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Sonoma County Gazette
Camp Meeker by Tom Austin
Camp Meeker by Tom Austin

Bust Follows Boom

Aug 31, 2017
by Tom Austin


Hey! Labor Day! Time to pack in one more epic summer blowout party! Stock up the cooler with some brews and brats, slather one last round of sunscreen and find a suitable body of water to polish off one last Grisham novel (or other suitable glossy airport paperback). Summer is a beautiful thing, and this one is saying goodbye.

Did that opening arouse a faint bittersweet tang for you? If so, you’re not alone. I write this on an overcast Sunday afternoon, regretting the things I left undone this weekend. It’s always an endless list, and the alarm will ring at oh dark thirty tomorrow morning to augur another work week. Letting go is sad, and I’ve done a share of it this summer. Two very good friends of mine moved to other states this summer, including Steve Garred, my bass player and musical partner in crime these last fourteen years. I wish them both well, and I will miss them. If you’re a bass player with not enough music in your life, hit me up. One door closes and another opens, and all that.

I’m not going to turn this into a downer column. Letting go is important, and it opens us up to new friends, new experiences, new growth. Life is made up of cycles. That’s true for Camp Meeker too. Camp Meeker has been around since the Boss Meeker opened some sawmills in 1866, a year after the Civil War, more than 150 years ago. There were boom times: the railroad days from 1877 to the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge, when the Russian River resorts were kind of a big deal. Then the bridge opened, and people had (at least after WW2) cars and therefore choices. Then there was the Haight Ashbury diaspora of the late sixties, when some of the hippies escaped the snakepit that neighborhood had become by the Summer of Love to set up camp in our little forest jewel and in the nearby communes. For a time Bohemia bloomed as luminaries like Janis Joplin and Jerry Garcia and Nick Gravenites partied, played music, and (in Nick’s case anyway) put down roots.

Do you see the thread here? Bust follows boom. The railroad was abandoned. The hippies (those who stayed) grew up and got jobs and morphed ever so gently into regular working stiffhood. Camp Meeker got quiet. The creek was returned to the salmon so they could return to it. Life moves on.

So what’s next for Camp Meeker? Will there be another boom? Yes. It won’t be a railroad, and it won’t be Janis Joplin. The world has changed, and the next Janis Joplin is probably working at Starbucks. No, this one will be quieter. It will be the one where the artistic and musical talent that crowds Camp Meeker’s narrow streets is catalyzed by…something. An inflection point in the collective unconscious, or perhaps a seismic shift in the zeitgeist. At which point some tastemaker will happen along at just the right moment.  They will call it the “Camp Meeker Scene”.

Yeah…no. Probably not. But who wants all that anyway? Fame is a white hot spotlight that burns everything it touches. See under: Ashbury, Haight. I can’t really imagine tour buses navigating the corner of Van Ness and Grandview anyway. And those music and art critics can be vicious! They’d call us trite and derivative.

Nah, you don’t want that. Let’s just keep making our art and our music and writing our Great American Novels in blessed obscurity and noble poverty. It’s really much better that way.

All right, I guess I got a little carried away. I’ll be back next month with some more news. So, please, go out there and make some for me.


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