Tag Archives: Humboldt State

Being Back

So I was back in Arcata. But it wasn’t going to last. I would walk across the stage and then out of town. Well, plans change.

Simone was someone I knew before. As a fellow student I found her to be interesting, and attractive. But there were a lot of students. Few as interesting and attractive but I was moving. While in school I had focused on school. Then as it wound down I was looking outward.

And then I returned. We met again in the computer lab. She was working on a project. I helped her. We talked. And talked and then more. I was happy for a moment. At first we were friends.

When it came time to walk, she choose to go with me and the journalism students. She had two majors. Neither were journalism. It was her minor. But they let her. And we sat together. At this point I felt myself wanting to stay longer.

I got a temporary job at a local flower company. One of the hardest jobs I have ever worked. The flowers were dumped and fed through a spinning wheel. It tore the bulbs off. From there the flowers dropped onto a long conveyor belt. Higher and just in front of this belt was a second. But this one had a flexible range of perfect mountains. As the flowers traveled down the belt. Our job was to bunch them and place them in the valleys of the other belt. The bunches would go along and through a machine which wrapped a string around the stems. Then they were bagged. The last step was to put them in a bucket. A running count was always rolling above us on a reader. The line boss would be yelling. Faster and faster we would be working.

All of this was in a giant warehouse. On other lines the flowers weren’t the same. Or the bunches were not the same. A couple times we would be moved from line to line. But for the most part we spent all day on the same line. A couple times we even were sent outside to work in the fields. We didn’t do planting. And I don’t recall on what they had us work. The job was temporary to cover orders for Mother’s Day. A bunch had gotten hired. Each day after Mother’s Day was a new rumor. Some would get to stay. Then it would be about some being let go. It wasn’t long before I was let go from the job. And then I was staying.

Working with me at the job was a strange girl. She lived in Eureka. And she loved cheese burgers. It wasn’t a long drive to the hospital. So we would drive there on lunch and she would eat cheese burgers. I say we because she didn’t have a car. I drove her for lunch. But I also picked her up in the morning and dropped her off in Eureka. The job started early in the morning, 5 a.m. We got off in the afternoon.

She was a young girl. In her late teens and dealing with the first struggles of real life. I just wanted to help. There was someone I was becoming attached to during this time. It was Simone. On my one day off we would go on walks along the river. I’d never been to Blue Lake before. She showed me an amazing trail. It was the start of summer and a good time to be in love. A good time to be walking in the fresh air.

After the job at the flower farm didn’t work out I got a short-term job. It was something I was so sure would not last I filed “exempt” on my tax paperwork. It was in McKinleyville, and even though we weren’t talking while I worked at the store. Sometimes Simone would come in and say hello. The job itself wasn’t stressful. But I didn’t like the hours and I didn’t like my manager. She was difficult in many ways.

My shift overnight. And for most of it I worked alone. This was one of the biggest problems. Working alone isn’t great for me. But I would man the station. Which meant I sold gas, cigarettes and general store items. One task I hated was counting the cigarettes. A task unique to the job. But one I had to do each morning. Overnight I would try to stock the cooler between customers. Often it was slow after 2 a.m. But until then it was steady. There were no real breaks, or lunches. How can this be legal. There is a loophole for jobs where there isn’t someone to cover. But there was often enough of a break to eat and relax. Each night there was also a lot of cleaning.

There were a few regular customers. One would often bring a dog with him to the store. On the Fourth of July the dog came alone. Many animals are scared by the fireworks. Well he got into the store and I was trying to get him out. He bit me. Not a bad bite, just a nip because he was scared. Another funny story was one of my co-workers finding a counterfeit bill. I believe it was a $20. He insisted on calling the sheriff and turning it over. Which is the “right” thing to do, I guess. But in my experience most people would just return it. I don’t know it was worth the officer’s time to drive out and pick it up.

The area around the gas station reminded me of Silent Hill. While I know it is a video game. I never played the game, but I have watched the movie. There was often a dense fog. My life felt like it was in a dense fog. I was sleeping in my car at the time. Unsure about how long I wanted to stay in town. And unsure how long I would stay in town. If I had only known.

But after working there for a couple weeks I went back to my old job. We talked and they offered me a better job. So I agreed to go back to CVS. The hours were the same, but the pay and the work was better. This is when I started to feel like I would be back for a while. But not long enough to get a place. And I wasn’t making enough money for rent. Even as I moved to a full-time job as a night supervisor at CVS.

Eventually I started a blog to write about town. I had a couple people I could talk to about news. Also a friend of mine was going to help me. This wasn’t Simone, but Karen, also a journalism student. But she had gone to HSU before I started. She had already worked for a couple news papers. While the blog didn’t work out, I did get offered a free-lance gig from the local paper. The Arcata Eye was the local news source people loved to hate. The owner and editor was said to focus too much on pot crimes in the area. When A&E did a documentary named Pot City, they talked to him. And this made people unhappy.

While working at the newspaper a former HSU student I knew tried to mount a boycott. Not being direct friends, but a friend of a friend I found out about it early. I’m not sure I made the right choice looking back. But I alerted the editor about the page the student had made on Facebook. I guess it was about gaining some respect with the editor. But it was also about letting someone I thought of as a friend know someone was attempting them harm. I imagine if it had been the other way around I would have done much the same thing. Even though the student was less of a friend. News of the page spread to the small staff at the paper. Then it spread to local media types. Before long they had flooded the page turning it into a joke. This is why I regret my part in the site being known. I don’t believe it would have lasted or worked. It turns out others had tried a similar move in the past. But it did earn local media attention. Much of which focused on the fact the first people on the page were an editor of the paper itself. And in the end I guess the student was okay.

I knew people from living in town before. But Arcata this time also had a new batch of people. Milk was one of these people. Many were people I talked to as I worked for the paper. One person thought I was a spy. But most became new friends.

The Long Trip Home

In the next few weeks I crossed much of the west. From North Dakota. Down to Arizona. And west to California.

News was breaking and I wanted to see. In North Dakota the river was flooding. So I made my way there to write a story. When I got there I spoke with some local news teams. I had hoped to write something freelance. But it didn’t work out. Being a new reporter I imagined things would come to me in a way I soon discovered was wrong.

I did get a Labor Ready job though. It was with the city of Moorehead. Inside a large warehouse I helped stack sandbags to be delivered. I worked with the city for a number of days. At the end they suggested I apply for a job. It was a good area. An area I could see myself going back to live. But not at the time.

The flooding had caused havoc along a long part of the river. This was the Red River of the North. Not to be confused with the one along northern Texas border. This one runs north along the Dakotas and Minnesota. This being one of the flattest parts of the country. When the river flooded, it spread out fast.

While I was in Fargo I slept in my car. There was an all-night coffee shop. It had free wifi, so this is where I used the internet. In general Fargo was a friendly college town.

While in the area I took a side trip into Minnesota. The Mississippi River begins not far from Fargo. And I wanted to see the headwaters of the great river. To see its humble origin. By this time I had given up on writing a news story. And my Labor Ready job was winding down. It looked like it would be time for me to leave soon. I couldn’t be so close and not make the trip.

Finding the birth place of the river was easy. Up a small paved path from a parking lot was a small lake. The outflow of this lake was maybe 15 feet wide. But if you dropped a twig in it, the twig could float all the way to the ocean. It would go down the longest river in the country. When you think of how important the river is to our nation. And how long, and wide it becomes. It enters the world in a obscure park, when I was there there were few visitors.

After this short trip I started back west. I wanted to make a stop at Mount Rushmore. I’d been there before. But I wanted to see it again. It was a bit of a race against time. To get there before it got dark. But I made it, speeding across the Dakotas. There isn’t much to see in these states. But seeing Mount Rushmore is an experience. And I saw the monument to Crazy Horse off in the distance and fog while driving. But it was dark, and the park was closed.

After stopping in Wyoming I started back for California. I had graduated but hadn’t done a ceremony. Since I had free time I wanted to be there to walk with my friends. When I got back to Arcata I thought I would stay for the week. But then I got a short-term job and fell in love in a long-term way. So plans changed.

There was an adventure along my path back to Arcata. From Wyoming I drove south to Boulder. It is such a magical place for me. I spent a couple days in town. And I hiked to the top of the Flat Irons. I didn’t plan on staying in town. Though I always think about staying every time I visit. One day I may move to Boulder and stay to live for a while. But this wasn’t the time to think about such a move. In the past I’d taken the northern route from Boulder to California. This time I took the southern route.

It went through the high mountains, and along route 70. I drove right through Vail, a place where I would soon be living. Though I didn’t know it at the time. I got off the freeway and drove along the route I drove many times later in my life. The mountains are amazing, still covered in snow at the tops. I couldn’t have gone to Yellowstone on this trip because of the weather. But the road through the Rockies was clear.

Moving out of Colorado into Utah I found an amazing landscape. There are few words to really tell people what it looked like in front of me. It looked like an alien landscape. It was orange. The rolling land was broken by deep canyons. The colour made me feel like I was on another planet. Like Mars, but it wasn’t red. The ground had little life. Looking around I couldn’t imagine I was still on earth. It was beautiful in a way which I’d never imagined. I had no clue such a place even existed. All my trips through Utah were in the north. And it has its own beauty. But it is flat and grey, and white. Nothing like the striking deep colours of the San Rafael Reef. This magical place was formed under the ground. After being pushed to the surface it was eroded by many floods. These formed the deep canyons and mesas of the area.

Coming west my goal was Arcata. But I had yet another short adventure.

I went to visit my family in Stockton. I’d talked to mother about a trip to see my brother in Arizona. I asked if she could afford to pay for the gas, and I would drive. We took the route through the desert of Nevada. Because I love Nevada. Even though I got a speeding ticket on this trip. It was a smooth drive down. We stopped for the night a couple hours from Phoenix. It was a cheap little hotel in a small town. The bed was comfy enough for me to sleep. Even if the towels didn’t match each other. Mother pointed this fact out.

Once in Phoenix we spent a couple days with my brother. This was the first time in a number of years I’d seen my brother. He was well. We took a hike on one of the mountains in town. But it was hot there, and Mother wanted to return. On the drive back we stopped at the Grand Canyon. I’d also been here a couple years before with my father. I wasn’t sure if Mother had seen the canyon. Either way it seemed like a waste to drive so near and not stop.

The good news about the return trip was I didn’t get a tickets. Some of those small towns have slow speed limits. But we also made a stop in Reno on the way home. Mother’s sisters live there – and yes I know they are my aunts. But I don’t know them at all. So, they are my mother’s sisters. After visiting for a couple hours we made our way home. We drove along the scenic Lake Tahoe.

After leaving Mother in Stockton I made my way home to Arcata. I think we may have many homes in this world. If this is true, my heart will always be at home in Arcata. And Santa Cruz, Yosemite, Boulder.

Like I said. My plan was to walk in the ceremony. Then leave town. And yes my plans got turned around and I stayed for about two years.

People of Humboldt

My years at Humboldt were full of people. Some of them I recall well. Others I have slim memories of now.

Before I lived with Rose, she had lived with Heather. And I met her through Rose. She was also a student and cute. No cute is not the right word, she was hot. But I got to know her over the time I was in Arcata and we became friends. It was through her I got to know other circus people. Heather and the Humboldt Circus crew were fun in the way I always wanted to be fun. But could never allow myself.

Another woman from the circus was Aryana. She was also beautiful. Like Heather she was creative and fun. They seemed to emit joy. Like the sun shines and stars twinkle. Just a part of their nature. I’d never known people who were so natural and happy. Later as part of the circus crew I met and got to know Teri. For a brief moment I had a crush on her. But she was younger, and had a boyfriend. But we are all still friends, on Facebook at least.

Following the circus path. There was Shea Free Love. When I think of him I think of his work in town. He did shows at the Farmers’ Market. And while he worked with many of the Circus Club students. He had graduated soon after I arrived on campus. Another magical man in the Arcata performer family was Shantaram. I met him on campus talking to Tony Snow. I was amazed by his card tricks. He lived in Arcata and owned a business.

Moving along from the circus to the other circus on campus. Tony Snow had been the student body president. I believe it was in 2006. Later I talked to him about his term. He said I didn’t understand the events. So I will just say it wasn’t an easy time for him. But Tony is a great person. The kind of person who has a charm. It makes him a natural people person. And in my opinion gives him a strong potential in politics. As a student covering campus government I was lost. Many times he helped me to understand.

A good friend of his was Noelle. I was supposed to talk to her for my CASA story. But in the end I had more sources than I needed. But I did work with her on a number of campus governance stories. And for a short time after graduating we were friends. I feel like I made a mistake with her. Well, maybe mistake isn’t the right word. We take many paths through life. And when we look back it is easy to think how another would be better. But we don’t know. For a moment there appeared to be a path for us. But I was scared. When I was working on the paper she was in campus politics. One of the sane voices on campus. She also helped me a lot to understand events and players.

At the end of my first year on campus there was a big election mess. Jason had been put on the ballot. But right before the election it had been declared he couldn’t hold office. Doubts were raised. Some wanted a new election. But this wasn’t affordable. Jason was someone I respected. But I often didn’t agree with him. He was a friendly person. Just on many issues we held different views. He was the person with the 9-11 Truth signs. The one pushing for pot to be legal. Early in the summer he took a trip to Boston. I’m not going to pretend to know what happened on the plane. But he made national news when he was arrested. Police claim he put stickers in the bathroom. And he wore a shirt comparing Bush to Hitler. He was flying out of Boston. The same airport as three of the 9-11 airplanes. In the end I believe in Jason. The world needs people like Jason. People not afraid to stand up and say what they believe. Because he may or may not be crazy. But sometimes the crazy people get things right. They can see things our sane minds do not.

The person who won the election was Sofia. A woman of classic beauty. I found her deeply attractive at once. Over the summer we talked. And I had a huge crush on her, for a moment. We sat in my apartment and talked until the sun came up. She is a very smart woman: she will do much with her life. But her time in office wasn’t easy either. After it got started things began to calm. We remained friends through the semester. And stayed in touch about events. Once she shared a bit of info about a reporter at a meeting. I asked him about it later. He was always confused how I even knew. But I didn’t cover her time in office. I never told anyone we were friends, and clearly couldn’t say I had a crush on her. But I stayed away to be honest and fair. Like Tony, Sofia has a magical charm.

One person not in student government was Jerilyn. She was an odd one for Humboldt. A supporter of Sarah Palin. She came to my notice my second year on the paper. Her group has posted a memorial to the troops. It was in the library and soon a counter was posted by Jason. I loved her for having a strong spirit. You had to be strong to be at Humboldt and not be liberal. She was also a pretty woman. We talked a few times about politics. And she always made sense. Though I don’t know I always agreed with her. She was another of the people I knew was going some place in life. Now I wish I could call her and discuss events.

And lastly but not leastly was Crystal. She was another of the amazing women in student governance. I don’t recall her exact role. But I know we talked a lot. She was close friends with Noelle. I always liked her for being bold. We were all students on campus. But at times it felt like they were already on their path. And I was just watching and hoping to find mine. Crystal is one I remember for her smile. Her courage and her work for the campus.

I think I could write a whole book about my Facebook friends. It would be 180 chapters long. Of course some chapters would be longer. But there is no space to write about all the people who touched me. And I know I’ve missed people. If I missed you in this short chapter I am sorry.

Humboldt Journalism

I spent two and a half years at Humboldt. Starting in the fall and ending in the fall. Looking back now there is so much I have forgot. And so many people I remember. I am still close to many of my fellow students. Most of those in the journalism program. But I connected with a lot of other people at college.

In my first semester I met a great teacher. She is¬†Marcy Burstiner. My first class with her was on media. But it wasn’t from the inside. But an outside look at media. It was more about media theory. Marshall McLuhan and his ideas of media were taught. But I wasn’t supposed to be in the class. It wasn’t a class for journalism students. Marcy told me this later in the class. But it was fun.

It is the journalism classes I recall the most. The first publication I worked on was The Osprey. The student magazine. For this class we each had an article. Humboldt is a liberal campus. My topic was other ideas on campus. What was it like to not be a liberal. Conservatives are rare on many campuses. So, how do they feel? It is a topic I choose because I am not liberal. Maybe not conservative either. I was going through a change on campus. Becoming more center right then I used to be.

I remember my editor. In my mind she was so hot. But she was also friendly and helpful. The class met like others at school. We would get together discuss the magazine and work on stories. Towards the end of the class we started layout. Students did it all from start to finish. They even sold ads. But most only had one story in the magazine. And not everyone did the same share of work. It was a good introduction to the process. The next step was the student paper. Unlike the Osprey it was put out each week.

My first time on The Lumberjack was fun. My editor is one of the coolest people I know. But there are few stories I recall from the first year. But there are two which made an impact on me.

One was about a local woman’s business. To be honest I had known her before. And thought she was interesting. And cute. So, when I wanted to do a story about her. It was also about getting to know her better. The story went well, and we are still friends. Her business was designing clothes. But she is a deeply creative and fun person.

The other story was kind of a lark. It was a wet day like many in Humboldt. My mood was down and I felt like I was not doing well with the paper. I’d gone to a local art event and was walking around. A local non-profit was at part of the event. CASA, is about helping kids. It stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates. What they do is provide someone to speak for children in court. Many of the kids are in families with problems. Some are abused. But in some cases the parents are ending a marriage. The group speaks for the kids.

I talked to them for a few moments. Then I went home. It wasn’t until later I thought of a story. It may have been one of my better stories. I contacted the group. They were interested. It was a hard story is some ways. Not just the topic, but getting information wasn’t easy. But I talked to volunteers. And I even talked to a former child of the program. It was a cover story and set the tone of an issue. It also got me the attention of a soon to be editor.

The next semester on the paper I was the managing editor. A role I wasn’t sure of at first. There were many questions. Could I perform the job was one. But what was the job was another. The editor-in-chief said she liked my CASA story. But also how I had gone out and got the story. This was a fun time for me on the paper. And in some ways the height of my career as a journalist. I had spent the summer in town. And got to know some of the campus power players. As much as you can call them power players. They saw themselves as being power players. But also I got involved in the issues of campus a little. The politics of student government.

I found out about the job before the summer. And over the summer I put some work into creating a work flow process. One change I brought to the paper was using Google Docs. I was a Google Fan Boy for sure. But it made the whole process easier. It meant copies were not emailed around. Then edited and emailed around more. There was one copy and everyone could access it.

One issue I covered was the structure of some campus bodies. At the time few seemed to understand. And I tried to make it clear. Which wasn’t always a success. But in the process I came to know many of the staff with authority. One person I recall was Paul Mann. The media contact for the school. And I remember one time in his office. He was on the phone with someone and told them, “I have to go I’m with a reporter.” He could have just said he was with a student. It made me feel good. But I also went around Paul at times. Because as the media contact, it seemed he didn’t know much at times. So I would go and talk directly to other people on campus. A practice I found out later was discouraged. But it worked for me. And people seemed comfortable talking to me.

One of the first stories of the semester I wrote with my editor-in-chief. We interviewed the University President. He was a person hated by some on campus. Not just by students who disagreed with him. But there was also a split among the staff. While I could see why people would dis-like him. From my view he cared about students. And he wanted the best for the campus.

But there were many fun stories I did for the paper. A couple big names came to campus. And I got to talk to a few of them on the phone. Tegan and Sara was an example. And I got a free CD, and went to the show. It was a great show. And if I hadn’t been a fan before. I would have been after. But I also talked to a member of Cowboy Junkies. A band I still love. Like Tegan and Sara I was a fan before.

It was a busy semester for me. Besides working on The Lumberjack I was involved in a website for travel stories. And I was the Editor-in-Chief of the alumni newsletter. It was a productive time for me. I was working, going to class, involved on campus. This meant I was busy most of the time. But I had no social life. Which was okay. I also didn’t have time for depression. Except over the summers which were hard times for me.

But my proudest moment from college was the debate. The town of Arcata was having an election. And many students were bound to be voters. So I worked with each of the six candidates and the student radio station to set up a debate on campus. Due to previous problems one of the campus had banned one of the candidates. But with the help of a friend, a judge allowed him on campus for the debate. I remember asking a friend to meet the man. And to make sure police didn’t try to block his access. The debate itself was a success. And I got to know people in the community. Before the debate I talked to all six. And I put together a small story on each of them. I am sure this helped me later.

Leaving Humboldt I felt better about my career than I have since. I had worked online, in print and done video. I felt sure about where I was going. And sure about my life choice. But my first job changed a lot, and not in a good way.

What I haven’t talked about is the other people from Humboldt. And I guess I’ll need a new chapter. Because there was a lot of them. This is when I first met Simone. But I didn’t get to know her until later.