I went to Oregon. Don’t ask me why. I haven’t had any money in a long, long time, but I have somehow accumulated thousands of dollars worth of flight credit, so I used some of it to get here (or there, rather—as I write this, I’m on a train from Seattle back down to Portland).
In California I have a lot of friends who are from Oregon. They’re always talking about how nice it is. And I thought, well, I’d like to see that, I reckon. That’s all I ever want to do, you know: see stuff. So I used some of those miles I have and got a ticket to Portland. I booked an Amtrak ticket out of Union Station there, hoping to see Seattle too. My thinking was, hell, if you’re going to go to one, you might as well go to both.
And here I am, in the Pacific Northwest. My clothes are soggy as hell. The little black cat pin on my denim jacket has rust collecting at the bottom of it. I’ve been drinking coffee pretty much nonstop. Good lord, I like this place.
I am not traveling alone. Three weeks ago my friend Matt, who I knew back in Texas, asked me how I was doing, and I guess I mentioned going to Portland. I told him to come along. I was serious. He bought a ticket right then and there. God bless that son of a bitch.
Since then we’ve been all over the damn place . . . whooping and hollering and screaming and laughing like a couple of psychos. Just yesterday as we were wandering through a rain-slicked Seattle, Matt said to me, “You know, I’ve traveled with a few people in my life, but I’ve never heard someone make as many dad jokes as you. . . .”
I don’t know how, but we’ve already made a lot friends. Some of these friends stuck around. Some of these friends invited us in. Some of them just passed through. Last night in Seattle I gave a woman a hug on the street because she said she was “angry at the day.” So I wrapped my arms around her, and she wrapped her arms around me, and the both of us just squeezed the hell out of each other. She asked for a cigarette and we gave her one. She started to cry. Hand to God, right there on the street in front of two strangers, she started to cry. This was outside a circus-themed bar called Shortey’s, which had come recommended to us by the lady at the front desk of our hostel, the one we both have a crush on—the one with the purple hair. And see we were on acid, having come from the Space Needle and all the strange neon and lights there, and soaked from head to toe from running around a huge globular fountain there, which shot out thin streams of water from its many blowholes. . . .
(Hmmm, that sounds gross!)
Lord! And we met a musician who said her forty-second birthday is today. She name-dropped the hell out of some cool dudes she’s friends with and had a few cigarettes with us. I told her she looked young for forty-two, and she really did. Where did she say she was having her birthday? Man, I think it was at the Experience Music Project Museum by the Space Needle, where we’d been hours earlier, seeing the fantasy exhibit and another on Jimi Hendrix.
Back at Shortey’s we got some whiskey and hung out in the pinball room in the back . . . the whole place lit up with ghost-green neon paint. We were short a few coins but a woman nearby spotted us a quarter and Matt fed the Addams Family machine while I coached him from the side, Matt proclaiming that the Addams Family is “the hottest family there ever was.”
I paid my tab in the front and ended up near the Pac-Man / Galaga machine. Nearby was a game called Granny and the Gators—some weird arcade and pinball hybrid by Midway, probably from the early 80s. Matt and I were examining the machine when a young woman walked over and said it was her favorite game in the whole place. She dug around in her pocket and put a few quarters in the machine and we watched for a while.
Over by the bar I saw some guy with a $40 haircut touching a woman’s hips and she looked pretty uncomfortable it. I sat there thinking, man, look at this cheese-eater. I’ll bet he’s wearing argyle socks. And so on. The woman went over to a table and sat down with the Granny and the Gators lady. I figured they were friends. Matt and I were on the way out, so we said good-bye. I told the woman from the bar that that dude who had been touching her hips was a piece of trash . . . I’d seen him doing similar things to plenty of other people all night, and she replied, “He sure is!”
Matt and I dashed out onto the street and hung out with some people there. Eventually the two women from before came out and talked to us. Granny and the Gators gave her number to Matt. The other woman asked me for my phone and used it to call herself. She said she was going to Portland the next day. I told her Matt was as well. She said, “Aren’t you going as well?” and I said, “Yeah, I guess so” and resolved to purchase a ticket as soon as we returned to the hostel.
I wanted to go back to Portland anyway—to see our favorite bartender Hannah at McMenamins Rams Head, where we unofficially named the house punch days ago, and to walk around those mossy streets once more.
Oh, God! Portland! That strange place!
I am back now, sitting in some stupid chair in the hostel, waiting for someone to take their clothes out of the dryer so I can put mine in there. I haven’t eaten a damn thing all day. I’m starving. Woke up in a private room Matt and I had booked last night, no other vacancies, to find that I was alone. Matt had gone back to Austin at 4 a.m. and left a few hits of acid on the dresser. I suppose I could eat them all and have a hell of a time before I take a bus to the airport tomorrow, which is all the way up in Seattle (I planned this poorly). I spent all morning thinking about it. I also wrote a letter to a girl I know in Los Angeles and did as many push-ups as I could. My right wrist hurts, so I made fists and did them that way.
I’m going to walk around, I think, and maybe get a cup of coffee. I’ve already mailed out eleven postcards, some in Seattle and some in Portland. Maybe there is nothing left to say to anyone—at least for now.
Days earlier Matt and I rented a car and drove to Mt. Hood just because it was there. I wish I still had that car. Again, if I’d planned this better, I would have rented a car for the whole week. I’d go to the woods right now. Man, that’s definitely what I would do.
Tomorrow I go back to California. I don’t know! Maybe I wish I didn’t have to just yet.