I’m not sure that I’ve ever had less and more in common with one human being that I did with Bob Nanninga. During the past decade, I went from wanting to work on his campaign, to hoping that he would not get elected to anything, and back again. As it turns out, I never had the energy to bear the slings and arrows of working for or against him. So, I generally kept quiet about one of the most noticeable people in our city.
We tried to make it work, but at my core, I am a conservative Christian trying to make subtle points in a post-theocratic nation while blending into the surf community, and he was a, well he was Bob, not just hearing a different drummer, but inventing a different drum. I found that I disagreed with him on more than half the things that mattered to me. The nice thing, however, was that we could discuss those vast differences and eventually locate some comfortable common ground. After such meetings I would be sorry that I didn’t work for his election, and then he would write something that I strongly disagreed with, making me realize I had made the right decision. Then we would meet again and the cycle would repeat.
Ironically, one of my most recent columns and his last column were both about trees. Both ended with a poem and a plea to save what Bob and I consider one of our most valuable resources in our town. And, as I specifically wrote about the pines that had once watched over Cardiff for 60 years, I considered Bob’s reaction, not realizing that he was fighting for his life, trying to gain oxygen from a consistently oxygen-depleted atmosphere. Still, I knew his reaction would be similar to my own — anger, desperation, putting all passion and emotion into words, realizing it wasn’t enough and hoping beyond hope that the community would find the strength to rally.
Bob once talked to me about that he used to bodysurf, before realizing that all the toxins from weed killer to cat crap end up in the ocean. He was generally a nonsurfer, but was a stronger advocate for clean ocean than most who ride our waves every day.
On my way to the Cardiff Post Office, I couldn’t help notice a for sale sign out front. Immediately, I thought of Bob, and his reaction to losing this quaint gathering place to whatever wheel had been greased and was about to run us over. Walking home, I looked to the bare ground that had once rooted two of the community’s oldest and best friends. There was no sign that anything grand or noble had ever stood there. I miss those trees as I do a voice that rattled and hummed and cared. He cared and he said so, which is more than I can say for some of us who stand by and complain and curse under our breath as this beautiful community becomes a concrete slab.
I have never liked statues, but I am an advocate for memorials. My favorite memorial is one of the heart — taking on the best quality of someone who has passed on, and living that, in their place. That said, I will henceforth attempt to be more active in my community, to be noisier and to care for the good things that remain. Thank you for caring, Bob. In the final tally, we had a lot in common after all.
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Filed Under: Sea Notes