Coastal Voices: Look to future, not a catastrophic past

By Lihi Halperin March 31, 2014 05:17 pm

“Want to vacation in the tsunami capital of the U.S.?”

That’s an unlikely sentence to read, isn’t it? Can you imagine anyone saying it out loud and actually getting a positive response? Who are we appealing to? 

This town boomed with logging, fishing and tourism. In 2014 all we have left to survive as a town is tourism — don’t kill our only lifeline. 

I purchased a “California guide” at the magazine stand, 85 pages of wonderful California; every other county got four pages — I now know where to eat in places I never even wanted to go; I never knew there are so many bed and breakfasts in Mendocino County.

Redwoods? The guide suggested a three-hour drive from San Francisco, and you’ll see them. Charming coastal hamlets? The guide said there’s about 100 of them on the California coast. All of them south of Del Norte.

Crescent City? Yes! Under the category of history: “Once a jewel of the west coast, was washed away by the 1964 tsunami.” That’s all we got in the guide. Tsunami and destruction.

The ocean has given us everything; it’s what makes Crescent City the most beautiful place in the world. But it’s also taken away so much, our bustling downtown, our charming Victorian utopia, and ever since the ocean has haunted us, giving us an excuse why we are not as popular as other places, even Brookings, Ore. Really?

We now have the only tsunami-resistant harbor on the West Coast; if a tsunami comes, what would it have left to destroy? Closed bakeries? Abandoned groceries? Vacant lots? Who’s going to “walk with purpose” if no one is left? 

Why don’t we all turn our back to the ocean for a bit and look to the future?

Can we let go of the evil ocean monster hiding underneath our beds? When will we be able to move on? Oh wait, never. Because now when you walk around town you can see how high the wave got in every street; you can hear stories of people who lost their lives on that tragic 1964 night; and the new town “welcome” sign — an oversize huge wave on the wall at the Chamber of Commerce, visible from Highway 101.

Yet when I wanted to know what a pebble is, I had to Google it. No fancy signs about how one mile of beach in Crescent City is four different types of rocks/sand/pebbles etc. 

We live in the prettiest, most magical place in the world, yet we refuse to open our eyes, get our head above the water and see it; instead we walk around with tour guides on the 50th anniversary of horrific destruction, hearing how Crescent City’s downtown had 280 businesses, the people were happy walking around their Victorian coastal town.

The voice of the tour guide echoes off the blank concrete walls and empty storefront windows in our downtown graveyard of “For Sale” signs, eternal ghosts of our once amazing town. 

Crescent City, no one wants to follow you to safety, no one wants to know their zone if they are on vacation, and absolutely no one cares to see how high the waves got. Enough with the tsunami festival.

No one ever plans a vacation in tornado-town; bowling alleys in Nebraska don’t name themselves “Tornado Lanes” and think this would be good for business.

Please don’t name front street ‘Tsunami Way” like you plan, because one day the ocean will come and take away everything. It doesn’t need a street sign to show it the way.

Come to Tsunamiville, you will like it! 

I gathered a few suggestions for our new tourism attractions:

• Come see how you can die from a wave, too!

• Afraid of going into the ocean? No problem! Here the ocean comes to you!

• Wonder how an American coastal ghost town looks? Crescent City welcomes you!

Lihi Halperin moved to Crescent City from Los Angeles last summer.