager passed by twice showing a new employee what had to be done to shut down the building at the end of the day. Nothing I described seemed out of the ordinary to him. I pop in and out of the rest room and leave – probably forever.

I meet my lunch date at the pizza pub across the street. I talk about the new Fort Bragg hospitality. I say “Fort Bragg” because there had to be significant public involvement to bring in all the historical artifacts to the mini mall. During my brief stay I spent $53.35. Obviously chump change for a classy place like Fort Bragg. I forget all about going back for the book on the way out of town.

I feel I should help your businesses keep lowlifes like me out of town by publicizing my recent visit. So who am I? I am 64, educated, and retired, currently on a mere $14,229 per year but I own my own place. I travel a lot on a budget within 150 miles of home. Someone still working would have to gross another thousand to clear this amount. Add another thousand to beat the hanging out threshold and we get a minimum gross income of $16,229 to keep Fort Bragg from jerking the welcome mat out from under you. I still don’t know what nuance I projected to throw retail personnel into homeless alert mode so probably no one else would either.

Feel free to use my picture of exactly what I was wearing and carrying for a poster captioned: “If you look like this, keep moving.” I’ll send it to you. I want to help.

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