To the normal observer, Arcata [CA] seems to provide little food for thought. That is to say that it seems like a slow, ordinary, uneventful town. But Arcata's true eccentricities lie below its dank-nug, lumber-lined surface. There's an underlying text to McKinley's domain.
I'm sure you remember our friend who runs Hutchin's Liquor Store. Up until recently, I still held him in high esteem for the fact that he was the "strangest" guy in Arcata. Well, he's not. In fact, he's not even the strangest liquor store clerk in Arcata. I live downtown now, so my local beer supplier is Arcata Liquors, on the plaza. Every night when I go in, I am treated to the presence of the shifty, angry mountain man behind the counter. This is a big bearded man, with exploding pectorals and a neck the size of a small house. He's got narrow, threatening eyes and sometimes breathes heavily through his nostrils as if he were a wild boar.
Most of time, all you can get from him is an indifferent "How's it going?" or other empty salutation. He just sits back there, arms folded, looking like he's about to tear the world a new asshole. Sometimes, however, he's Mr. Joe Social and talks up a fucking storm to anybody who walks in. I think he's on coke, or maybe speed, when I see him act like this. He'll be pacing around, babbling to customers about bourbon, hunting elk, and how if one more damn hippie pays him for beer with pennies, he's going to declare war on this whole tie-dye clad group once and for all. Clearly, this man has a bone to pick, an axe to grind.
One night, I walked in... all I wanted was a bottle of vodka and some O.J. Well, the lumberjack probably just snorted a line out back because he was totally revved up and I could have sworn I saw veins popping out of his neck and his face was all flushed and he was doing that whole nostril-breathing thing again. I asked him how much for a 375ml bottle of Smirnoff and he proceeds to go on a tangent about vodka and the difference between brands. So I humor him for a moment: "Which one do you like best?" I ask.
Before I know it, he's got 4 or 5 bottles out on the counter and he's extolling the virtues of each one. "The Smirnoff is good," he says. "But Sky vodka is the cleanest."
"Really?" I mumble.
"Fuck yeah," he says, getting excited now. "Shit, man, last weekend some buddies and me were shooting birds down at the marsh and I got so fucked up on that shit that I almost had to crawl home on my hands and knees."
"Sounds like good shit," says I.
"You bet your ass it's good shit. Turned that marsh into Bosnia for a while, if you know what I mean." I didn't, and I was scared to ask.
[A few days later], I paid another visit to the aforementioned liquor store. This time, I was in line behind a gutter-punk street guy who asks of the lumberjack, "What's a good warm drink for a cold night like this?"
"Cyanide," the lunatic answers. Then, he looks at me, laughs (because I was chuckling at his recommendation) and rings me up.