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

Friday, May 29, 2009

Unleashed in the East

Along the road south, the weather went from so-rainy-I-could barely-see to stunningly bright every few minutes. This continued well into the mountains. When we finally hit the summit of the North Santiam Pass, the evidence of a forest fire (which happened three years ago, it turns out) was all around.

After this it was into Bend, and then a very long stretch across the desert to Burns. Saw what remains of Brothers, of Millican...Towns I have seen depopulated in my lifetime. Like touring the outer edges of a crumbling empire, seeing its outposts shot to splinters. The town of Hampton continues though; it's like a compound, and could probably defend itself if it came down to that. Beyond there, just the occasional farms and long stretches of nothing, punctuated by white-tailed deer.

The twin towns of Burns and Hines are former capitols of their respective industries (ranching and timber, respectively), and now are sort of there-because-there's-always-been-something-there. They sit on the outermost rim of what passes for civilization in these parts, and below there is nothing but The Great Basin. This would be the floor of a massive prehistoric inland sea that is now dried up, and forms a great deal of southeastern Oregon and much of northern Nevada.
We left our squalid, unimaginably hot room at the Days Inn, and began to search the bars for Truth.

We more or less found it, I guess, and had a template for where to go and what to do in town the next night. As Ms. Bee had a conference on water rights and law to attend (which she blogs about, of course), I had a mission of sorts: try to achieve the peak of Steens Mountain.
But that's all an excuse; just a sort of reason to go somewhere and look at things. Like Ken Kesey's dad always said, when you're walking up the creek, take along a fishing pole so no one will think you're crazy for staring at the water.

My accompaniment for this journey was the Sirius/XM station 'Willie', which is Willie Nelson's satellite radio station. Although I was deep enough in the desert that my cell phone didn't even kind of work, the reception from space was fantastic. I recommend this station; they're funny as hell and they have fantastic taste in music.
This was a Wednesday, which meant 'Wednesdays With Willie', in which listeners may call in and chat with Mr. Nelson himself on the phone. This eventually rolled over into the program hosted by one Dallas Wayne, who I'd not heard of, but then again, I'm not really country like that.

Country is fantastic soundtrack music for a spiritual journey, because it's filled with lots and lots of sweeping generalizations about life, and at any given point one may easily feel that the fella on the radio just read my mind for this very reason. It's very intersubjective; very group-mind.
Furthermore, Mr. Wayne is fond of inviting in a whole bunch of other older gentleman with thick Southern accents to sit around bullshitting about everything in general. This is satellite radio, so you can do that.
It was fun as hell to listen to these old time wordslingers go at it, and make no mistake; wordslingers is exactly what they are. They're not farmers, for gawd sake, even though they may sound that way...They're entertainment industry professionals, and adopt a pose of 'aw shucks' early on in their careers. They don't pitch hay and raise cattle -they portray an artistic interpretation of those who might, however, as those types tend to be somewhat taciturn.

I was thinking all this after I discovered that the road to the top of Steens Mountain was closed, took the curvy switchback road up from Frenchglen, and up onto the plains. I was now on a road that would go around the Steens in general, and Dallas and his friends were bullshitting about something or the other. I felt like I was rapidly becoming part of this conversation they were having.
"Why are we talkin' about this?" I drawled, then cracked the hell up.

There's a lot to be said for being alone in a truck in the middle of nowhere with a headfull of psychedelic mushrooms. You have this place of consensus that is just so rare in today's world. You may happily and loudly agree with yourself (not to mention unashamedly talk to yourself) and just kind of affirm things. You may remind yourself of all the things that are Okay, and ask yourself some honest questions about those that are not.
Again, all this with a backdrop of endless country witticisms and observation. I would occasionally pause in my commentary on life and the universe to adjudge a song; "That was heartbreaking," and then the familiar chords of Ernest Tubb's "I'm Walking The Floor Over You" come on, and it's like seeing an old friend: "Aww, pick it out, Smitty!"

It was a beautiful day, and I was having a wonderful time. I was also skirting the edges of what is known as Roaring Springs Ranch. This 'ranch' is actually a massive tract of land that comprises what remains of Pete French's ranching empire.
In the first big land rush around these parts, it didn't take long for lots of people to realize that this is no place for the small homesteader. It's the fucking desert, and people will indeed (and did) kill each other over water. So, as everybody pulled up stakes and ran, people like Pete French stuck around and ended up owning everything. Those that would not go were intimidated into doing so by French's men.

Naturally, this led to someone killing him. A tiny man with a huge moustache, he was known to never ever be without his gun, except the one time the day after Christmas 1897. He was partying with some friends at their house, he got called out and shot by a man who was eventually acquitted of any wrongdoing in the case.
So anyway, it's Julius Caesar on the high plains, and I'm amazed that no one's made a movie about this specific incident, but to this day, it's the biggest privately held piece of property around there.

No one, no one at all on that road. I was on my way down to Fields, which is well on your way to Nevada, if you so choose. Fields is a couple farm houses and a landing strip, should you need to land your Cessna. The closest thing to a governmental authority figure I saw was a guy spraying weeds by the side of the road. I passed him twice, waving both times.
Around here, I realized that if I wanted to make it back to Narrows -the closest place with gas- I'd probably best turn around. But I was enjoying my driving so much. Here, Dale Watson came on with the song "I Got To Drive", one of those numbers where I can't tell if the guy is joking or not. (Please enjoy with video some guy made of his semi.)

So I was running back north, millions of bugs splattering against my windshield. I made it past Narrows, and ultimately back to the top of the hill where one may view the entire valley where Burns and Hines lay.
I quickly realized that not only were the legendary mosquitoes out in full force, and standing in one place for any length of time was out of the question, but that I was in the middle of a whole bunch of mounds. Mounds that were all decorated with plastic flowers. Hm. Pet Cemetary? I left.

And of course Bee had been basically sitting around listening to a bunch of ranchers complain about the goddam gummint all day long. We were soon to meet, down at the Central Pastime, which is about as good n' descriptive a name for a bar in a desert town as can be.

Continued, next...


Saturday, May 16, 2009

Press Conferencing

I keep having long, involved dreams in which I wander around a vaguely familiar setting (Seattle Center, say) where I just sort of happen to run into everybody I know, and haven't seen in a while. In an especially weird turn in dream the other evening, a movement began -within those personalities inside said dream- to write a play, or movie, or something. Eventually, I met the 'author', who I had spent much of the dream trying to find.
It would seem that my earlier belief that god is a black man might very be incorrect; it's actually a tiny Jewish woman with glasses and braces. It depends on interpretation, like lots of things.

I've made a policy decision regarding what to do when Seattle calls me for a job; unless I've already committed to somebody else, say yes. After this, the "whoever I said 'yes' to first gets me" rule goes into play.
In the most recent version of this dilemma, I said no to Seattle based on what I assumed would come my way on Friday in Portland. This is backward thinking, as I conceive it.
However, I also saved myself from another one of those deals where I run up to Seattle , work my ass off, sleep two hours and make the three hour run back to Portland in order to work the same gig (in this case, Taylor Swift) at Eight in the morning.

The Swiftians I worked with today tell me that they got out of the Key Arena at Three A.M. So two hours sleep...Just like I did between Beyonce and Li'l Wayne, whilst moving, over a month ago. Allowing myself to get run down, I got sick as a dog. Chest sick. Couldn't breathe.
Quit smoking, or more to the point, stopped. In that I didn't have the insanity, the laughing jags and crying jags...No destruction of property, et cetera. Haven't done it for over a month and I don't miss it. I do occasionally still hold my cigarette holder between my teeth, though.

Uh, Senor Discoteca? Where is this Gingerbread House you speak of? Oh, waitaminnit; got it.

George: I have said that social-networking sites are retarded, and I think this remains true. I don't have any actual reason to do it, but I also said the same thing about blogging, once. So who knows? I often have little to no discussion here on topics I think are worth doing a bit of talking about, but I also keep on failing to reach out to other bloggers.
On the other hand, I like these exceedingly long essays that aren't really blog posts. I wouldn't be okay doing them on a Facebook page, I think. I dunno. Send me a link!

I want to attend yer marriage celebration. I believe that I won't be busy that particular week, though the lady may very well be in a new job by then. The only issue here is money. So far, I see a lucrative summer ahead.

On Steens Mountain: That water rights symposium that Bee is attending will last six hours, I believe. I will indeed take that time to go sixty miles south, to the mountain.
Above all else, it is imperative that I reboot my entire system. Something needs to change in my thinking, and I got just the recipe.
For those unfamiliar with Oregon's terrain: the Steens rise suddenly, abruptly from the desert floor. You go from Nevada-like Great Basin low desert to Alpine environs in the course of a relatively short drive. It's weird.

Things I've wanted to blog about for a while, and will: Thomas Friedman's weird editorial a few weeks ago explaining how Mr. Obama failing to repudiate torture as practiced by our government's employees is not only inevitable, but kinda good, if y' think about it.
And: I found a letter from a fan to her famous rock star crush at the Fall Out Boy gig a couple months ago. Letter plus addenda, comin' soon.

Oh, and here's a picture of the Geiser Grand Hotel in Baker City, where we'll be staying on Thursday. I'm psyched.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

People Got Talent!

Oh, man: this is great. Ladies! Don't you hate it when you're lying around in your newest pair of purple panties, considering the state of your Bikini Area, and a tiny man with a lawnmower, uh...

Hm. Well, that's what happens when you're doing a Google Images search for "Burns, Oregon". You will also find images of chemical burns, C. Montgomery "Monty" Burns, owner and proprietor of Springfield's nuclear power plant, and several shots of rusted-out farm equipment that is for sale in the Burns area. Also: Brooke Burns.

Where have we been? Well, in the time since last a-postin', we moved into the new house. This was in the midst of a dramatic uptick in work for me, and there was the especially interesting moment in there where I ran up to Seattle, worked the Beyonce show, went back to Disco Boy's and slept two hours, drove three hours back to Portland to work the Li'l Wayne show. Not long after, the load out of 'Grease', which ran until five in the morning. On top of all this, we packed, and got our asses out of the old place.
Thence into the new. I called upon a couple of stagehand buddies of mine to assist in the moving of large things, causing Bee to opine that there should be a stagehand moving company, for those long intervals between better-paying gigs. As we raced closer to the day that we absolutely had to be out of the old house, I was frantically trying to get the new one habitable while she was on the other end, cleaning like hell.

It all worked out. We even got the cleaning deposit back, which never happens. Now we are ensconced in the much smaller -but cozy- place. I don't mean 'cozy' in the real estate sense of the term ("so tiny that you'd never ever want to live in it") ; I mean it's actually comfortable in its compacted-ness.
She's dug a flower garden, I've built a planter box for herbs and veg. She temps for the bastards that laid her off, I work just enough. Most recently my stuff has been weird corporate gigs, but there was the journey to Tacoma for what turned out to be a filming of "America's Got Talent".

Since that was a teevee gig, I was paid obscene amounts, which was nice. Since the load out ran past midnight, and I had done some rigging and building as well, I was paid insanely obscene amounts. Getting that check on Friday; looking forward to same.
Best moment I witnessed in the show itself: a tranny (M2F) who had done a not-especially-great impression of Britney Spears explaining that, "I used to be a boy, and am now one-hundred per cent a girl. I deserve credit for that." This piece of classic American reasoning (i-am-special-so-therefore-you-should-reward-me-in-areas-not-associated-with-my-specialness) was given an epilogue by David Hasselhoff, who asked -after the performer left the stage- "Did they fly that person in from New York?"

Whatever that means. In any case, I continue to work in Washington more than Oregon. On union gigs, anyway. Just a moment ago, I was interrupted by Seattle calling me to work the Taylor Swift gig at the Key Arena. The problem with this being that the same day here there is the Allman Bros./Doobie Bros. show, followed up with Taylor Swift the very next day. I can reasonably assume that I will be called to work one or both of those shows, but haven't yet been called.
Whereas I have been called by Seattle. This would entail many things, and some output of money, but they also pay better. It's one definite gig versus two potential gigs. These are the choices I often find myself making.

Burns, Oregon is where we're going at the end of this month, for a water law symposium. This is Bee's area of interest, but it's also an elaborate excuse for us to get out of the Willamette Valley, and go see the rest of the state.
Yup, I long for the desert. And I long, more to the point, to go on an epically pointless, very long drive that more or less describes a loop* through much of Oregon. I will be bringing along McArthur's Oregon Geographic Names.

I haven't been writing on this blog for a while because I haven't felt like writing as myself. I've commented on other people's things a lot, and have blogged as various other people, but haven't had dick to say here, really.
Except I've had plenty, and to be sure there's plenty of things to note. Just haven't felt like it. I'll be back, though.

*The loop, for those who know Oregon's terrain: Portland to Salem, across the North Santiam Pass to Bend, east on 20 to Burns, north on 395 to John Day, over 7 to Baker City, I-84 back west through Pendleton and ultimately back to Portland. A feast o' places.