I REMEMBERED READING A BOOK about the history of coffee shops in Vienna when the Viennese and foreign clients read the dailies with long poles holding the newspaper, at their table. Sometimes they could catch a loose edition or at least a few pages on the shelf below but usually it was a section very few people read like stock market reports.
I was in the Redwood Cafe in downtown Cotati a few doors south of Café Salsa. Redwood Cafe is owned by a team that sits in a block that seems to have a few persistent vacant stores. Typical of small downtowns these days.
I was wondering about Peet’s Coffee & Tea, a few blocks north at the intersection with Highway 116. Last time I was in there a few months ago I looked around for a newspaper to read. But I was told by the young guy behind the counter, “We don’t allow newspapers inside. They just get scattered and mess up the interior.”
“Oh,”, I said. I was tempted to mention the long history of coffee shops and newspapers like Vienna a century ago, but decided not to talk to the poor guy who was only following company orders.
So I just sighed and walked out the door and merely said, “I changed my mind about the coffee.” Haven’t been back there since.
SO I WAS CONTENT WITH my business pages when the Hinebaugh Creek Philosopher (HCP) made his presence known by plopping a few single dollar bills on the table. “I’m a dollar or so short but if you chip in with two singles I’ll be back with two goodies and coffee refills.”
I pulled out my wallet and found a pair of singles, “Such a deal,” I murmured.
He came back as promised and began fussing around with his shoes slit around the toes to make room for his bunions and corns.
“I need some professional help,” said the HCP.
“I’m a writer, not a shoemaker.”
“No, I mean with this I got in my mail box. It’s a tempting offer.” He pulled out a multi-folded paper from his pocket and handed it to me.
IT WAS A PITCH TO SIGN UP and help form a separate state with California, Oregon and Washington combined into one. For ten dollars you could be enrolled in a committee to draft a new constitution and for fifteen dollars you’d get a certificate and a pin for your lapel with the name Fremontia on it.
“What’s a fremontia?” The HCP asked, while scattering crumbs down his safety-pinned huge lap.
“Well, the only Fremont I know was a military general or colonel who came towing an old cannon and harassed the Mexicans down in the Monterey area by raising an American flag and shooting off his ineffective cannon. Nothing much after that,” I said. “Maybe that’s what those guys want to name their new state. They can’t just call it Fremont, it’s already used for a California city. Maybe it’s the name of this new state.”
“THAT’S NOT A VERY EXCITING name for a new state,” said the HCP. “They should find an Indian tribe to name the state after like so many of our states did.”
“You have a point there,” I said. “Besides that, I don’t think Fremont is very much in favor with the many tribes he was in contact with while in California, for he was one of those white folk who pushed tribes on to reservations they had no say in wanting to live there.”
“Well, there must be a statue of Fremont somewhere around here, maybe in the city of Fremont itself,” said the HCP.
“Maybe back in Washington D.C. but I don’t think anywhere west of St. Louis or Chicago,” I replied, noticing the HCP eyeing remnants of my goodie. I shoved my plate to him. “Here you finish it or I give it to the little sparrows outside the door.”
“I’ll save the crumbs.”
THIS BUSINESS OF MAKING separate states out of coastal states pops up once or twice a year it seems. Even on the East Coast where it would be practically impossible with so many states, so many people and too much auto traffic. But you’ll notice how many of them have Indian tribal names like Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware, etc.
All sorts of people indulge in predicting history but only a tiny fraction of them are noted for their success. They are carefully sheltered in well-known graduate schools like Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, UC Berkeley, Columbia, Yale, MIT and Chicago U.
Here on the West Coast large population centers are mostly in big cities while east of coastal hills and ranges there’s skimpy populations and a lot of open spaces, most of it managed by the federal government.