Friday, July 07, 2006

no magnetic death cannon, though.

What was your most memorable amusement park experience?

I'll be honest right at the front here and tell you that I cribbed this idea from another site. Not like either one of us care, but if you should happen to visit the same site and have an 'aha' moment I will have already trumped you. This one goes out to Tazzy the Yorkshire sex god and Piggy the...whatever he his- who never visit any more because there are too many big words. Cunts.

New York had Coney Island, California had Knotts Berry farm. Portland Oregon had Oaks Amusement Park. It was not world famous like Coney and it was not state of the art like Knotts Berry was at the time, but what it was, was stone fucking cool.

This midway area was still present in large part when I was a kid, but most of the buildings were boarded up, gated over and flood damaged. Spooky? Romantic? The very definition thereof, my dear.

I defy you to find another amusement park with as much pure class as the Oaks had back then. Think of the myriad haunted amusement parks in Scooby Doo...bullshit. Think of the best midway you had ever visited...roadkill. The Oaks had it ALL. And all of it was blessed with that perfect touch of dereliction, sleaze and enchantment that all proper amusements parks should have.

It had been built at the very beginning of the 1900s on what at the time was a small island in the Willamette river...far enough out of town at that time so that a special excursion trolley ran out to it on a trestle over the water, hung with strings of lanterns at night.

It was a fantasy of carved wood, Victorian lace, gargoyles, a little Venice, a little New Orleans and a lot pure Americana. Straight out of Dandelion Wine was this place.

The main portion of the old park was shut down save for a very few of the pitches. You had to traverse this entire midway to the far end to reach the remaining few operating rides, pitches and roller rink. All of it was set in the midst of huge oak trees full of swallows and bats and the rich smell of the river and cotton candy and diesel.

in the 1960's and '70's, you crossed over a small bridge and the first thing you passed was a tiny cinderblock radio station on the right hand side down amid the blackberies. KXI, I think it was*. It was painted sea green with glass blocks by the entry and a tall tower rising from the roof with blinking red lights on it at night.
And it was haunted.

The story was, a night shift dj had played a farewell song dedicated to his girlfriend...'Misty'...and when someone came in a few hours later to find out why the same song had been playing over and over they found the dj hanging from the overhead pipes with the phone cord wrapped around his neck. Sometimes, late at night, it was said that the 'On the Air' sign would light up, and you could hear 'Misty' playing inside, but there never was a night shift after the dj died.


Next you came onto a huge picnic and outdoor gathering park. The living trees were used as part of the decoration, hung with electric lights and incorporated into bowers, bandstands, and picnic enclosures, all of them fancifully themed with spiders webs and wooden vines. John Phillip Sousa had played here during his heyday.

An elfin railway ran the circuit of the park with a tiny engine and 20 cars, a scary tunnel and a causeway out over the water that crackled when the train passed, making fish jump out from around the pilings to take a look as you chugged by.

There was a permanent midway with carnival games of skill. Most of it was shabby and abandoned and cooler than jeezley fuck. All the joints had been decorated with gilt and glass gems, applied- relief cherubs, theatrical masks and gargoyles, monkeys and pierrots and ladies and gentlemen in domino masks dancing minuets, and all this ornament colored. Everything else was painted white. Most of it was fancy with turrets and widows walks and fretwork and oriental arches all falling into the most delicious, mysterious shadowed ruin!. this pitch still operated intermittantly, the faded origional lettering showing up behind the new signs. later it was gated off and used as a storage area and was full of old ride cars and carnival flash.

At the very end of the place was a funky rollerskating rink that was built on a floating platform. It had been added in the 1930's. The place had a pipe organ for music. The works were suspended over the center of the rink and covered with colored lights. The organist sat in a glass block booth high up above one end, wearing a suit with a ruffled shirt. He rang the skates and took requests and controlled the lights and everyone waved at him as they rolled around.

this is a very spic-and span picture of the pipe organ works suspended over the rink. in my day they were crusted with blowing dust scarves and old crepe streamer fragments. the whole place looks like it got the 'Pine-Sol and paint' treatment, which is all for the good.

The thrill rides, I now realize, were probably as close as I ever came to a horrible death in my youth.

I don't think these things had ever been inspected for safety. I don't think that most of them were built during a time when safety codes existed. The oldest and most beautiful of them all was called The Caterpillar. All it was, was a kind of roller coaster that ran in a circle on a planked runway that dipped and banked. The cars were driven from a single engine in the center from which diabolical blue clouds would billow as it chuffed and blew and gathered speed. A fan of iron spokes ran from the central turbine to the cars.

The whole ride was decorated with 'Alice in Wonderland'-y had kind of an 'Early Campbell Kids meets Arthur Rackham' look to it. The Caterpiller himself was a cheery, googly-eyed bug with fat green segments for cars and jolly rubber wheels with red centers. As long as you didn't look too closely, this was all very reassuring. Jolly Green Caterpiller was the childrens' friend!

As the ride would gain speed, the fissured, chewed-up tires would begin to skip and sing over the boards, making the cars rattle and bash against one another and tug at the spokes. Faster and faster the ride whizzed around the track, harder and harder you were pressed against the rattling half-moon door of the car, louder and more alarming became the truly amazing creaks, bangs, snaps, sudden jolts and screeches of the machine. Boards would lift away from the racecourse and rattle. Huge blasts of steam would FASSSSSHHHHH! out of the engine unpredictably. The platform of the ramp-in other words, the entire base of the ride- would lift up off the ground on the opposite side and wham back down when the cars passed over it again.
And then, at the height of all this, The Caterpiller Canopy began to deploy.
All along its length it began to unfold from the inner side like an accordian, revealing thousands of brightly colored dots and squiggles, and slowly, slowly, the canvas arched overhead and came down on the other side, latched-
and then the ride REALLY SPEEDED UP.
You were entirely in the dark. Inside the Caterpillar.
The whole thing felt like it was going to wrench itself apart at any moment.
Some of the cars were rattling and skitttering so hard that they juddered back and forth like marbles on a roulette wheel. The platform was lifting off the ground in full earnest now, WHAM!WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! WHAMWHAMWHAMWHAMWHAMWHAM!
Until there was a sudden huge screeching and squealing of brakes and an exhalation of steam, and the entire ride came to a complete stop in the space of a single rotation.
The canopy unlatched and slowly accordianed back overhead; folded itself away with a 'whapkechunk'.

It was the Goddamndest thing!

The Carousel, back then, was a thing of splendour. It had been built by convict labor, horses, decoration and engine, up at Rocky Butte prison**. It was everything the rest of the park was and more. It was a jewelled wedding cake, a castle, a hall of mirrors, a pile of pirate treasure. I have yet to see a carousel to equal it for sheer Victorian glory.
The central pillar was shaped like an octagonal castle tower. Its sides were covered in painted french panels...lady Columbia danced over the river with a star on her forehead that sparkled when the light caught it. Triton rode a sea-chariot pulled by white horses with manes of wave-crest, surrounded by nymphs. A dawn-lit view of Mt. Hood. Men in leather helmets scored a touchdown with a cheering crowd in the background. America the Beautiful, revealed in triumph with an eagle and star spangled negligee; a gorgeous, rosebud mouthed Gibson girl. In fact for years I was certain that this merry go round had really been decorated by Charles Dana Gibson, because that was the style and the skill of the work.

Imagine it!

My favorite mount was a sable charger with patriotic banners and rubies studding its equippage. I loved that horse. It had a real bridle and reins and real stirrups with starred spurs. It was a beautifully executed thing. All the animals on the circuit were-ostriches, kangaroos, sea beasts, zebras, eagles, swans and a jewelled throne for mothers with scared children to circle around in with a little dignity saved.

below is is a picture of the pavillion that housed the carousel taken from a rollercoaster ride that was derelict by the time I came along. unfortunately, the carousel was the victim of a tasteless and unskilled restoration in the 80's.

The other ride that I will never forget was The Mad Mouse.
Remember the Milton-Bradley game 'Mousetrap'? Kind of a Rube Golberg rack of rails and clackety rickety things? That was this ride.
It was based on a roller coaster, but with a twist-the cars were single, and they made right angles. There were no macaroni curves, just ramps and angles. And the whole thing ran at light speed!

The cars got released from a starting gate at intervals with split second timing and passed each other as though they were going to collide. In fact, there was a segment of rail that shunted open at the middle where two cars would suddenly find themselves speeding head on, then at the last possible moment race off at right angles to each other.
This fucking thing scared the living piss outta me. I ALWAYS rode it.

The last time I rode, I was the only rider on the course. That was fine. It must have been about 1969-70. The first stage of the ride was a long, slow incline up from the starting gate, upon which you gained speed until you reached the top just screaming along, came to a dead stop, spun in a circle and headed down a zigzag.
My car gained speed going up the hill. All around me flakes of rust are falling off the track scaffolding, rivets are visibly pivoting, some are completely missing and replaced with wire looped around and around.
My car gains speed. My braids are flying straight back.
My car reaches the top.
It comes to a whiplash stop.
And the entire structure continues to move.
Creeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaak k k kkk k.
I look out over the marsh below me. My braids are in front of me now.
The car pivots around in a circle and comes back to the starting gate. The operator hands my father his money back.

It took me years to put it all together and realize just how close I came to taking a swim that day.

The Oaks is still there. It's on the national register of historic places and has been completely restored from what I understand.
I will never go back and visit. I like it just the way it is now.

this brought the memories tumbling back. i visited some historic sites for the pictures and was pleased to find that the stories i had heard, and my memories, were pretty accurate. interestingly enough very few pictures survive from the 60's and 70's, when the parks finances were at their lowest point. I did find mention of the midway being haunted by a kid in 70's clothes, though... I remember when that rumor started! the owners were just beginning to think about reviving the place and everyone pretty much knew that it was something they had cooked up. I found the story on a ghost site! But no mention of the haunted radio station.
*if somebody knows, please tell me!!
** the history says that this was a 'noah' ark' style carousel manufactured back east. I recount the story told me by my father and grandmother. they were certain that the animals had been made locally by convict labor. i remember they had to ship in a tiny litle guy from italy to fix the animated musical contraption inside about once a year, too.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

just exactly how many times CAN you beat a dead horse? lets find out.

Once again I am sick. I have bronchitis. I feel very, very grumpy. The doctor gave me Azithromycin, so after I take that I will be asleep for the rest of the day having dreams that David Lynch would envy.
In the middle dealing with that, we hosted a childrens party here for one of the guys that the Yummy Biker works with.
These children have no future I am sorry to say. Their parents are collectively the stupidest, dullest, hyuk-yukkinest, mouth breathing, replacement clone Joad-beasts it has been my misfortune to host in some time. Thus, the following.

I am proud to say that I KNOW that I am preaching to the converted in large part here.
And I love you for that, my darlings!
But this is Blogworld, and I can shout from my virtual rooftop and not worry about tranquilizer darts. And I need to. (worry about tranquilizer darts.)

To wit:
I am tired of not having a meat peer group that I don't have to sign up for as though it were group fucking therapy.
Book circles? Discussion clubs?
I would rather lick the sidewalk in front of the homeless mission.
I would rather stick a lit cigarette in my eye.


I am not rich, I am not from a good family, and I do not have a degree.
Nobody made me.
None of it was required for a grade.

And it gets much worse.
I don't watch much television.
I like history.
I read nonfiction.
I even have rules.

-In the beginning, once I picked up a book or a magazine, I could not put it down. Even if it sucked, even if the contents bothered me, I had to read it cover to cover.
-If I didn't know a word, I went right then and looked it up. If I couldn't, I wrote it on the back of my hand and looked it up when I could.
-I read whatever I wanted to. 'The Boy's Library of Adventure Stories'? I do not think so, Buckwheat. Yes! I am a rebel; bad, mad and dangerous to know!
-If I was probaby not supposed to read it, I made sure to read it FIRST.
-If I liked an author, I had to read everything by that author.
-Read classics. That wasn't hard!
-Read crap. See, in school you are fed 'good writing' and that's all you know. (Well; I guess it would be a waste of the taxpayers money to teach kids out of 'TV Guide', right?) When I first discovered trash fiction, man, my gast was flabbered. Completely worthless fiction without a shred of redeeming value? I am so there.
-Follow it wherever it leads you. Possibly the best and most important rule of all.
-Read different translations of the same text.
-OWN. My house is a book nerds wet dream. Tissues are provided.
-OWN HARD REFERENCE. And I do. A very nice collection, too. If my hard reference was a person I would make dirty, dirty phone calls to it. Then the police would track me down.

These were good rules. They still are.
I've lightened up on the fiction, though. About ten years ago or so I was quite ill with pneumonia-again- and there I was, lying on the couch reading some piece of crap and forcing my way though it simply because I had picked it up. And for the first time in my life I thought "Would I want to die with this garbage in my hands? Fuck that." And so, if I find that the writing blows or that I no longer care what happens to anyone in the story, sayonara.

Is it an American thing? Is it a feminist thing? An age thing? Blogworld is the only place I can regularly find titles that I have read and find that OTHER PEOPLE HAVE READ THEM TOO. Fuck; its the only place I find titles I've never hear of that OTHER people HAVE read. Is it a class thing? What?

I have read more than anyone I presently know.
That includes EVERYONE.* This is not an exaggeration. This is a fact.
I do not talk about it. Even to me it sounds like I'm just flat making up a ridiculous lie.
No shit.
Can I quote like a demon? I cannot. Does that prove I am lying? No, it proves I spent more time reading than I did memorizing quotes to impress YOU.

I am not dangerous, or contagious, or lusting after your underage children, or an arsonist, or a Jehovahs' Witness, or an unwashed nut on the bus who smells like piss and wants to talk to you really really loud about JESUS for the entire busride.
Just well read.
And I might mention a book from time to time.
Fucking deal with it.

*y'all don't count. you could all be magic invisible library pixies for all I know.

oo what a lovely garden

Before I start to work in my garden I do 'rounds', assessing and admiring and generally looking like a vagrant nutjob or a fashion photographer as I comment and kneel and stand and judge and adjust. Not that my garden is a setpiece, oh lordy no. I just want to enjoy it for a little while in depth, you know, before I fuck it all up. That's what I was doing up until just a little while ago, and now I must brag. I cannot stop this urge. It is uncontrollable.

My garden is BEEYOOOOOOOTIFUL, dahling!

Where a huge Lombardy poplar stood dividing my driveway there is now a circular area of blue and pink linnarea and cornflower mixed in with periwinkle and the odd lychnis coronaria. This not only serves to hide the stump* but it works as my trap crop by keeping the neiborhood kids from coming into my yard to pick the flowers. That, I planned, and it works like a dream. There's nothing growing there that they could possibly damage, and so when I do accidentally bust one with a fistfull of blooms, I can smile and be the nice neiborhood lady and help them cut a few more, instead of being the mean neiborhood lady chasing them and yelling.

This area grew up like a monster this year. So did everything else in the front yard, now that it's free of the shade and the poplar roots sucking away all the good from the soil. Poplar roots are rather alarming in their ability to wick damp-I've cut them in half in years past, and the far side just kept on drawing, leaking a thin skim milk trickle continuously into the hole (until I got ooked out and flipped a handful of dirt over it.)

The first large bed in my yard is devoted to red flowers. This is sheer exuberance on my part. My house is a light blue grey and so red has no business being anywhere near it, but dammit, there are just so many great red flowers! So I put them where they wouldn't foreground the view of the house continuously. At least that was the plan, and we all agree that it worked really well, don't we. Yes we do.

This bed actually pulls a great magic trick every year-due to no planning on my part whatsoever, to be quite honest-it goes from blue to red in a period of 4 days time with almost no overlap. April and May see it cool with aquilegia, veronica and periwinkle, viola and blue-toned pinks and chilly jade foliage. June pulls the hemerocallis and the papaveracaea up from the ground like silk scarves out of a magicians sleeve and all the blue petals blow away.

I played around with crossing my papaver the last couple of years trying to make a silk vermilion nudicaule using Flanders poppies as the 'male'. What I ended up with is a vermilion nudicaule with a sienna pollen. (I think it was me. I'm pretty sure it was me. Who knows what the sneaky bees have been up to.) But it's in the place where I planted the crossed seed, so maybe. Very pretty and a good middle ground between the clarion orange of the californicas and the hard reds thrown up by some of the nudicaule.

Ok, lets translate that. I used a Flanders poppy, which is small and orangey-red and has a single row of petals, and pollenated a red Iceland poppy with it, one that was as close to orange as I could find in my garden. Icelands have a larger blossom and more petals, and the petals are of a beautiful, 'crumpled silk' texture. I actually opened a bud that was ready to pop, immediately dabbled the center with my Flanders poppy, and then isolated the Iceland blossom with a little bag made of a nylon stocking so nobody else would visit. When that blossom ripened a seed capsule I planted those seeds in a cleared and marked spot. And it worked!

I have a variety of poppies. They are so generous. I grow one Orientalis; a dwarfed orange with a black throat that for all its' modesty-for an oriental poppy, that is- still wants to take over the earth. It is a perennial, and it will easily outlive me as the Orientale commonly reach the three digit years.

All the rest I grow are annuals. Clear lemon Welsh poppies for the spring with their herbal looking foliage, Californians for the sheer love of everything about them, Himalayans on occasion, Flanders, Icelands, and Somniferums.

I have a time with the somniferums. The things come up everywhere-even in my houseplants!
Some are an ill, washy, liver-and-lights pink, some are lavender. Most are dreamy rich pink like a raspberry milkshake. Some are single and tiny, and some are so huge and fat and doubled that they resemble silk ribbon pompons. These fell themselves, being so greedy. Some are a peculiar color-I call it 'heart patients' lips purple'-and these are the ones that bleed milk at the slightest scratch. The seed capsules look like tethered Perispheres or upside down jade Montgolfier balloons bobbing above the garden...Kind of a faery, bubbly effect that I like against the whipcracks of the serpentine garlic I let go nuts in my front border.

Yes, you can get nice and ripped on raw opium grown right in your own garden. Ignore the' only the scarlet ones; only in a hot climate' bullshit. You can grow it right in your own back yard; hell, you can grow it on top of your car; the shit's profligate. You can also subsequently experience the perfect joy of a perfect and instantaneous constipation, one which will magically transform the contents of your bowels into perfectly hardened oatmeal made with epoxy glue. Lacking opium poppies, you can easily duplicate this effect at home in your spare time by packing a burlap sack up your ass as far as you can reach with a broomhandle. Skip it. Get drunk instead.

And in fact I like to garden with a beer or three going. It is important to stay hydrated when engaging in summer outdoor activities. Wandering around the flowers with a can of lager and a rose shears; speaking of looking like a vagrant nutjob, hell, I fit in perfectly. Sumas, I am home.

* We cheerfully await the day when somebody decides to whip a bitch through the flowerbed ha ha! oh, how incredibly funny! And gets their undercarriage high centered on the hidden stump. Oh come on, baby! Yeah!

oh allright fine. here is a picture taken last year of me and the goonybird in the strawberry patch. as fast as i'm picking them, he is eating them. this is in the backyard and there are yellow columbines and serpentine garlic coming up through the strawberry plants.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

book review- the empire of the wolves, jean-cristophe grange'

Despite the title, the Empire of the Wolves is not gothic horror, and let God be praised. No, what it is, in fact, is the best police thriller I have read in many, many years. It is extraordinarily good.
Does it have everything going for it? It does. Drugs, murder, procedure, espionage, torture, corruption, double crosses, narrow escapes, gunplay, the whole croissant.
-Oh yes, it's French.

No, now, wait.

Most French-to-English fiction suffers from having been too literally translated to communicate properly, I know. There is none of that here. It certainly reads 'French' but you are spared the indecipherable pop culture references and the awkward idioms like 'He is short like a kneeling apple', in the middle of an otherwise smooth read. Ian Monk as translator gets the coveted 'Golden Blowjob' award for this one.

No, I am not playing with you. It's a 1. French 2. cop thriller that's 3. so good even the translator gets props.

This is the part where I should tell you something about the story. I would like to. It is a smoking hot story. But this is the type of read where discovery is part of the thrill, and there is no way that I want to ruin any of the pleasure or fun of reading it for anybody. I am not trying to be cute; I know, its annoying when people do that. Still, this novel is structured in such a way that my detailing the ingredients would take the starch right out of it.

The plot is straightforward; a victim on the run from a double cross gone bad. The main characters follow standard types...The embittered old timer/hired gun called in to show the youngster the ropes, the honest cop confronting temptation and battling his own nature, the idealist turned rebel. We go from prissy Parisian chocolate shop to the Turkish ghetto, horrific crime scenes, doctors offices, torture chambers, middle class living rooms, a columbarium, a cheap disco, a high desert archaeological site, and nothing breaks the logic or throws you out of the movie. Nothing.

More twists than Orson Welles' upper bowel.

Simply as a reading experience it was worth the time. The guy is a master technician and can make the flow of narrative do amazing things without breaking pace. His dialogue is genuine. He plays with character drawing in a way that I can't remember seeing before on the genre fiction level and it works flawlessly; the author remains invisible. But as a brass tacks cop thriller? It wiped me out. What a ride! A thriller that is genuinely thrilling! You become so enmeshed in the tale that putting this book down for a moment is jarring.

No, this ain't Clive Cussler. Not for a minute.

Go read it NOW.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Trapped! Dante Texas Fart Barbecue! The Modifier Laughs!

Chaucer, you are so in trouble.

In his seat high atop Mt. Olympus the Baby Jesus looked down and saw Chaucer and his evil henchpersons cheating all over the place like dogs. Now although the Baby Jesus was a big fan of The Canturbury Tales, that was not all right with the Baby Jesus AT ALL.

Quick as a wink he became the Holy Infant of Prague and flew down to stop the bout.

Yes, the Baby Jesus can fly. Thats why he wears a cape. It is aerodynamic.

Now you may be asking yourself 'is the Holy Infant of Prague really that badass? After all, he is only a little baby.'
Ha. You think the Holy Infant of Prague is not badass? He is the more badass than you could possibly imagine. He is more badass than Superman.
He is more badass than Martha Stewart.

The Holy Infant of Prague can shoot any gun ever made.

The Holy Infant of Prague has smooth mysterious stealth.
His smoothness is so smooth, sometimes people even call him Finister Bar Sinister Von Smooth. And He lets them because thats how smooth he is.

Most importantly, the Holy Infant of Prague knows kung fu.

"Whats on the barbecue?" asked The Holy Infant of Prague.
"Italian food," replied Chaucer. The barbecue was opened and Dante fell out.
Chaucer and his crew all acted like they were trying to help by stomping on him to put out the fire.

There are times when stomping on a fire is NOT the appropriate action to take. An italian poet fire is one of those times.The Baby Jesus may be young, but he was not born yesterday.

The Infant of Prague was not pleased. "A barbecue is supposed to be wholesome backyard family food fun. It is supposed to be a nice thing. You don't put a person in a barbecue. That is just messed up. And you're supposed to burn briquettes."
A sullen Chaucer slipped the hose out of his ass and sulked.

It was time for the Baby Jesus to teach them a lesson.

"Ha!" scoffed Chaucer. "What are you going to do? Bonk me on the head with that bottle of Chambourd?"

But Chaucer was wrong. It looked like Chambourd, but it was a DISGUISE.

It was not Chambord.

It was that deadliest of all antipersonnel fruits.

It was a durian.

Don't piss off Baby Jesus.


nobody won. the Marty Feldman rule was broken in the first round. everyone went home pissed off and blogged about it.