#36 Where have those days gone- Arcata, Eureka and the Lost Coast of California.

Hotel Arcata. You can check out any time you like but you can never bathe. Still Culturally and physically in the State of Jefferson.


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I started this blog saying the songs have been randomly selected. Largely still true but I have delayed a couple of these so that I would be in the proper town when I wrote about these songs. Today we drove the long and winding route 199 from Grant’s Pass down through the Siskiyou Mountains to Crescent City California, then down the coast to Arcata. Now that we are safely ensconced near the Hotel Arcata I can tell you the strange and wonderful tale of the song Where Have Those Days Gone.

Actually there is no strange and wonderful tale. There are several small and important stories in this song but not exactly anything coherent. If anything this song and much of the album Greenland are a portrait of ”The Lost Coast” of California. Technically it is a very specific inaccesible part of the coast. From Wikipedia:

The Lost Coast is a mostly undeveloped section of the California North Coast in Mendocino and Humboldt Counties, which includes the King Range. The steepness and related geo-technical challenges of the coastal mountains made this stretch of coastline too costly for state highway or county road builders to establish routes through the area, leaving it the most undeveloped portion of the California coast.
Thus, the region roughly spans from Rockport to Ferndale. At the south end, State Route 1, which runs very close along the coast for most of its length, instead turns inland at Rockport before merging with U.S. Route 101 at Leggett. At the north end, State Route 211 begins its journey at Ferndale, heading towards Highway 101 in Fernbridge. Section 511 of the California Streets and Highways Code still says that “Route 211 is from Route 1 near Rockport to Route 101 near Fernbridge”, but it is very unlikely that the portion south of Ferndale will ever get built.

But like many Californians I use it to generally describe the Northern California Coast from Stinson Beach to Eureka/Arcata. Also much of the Adjacent inland areas of Sonoma/Mendocino and Humbolt County. Basically the areas of California most prominently associated with pot growing.

You wouldn’t include the tonier parts of Sonoma county. Especially those areas dominated by wineries and vineyards. But i’d include the funkier parts of Petaluma, Santa Rosa and especially Sebastopol. The Northern parts of this region including Arcata/Eureka were part of the proposed State of Jefferson. Culturally the Lost Coast should include Crescent City and Coos bay in Southern Oregon but much of the intervening coast is really wild and rough. It’s more like Alaska. So for now we’ll say it stops at Arcata. The lost coast is sort of a Kurdistan. Parts of it are in the State of Jefferson and parts of it are in California. It belongs to both.

I became fascinated with the greater Lost Coast because what I had once loved about Santa Cruz seemed to have been pushed north into Mendocino and Humbolt county. Pushed north into The Lost Coast. And i’m not talking about weed. Santa Cruz was a great sleepy college slacker town when I moved there in 1981. When I left in 1989 it was “silicon beach”. The vast fortunes that were being made over the hill in silicon valley were driving all of the slackers, artists and bands out of Santa Cruz. Many people were moving to San Francisco cause there were jobs and the rents had now become the same. But San Francisco was a big city. It had a totally different feel than Santa Cruz. Even though most of my friends now lived in SF it just wasn’t the same.

Of Course not everyone went to San Francisco. Chris Pedersen, drummer for CVB moved north of San Francisco to Petaluma. So did my ex-girlfriend Jennifer. A number of other friends and acquaintances went up there as well.

As Santa Cruz began to feel less like the old Santa Cruz, the Lost Coast started to remind me more of the old Santa Cruz. Especially Eureka/Arcata. Tonight as Victor Jonathan and I sat in The Alibi one of the many bars on the square it seemed like a flashback to 1986 in the Asti Cafe at the bottom end of Pacific in Santa Cruz. Weird.

So in 2005:

I took a trip to California to see where those old days had gone.

And the girl that went with them- it’s curiosity that’s all I swear I swear.

In Mendocino County thought I saw Thomas Pynchon at the end of the bar

no that’s just Rob Brezny writing his real astrology column

Camper Van Beethoven kept Astrologer Rob Brezsny on retainer to advise on release dates for Albums as well as to get a proper Astrological Balance on the road crew. Too many Virgos and they’ll spend all night perfectly winding guitar cables.

Well Thomas Pynchon is easy. I’ve always said I wanted to write songs like Thomas Pynchon wrote books. And the book Vineland is set pretty much in the area I define as The Lost Coast. I was hoping if I named dropped him enough the famously reclusive Pynchon would reveal himself to us at a Camper Van Beethoven or Cracker Show. It hasn’t happened yet. So as playful parody of my expectations it turns out that it’s “only” Rob Brezny.

See Rob Brezny was our local astrologer in the local Santa Cruz weekly. He would do readings at the local coffee shops if you were so inclined. He also fronted two bands. One called Tao Chemical another called World Entertainment War. Anthony Guess who was Camper Van Beethoven’s drummer for while was also the drummer for World Entertainment War. And I am also told, although I find no independent verification, that Rob like myself also lived in Redlands California before moving to Santa Cruz. See we didn’t know that Rob had become a internationally recognized astrologer. Not until the first Camper Van Beethoven national tour in 1986.

“Hey what is Rob Brezsny’s Astrology column doing in the Iowa City weekly”

So that’s why I say “only” Rob Brezsny.

Also I would like to settle a bet right now with one of my old bandmates. According to wikipedia (which has been known to be wrong) Rob Brezsny’s Astrology Column was indeed called Real Astrology before it was called Free Will Astrology. You know who you are …. pay up.

If you aren’t familiar with Rob Brezsny’s funny yet serious astrology columns you should acquaint yourself with them. Also his strange positive self actualization manifestos are quite interesting reading. He should also be given credit for setting the stage (at least in santa cruz) for Camper Van Beethoven to blur the boundary between Hippy and Punk.

Headed up the coast with my only Jewish Mexican friend
Found a bar in Arcata it was the means to an end
In the alley for a smoke got beat up by some aryan goons
Lying in my blood I said “hey Juan does this mean I’m gringo”

I did not make this trip up the coast with my only Jewish Mexican friend. I don’t know why I put him in the story. I guess cause the incident that this is based on was kind of a strange episode I had all by myself. It didn’t seem so crazy if I put someone else in the car with me.

In 1998 or 1999 I was playing a small role in a movie. It was being filmed in San Francisco. The schedule got all fucked and I had a couple days off. I got it in my head I would go and visit my ex-girlfriend in Petaluma. I didn’t call her or anything. I just rented a car and drove up that way. This was of course a bad idea and by the time I got north of the Golden Gate bridge I knew it was a bad idea. So I just decided to keep driving. The farthest north I had ever been in that part of California was the Russian River. Camper Van Beethoven once played a show in Guerneville CA. I decided I would go farther. All the way to Eureka/Arcata. Rumor had it Arcata was now very much like Santa Cruz in the early 1980s.

I arrived sometime after 10pm on a weeknight. Wednesday? I walked quite a ways down to the main square where all the bars are gathered. Until the 1960′s this area was a frontier. Wild west lumber camps, and Arcata/Eureka were the only nearby big cities. The city of Arcata put all the bars together on the main square to corral all the trouble into this one little area. Plus they could sleep it off in the park.

So right next to Hotel Arcata are these 6 little dive bars. I randomly walked into one and got myself a beer and a shot. I wasn’t there for long before I attracted the attention of a couple of skinheads. Basically they made me feel pretty uncomfortable so I got up and left. They followed me out. I ended up having to run to escape them.

(hmm I wonder if I could have stopped them by explaining that I wrote “take the skinheads bowling?”)

A group of running men in a small town like this quickly attracted the attention of the police. I could see the blue lights flashing behind me on the the darkened store window ahead. I had done nothing wrong. I don’t know why i kept running. The skinheads scattered, dispersed so the police didn’t know who to chase. They settled on me. I rounded a corner and ducked behind a car. The police car sped past. It slowed half way down the block and began to back up. The spot came on and started probing the other side of the street. I scuttled across the sidewalk and tried to squeeze myself between a fence and an old garage. It was all overgrown with Olallieberry vines. I forced myself into the brambles and waited for the Police to leave. No one ever hit me or hurt me. Aside from the scratches i received from the vines and thorns, I escaped unscathed.

And the aborted trip to visit the ex-girlfriend? curiosity that’s all I swear I swear.

And that is Lauren Hoffman singing the backing vocals with me.

So we crawled towards the ocean through brambles of olallieberry thorns
While blue lights they flailed, sirens wailed, we were ripped and we were torn
Don’t know why we were hiding, never could make that girl wanna stay
It made sense to then, it’s curiosity that’s all I swear

Where have those days gone

Where have those days gone

Where have those days gone.

03 Where Have Those Days Gone

And before you say “hey wait what about the other lost coast song on greenland!”tomorrow i’ll do I need better friends.

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Took a[A] trip to California to see[Asus4] where those old days are[A] gone
And the girl that went with them – curi-[Asus4]-osity, that’s all I swear[A] I swear
In[D] Mendocino County thought I saw Thomas Pynchon at the[A] end of the bar
But[C#] that’s just Rob Brezsny[D] writing his real astrology[A] column

Headed up the coast with my only Jewish Mexican friend
Found a bar in Arcata it was the means to an end
In the alley for a smoke got beat up by some aryan goons
Lying in my blood I said hey Juan does this mean I’m gringo

[F#m] Where have those days[E] gone
[D] Where have those days[C#m] gone
[Bm] Where have those[E] days[A] gone

So we crawled towards the ocean through brambles of olallieberry thorns
While blue lights they flailed, sirens wailed, we were ripped and we were torn
Don’t know why we were hiding, never could make that girl wanna stay
It made sense to me then, it’s curiosity that’s all I swear


[A] [D6] [Dm] [D6] [A]
[A] [D6] [Dm] [D6] [A]
[Bm] [D] [A]
[E] [D] [C#m] [Bm] [E] [A]


[Dm] [D] [Dm] [D] [Dm] [D] [Dm] [D] [A]

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