It was at a very low point in my life—I’ve had a few of them now—that I caught Bolinas, affectionately known to locals as Bo-Bo, at the end of the time when it was nice. On sunny weekends, college kids would flood Brighton Beach for an all-over tan. I developed a deep enough tan that I felt I was accepted, for perhaps the only time in my life, as a local, as someone who belonged there. As hard as my material circumstances were, there was the consolation of that magnificent beach.
Bolinas had, for a long time, a reputation as a counterculture town. It is on the south side of the Point Reyes peninsula. Nature has been generous here and the people knew it. In self-defense, they famously tore down the road sign indicating the way to their town off Highway One whenever Caltrans put one up. These acts were attributed to the “Bolinas Border Patrol,” adding to a sense that Bolinas was in another country and wanted nothing to do with the authorities who plunged us into so many wars.
I was at Bolinas when the Sheriff’s deputies began rousting homeless from the vans they lived in. I was there when the deputies began patrolling the beach, introducing a chill from which it has never recovered: there are very few naturists to be found in Bolinas nowadays as the town caters to surfers. The town was being taken over by yuppies, like the rest of Marin. Still, I went back from time to time.
A couple years ago, I took this photograph (figure 1) of a meadow that had been there for decades. It’s gone now, all those pretty wildflowers plowed under. Today, when I went back, there were lots of signs at the entrance to Brighton Beach, informing people that they should clean up after their dogs, pack out their trash, and most prominently of all, that camping was now forbidden all year long. Those signs weren’t needed or wanted in the Bo-Bo I remember. But I guess they are now.