I went to Portland. This was ages ago. I am so behind in my blogging. I need to get my priorities straight. I guess it should go like this: blogging, sleeping, work, drinking. Or some variant of that.
Before heading off, we went to Toad and Bryce's art show. Outside, Matt and I compared mustaches (see how behind I am in the blogging? I've already won the banjo!) and later on I gave Casey a photo of a kitten that I'd been carrying in my shirt pocket for some reason.
The next morning we made our final preparations for heading up to Portland. I went to meet everyone at the 24th street BART station.
Dennis and Huckleberry were doing a couple of wall jammers. I hadn't considered it up until this point, but the sight of 10 not-exactly-clean kids with backpacks and water jugs might lead someone to suspect that we were itinerant travelers, i.e. homeless, and within minutes some nice folks from a street outreach program came up and offered us sandwiches and condoms. We thanked them for their concern but declined their offer on account of the sandwiches looking kind of gross (actually we told them that we had jobs and food, which their leader didn't entirely believe) and because condoms make my boner go away.
Later that night we slept on a floor in Oakland. There were pet rats. And this upside-down flag pretty much sums it up. About a day later I found myself alone in Klamath Falls, Oregon. There's a pretty excellent skate park there and a freight yard and not much else. The only thing near the park was the prison. I slept on top of a hill near the park in a gazebo. This is just up the way from Mt. Shasta.
I lay up there on my bedroll and read until the sun went down, trying my best to avoid park rangers and busybodies. Once the sun had completely set it became pitch black and the wind kicked up. The stars made a billion pinpricks in the sky and there was no moon. It was cold and there was no one for miles around in every direction. It was wonderful.
I woke in the middle of the night. I must have had a bad dream because I immediately felt ill at ease. I listened to the wind blowing through the hills and then became aware of the underbrush rustling all around me. Coyotes! I grabbed my knife and flashlight and prepared to fight to the death. Well, actually that's a lie. I did grab my knife and flashlight, but I tried to scare them away. Okay, that's a lie too. Half of me wanted to scare the coyotes off and be safe, but the other half wanted one of them to rush at me in a frenzy of fangs and spit. I pictured it so clearly all at once, standing on that hill: the coyotes would approach, cautiously at first, but then with growing curiosity. They'd easily pick up my man-smell and know I'd be delicious eating. The first one, braver than the rest, would run up and lunge for my arm, but I'd already have wrapped it in a heavy jacket. He'd sink his teeth in and I'd have him just where I wanted him. The coyote would shake like a dervish, hoping to pull me down but I'd already have sunk my knife to the hilt at the base of his skull. Then his friends would come on in a rush and a roar; growling, bared teeth, blood. And I would efficiently dispatch them all. The next morning I'd walk the two miles back into town wearing their pelts. I'd go right into a diner and order me up an omelet.
None of that happened. The coyotes never came any closer but just to be safe I hiked back down the hill a ways and hopped the waist high chain link fence surrounding the park. I took some photos while I ran around the bowls with my flashlight.
Then after a while I went back to my gazebo and slept until dawn.
I walked past the prison and through the freight yard and on into town. It was still before 6am and the streets were empty. Small town America is perhaps my favorite place. Not that it's only one thing in one location, but there's a similar feeling to each small town I've ever visited. It's this pervasive type of insulation that becomes obvious even when no one's around. Small towns are insular, but it's not a bad thing. To me it has more to do with community and inclusion. I like it when people greet strangers on the street and look them in the eye.
I did stop at a diner near the highway to eat an omelet. The waitress was the same age as my mom and had an amazing rapport with all the regulars. I brushed my teeth and washed up in the bathroom, and when I came out my food was waiting. All the elderly couples in the diner said good morning to me, and when I got ready to leave the waitress told me that my food was on the house. I think she assumed I was homeless since I'd come in with a mess of a backpack and had washed in the restroom. I didn't want to argue with her about it, but I knew the check for my breakfast would come out of someone's pay, so I just tipped the amount of the bill. I thanked her and headed for the highway. Within 20 minutes this guy in an old orange MG pulled over and asked if I wanted to go to Ashland.
I caught a few more rides through southern Oregon, primarily through the skatepark triangle of Ashland, Medford, and Jacksonville. I tried to skate but just ended up sleeping at the park in Ashland. There's a tiny stream, just a creek actually, right by the park and there are public restrooms. It's the perfect spot. When I woke up I ate some of the food I'd packed and skated for a bit with some little kids who were daring each other to roll into the bowl. I approached one their fathers to ask how to get to the highway. His immediate response was to tell me that he didn't have any money and for me to get the fuck away from him.
After a while I decided to take the Greyhound the rest of the way to Portland. This wasby farthe worst part of the trip. Greyhound can be great if you're on a budget and need to be somewhere, but I'll be honest with you: for every interesting and coherent person you meet on the bus, there are going to be five or six or nine total dipshits. I've met some wonderful people on the bus and the conversations we had passed the miles effortlessly, but on this one short tripjust three hours up through OregonI was surrounded by idiots and mental incompetents. I'll make no excuses for using those terms either. And what's more, why is it that the dumbest people are also the loudest? Do they crave spectacle for some reason I just don't understand?
Please, bear with me and let me elaborate: I hate airports. I fly a lot and I still hate airports. I hate them for one single reasonthey are a place you go to when you really want to be somewhere else. No one wants to go to the airport (or a train station or a bus station), but you have to go there in order to eventually go where you want to. You are a captive of the airport. I hate bus stations for this same reason, except that taking a bus is more democratic and populist than flying because it is cheaper. For me this means that not only do I not want to be at a bus station, just as no one else really wants to be there, but that I am going to be surrounded by grumpy people, loud people, agitated people who are beating their kids, teenagers trying to shoplift, ex-cons just getting out of prison basically this: I don't deal well with being around people. You could call it misanthropy. I prefer to call it social anxiety. But pretty much I hate being around large groups of people. Whether or not I know these people is usually inconsequential, and so having to wait at a bust station, in 100 degree heat, covered in a layer of grime and blood (I slammed at the Ashland park), is pretty much my worst case scenario for traveling.
Here's what I wrote in my notebook:
There's a man waiting in line to use the soda vending machine. His arms and torso are normal but his legs are withered and at odd angles to each other. He's standing in line on crutches, wiping sweat from his face and from the back of his neck with a handkerchief. He looks as if he might cry at any moment. There's another man who keeps pacing the length of the waiting room, impatient because every bus has been delayed. He's got a long ponytail and is wearing a silk scarf and aviator glasses. A very frail looking woman, maybe 65 years old, is sitting next to me. Her head is unevenly shaved and is patchy on top and in the back. A dozen band-aids cover her arms. The soda vending machine is the kind where the sodas are displayed and a robot arm reaches up to your selection and places it into a tray below.
The driver gets lost three times on the way to the highway and takes the bus on a detour through a few residential streets while people on the bus are yelling at her to turn around and go back to the station for a new driver. She's staring intently into the mirror pleading with people to be quiet. Her Greyhound uniform has a huge grease stain on the back.
The people sitting near me on the bus would have been funny if not for the fact that they were so sad and, more to the point, incredibly annoying. Sitting directly behind me is a young hiphop white kid, constantly shouting into his cell phone stuff like, What's crackin' niggaaa?? I got to fuck some hoes tonight for damn sure! Gonna fuck, gonna fuck! You know someone who can braid my hair in P-town?" Across the aisle from me is a middle aged black man, who I'm sure is going to fuck this kid up the next time he says nigga." Behind the man are two other teenaged kids who are very quiet and keep their headphones on almost the entire ride. In front of me is a sad looking woman who surprises almost everyone on board when she shrieks into her phone, Fuck you, Willy!" and then asks the woman across from her what the fuck she's looking at and if she'd like to get punched in the fucking face.
Just above is the man who was sitting across from me. He hadn't brought any type of on-board entertainment with him, so he kept listening to his phone's ringtone over and over and over. It was agonizing. It consisted of a 10 second drum and bass midi loop that was just loud enough to annoy the fuck out of me. Just when I thought about asking him to please turn it off, the kid behind me said, Hey nigga! You want some new ringtones?" At that point I felt sure there was going to be a fight, but the man just looked over his shoulder and said, Huh?"
The kid repeated himself, Ringtones you know, for your phone! Does your phone got Bluetooth, cause I can Bluetooth that shit to you, nigga!" Still no reaction from the man. To tell you the truth, I was itching to see these two go at each other. They were easily the two most annoying people I'd ever come into contact with and to see them pummeling each other would have been a pleasure. I'm sorry if that makes me a bad person, but I was at the end of my rope. I just wanted the kid to stop yelling into his phone (on speaker phone!!) and I wanted the man to stop playing his ringtone. It fucking sucked.
Anyways, the man just looked blankly and said, Bluetoof?" to which the kid replied, Yeah, it's like some thing inside your phone so I can send you stuff through the air." The man said he didn't know whether or not he had Bluetooth, but he decided to call his phone company to ask.
Here is his phone call, as close to verbatim as I can remember:
Hello Sprint? Yeah. What color are the teeth on my phone?" Then there was a long pause, during which time I imagine the operator was either scratching his/her head trying to figure out where the teeth were supposed to go on a cell phone, or possibly laughing so hard that conversation became impossible. After the pause, No no no, all I need to know is are the blue? Do my phone have blue teeth? That's what I said! Also, I downloaded Ms. Pac Man for my phone too, and what I want to know is why is it that every time she eats a power pellet she won't turn? That's right. Every time that bitch eats a power pellet the ghosts get her! She won't turn. Why is that?"
Finally he got off the phone, having figured out that his phone's teeth were not, unfortunately, blue. By this time, the kid behind me had stopped caring about sending the man any ringtones via Bluetooth and was back on the phone telling someone how some fine fuckin bitches" had just gotten on the bus and he was lookin to fuck in the bathroom!" He eventually hung up and asked the two quiet kids across the aisle if they had any weed. The one closest answered no and tried to go back to listening to his headphones, but the kid seemed more interested in sparking up a conversation. His next question was to ask the two if they'd ever done any time in prison. The same guy replied that they'd just both gotten out of a work farm where they'd spent that past 18 months. The thuggy white kid responded with an enthusiastic, Daaaamn, that's tight! I was thinkin' about stealing a car up in Portland!"
Then the man started playing his ringtone over and over again, and between that and the kid behind me vocally asserting how he needed to fuck right away I was going slightly crazy. Finally, I just asked the man if he wouldn't mind turning his phone down a little bit. I half-expected to get yelled at, but was surprised when he said, Sure thing. I didn't realize it was bothering anyone." But then he hastened to add, Hey, you don't by any chance have something I could eat? I'm really hungry. I tried to buy some pizza in Medford but they wouldn't cash a check and I left my ATM card in Oceanside this morning." So I gave him a bag of trail mix and went to sleep, but not before he told me that he was going to rob a Pizza Hut at the next stop if that's what it took. 45 minutes later we arrived in Portland and I went to Pat Smith's house to sleep.
The next morning Pat had to go to work, so David, Dennis, Huck and I went to Burnside. The obvious first stop.
I did a backside smith on the cinderblock wall. I love Burnside.
Caveat: The rest of this blog is going to be fairly skate-intensive. If you're not into that, you might want to bail now.
Pat was busy working during the 100 degree days, so he lent me his car to check out some of the new parks that Portland just can't seem to get enough of.
Glenhaven was first.
David is our new intern at Lowcard. Sometimes Jonah the sales guy gets him too stoned to work. He leaves early on those days.
Pier Park was next. It's fucking massive.
Then back to Pat, Derrick, and Brandon's for a summertime guitar jam/barbecue.
We began to play this little game where one of us would stand at the farthest end of the yard (wearing safety glasses, of course) and someone else would take potshots with a bb gun. The more bb's you avoided, the better you did at the game. Well, maybe game" isn't the most accurate term. We didn't tally points or anything; we mainly just got drunk and shot each other. There's a name for this type of behavior: idiocy.
Pat shot me before I was ready, so I punched him in the chest. He complained about chest pains for two weeks afterwards, which just goes to show what a pussy he is.
After skating some more the next day, we began the circuit of Portland stripclubs. For those of you who've never had the pleasure, let me clarify something: when you go to Portland, it is inevitable that you'll end up at one or more stripclubs. Portland is just one of those places where there's no weird stigma attached with going to look at naked boobies and have a beer. Girls go too. Beers are cheap, and most clubs will have good, cheap food. At Mary's Club, for instance, you'll find Portland's finest burrito and $2 beers. The Magic Garden, just up the way, is the perfect dive barthe kind you'd go to in your hometownonly as an added bonus, there are boobies! The Acropolis has a salad bar. We went there for breakfast and got omelets and homefries and tons of pancakes while the before noon b-team dancers chatted us up. Ever wonder where bad tattoos, knife scars, botched boob jobs, and c-sections go to die? Wonder no more
These fine items were for sale in the men's room:
Bill Clinton BJ references are pretty dated. Actually, were they ever funny to anyone who doesn't love Bill O'Reilly? Also, instant pussy?" What the fuck could that possibly be? Unfortunately, I was out of quarters.
Later on we drove to the new park in Battleground, Washington, which is about 30 minutes outside of Portland. This park is wonderful. I can't say enough good things about it. It only further reinforces my desire to live in a small town in the Pacific Northwest. Big cities never get it right, but little hamlets like Battleground, made up only of a main drag and a few dusty shops, somehow manage to get a 60,000 square foot concrete masterpiece. Oh well. (Aside: Remember when there was a lot more skate-related stuff on fecal? Remember the fecal face games of skate? I hereby challenge Trippe to a game of skate. Burn!)
I've been honing my photojournalism skills by taking photos of kids at skateparks. Is that still considered art? Anyone?
This unfortunate youngster was busted for tagging on a barn behind the park. I hate the cops as much as the next skateboarder, but I couldn't blame them this time. The kid strolled nonchalantly through the parking lot, past the cops (who were pretty much just hanging out, not doing a god damned thing), and spray painted some shit on the wall. Fuck. Sheer balls or simple stupidity? Dude, go for it! Stick it to the man by writing your name on a barn, but maybe a little foresight perhaps? Maybe wait until the cops are gone? He was bummed.
We left Battleground, mostly due to the 105 degree heat, and drove back towards Portland. On the way we stopped at 7-11 because it was rumored that they were giving away free Slurpees all day because of some promotion with the Simpsons movie. Well, we got there and it was true! It was also awesome! You could just hang out by the Slurpee machine and treat yourself! I saw a little fat kid with blue and red stains all around his mouth. He had that look of pure, unbridled sugar-lust in his eyes; he was wonked out of his mind! He told me in a herky-jerk squeal, I had thirteen Slurpees!" and then ran down the aisle, knocking things over and screaming. It was wonderful.
Back at Pat's it was decided to go and skate some more. Steve Healy was there. We went to Australia one time, which was also awesome. It was on that very same trip that Jerry Mraz and I found ourselves in possession of one of those neat Audi sports cars. I won't go into extensive detail, but it belonged to a prostitute! If you run into me at the bar, I'll be happy to elaborate.
We went swimming with Rob. He's pretty rad and has one of my favorite nicknames of all time: the Vanilla Gorilla. It's because his hair is practically white and he's a big dude. Go figure.
George and Amy live up in Portland as well. They're married so it's not sinful when they touch each other with lust in their hearts. But f.y.i. guys, it kind of makes everyone else in the room feel kind of weird.
Leonard Houx was also there. He, just like Steve, Pat, and I, used to live in Brooklyn. Those were the days! No responsibilities, no jobs. Pat, Dan Pensyl, Damian Rodriguez, Dave Mason and I lived in this great squat and all we did was skate. I went to school, but that was about it. We had a pretty severe rat infestation problem, no heat, and once our pipes burst, but aside from that it was paradise. Josie lived across the street from us and KCDC was just up the way. Man, those were the days. Young and dumb with the world and its possibilities standing wide open! Now we're just dumb. Oh well. Leonard is a librarian.
They have these weird bikes up in Portland where you have to pedal all the time. What the fuck is up with those fucking things? It's like a plague.
We eventually went to this other bar and got kicked out. I have no idea why.
There were some other San Francisco dudes in town as well. Timmy Jak didn't like skating Burnside so he shot some hoops.
Josh, on the other hand, looked too emaciated to live much longer. Dude looks like he just came out of Bergen Belsen. I know it's not cool to crack wise about the Holocaust, but if we lose the right to do that we might as well stop telling retard jokes too. And I will never stop telling retard jokes! Ever.
There's this great army surplus store in Portland called Andy and Bax's. I recommend going there. They have bb guns and lots of knives.
Back to skating and photographic lurking. These kids were excellent and for some reason ran to bring me my board every time I ate shit.
In case you didn't notice this little dude's hairdo. At the end of the day, I gave them my board and they practically shit their pants. Little kids can muster this enthusiasm that I'm scarcely capable of anymore. I wish I could still get excited about anything.
See? I can lurk on teenaged girls at the skatepark with the best of them. This young lady had skated right onto her face the previous day. She graciously allowed me to take her photo.
Derrick and I are twins. Aren't we adorable?
Derrick also has crazy eyes."
Pat went to New York but foolishly left me the keys to his car and access to his bedroom. That night we had a party! Screw you, Pat! Wicked burn! Although to his credit, Pat seemed genuinely disappointed that I didn't do sex to any girls in his bed while he was away. (Although I did rub one out while looking at his internet. Burn!)
There were fireworks.
And then we played the shooting game again. Although this time at a much closer range. Brandon shot the crap out of me and I had to dig the bb out with my knife. My leg turned all purple and infected and two days later I discovered a shred of denim in the wound. Awesome!
I went inside the house and discovered this:
It was an unholy alliance of booze, cake, watermelon, and butcher knives.
I also finally discovered what happens when you throw cake and a bucket of fried chicken into a ceiling fan.
Someone called Pat and told him that the house was in shambles. This was his response:
The next morning I was greeted by the sight of Huck's toes.
That's right: COMA-TOES.
There was also a bug and this weird sign. Let the immigration policy commenting begin!
So much more happened in Portland, but I don't want to waste your entire day. This blog has been just about long enough. Although Timmy Jak did get kicked out of this dance club one night. When I saw him he was being manhandled down a set of stairs by some humorless and gigantic bouncers. I tried to intervene and stopped him to ask why he was being thrown out. He stopped in the middle of the stairs, two bouncers still grabbing him by the neck, and said, Because these two assholes don't have a sense of humor!" Then they threw him down the stairs. Turns out he'd tried to set our friend Bahram on fire.
Oh well. There's no life lesson hidden in any of this. It was just a bunch of stuff that happened. If I did learn anything, it was purely coincidental. But isn't it funny how many people get bummed out by the things you do? As if what anyone does has anything at all to do with anyone else. Everything you do is purely solipsistic. We never truly consider the consequences of our actions in advance and never set out to ruin anyone else's good times. It's just that everyone's ideas of happiness are separate and oftentimes mutually exclusive. People like to flatter themselves, though, and like to read into things and find a subtext that simply doesn't exist.
This has nothing to do with anything, but I felt it warranted mentioning.
I say this: Do what you're going to do. Learn what you need to learn and see what you need to see. Don't listen for an instant to anyone who says you are incapable of doing what you truly want to. If they get upset by you trying to live your life, it's really a matter of them being upset with themselves.
Fish wrote a Dr. Seuss quote on the bottom of one of his skateboards one time. It ended with this: Those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind."
Platitudes, platitudes, platitudes.
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