Kevin Hoover: The Infinite World Of Arcata – September 3, 2011
Welcome, incoming Humboldt State Students, to the town that has a thousand things wrong with it and a million things right.
In so many ways, Arcata is a microcosm of the whole world, if not the universe. You might think you have it figured out after a week or two, but just because the people are friendly and the amenities accessible, with Arcata, you can spend months if not years and only scratch the surface.
The town is a Mandelbrot image – no matter how far you zoom in, it retains the same level of detail. Some people hate it because compared to where they come from, it looks like Dinkville. But there’s as much concentrated fun and funkiness here as most major cities can boast. Some of it is apparent; other stuff you have to be around for a while to pick up on.
While you can’t do half a million things at quarter to 3 a.m., Arcata can keep you busy enough earlier in the day to where you’ll be wiped out by that hour anyway.
One of the things I noticed the first time I came to Arcata was how open and friendly people are. At the same time, their opinions are just as freely available. Arcata is a land of ideas, with every cutting edge social, political and environmental movement well represented. Here, all dreams and delusions can be fulfilled. Everything you see is shaped by some sort of a philosophy, sometimes a deeply held doctrine.
If you’re looking for a vehicle in which to invest your energy, there are plenty of organizations who will put you to work planting trees, drawing protest signs or working phone banks.
There is also no shortage of angry lunatics and conspiracy theorists who are always looking for fresh recruits, so if you want to spend your time here all pissed off, it’s there for you. But for every one of the folks who would make you raging mad about things, there are a hundred who are making things, and trying to make things better.
Here, you can speak truth to power from right inside City Hall. Arcata maintains a dozen or more citizen-led committees and commissions who specialize in things like the environment (open space, forest, wetlands and creeks), transportation, even corporate behavior and more. They always need new energy.
The food is pretty great in Arcata, and we grow and manufacture a lot of it. If you want to keep eating the industrial shiat, you can, as all the chain restaurants are here. But try the indie eateries – there’s every munchie-defeating thing you could wish for, from fatty Philly cheesesteak sandwiches to face-melting Indian cuisine.
Arcata likes to party, day and night. The Saturday Farmers’ Market has turned into a huge, noisy and tasty carnival o’ fun, and there is a steady procession of fairs and other special events, plus the day-to-day happy funtime music and dancing.
The arts scene here is totally over the top, with visual and performing arts of every form. If you do any of that, there’s a niche for you.
Here, you can immerse yourself in any type of natural environment except desert and icebergs – Arcata has wetlands, farmland, rainforest and even gritty urban settings.
You might find, as have many Arcata imports, that you really can’t live anywhere else. And if you have to, for family or career reasons, you’ll pine for the halcyon fantasy world of Arcata forevermore.
So have a good time in Arcata. It wants to be your friend, but it will return whatever energy you put into it. One thing I can promise you is that you will never be the same after spending time in Arcata.
And please, don’t ride your bike on the damn sidewalk.