Launched – The American Happiness Tour

We’re now on the road—arrived in eccentric Arcata, California on Monday, June 10.  We careened through the redwoods on Redwood Highway—the maiden voyage in our 1981 Scamp and our first campsite under very tall trees.  On windy and rough roads, the tambourine plays itself in the back, reminding us about what we will be doing when we arrive.

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In Arcata, we pulled into the “Bat Cave”—where Rosa’s friends Aaron and Sierra live.  Little Arcata has a close-knit community of free-thinking artists and musicians.  There are several houses in the town that have music and art shows, and the Bat Cave is one of them.  Aaron is a cook and Sierra is an artist.  Every morning Sierra wakes up, puts a canvas over his bed, brews his coffee, and lays the paintings he’s going to work on that day on his bed, where he splatters paint, ink, modge podge, glue, and paper.

Me with Sierra in a chain mail shirt he made over years:

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The Bat Cave is a house where art and social life take precedent over domesticity.   Sierra told us a story in the “map room,” about how Aaron once told him he dressed like a communist, and Sierra told us that it informed the way he dresses to this day.  Is it an excuse not to care?  Hard to say, but a cynic might think so.  Nevertheless, Sierra paints and paints, taking breaks only to gaze out the door of his bedroom/studio to watch the current act performing in the adjacent Bat Cave.

Rosa and I performed to a group of thirty, where we handed out Happiness questionnaires to very-willing recipients.

Rosa in the Bat Cave:

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The headliner of the night, Violet, with an act called Comix Trips, narrated a series of animated, comic transparencies on a projector pointed at an ornamental frame.  She wore an outfit with comics on her shoes, belt, and even the rims of her manhole-sized glasses.  During her stories, musicians performed sound effects on the recorder, drums, kazoo, a set of saws, harmonica, ukulele, guitar, kitchen bowls…


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In Arcata, if you threw a rock you’d hit a vegan, and if you threw a fit people would say, “Cool, brother.”  There’s a bookstore on every block, and even the pets have politics.  And like a lot of places with such a distinct “scene” it’s a little hard to figure out if you can wiggle yourself into it.  But the people we have met in Arcata, though they believe in art and what they do, accept you without criticism—even if you’re an amateur harmonica player like me.  One guy said to me, “I like your rhythm, man.”

4 thoughts on “Launched – The American Happiness Tour

  1. R & N,

    Well, that’s a great trip for sure–redwoods, Rosa, bats, music, chain mail shirt, cave in the woods, Violet’s musical comix glasses, and lots of art and music amongst the Arcadians–great Amer. Happiness Tour to you, from furthest New York–wish I were there, too, Yikes, good job, Scamp 2, BD

  2. sounds like a new and unique perspective on life right from the get go. loved seeing the coffee press; it seems right at home on a picnic table in a campground. keep on keeping on and safe travels to you both.

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