selfie(ish) nation

rocky ridge
Before the fire: At the top of the Soberanes/Rocky Ridge loop in Garrapata State Park

Last night I dreamed I was in Big Sur, and the fire that’s been burning for more than two weeks (in waking life) was closing in. I could see big plumes of smoke just over the hills and hear the crackle of burning brush. It was terrifying.

When I woke up this morning, I found out Big Sur was placed under mandatory evacuation at 3:15AM, from the lighthouse to the canyon between Nepenthe and Deetjen’s. Rumor is they’re going to close Highway 1 at Bixby Bridge today.

When the fire first started and we learned the point of origin was just off the Soberanes Canyon trail, one of the busiest trails in the area, we immediately knew the cause. Tourists. I recently wrote in this blog about the issues Big Sur is having with tourists. They flock to the area by the carload, stopping at points along the way to grab a selfie. You can see them as you drive down the coast–dozens of people at every major turnout with their backs to some of the most spectacular scenery in the country, their eyes focused on a view they find much more precious: themselves. They leave their trash in the turnouts, run across the highway without looking, park like assholes and treat this untamed land like it’s disposable.

Last week, the official cause of the fire was released. It was an illegal, unattended campfire in Soberanes Canyon. This area is part of Garrapata State Park, and there’s no camping–and certainly no campfires–allowed. Not that it matters to selfie nation. Selfie nation feels entitled to do whatever it takes to get the best image of themselves for a few fleeting likes on Instagram or Facebook. If that means going a bit off a trail to build a fire near a waterfall and then leaving that fire to burn out by itself, so what.

Only this fire didn’t burn out by itself. It’s burned more than 55,000 acres (about 86 square miles), destroyed nearly 60 homes and led to one death. It’s caused all parks in Big Sur to close, impacted the livelihoods of businesses/employees who count on all those tourist dollars at the busiest time of the year and jacked the air quality for all of us.

I hope Big Sur makes it through okay and the losses don’t keep piling up, all because of  selfie(ish) people who thought the rules didn’t apply to them. At least they can’t post the awesome picture I’m sure they took of themselves around that fire. For selfie nation, that’s almost as bad as jail time.

“If I don’t post a picture of it, it didn’t happen.” The new version of, “I think, therefore I am.”

For more about the fire, including lots of dramatic images, Big Sur Kate’s blog has the latest. She reports things before the media does. It’s 9AM here, and still nothing from local media about this evacuation.

marketer, heal thyself

A PR firm in Austin got its ass handed to it over the weekend when people beyond their inner circle of hospitality industry clients heard about their name: Strange Fruit PR.

If you don’t know the significance of that name, here’s some history. In 1937, teacher Abel Meeropol (a white Jewish man) wrote a poem after seeing a horrifying image of two black men lynched in Indiana. After it was published, he set it to music to create a protest song (Strange Fruit).

A couple of years later, Billie Holiday added the song to her performances. The record sold a million copies and was her biggest seller. Nina Simone recorded the song in 1965, and Kanye West sampled her version in his latest album. So though it was born in the late 1930s, the song still has a life and among the many, many people who’ve heard at least one of the versions. And the people who hear those two words together automatically connect it to a horrifying image.

The PR company–a couple of young white women (so unusual for PR!)–thought no one would be thinking about a song that was recorded in 1939. They figured they could create their own definition for the term. Turn it from a powerful protest of murderous racism into a fun and exciting way to talk about hors d’oeuvres and skinny margaritas. They now know that they were mistaken, but it’s amazing it took a Twitter shitstorm for them to figure it out. I mean, the song’s history had been pointed out to them in the past. And they work in public relations! Come on.

I hope their new name, Hitler Nibbles, works out for them.

 

gift suggestions for people you don’t like

I started putting together this gift guide to assist you with your Christmas shopping. Specifically for people you are a) mad at or b) don’t much care for. Alas, I neglected to get this out there during the holidays. Let’s remedy that now.

THE WINE RACK – You’re going to a game or concert, and you don’t want to pay $13 for a glass of shitty wine. With the Wine Rack, you can sneak in a bottle of the good stuff…in your rack. According to the product description, “Turn your A cup into double-Ds.” Not sure how you sneak a tube full of red wine out of your shirt and into your mouth without anyone noticing (or hearing the sucking), but that’s for your alcoholic gift recipient to figure out. What I do know is, this shit is classy.

HUTZLER 571 BANANA SLICER – The Hutzler 571 Banana Slicer slices your banana into 18 (sort of) uniform pieces. Because, you know, it’s so difficult and time-consuming to cut a banana. Give this to the person in your life who’s constantly bitching (on Facebook and Twitter) about how busy they are. (Be sure to read a few of the customer reviews. Really. If you only click one link in this post, this is the one.)

HONEY BOO BOO BADGER PINT GLASS – For a diluted version of Honey Boo Boo and Honey Badger, look no further than this non-humorous drinking glass. The recipient will be, uh, maybe slightly amused, only because someone actually designed this thing, took the time to have it printed, put it up for sale, and you spent money on it. Capitalism.

PANTYHOSE FOR MEN – Give this to the guy who thinks anything beyond an overly aggressive handshake is gay. Just hope he doesn’t go all American Beauty on you. (The neighbor thing, not the rose petal thing.)

ILLUSION FAKE NAVEL JEWELRY – Good for irritating the parents of the teenager you give this to. According to the product reviews, one industrious magician used this for (shitty) magic tricks. So there’s that.

BILL CLINTON CORKSCREW – This is pretty much what you’d expect. A 9″ figure of Bill Clinton, and the corkscrew comes out of the front of his pants. Of course. (Unrelated side note: the penis on a male pig is corkscrew-ish.) (You’re welcome.)

WILLIE WOODPICKER TOOTHPICK DISPENSER – Reviews suggest you give this as a hostess gift. Life experience suggests (to me) that the hostess would probably dispense a toothpick and then stab you with it. This is best given as a dump-and-run, where the recipient opens it later, curses you, then throws the whole thing in the trash saying, “I don’t know why we exchange presents with that asshole every year. I’m not doing it next year.” Though of course, you will exchange gifts next year and every year after until one of you finally says uncle. Then the other of you will say, “Well, I thought we were friends.”

Finally, I know that people without children are contractually barred from sending out Christmas cards, but I think next year James and I may buck tradition. The two of us in front of the decorated Christmas tree, the dogs sniffing each other’s asses… That’s holiday magic, my friends. We’ll be sure to include a copy with your toothpick dispenser.