Out of Hear: Hear the Frog?

I’m listening to how quiet it is on the river this morning. There was a motorboat putt-putting upstream, but otherwise you could almost hear a frog.

Being able to hear frogs has been used as a point of reference lately as a measure of the quality of life along the lower Russian River. It’s like a metric of how calm and quiet things used to be, compared with the sometimes rude cacophony we live with now.

The frogs came up at a Guernewood Park neighborhood meeting this summer about the new Guernewood Park hotel, now called the Lodge on the Russian River. Developers say the 120-room riverfront resort is going to be a fabulously tranquil place, offering a quiet escape from the madding crowd. The riverside lodge will offer visitors “a calm and elegant retreat,” says the hotel’s brochure.

“We’d be more concerned about noise than the neighbors,” said Kirk Lok, who owns the proposed hotel site. As host of a high-end retreat promising peace and quiet, said Lok, “I want to make sure all my guests can hear the frogs too.”

I want to believe him. The idea that a new 120-room resort with a restaurant, bar and accommodations for weddings and corporate gatherings will make the neighborhood quieter sounds counterintuitive, but it also says something about what it’s like around here now.

The new hotel will overlook Dubrava Beach, a public recreation area free of adult supervision. Young people go there knowing they can carouse and be loud and get away with it. A group down there the other day was enjoying the Russian River’s tranquility with the help of a portable sound system and hip hop blaring. It was like a free alternative to the other amplified music festival going on in town.

I don’t think anyone really expects to hear frogs in downtown Guerneville anymore. When I was in town one day this summer, all you could hear were visiting Lazy Bears gathering around the sound of a disco beat booming out of the bars.

Coincidentally, as the bears were arriving, there was an explosion in the Safeway parking lot where a local guy (not a bear) had exploded an illegal firework under a sheriff’s patrol car.

“Sounded like an M-80,” said the woman behind the counter at Food for Humans, the health food store, where I happened to be shopping when the bomb went off.

“What’s an M-80?” I asked.

“A big firecracker.”

I Googled it at home. “Small red cylindrical device about three or four inches long,” said Google’s bomb info, “more powerful than a cherry bomb.”

That a clerk in the health food store, a generally quiet place off Main Street, would matter-of-factly recognize the sound of an M-80 seemed noteworthy. Several small bombs were reported along the lower Russian River this summer. Why? What’s going on?

The guy who threw the M-80 under the sheriff’s car was identified as a Forestville resident, Tristan Proto, age 22, who said he detonated the device as a way to express his low opinion of the sheriff’s department. It was interesting to learn that Proto is related to the new Sonoma County Clerk-Assessor-Registrar-of-Voters who was elected to office in June. “Yeah, he’s her stepson,” said a deputy.

I’m surprised no reporter considered this a breaking news story and called the new clerk to get comment.

But maybe it’s no big deal. Maybe it’s like, OK, an elected public official’s son just threw a bomb at a sheriff’s car in a crowded public parking lot. So what? Maybe it’s just the new normal. Maybe I should get used to it.

The bomb under the sheriff’s car went off just as I was preparing to take some time off for my health. I had planned to rest up at the river and listen to the frogs.

In my dreams, right? Who in his right mind expects to hear any frogs in Guerneville?

I think, as Humphrey Bogart once said, I was misinformed.

Frank Robertson is a member of the Sonoma West Publishers staff.