please stop tickling me

In which we laugh and laugh and laugh. And love. And drink.

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Location: Portland, Oregon

Otium cum Dignitatae

Monday, October 30, 2006

Fear of Hell

"The world has always rewarded its romance makers richly, and with sound reason. They are extremely valuable men. They take away the sting of life, and make it expansive and charming. They make the forlorn brigades of God's images forget the miseries that issue out of hard work, mounting debts, disintegrating kidneys and the fear of Hell."- H.L. Mencken

It's All Hallow's Eve, and the dead are roaming the Earth again. And I personally am going to keep calling here and harrassing you until something is done about it.
This is nicely in line with the continued creeping surrealism of my life. I was conversing the other morning with this young lady who works in the bar downstairs, and was having a hard time keeping it together because I was having this conversation, and knowing full well that I was, but also completely feeling like I was dreaming the whole thing. Like it was happening, but only sort of.

It doesn't help that my conversations on their own merits happen to often be with folks who find it hard to string together a proper sentence, and have no sense of irony. Lessee...Where to begin with that one...
Ah yes: well, Nike, like any clothing company, has the big fall roll-out that includes a lot of sales seminars and fashion shows. So, the other night I get asked to go out there and basically build a runway, and in general make this (I gotta say it was probably a) break room into someplace you'd want to do a fashion shoot.
And that's fine, but I was working with this tool (named 'Jeff') who keeps using the phrase, "Know what I mean?" at the end of pretty much any sentence, especially ones where it would be impossible not to know what he means.
And many of his stories involve his warm friendship with Axl Rose, which doesn't help his case any, but he is a dumb shit in his early forties who is not only annoying but unsafe. At some point, he breaks out of whatever we're actually concerned with to tell me this little story about his mom, and his gramma, and loop de loop around it goes forever, with me caring less and less until he pauses dramatically.
"Know what I mean?"
"Huh?" I respond, having not really been listening.
"I'm sayin' that my mom, she fucks with my head."
I just look at him.
"And I gotta move outta her house." As I say, no sense of irony, unless he was posessing a way-drier humor than I was giving him credit for. Well, and about that, this wasn't really his fault, but I saw him out there a couple nights later, and he says, "My gramma got in a car accident."
"When?" I ask.
"The bank."
Like I say, not his fault. But what was his fault was the difficulty we were having toward the end of the night, where I was tired, hungry, missing a date and sick and tired of his simple ass.
We were erecting these walls of black drape on poles that were sixteen feet tall, and he decided that the best way of doing that was to drag the big heavy thing up a very tall, unstable ladder.
Now, I'm not a friend of Axl Rose or anything, but I know a thing or two. I knew, for instance, that there was both and easier and safer way of doing that, but he's older, and doesn't listen, and after maybe a half hour of dangerous, annoying bullshit, I actually yell up at him:
"You know what I mean?" He finally looks at me with a glow of understanding. We do it my way, and it gets done in five minutes, easy.
We're standing around right after this, and he delivers another strange, loping, directionless soliloquy about something or the other, and asks if I know...If I comprehended him. No; I just looked at him.
"I'm saying that idea you had all along: you were right."
"Fuckin' shame they're not givin' out trophies for noticing the obvious anymore," I said, and stormed off.

The Saturday before Halloween, of course, is where the real action is. That's when the adults get it on; shake their asses a bit. Like the DK's said in that last post.
Well, I don't really go downtown so much anymore, but I was being dragged around by an aging sex advice columnist (and I'll just leave that right there, okay?) who had adopted me for the evening, so we went to the Ash Tray. Feels stupid to say so-well, is stupid to say so-but: My, there's a lot of people in Portland. They just keep moving here, or something, and weirdoes like myself who rarely leave a twenty block radius in the Central Eastside Industrial District are always in for a treat when we see it.
While at the Ash, we got talking to a skinny lady who was wearing orange and black striped tights, under an orange mini-dress that had a hoop in its bottom so it flared out in a parabola. She also had a smear of black makeup all the way across her eyes.
"Daryl Hannah in 'Blade Runner'?" I asked.
"A Fembot from 'Austin Powers'?" Mz asked.
"No." she said, looking a bit confused. "I'm a pumpkin."

Well, of course you are...I wasn't wearing a costume (well, I looked like a redneck from the Seventies, but that's me on most occasions), but pretty much every other whitey on the street was.
Not so much at the next place we went. Clyde's Prime Rib (just down the street from Clyde's Failing Kidneys, I'd wager) has been a Portland institution for as long as I can remember. And of late, it seems to have become a place where black people go to hang out, dance, have a wonderful time and not wear costumes.
I'm not sure whether or not to make any larger demographic point about that. (Oooh! or better yet, Weepy Sociological Generalization: 'Because each day, white society asks them to wear maaaasssks...') But everybody wasn't entertaining some frat boy shit about dressing up like a pirate. No: everybody looked good. Slick as shit, and ready to party.
Funny thing, too, because I know for a fact that in the '30's and '40's, maybe even until the '50's, that property was called the Coon Chicken Inn, and to go inside, you needed to walk into the mouth of this giant, winking, Nigger Head replete with one of those li'l red caps favored by bellhops and dancing chimps. At some point, they ripped that offa there, but otherwise the building is what it would have been fifty years ago.
So it's especially nice that it's favored by so many black people anyway, historical irony of ironies, but also in that way that the Tulsa Kid was talking about when he said, "It's just nice to be reminded that there are black people in Portland."
In any case, one guy there walked in and immediately established himself as a gentleman of respect. He was wearing a suit that had previously belonged to a reptile of some sort.
No really: It was black, had scales, was shimmery and opalescent. And I gotta say, he sorta looked like the sorta fella who offers up women for purposes of Commerce.
Maybe he was the only person there in costume, and he decided to go as A Pimp. Or maybe not. Whatever. In any case, I just couldn't help myself. "Is that snake?" I asked him.
Without even looking at me, he shook my hand. Then said nothing at all.
I understood this for what it was. Dear Sir, thank you for your kind inquiry concerning my attire. Now fuck off and don't talk to me anymore.

Then the dancing, and the Spanish Coffees. They serve them well there, and most of the bar staff is middle-aged white people. I nearly ran afoul of the chief mixologist.
He was slammed, and I ordered two of the more time-intensive cocktails a person can order. While he was lighting shit on fire and making the sparkly sparkly with the nutmeg and cinnamon, I took a cocktail olive outta his tray, and ate it.
He stopped, pointed at me with two fingers: one indicating me, the other indicating the garnishes.
"Sorry 'bout that," I said.
"No you're not," he said shortly, "and that ain't a salad bar." Like he'd said that two thousand times already that week.
"Well, then, just couldn't help myself, I guess..." And he smiled.

Later, I sang "I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide" by ZZ Top to the crowd at Yen Ha, who was far too drunk to notice any damn fool with a microphone. Damn shame. I own that song. It had been a long, strange evening, and wasn't over yet (the tiny Iranian beauty dressed as a kittycat at the 24-hour cigarette drive thru was still in my future)...One of many, of late.
The wonder of internet dating, again. Here's a joke: me and an aging sex advice columnist walk into a bar. (Or a shy bartender who is obsessed with 'Dune', or an urban planner who likes bourbon and country music, or an ecologist who looks me right in the sternum.) All nice folks in their own way-fantastic, even-but just not adding up in some way...It's confusing. I gots lady problems.

And I think I may have been called an idiot by a Frenchman at the Cirque d' Soliel load-out a couple weeks ago. I'm not sure though. True to form, the minute the show was over, they all lit up cigarettes, even though that sort of thing has been illegal in American basketball arenas since god-knows-when. It was classic.



Blogger Oberon said...

.......fear hell?......i'm married!

11:43 PM  
Blogger carrier said...

Here is one for the small world files. My Mrs. had an old aunt who lived and worked in PDX all her life. After she passed on about fifteen years ago, the Mrs. was reading one of her old diaries (mid 1920's) and in it she mentioned having eaten lunch at the Coon Chicken Inn. In the diary she said the place was one of her favorite eateries, and was a regular patron of the place as she worked downtown throughout the twenties, thirties and forties.

12:33 PM  
Blogger disco boy said...

nice choice with the deg├╝ello-era zz top.

sometime soon, we should get together and throw a few back, so i can regale you with my howlin' version of nazareth's "waitin' for the man".

4:24 PM  
Blogger rich bachelor said...

Hey Disco: you should write something, I feel. T's been a while.

4:50 PM  

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