Wiki(without-leaks) will tell you that the little town in Quirkutopia called Occidental .. “is unique for its high concentration of visionaries and famous artists during recent history, and was the hub of community-centered social movements in the late 1960s and early 1970s, giving rise to nearby communes such as Morningstar, Wheeler Ranch, and Star Mountain.” Famous nearby residents include Les Claypool, Terrence McKenna, Tom Waits and others that we are sworn to never reveal. All that is true, and more.
This month the burg lost one if it’s quirkiest inhabitants, famous and/or infamous near and far: Ranger Rick (Richard Kaufman). He acted as the town’s unofficial garrulous greeter, self-appointed guardian and Keeper of the Streets. He pruned and swept, fed Pecker the street rooster, watched over kids roaming after Harmony School let out or sitting in cars waiting for their parents, and engaged any and everybody in many a meandering but intelligent discourse. Indeed, he famously finished the New York crossword regularly and we were assured by a local bartender who sneaked a look that it was really done right. Ranger yelled at speeders or if he was enjoying the sauce too much as was his wont – he might yell at you for stopping too close or far from the stop sign line. Yes, this is a one-stop-sign town. It needed it’s Ranger, and his passing left a large, quiet void.
Ranger Rick had arrived in Occidental after a heyday in Haight Ashbury, having chased some ghosts and enjoyed the free-partying life with more than a bit of gusto. He found a role in the little town, and although it was sometimes like hugging a hedgehog, was embraced by many locals and visitors from all over the world. Most had no idea that during his 63 years Ranger enjoyed a traditional San Jose childhood and later, a marriage resulting in two daughters, Tamra and Toni. Those two lovely women and their elegant mother all came to the celebration of Rick’s life, an affair that could only happen in Quirkutopia.
Hundreds of people crammed the church and parking lot of St. Phillips, the historical old redwood church downtown. A New Orleans-style marching band led everyone downtown, accompanied by the usual people in tutus and Renaissance costumes – a few really quirky people wore suits. Downtown, people were treated to Gerard’s Paella (who famously won Bobby Flay in a Throwdown- ha). Gerard and team made a T-shirt of Ranger Rick and one of his famous crossword puzzles which was sold to raise money for a statue by Patrick Amiot of Ranger to watch over downtown. Bohemian Market raised funds too – you might be able to get a shirt there still.
Everyone drank, smoked whatever, danced, drank some more, talked and did almost everything that he would have done, skipping the yelling at speeders for now. A rather psychedelic shrine was added to and toasted to. The shrine continues to grow sculpturally as well as with mementos and we expect it to be a site of great remembrance at one of Ranger Rick’s favorite days – the upcoming Fools Day parade and street party April 1st. (We’ll get back to you on that). Later, Nick Gravenites , the great famous blues master who fortunately “retired” to Occidental played in Ranger’s honor.
Ranger Rick united the town and by his sometimes awkward grace left everyone with a community more strongly knitted, and one that will never forget their Ranger.