Our hearty rhododendrons lack the delicate grace of Portland's famed roses; Eureka's bridges are fewer in number — and much less spectacular — than the spans that etch the skies of the Rose City. Portland's Mount Hood offers killer skiing an hour away from downtown; our nearest source of powder is Mount Shasta, a four-hour drive east.
The second-fiddle humiliation Eureka suffers at the hands of its northerly neighbor doesn't end there. Lauded far and wide as a hipster paradise, Portland is fairly castigated for vacuuming-up the North Coast's talented youth. Each year around this time, we bear witness to the northward migration of our beloved Bradens, Dakotas and Rowans — their ironic trucker caps, vinyl records and social media startups in tow — as they pack up the Kia Sportage and key "PDX" into their GPS apps.
But take heart, Eurekans: We've got the edge where it really counts. It turns out that Portland's cheeky bragging rights as "the place where young people go to retire" — coined by IFC's cooler-than-thou Portlandia TV series — in fact belongs to us.
The latest labor statistics reveal that Eureka's unemployment rate is, at 12 percent, almost double that of Portland's. Our hollowed-out Bayshore Mall ably attests to the fact that entry-level jobs in the Fog Belt aren't going begging for young labor; the jobs simply don't exist. Millennials who are truly charmed by Portlandia's early retirement should save a tank of gas, stay put and never have to work in the first place.
Eureka: Where young people really go to retire.
So Portland, if you're reading this: #SuckIt.
Of course, government job statistics speak only to the "official" workforce.
But if it is the charter of our institutions of secondary education to prepare youngsters for the rigors of Humboldt's actual economy, the library at McKinleyville High School is doing a standout job.
The staid high school library — once the sleepy domain of Rand McNally, Encyclopedia Brittanica and Pueblo, Colorado-derived pamphleteering — is a full-blown Loompanics Unlimited reading room, on the Panther campus anyway.
The Mack Town High library catalog offers its aspiring entrepreneurs dozens of titles pertinent to the North Coast's bustling narcotic industries. One such tome — conveniently titled Meth — devotes an entire chapter to "how it is made" that reads like a script from Breaking Bad.
Then there's Mack's Medical Marijuana, which offers NoHum teens a helpful primer on the many legitimacies of 215 horticulture. (Youngsters will be well-served come arraignment time.)
In all, Mack High provides student access to dozens of books explaining the ins-and-outs of drug culture. The shelf space devoted to our once-relevant logging industry of days gone by is, meanwhile, meager by comparison. Tellingly, among Pantherdom's scant offerings to the annals of tree-felling are two copies of Julia Butterfly Hill's Luna: The Story of a Tree. But you won't find much in the way of actual chainsaws or lumber mills.
Goes to show, you can't stop progress.
Want to get rid of that can of condensed milk that expired back during the Bush Administration? You may have missed your chance.
Stamp Out Hunger is the annual food drive sponsored by your local postal carrier. You likely received one of their blue, plastic donation bags in your mail box — ready for off-loading all the canned pork-and-beans you hoarded in the run-up to Y2K.
Launched under the obsolete, Depression-era notion that poor people aren't eating enough, donated foodstuffs are delivered, or so we're led to believe, to the 'hungry' poor. Given the direct correlation between poverty and obesity, however, a cynic would perhaps more adroitly view Stamp Out Hunger as an artifice of the federal government to cull the herd of impoverished fatsos by over-feeding them right into heart disease. After all, when's the last time you actually saw a skinny person queued up in front of the McDonald's Dollar Value Menu?
The My 600 Pound Life contestants you see buying carts full of WinCo soda and pizza illustrate the fact that even more food is the last thing poor folk are actually in need of. By offloading cases of sodium- and fat-laden canned goods to the already corpulent masses in last week's Stamp-Out, you could have fulfilled your patriotic duty of ensuring that only the fittest Americans survive while thinning butterballs out of the gene pool.
However you choose to interpret it, your blue-bagged stockpile of Dinty Moore mystery-meat was likely happily spirited off your front porch last Saturday, courtesy of your friendly postal carrier.
We're 15 years removed from the epic defeat of Measure J, in which Eureka's progressive wing — marshaled by future Assemblywoman Patty Berg — electorally crushed the proposed development of a WalMart on Old Town's forlorn Balloon Track property.
Was the perceived triumph over Big Box retail by locally owned, independent businesses merely an ephemeral respite on the road to mega-corp hegemony?
Sadly, it was: Explosive new statistics reveal nothing less than a corporate blitzkrieg on Eureka's once-dominant, locally owned retail sector.
To be sure, during the 1999 campaign Berg and her cohorts were accused by free market-types of petty NIMBY-ism. An Arkansas-fueled offensive — notoriously backed by Eureka's then-mayor Nancy Flemming — branded Berg and her cadre of Measure J detractors as mercenaries bent on thwarting the healthy level of competition that Big Blue ostensibly would offer.
Pitted against the deepest pockets in all the land, Berg slew the retail goliath with a plain-spoken truism: That the introduction to Humboldt's fragile economy of mega-corp behemoths would usher in the death of local mom-and-pops. Nonsense, retorted the gung-ho capitalists: More competition meant more consumer selection and thus a healthier marketplace.
It hasn't exactly worked out that way, and if any erstwhile Measure J supporters are interested, Patty Berg is now serving-up crow pie.
The defeat of Measure J, as it turns out, was less Waterloo than Wounded Knee: In 2003, Target would, to muted controversy, open its doors on the revamped footprint of Eureka's Montgomery Ward. WalMart itself would be soon to follow, operating under the same stealth strategy by taking over Gottschalk's vacated premises.
Now, according to a scathing report just released by the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis, Eureka's once locally based economy has indeed been gutted by a swarm of multinationals.
In 2003, when Target opened, four of Eureka's top five private employers, by number of employees, produced and or sold local products. They were, in order from greatest number of employees: (1) Schmidbauer Lumber; (2) Times-Standard; (3) Pierson Building Center; (4) Pacific Choice Seafoods; and (5) WinCo Foods.
Of those five, today Schmidbauer remains as the lone locally-owned holdout, although it's dropped to number two in the rankings. The other four — all stock-owned and beholden to distant investors — read like an all-star team of zombie Big Boxes: WalMart, Target, Kohl's and Costco.
The people who own local enterprise — the George Schmidbauers and Bill Piersons — have a stake in the community because just like us they drive our roads, breathe our air and send their children to our schools. It's a shame that they now earn fewer of our dollars than hedge-fund-owned WalMart.
The zombification of Humboldt's retail hub is now "mission accomplished."
Happy shopping, Nancy.
Ryan Hurley is a Eureka-based attorney. Follow him if you dare: @BuhneTribune.