Tuesday, February 19, 2008

State of Zero

~photo by Burkhard

Spirit in the State of Zero
Rain-Tripping in Noregon
In the style of Kew

A stormy winter day in Oregon, man.
Year-round desolation, McMansionated expensive homes, Christmas tree farms, wineries and meth.
When you have Cali why go the state of Zero?
Colder, wetter, darker—then as now.
Coos Bay was Tijuana Slough, Florence our Salt Creek, and Lincoln City the Imperial Golden Gate.
Misperception remains widespread.
There are no skies of blue, no fields of lilac, no safe harbors—Oregon’s waysides are youthfully industrious and climatically too beaten to allow for consistently refined toilet setups.
Which isn’t to say the restrooms are always horrible up there…Go away please.
Or as our famous state motto states “Welcome to Oregon, now go fuck yourself”…or some similar sentiment.
On this dark day, like all others, I was badly hung over and binging on meth.
A torrential black downpour from dusk to dusk, relieved only by heavier rain had confined me to the car, trembling in the wind on a patch of blacktop beside a sheer cliff cut into crumbling granite that they call highway One.
To blot the hours I drank warm Pabst while reading a Doritos label in the dark.
Along came daybreak, the storm replaced by a storm.
Then the rain increased, and in the car I methed; waiting for the rain to slacken, the fog to thicken, and the meth to kick in.
The former neither did nor didn’t, the latter two neither either.
So, for squatting purposes-perfect.
I decided to try my luck at *********, 15 miles north.
From Nookamookamonny it is an enchanting drive, first turning left, then right, some straight parts and then lots of left, right and straight parts.
At Shittys the route softens, less lefts and rights, more straight parts.
Undulating swamp, windbreaks of cypress, malodorous dairy farms and grazing black cattle, soaring hawks and kestrels perched on telephone wires with dead mice in their talons–there is none of that shit…well, there are dairies but that’s on the central coast and it isn’t picturesque, it just smells like alot of cow shit.
At *********** the road gets super straight again and then you turn left-kinda like a backside bottom turn, but only if you’re a fucking regular foot, and if you are why are you at *****?
Set within Noregon’s Meth County, *************** (population who fucking cares) is a moldy bohemian spread of dope growers and hicks and retirees.
Many squatters know of *************** and many have squatted there, but there is no stall local quite like the *************** stall local.
Minutes after arrival I met Spike at the Men’s room stall, precisely where I had seen him three years before, again holding a joint, a can of beer, and an enormous Folger’s can of meth.
“Hand Job?” he asked, squinting at me and taking a hit from the joint.
“I don’t think so…but thanks”, I said, remembering my manners.
Spike lived in *************, grew weed, and drove a rusty green hatchback festooned with bumper stickers like Keep Oregon Weird and Kerry/Edwards.
He was in his 20s and already had long, frizzy gray hair; he wore clunky leather boots, a plaid flannel shirt and Carhardt pants that likely doubled as pajamas.
“Shitty in here today,” he said, studying the toilet.
“I’ve been in Men’s rooms up and down this coast,” I said. “Everywhere’s shitty.”
He set his beer on the urinal and grimaced. “You know where’s good right now?”
“Des Moines…I heard Iowan’s are clean?”
“No.” He leaned toward me and spoke slowly: “Art Museums.”
From his chest pocket he plucked a small pamphlet of Oregon Art Museums-I think there were, like, 4.
“See these?” He pointed at the classical edifices.
“That’s fucking paradise. I’m thinking of checking them out, leaving all my shit in my trailer here.”
“I been to art museums,” I said.
“You’re damn lucky. What’re you doing here?”
“Just looking around.”
“Well, you know where else is good?” Spike asked, flicking ash from his joint.
“Art Gallerys! The stalls in those are incredible!”
“I was in an art gallery last year.”
“Is it unreal, or what?”
“I enjoyed it, but didn’t get much action, the best spots require an invitation.”
“Oh, yeah,” he said.
“Look, I don’t normally like big cities, but I been to a couple and I’ll tell you what-Sooo many art galleries!”
“What about *************?”
“What about it?” he asked, brow furrowed.
“It’s home, but I’m sick of this place, man. There’s a huge world out there, and I need to travel more. This ain’t Beaverton!”.
“But it’s crowded out there,” I said.
“Aren’t Oregon art galleries pretty empty most of the time?”
“Not on 1st Thursday, dude!”
Wind howled from the south; black rain clouds above us began leaking.
Bob looked up, then at me.
“Man,” he said, “this place sucks-no fucking culture.”
To flee the rain I went back to Main Street and ate a burger in a dingy café before walking to the public library, a refuge of fluorescent light where there was an art show of local children’s art. The day was fading fast, and outside was cold and wet, a dark January afternoon sinking its teeth into the little town.
In the library were several people, sullen and pasty, coughing and sneezing, wearing heavy clothes, moving slowly-the intelligentsia if you will.
They looked like they’d spent too much time indoors-like in museums and art galleries…I started to doubt Spike’s opinion of the value of art, galleries and the restrooms.
Near me slouched a preteen girl reading ArtNews magazine; a boy next to her had a copy of Flash, blankly flipping through the pages.
One darkly felonious-looking man in a blue flannel shirt and black cap was hunched over a computer, perusing a contemporary art site that focused on Beuys, Broodthaers, Blinky Palermo and small boys-a weird combo of art and child porn…only in Oregon.
Meanwhile, outside had not changed: it was rainy, windy, cold and fucked up.
I considered booking a hotel as ******** had one or two budget options.
Then I thought of the RV campground—a subtle hollow, ferny, leafy, mossy, dimmed with the dirt-scented dampness of Doug Fir forest, soundtracked with birdsong and babbling brook, weightened with the stark solemnity of a wet winter day.
Fuck that, I went to the hotel.
In the hotel, I thought of the woods in the rain and how tranquil and interesting they were, so I vowed to camp again, just not today.
As I fell asleep in the vibrating bed before the stroke of nine, I thought, “There is always tomorrow…or not”.
Certainly, *********** in winter is no shitter’s paradise.
Then again, with the right amount of coffee and Pabst, the right mix of eggs, onions, hot chilies, and the right attitude...it could be.


Chum said...

Damn. Nice bit-o-prose, captain.