Mississippi, California

Drove up to Mendocino County last week, stopping along the way in Baywood on the Central Coast to visit an old friend, a refugee from Echo Park. We went to the local alehouse for charcuterie and libation.

Here, California on a plate. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit up front how awesome this was.  The napkin is covering some truly sublime sausage. We basked in the sea breeze off the bay, chatted with the locals, scarfed the finger foods, swilled the grog and lived as the anointed for an hour.  In our munificence we forgave each other our sins and toasted the health of all.

California cuisine: grab every tasty idea from around the world, source it locally, then serve it on a patio close to the ocean.

San Luis Obispo County is where white people and their dogs land when they leave L.A but can’t bear relocating to a red state.  You get to pretend you’re still in Venice, but at half the price.

Outside Cholame

The charcuterie plate put me in an exploratory frame of mind. In the morning I decided to make the rest of the journey to San Francisco on farm roads in the valley. The big one. The San Joaquin, where the food comes from.  I cut over on the 41, a highway much more crowded with cars than I remember it from my motorcycle days in college, then meandered off into farm roads, zig-zagging in a northerly way.

West of Fresno
South of Turlock

It is difficult to overstate the sheer scale of industrial agriculture out there.  The vastness of the fields. The monotony of endless rows of nut trees and grapevines. You keep thinking, just up the road at the next little name on the map, the real valley will reveal itself…and it will be a charming farmstead with organic honey…and then you get to Raisin City…

Raisin City

…and the one commercial structure has bars over every window and is out of business.  You can get snacks at the gas station, and probably buy meth from the kid on his bike riding in pointless circles in the parking lot, but you can’t get a sandwich. County after county, there is really nothing but fast food trucked in, frozen, then fried, fuel for the laborers.

All is utility and practicality. The San Joaquin has no retail face. A gigantic factory of food production, charmless and unironic, it smiles at no one.  Anyone not behind the wheel of a farm implement drives 70 mph on two-lane roads.


When restaurants on the coast say locally sourced, this is what they’re talking about. When I worked at Whole Foods the rule was: “within five hours of L.A.”  When they say grass-fed, they mean ground up cornstalks unloaded from a feed hauler at a CAFO.

San Joaquin River

Poverty is front and center in the San Joaquin Valley. There is no avoiding the subject. It’s like pre-civil rights Mississippi out there.  No white people toil in the fields. When the anointed in the cities argue for open borders, they are speaking in favor of corporate interests. Oligarchy on a plate, in this, the bluest of states.

A permanent flow of cheap labor robs all workers of bargaining power, regardless of legal status. This extends beyond agriculture into other realms of the service economy. There is very little progressive, or just, about any of this. But it’s happening somewhere over the hill, in Uglyville, to people who know nobody and nobody knows.

Besides, the charcuterie is delicious…

9 thoughts on “Mississippi, California”

  1. American progressives have always been intent on progressing us right back to the days before the Bill of Rights and the other limitations the Constitution places on centralized power. What you’re seeing in California is extremely progressive.

    1. I keep waiting for the world to right itself, for the systemic balances built into the constitution to re-assert liberty. The people wielding the controls do not have any interest in this happening. Perhaps the Constitution is not sturdy enough to withstand weak men deserting their posts.

  2. Thanks man. May be using this route muling for the Sinaloa cartel. I ‘ll be sure to reference some guy named Up

  3. There was a period in American history, as you recall, when some Americans tried to introduce a feudal society into the American South. Now, as you have pointed out, some Americans are trying to introduce a feudal society again; California leads the way.

  4. The second attempt to establish a feudal society in America bears a lot of resemblance to the first.

    1. I used to remark California was Downton Abbey on the Pacific. This is no longer accurate. Practically speaking it has become something rather worse. Imagine the Crawleys systematically replacing the service staff below stairs with imported labor from the colonies, to whom they had no reciprocal obligations. Anna and Mr. Bates, living in penury above the local saloon, denounced as racists for objecting. Lady Edith petitioning for the factory in town to be closed as an environmental hazard. Lord Grantham buying the local paper to silence the rabble and their unenlightened views.

  5. Take 33 and 25 for a different view of forgotten California. Don’t miss the detour to Parkfield, earthquake capitol of the world.

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