North Coast Journal


The true Eurekan

by Maka MacKenna

There's a poster in my hallway that my sister and I made for Christmas presents a few years ago. It features the grim Victorian visages of my great-grandparents. Below their portrait is a maxim that one of my aunts muttered often during my childhood:

"You can take the Eurekans out of Eureka," she'd say. "But you can't take the Eureka out of the Eurekans."

What is a Eurekan? Isolation, racial monotony and excessive fog have molded us. (Please note that in the following description the word "Humboldter" can replace "Eurekan" in most instances and that the politically incorrect he is used to save trees.)

First, there's the matter of weather. The True Eurekan stays indoors when the temperature tops 75 degrees, lest his bones be found bleaching on the sidewalk. He is suspicious of tropical climates such as that found in Garberville, and will pack a case of sun screen with which to plaster himself while watching the kids ride inner tubes at Benbow.

He'll spend the entire next day ocean fishing without protection, because it's not manly to be the first guy on the boat to pull out your sun screen. High rates of skin cancer are an unhappy hallmark of being a True Eurekan.

The True Eurekan knows how to pronounce things properly, especially local place names, like Rio Dell. Newcomers say "Ree-oh." The True Eurekan says "RYE-ah Dell," not that there's much deep conversation on the subject. The only interest RYE-ah Dell holds for the true Eurekan is that it is possibly the only town on the North Coast with a more embarrassing city government than Eureka.

Another name often mispronounced is "Buhne." Those who pronounce it "Boone," as in Daniel, label themselves as recent transplants from Livermore or wherever. As all True Eurekans know, the name is "BOONER," and riding your bike no-hands down BOONER Street hill was considered daredevil stuff in the sheltered days of my youth.

The pattern of recent population growth in the county hasn't affected the True Eurekan's core orientation. Deep in his heart he still thinks of Cutten as the outback. Even if he lives there. He knows his way around Africa better than he knows McKinleyville. He regards McKinleyville as a suppurating outcrop of San Jose and goes there as little as possible.

The True Eurekan is not adventurous in his eating habits. He hasn't eaten at Lazio's since it was moved from the waterfront. He's not happy in joints that style themselves "bistros" and the only snails he eats are pastries.

Despite a penchant for bland food, the True Eurekan consumes the highest per capita quotient of antacids in the country. Must be something in the water.

The True Eurekan rides a golf cart around the Muni course in full lumberjack regalia, including the hat.

The True Eurekan is slightly overeducated, the result of several generations having grown up in an area better supplied with education than with jobs that require it. Someone in his family belongs to the teachers' union, is on welfare or works for the county. His politics reflect this.

The True Eurekan is a lot more upset at the advent of early evening crime in Henderson Center than he is with an army of bums on Two Street. His mother told him never to go north of Daly's anyway.

For that matter, the True Eurekan has never been really sold on Old Town. He's traveled enough to be acutely aware how identical our Old Town is to all the other Old Towns that emerged courtesy of federal redevelopment money in the '70s. And he knows enough about what happened to the Indians hereabouts to be unalterably skeptical about any scheme that calls for relocating the indigenous inhabitants of a place in the name of progress.

The bums are more resilient than the Indians were. They keep coming back. After all, you can take the Eurekans out of Eureka, but you can't take the Eureka out of the Eurekans.


Maka MacKenna is a Eureka free-lance writer who says she is "available for talk shows and dinner parties."

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