RENTING A BEACH HOUSE IN MENDOCINO, CALIFORNIA (2006-2007)
I’ve never had much desire to be financially rich. The simple luxuries that I enjoy are generally limited to the proletarian chic and rainy mornings with no obligations. Six bedrooms, a Dodge Viper, anything first-class/VIP, a young second wife, a doorman, toothy children with middle initials- those things just don’t interest me much.
However, no river long enough doesn’t contain a bend. My lifelong fiscal complacence was rocked in February of 2006, when I first stepped foot into what my friends and I still refer to as simply ‘The House’. The House that Philosophy Built. One day it will be mine.
It was a rainy February in the San Francisco Bay Area. Most Bay Area Februaries are. The late winter may be gloomy and damp, but as a result, the surrounding California countryside ripens from its summertime brown into a spectrum of electric greens. Despite the cold, February makes a great time for weekend road trips, especially driving north, where the rocky coast recalls the misty lushness of Ireland (sans the castles) and the cold Pacific winds give the coastline a seafaring, piratey quality (sans the pirates).
My friends, an eager group of immigrants from Ohio, including myself, had spent a rainy Friday afternoon at our separate offices kicking around emails regarding road trips for the upcoming weekend. We’d considered horse races / Bed & Breakfasts in victorian Ferndale and wine country cabin rentals a bit closer to home. I can’t recall which of us found the website advertising The House, but god bless him or her. We were collectively impressed by the pictures online and made the reservation through the owner. Nick offered up his hot red Geo, Rodney Cobb, and we had a plan.
The House, we knew, was located 165 miles north of San Francisco on a stretch of the Pacific coast appropriately named Irish Beach. We packed into the Cobbler after work and got an early start towards the seaside village of Manchester (pop: 195), from which we could access The House.
After a mandatory stop for beer tasting at the Anderson Valley Brewing Company, the team approached Irish Beach from the world-famous Highway 1. We had no trouble finding The House’s location, as we were undoubtably guided by The Lord. Our GPS was He. He knew we had a mission to drink beer in The Hot Tub perched 600 feet over the Pacific Coast. We put our faith in Him and we made it. Arriving at the address we had, The House was set back a bit, creating even more anticipation. When we got out of the car just before sunset and approached the entrance, this is what we saw:
It was going to be a good weekend.
The first evening was like something out of the first episodes of The Real World, when the obnoxious (after Season 3) strangers skip around their new fantasy house. Like giddy toddlers, we would run out of steam and settle into our new crib.
After a good night’s sleep, Saturday afternoon was spent taking in the view with mouthes agape. When they were giving away fenestration, The House was first in line.
Each window framed a Magrittesque seascape view of superb blues and puffy cloud lines. We could actually see the curvature of the Earth.
Though I expected a smiling pelican to trot over with a mouthful of fish for us, turns out that we actually had to fend dinner for ourselves, or buy it from someone who fended it out of the sea. I noticed we had a grill. Or, Nick did. One of the men, surely. We’d also learned of a fishing pier in the nearby town of Point Arena (pop: 449). Late afternoon, we could go down by the dockside and buy fresh fish from the fishermen.
We bought a hefty piece of perfectly-colored red salmon. Back at The House, with the sun setting behind us, Nick and I cooked the salmon on The Deck, sipping Anderson Valley beer and taking in the sound of the breakers on the shore below.
For desert, I found some old ice cream in the freezer. Ashley found an old pair of waders in a closet. Andrea found a yellow fisherwoman’s jacket. The three paired together quite well. With a bellyful of fish and dressed like assholes, we set out to find a bar. Little did we know we’d step right into the most surreal bar on America’s west coast: proprietor Artie Beacon’s ‘Beacon Light by the Sea’; a drinking hole straight out of a David Lynch movie, complete with a corrupt eeriness and danger you’d expect in Mulholland Drive or Twin Peaks.
We found The Beacon Light by driving north from The House. We were headed towards the town of Elk, hoping to find a bar with a fireplace, a deer head on the wall and a hot-buttered rum. We never made it to Elk. We noticed a rotating light from atop a hill and an adjacent handmade sign welcoming us to “Beacon Light by the Sea”. We made a right, straight into the driveway. We ascended a hill lined with farm and fire equipment, and got a glance at the bar- a kind of gaudy, neon trailer. Seemed like a good place to have a drink, or get skinned alive. We were feeling lucky, so we entered.
We made the right decision. Turns out that Artie is the former sheriff and has hours of stories about guests, both Bay Area and locals. There is a piano that I attempted. There is a library of books about shipwrecks and sea captains. There are $2 Budweisers. There was Artie, refusing to put ice in any good liquor we ordered. We left the Beacon Light giddy, our dreamlike weekend now fulfilled. It is sad to leave such a friendly, homey bar, but when you’ve got a cliffside manor with hot tub waiting for you, the drive goes by a bit quicker.
Sunday morning came. We had an amazing mimosa breakfast. Then, like so many Sundays before, it was time to pack up. First, one mystery was solved. Throughout the weekend, we had been guessing at what the owners of the house did for a living and how they could afford to have a vacation home like this. Then, we found a diploma in the bookshelf: Master of Philosophy. Apparently, philosophy paid for this little cloud in the sky. I guess the five of us had been doing it all wrong, by living and earning money in the physical world.
We took one last photo in front of The House. This seems to serve as evidence that the weekend actually happened.
Over the next year, there would be more weekends at The House, featuring an ever-changing cast of friends. There would be vomit in a clothes hamper, cioppino prepared the kitchen, intense chess matches, and more spectacular sunsets. There would be Paul, Doug and Ryan dancing to Bone Thugs N’ Harmony in their boxer shorts. Obscenities would be drawn on Bill’s face when he fell asleep prematurely. The house would provide more memories, but that first magical weekend still stands out in my mind.
Some images from our weekends at The House:
The House seems to be no longer available for vacation rental. There are other homes in the area, but they are lesser.
Point Arena Fishing Pier is a good place to go crabbing (season peaks in November). If you can’t catch anything, you can buy fresh from the local fishermen.
Sea Shanties, the crashing waves, seagulls, INXS Megamix