Thursday, January 22, 2009

Green Tube Snake Crime the Plot is Thick!!

I tell you what, crossing the state of Washington to get back home here was like trying to swim the Amazon river holding a t-bone steak between my teeth.

...6 a.m. just outside of vancouver...the worlds prettiest traffic jam

The roads in Oregon suck, but the traffic in Washington just trumps that all to shit. What the fuck, people, you were all supposed to be home watching St. Obama take office, not out on the freeway driving like a stinky bad toilet! NO!!!! It was two in the freaking afternoon on a Tuesday, people! NOBODY NEEDS TO GO ANYPLACE AT TWO IN THE AFTERNOON!

Nevertheless, the trip went well. Once again I listened to the sound of silence coming from the direction of the passengers seat, nobody checking the goddamn speedometer, nobody checking the gas gauge, nobody hearing noises that mean we're all going to die coming from the engine compartment.
Of course I'm assuming silence here since the radio was playing loud enough to delaminate the safety glass.


My boy and I went wandering around Portland on Sunday, and decided to hit one of the local music stores. So we go driving up and dang; there I was smack in the middle of what used to be 'The Pink Triangle' up on Burnside; up by the notorious Kachina Lounge, the Family Zoo, and the Red Balcony.

Not no mo it ain't.

The Zoo is kaput, The Kachina is history, The Balcony is gone entirely, building and all. Here I was all braced to be chasing drag queens off my son, and nada.

And to top it off, Burnside as a whole is no longer lined two deep in winos, either. We did get spanged by a guy with a walker. I gave him a buck. He was wearing red nail polish.

First we (me and my son, not me and the guy in the walker) went to a music store and spent too much money, and then he (my son, not the guy in the walker) took me to this incredibly excellent place here:
...that's The Arborist with his elbow up on the bar...photographic proof that the apple did not fall very far from the tree. It fell as far as the next barstool over.

Here is the view past him, looking toward the front door. Pay attention, foreign persons in general and Mr. The Dog in particular; I took these for you. This is the inside of a cool bar in America.

Ok. Here is looking directly up at the ceiling. I'm not sure what purpose it served, but that round thing up there was covered in green and clear mirror pieces and it rotated. It kind of reminded me of that mind-control device in original Star Trek, where Kirk goes to the insane asylum planet and they put him in the device and it messes with his brain and makes him kiss that one broad? And then the one guy gets trapped in there and it sucks all his thoughts out and he dies of loneliness and then Captain Kirk says something pithy and they play the closing theme? Yeah.

I swear to you I am not falling off the barstool here; I was holding the camera at an awkward angle. Just turn your head sideways.

Look at how cool this place is. The Arborist has the most excellent taste, I swear. I loved it. They had excellent brew too. Plus there was a hot guy playing pool just out of shot to the right.

This was a bicycle parked out front of the place.
We are looking west up Burnside toward the old 'Kuntz Plumbing' building. -hey, I shit thee not. Kuntz Plumbing. I almost rented out an apartment upstairs from it years ago. The name was kind of offputting, of course...

This is the Oregon I remember when I left:
You have to make the bigger by noise of an insect becoming largeness in order to really get it, unlike this sentence. Boarded up tacky old buildings, general crumminess, squalor...
I shot this someplace way out in the brush somewhere. It's the exception to the rule now.

Here is an excellent example of what I mean when I talk about Portland being better than it used to be. This is Third Street in downtown Portland, right across from the Old Spaghetti Factory building (now an architects' office.)
Third used to be a pretty gritty area. You were getting too close to Burnside at this point, and down near the low-rent, filthy waterfront area used to be heinously dirty, the storefronts were largely unoccupied, there was lots of vandalism, and there would have been people asleep on the street and lots of graffitti and posters rotting off the walls as well. Now look.

I'm standing in the same spot looking in the opposite direction, toward the college.

No winos. No garbage in the street. Trees.
I tell you, its like that one episode in original Star Trek when they all go back through a time portal thing and Kirk falls in love with that Edith Keeler broad and has to let a car hit her so that history isn't changed? And then they go back to the Enterprise and Mr. Spock whips off his shirt, and he has a tattoo, and they have wacky space love.

Some things did stay the same. See that circle thing in the curb? The one right next to my foot there?

That's from waaaaaaaay back in the day. It's an iron ring to tie your horse to. Finding this made me really happy. I always got a kick out of them when I was a little kid and look; something good from back then is still here. Cool!

When I lived in Oregon, you used to hear people from out of state bitching about the poor condition of the roads and think "Aw geeze, grow some hair on your ass." Now, having lived for 23 years in a state that actually maintains its highways, I can go back and appreciate from an informed perspective just how bad it was, and is. Not only poorly maintained surfaces - think 'downtown Baghdad'- but unnecessarily narrow, poorly marked, and what the fuck is it with the off-camber turns? Middle of a mountain pass on a 50 mph stretch of road and suddenly you're coming around a turn and you feel the entire chassis begin to plane. And there's a log truck on your ass. And a Mexican broad in an Aerostar is passing you on the left so close her kids are trying your doorhandles and she's weaving in and out of the lane, talking on her cell phone.

The thing that complicates all this even more is that, down in Oregon, suddenly there IS SCENERY WORTH SEEING, even on the interstate. Good scenery. World class scenery, in fact. Your only choice is to pull over and stop, or miss it. You can't casually gaze out and enjoy the passing landscape; there might be a giant goddamn chuckhole coming up with a submarine floating around in it that you have to manouver around.

Once off the main highway the scenery goes from merely pretty to 'astoundingly beautiful.' Particularly along the coast, immediately west of the coastal range, along what they used to call the Miracle Miles. Now its just plain U.S. 101.
Go there. NOW.

-wait. I mean, don't move there or anything; they don't want you. Just go visit and spend a lot of money. Then LEAVE.

So anyway, there I was, traveling west through the coast range, losing altitude at an astonishing rate, going through the most excellent, moss-draped primeval forest, past incredible rock formations.... doing 55 around hairpin turns canted in defiance of ballistic motion, with a log truck gaining on me. I'm driving along with my eyes bugging out, trying to stay on the mountain, when suddenly out of nowhere all these godawful GIANT BIRDS go blasting right across my windshield! Jesus H. Christ!

At first I thought 'vultures,' but no. TURKEYS. Oh yes, definitely turkeys. I got a real good look at them. I could even read the little 'made in Macao' tags.

Nothing gets your blood moving brisky along like getting fucked with by turkeys on an frost-covered, 70% downhill grade.

I was on my way to visit a friend of mine who lives in Coquille. Now, had I been thinking, I wouldn't have just gone right in off the road without getting my shit together first.
I was not thinking.
No, I showed up at her place of work shortly after the turkey incident with my hair all sticking out wild, face pale, hands trembling, wearing my black trilby, a stained 'Spam' t-shirt and a rasty old leather jacket with crap all dangling off it.

Asked the receptionist to announce me as 'FirstNations.'


This is a professional workplace, bear in mind. This nice woman comes walking out into the lobby and a deranged hippie wearing a Zippy the Pinhead badge comes clanking and jangling up and throws her arms around her in a big ol' cloud of patchouli and adrenaline-laced fear sweat...oh yes, it was choice.

...this is the view from the parking lot where she works. Deal with this. This is a view from a fricken' PARKING LOT. In Oregon. Does your parking lot at work have a nice view like this? No it does not.

She wanted to buy me lunch, but I said no, that's ok. Then I ate most of her french fries and forgot to catch the tip.

Anyway, we sat and relaxed and just chatted nonstop. She is just as smart cool and laid back (not to mention groovy in a far out, happening way) as she comes off in her writing. We got along like a house afire. The woman is incredibly interesting, and I swear she has read EVERYTHING. I wish I'd have stayed longer, I really do. She was so nice to me. Before I'd left, she even loaded me up with dirty romance novels, and I mean, dang; lunch AND porn. That's hospitality.

In parting, she told me "Head on up the coast a ways and then take the Drain exit back to I-5. It's just a much nicer drive." A friendly bit of advice which I took. And I'm glad I did, too. Had I stuck to my original plan, I would have missed one of the most extraordinary experiences I have ever had. Retro, that was a star in your crown. That valley along the Umpqua river was one of the most gorgeous places I have ever been.

NEXT: a lot of descriptive crap about that drive, with average pictures!!!


  1. I'd have stayed in the pub. Who needs views when you have brew and pool tables.

    I want to live in that pub. Will you marry me bigamously so I can get a Green Card?

  2. We have awesome bars on the west coast, that is for sure and true. I think you'd get a kick out the Lost Coast brewery down in Eureka, Ma. We should do a girls' roadtrip...someday...with no kids...sigh.
    Brosef has a very nice elbow. And a fuzzy head. Tell him to eat a crisco sandwich with extra lard, though, okay? The manteca kind.
    Retro sounds like she fits right in!! Her, her sister, and whomever else they kidnap should come visit us all in the beautiful wilds of whatcom county sometime!
    ...I guess that smelly old Z-man can come too, but he smells.

  3. ..that was "Eureka < comma > Ma" as in Ma the person, not Ma the state abbreviation for Massachusetts. It's early. and Sweet Bean just asked me if I shaved his beard while he slept. It's gonna be a day...

  4. Trees! You didn't mention enough about trees. And green. Why is it green?

  5. I just KNEW you would put such a delightful spin on your latest adventure! Lordy, I was talking at speed and I never even saw you take pictures! ( A person should draw breath now and then and maybe blink). Looking forward to more pictures and colorful travel dialogue. (BIG FAT CHEESY GRIN)

  6. garfy: hell yes I will. I dig you the most and I always have. Bring a kilt and lets get it done! Of course you'll be sharing me with Footman. we'll need to know if you prefer 'befores' or 'afters'.

    SSA 1: yes on everything, except the lard.

    SSA 2: YOU SHAVED HIS BEARD OFF IN HIS SLEEP??????????????? Great. Now his going to look really young.

    joeVegas: dude, you're going to hear way more about trees next post than you ever, ever wanted to know. trust me. really.

    Retro: I took the pix after you left. And I had to stand there and think about how to operate the damn camera, too. I finally ended up going down the road and buying a couple of canned DoubleShots and pounding them. I will NEVER take that back way down past Roseburg AGAIN.

  7. Footman can have the sloppy seconds, he's not proud.

  8. Disappointing.

    I had expected pics of The Arborist nekkid, wearing the spurs.

  9. Anonymous3:25 PM

    Pub? That is a place where one can get something to drink, yes? What kind of brew the served? Questions abound. Orejun seems to be a kind of paradies ...

  10. garfy: sad but true. one has to allow him the illusion of choice of course. Gracious. I feel so....polygamous. *scratches*

    mj: ...and see; I spent my whole visit down there hoping like hell I DIDN'T see that. no. no no no. THANKS IM ALL SQUICKED OUT NOW GEEZE.

    MAGO: they serve all kinds of alcoholic beverages there; distilled and brewed. they also have bar munchies....light meals, snacks, appetizers. upstairs they have a concert venue where all kinds of big acts perform....its excellent!

    Oregon is in fact pretty damned close to perfect, at least these days. You can grow just about anything, and of course my son and his family live there too.

  11. Oh my God--that drive between south-of-Eugene and Florence trough Drain? That is THE BEST scenery ever. I spent a year teaching in Brookings while my parents still lived in Salem, and Drain was my favorite "crossing over" spot from 101 to I5 when I visited them. Do this one in Autumn, when the leaves are blazing color. Who the hell needs New England?

  12. If you grew up in southern Michigan you would know that any time one or more large birds goes flapping/flailing randomly across your windshield without warning while you're driving IT'S ALWAYS TURKEYS.

    My Daisy beagle liked turkeys. When we we took her out in the woods she would always go find turkeys. Never had any damn clue what to do with them when she found them of course. She just liked finding them.

  13. That was very cool..I'd prolly still be in that Bar.

    I'm glad to see that they are cleanin' up the that I think about it were you bloggin' while you were drivin'?
    This seemed to be happening in real time like 24.

  14. Anonymous3:22 AM

    Na na, it's not Franconia ...

  15. those were fabulous pictures!!!
    my parking lot at work has the view of a bank and an old folks home...thrilling i tell you...just thrilling :(

  16. Sounds a very cool trip , wild scenery and deranged turkeys . The traffic looks about siilar to bournemouth :-(

  17. I was watching a offbeat TV channel the other night and the English presenter was driving all over the States but only filling up in privately owned gas stations, sounds bizarre but true. He was back and forth in Oregan & Washington and went to Idaho (which appeared to be empty).

    Perhaps you should make a TV prog and sell it to the BBC.

  18. Anonymous7:21 AM

    The inside of a cool bar in America looks just like the inside of a cool bar in Newcastle. I knew I should have moved to the States!