Culture Shock §

I successfully completed yet another 7-hour one-way trip from Arcata to Tahoe yesterday. The trip is always more, however, then just driving half way across the state of California, it’s almost like a journey through time. From Arcata, home of Humboldt State, a near-throw back to the 60s with the abundance of hippies and other sanity-depleting sub-species of the human race, to Modern Day California. The differences are stark, and somewhat amusing.

Humboldt County is often referred to as “the land behind the Redwood Curtain.” Not only in reference to the lush redwood groves throughout the county, but the metaphorical aspect that these giant trees form a curtain secluding the County, and its residents, from the rest of the world. (There is actually a bumper sticker that says: “U.S. out of Humboldt County,” for example.)

No city is affected by this more than Arcata. From city ordinances that ban large corporations from doing business around the city center (except Safeway, Longs Drugs and FedEx Kinko’s — which apparently are okay in the hypocritical city’s perspective) to city funded lawsuits against the University for trying to grow — which by doing so increasing the revenue of the city — because four trees would be removed and the view of some wealthy citizens obstructed.

I’m not too sure how profound of an analysis this deserves, but the transition is somewhat shocking. I’m not used to being surrounded 24/7 by commercial interests and marketing, and the spectacle of shallowness above intellect. But it is something that I definitely notice on a conscious level every time I make this trip. Though the change is often satisfying, aside from the fact I am moving from one extreme to another. (From home-grown self importance, to pride in shallow ideals.)

For the week that I am here, I will be surrounded by advertiser’s, marketers, bad TV and superficial local news shows. And at this time of year it is especially noticeable. I had almost forgotten how commercialized and superficial Christmas is in this country. Before I left for mom’s, my friends and I celebrated modestly, in the presence of our own great company. I can only hope that my experience at mom’s will be similar, but the state of my culture shock will take a little bit of time to get over — especially when a trip that I am accustomed to taking for about a month, has been crammed into the span of a week.

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