History doesn’t repeat itself but it often rhymes.
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Forty-four years ago today the Sea Gull Restaurant burned to the ground in Mendocino. Think in the Morning has an entire section devoted to stories about the Sea Gull including three specifically devoted to the 1976 fire: Fire!, After The Fire, and Fire Redux (includes David John Russell’s photographs). (Click on blue link to view article.)
According to January 1977 The Mendocino Beacon reported: Like the legendary Phoenix, the Sea Gull is rising from its ashes.: In ancient mythology, the symbolism of the majestic Phoenix bird, which is most often connected with the Sun, dies and is reborn across cultures and throughout time. In
Several years later, Northglow magazine published an article about Mendocino artist Kelley whose massive redwood bas-relief Tritogenea hung on the south wall of the Sea Gull Cellar Bar. Once again the Phoenix myth was used to describe the rebuilt Sea Gull: Tritogenea was completed the day before the new Sea Gull (phoenix-like, arising from the ashes of the old building which had caught fire the winter before) opened.
In a 1976 letter to the Mendocino Beacon, local astrologer/musician Antonia Lamb also used the Phoenix myth: I don’t have any money. But I would spend a few days hammering nails, would give some of the lovely things that gather dust in my closets, would do anything I could to help. I’m sure many of us feel the same. Let’s do something about it. Maybe we can rise out of these ashes, like the Phoenix, with love —.
Alas, as so many who’ve been devastated by the horrible and frightening wildfires of recent years know, the Phoenix myth is just that-a myth. There is nothing automatic or magical about rebuilding, recovering and reestablishing one’s life after a fire or any other tragedy. The process requires work, money, help and a strong will. Even then there is no guarantee that the results will last. The Sea Gull Restaurant closed its doors for good in the early 1990s when that golden era from the sixties to the nineties came to an end.
There are still a few old timers who remember that era. Some may even be nostalgic for it. I do miss those times as I wrote in An Indulgent Nostalgic Journey.
However, let me say that I think the Phoenix myth is all wrong. What rises from the ashes, if anything, is something new, not a reincarnation of the old. I am a firm believer that life is now, you get what you make of it, and that’s all there is. So, use your time well.
I’m currently reading my friend Paul McHugh’s first book, The Search For Goodbye-To-Rains. There is a similar theme there if I’m reading it right.