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Location: Portland, Oregon

Otium cum Dignitatae

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Working With a Bunch of Tools

"You must go through a winter to understand. You must go through at least a year of it to have some notion."-Ken Kesey

Here is a picture of what Chehalis, Washington looked like this morning.
This is somewhat rare for the Northwest. It happened in 1996, which was the year I moved back south from that rainy vale of tears we call western Wa., and fortunately I picked summer to do so. A friend of mine tried to do it that spring, and ran into an abbreviated version of the above, at the twin "cities" of Centralia and Chehalis.

So the hurricane that hit us over the last couple of days is basically a more intense version of what happens here every winter. Those hundred-plus miles-per-hour winds that tore across the north coast (and caused my brother and his family to have to chainsaw their way out from a wall of fallen trees to escape their property), while strange and deadly, are the kind of thing we generally shrug off up here.

When the winds, strongly diminished by having to make it over the coast range, started doing their thing here, I thought- Well, there goes that tarp shelter I'd constructed. It's true; damn thing was destroyed. But that comes as no surprise.
For me, the shitty part was having toiled in the great out of doors for the days preceding the actual storm. It's bad enough to be on the ground when it's raining and blowing that hard: try being up on a ladder constructing one hundred-sixty feet of aluminum truss in the middle of a horse racing track.

Nike is a wonderful company, and to say otherwise is to invite lengthy speeches of a highly defensive nature from their employees. I'm unclear what they were doing last week at the Meadows, but it was called the 'Nike Team Nationals', and people from all over the country came to run around in the rain, wind, mud (and goose shit) of late-November Oregon.
"You'd better hope the Board of Tourism doesn't hear about this," a co-worker of mine said to one of the Nike-bots; "They'd have your head for it."

The real hell began on the last day of the National. In the insistent sleet now joining us from the east, coming down the Gorge, I was back up on a ladder. My fingers went numb within the first five minutes, and I was wearing two pairs of gloves. For some reason (misplaced comedic timing, perhaps), the man in charge of the Honey Buckets (tm) chose that moment to start vacuuming out the port-a-potties right next to us.
The stench was overwhelming, and the structure we were trying to dis-assemble was swaying dangerously about in the wind. To the west, black, angry clouds were approaching.
Past a certain point, you just make up your mind: I'm going to be wet now. And cold and miserable. And I'm just going to soldier on and keep my mouth shut about it, until this inane enterprise I'm engaged in is over.

That Kesey quote above is from Sometimes A Great Notion, which for my money might just be the best American novel ever written. And the quote itself is part of the ghostly meta-narrative that runs through the book.
The way it goes is; story line begins, confusing things happen, we start to listen in to the inner dialogue of the various characters, and there is also another narrative voice that keeps making comments about what the rain, the winter, the darkness and Oregon in general will do to you.

The storm now in full force, I went to do another gig for Nike, this time at the Hilton downtown. It was a Christmas party/benefit for survivors of hurricane Katrina, in New Orleans. As towns all over the Northwest began flooding in earnest, and people started drowning, I was assembling a bunch of foam-core graphics on a wall behind the bar that read, "New Orleans Hurricanes!"
To be fair, the bar was serving Hurricanes; that is, the cocktail known by that name. But, as I said to a guy who often works for this company, "Doesn't this thing strike you as being a little bit in poor taste?"
He responded with a lengthy, somewhat defensive screed about how all the money raised there did a lot of good for a lot of people, etc. etc., which wasn't what I'd been talking about, anyway.

So yeah, a benefit party for victims of a flood that happened two years ago, as a real-time flood-causing hurricane rages outside. I spoke to a woman who was staying in the Hilton who had fled her home on the coast, and fortunately had the money to hole up in a hotel in Portland. She had one of those intermittent English accents that annoy me and make me wonder.
I was nearly the recipient of a face full of metal. While trying to load the damn thing out yesterday, the gate on the ancient freight elevator fell out of its track, and started scraping against the wall. As we were going in a downwards direction, this caused the gate to bow back inward. I was trying to frantically fix the damn thing when it came shooting at my face with a resounding pop.
The rule, I've found of late, is: the more absurd the gig, the greater the potential for injury.

I've already made versions of the 'tool'-i.e. hand-powered implement vs. 'tool'-i.e. insult toward a human joke several times before. The last one was in a blog post from last year that I can't find, but it goes a little something like this: "I was working with a tool this evening (named 'Jeff')..."
But today, I have been working with the touring crew for the band Tool, who had to take a four-hour detour between Seattle and Portland (again, see above picture) that involved going over to Yakima. The crew is the usual mix of charming Brits and stupid American stoners, generally from the South.

They're all barky and snappy, the way people generally are when they tour for a living. Except, I feel that there's a special sort of license that rock n' roll people feel they possess that allows them to treat other people like shit. No matter. I keep on reminding myself: If they don't behave themselves, I will make the process of getting out of here take for-ev-er, and they get to pay me the entire time.
Not really, but you see what I mean. Tomorrow, back out to the Tiger Woods Pavilion at Nike.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Ladron de Basura (a.k.a. Junk Thief) said...

Wow, Katrina del Norte. I hope you put Aunty on high ground. I shudder to think of her with wet feet.

11:10 AM  
Blogger rich bachelor said...

You'd shudder more if you saw...Sorry, can't finish this joke.

11:24 AM  

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