My roommate drove me to the airport thirty minutes before takeoff. I got to the gate to find that I was alone. I approached an airline employee at the podium, saying, “Good Lord, did I miss the damn thing?” He assured me that the plane was still on the ground. “There she is,” he said, and he pointed to her. I thanked him and strolled down the jetway at a leisurely pace. No sense in being quick about it now, I thought. There’s the door and, by God, it’s still open. . . .
The plane was only half full. I found an aisle seat in the fourth row that looked nice. A mother and daughter had the middle and window seats. I asked them if it would be all right if I joined them, and the mother said, “Boy, take a seat!” I sat down and buckled up. She offered me a piece of gum and I took it. I chewed the hell out of that thing. I smiled, too. It was going to be a short trip, and I was feeling all right.
The flight from Portland to Oakland, if you’ve never done it, is quick and painless . . . it is just long enough to get comfortable, and just short enough to not get bored. The plane takes off, you order a drink, you drink your drink, you eat your peanuts, they come around and collect the garbage, and before you know it you’ve flown from a city that smells like roses to a city that smells like a prehistoric septic tank.
As for me: I spent the hour and fifteen minutes of flight time sipping black coffee and listening to psychedelic Japanese noise rock. No one bothered me and I sure as hell didn’t bother them. Air travel in the United States is such a demoralizing and humiliating affair that it hardly seems worth it anymore. In this truly terrifying age we find ourselves in, you’ve really got to appreciate these fine little moments, and I can say that on that night I wholeheartedly did just that.
If there was any vague longing for Oakland still stinking up my brain, it was absolutely annihilated as soon as I was confronted with the Bay Area’s godawful public transportation system. At the airport I took the tram to the Coliseum BART station, where I stood between two puddles of what I assume was urine for a whole twenty minutes, waiting for the last urine-soaked train of the night to show up ferry all us sinners away. And it came, and I got on, and I tried to find the loneliest seat I could, so as to be alone. I found it and I sat down. Three rows ahead of me a man with thick scarring on his face was half asleep and maybe crying a little.
At every stop we waited for ten minutes or more for the connecting trains to arrive so the people aboard those connecting trains could get onto ours, since it was the very last one. After about a half hour of sitting on the tracks at 12th Street station, a Millbrae train arrived, and a whole hell of a lot of people crossed over and boarded a mostly empty train. The people were loud and rude. They had come from San Francisco, where people tend to be loud and rude.
My friend Sam picked me up from MacArthur station, which is beneath an overpass, and which smells like it was recently submerged in an ocean of urine. He told me that my cat Dante had been very annoying recently. I had not seen Dante in something like six weeks. He had been staying with my old roommates in North Oakland while six hundred miles away I bitterly walked around in the rain in disgusting ragged clothing, wondering how I would ever have a place to live again. It had been very difficult but I did it anyway. I am good at things like that sometimes.
Back at my old house I climbed the stairs leading up to the apartment, and there was Dante sleeping on a chair. I don’t know if it would be accurate to say that he screamed, but he did a thing with his mouth and voice that at the very least resembled a scream in the world of cats. He was in total disbelief that I had materialized before him. I set my bag down and walked over and picked him up. He went limp in my arms. The son of a bitch had been sleeping.
In the morning I walked over to Donut Farm. I sat at the bar and ordered a cup of coffee from my friend Caitlin. She didn’t charge me. I thought that was nice of her. I hugged her. She told me a lot of things that had happened in my time away from Oakland, and I listened and drank that terrible coffee that I had over the course of many years drunk a whole lot of.
She asked me what it was like to live in Portland, and I told her I ignored all the things people tend to talk about when they talk about Portland. I don’t care about beer or food and I don’t care about boutiques and gourmet cupcakes. Mostly, I said, I just walk around at night through residential neighborhoods and deserted college campuses. I have always done that, even in Oakland, but in Portland (I said) there was a much slimmer chance that someone was going to jump out of a bush and stick a screwdriver in my throat. That and, let’s face it, you don’t have to step over a diaper or a dead bird every ten feet.
Portland really does smell like roses. I told her that. I reckon a city doesn’t get a nickname for no good reason.
Afterwards I walked down to my friends’ house on 56th Street to star in a commercial for a rock show called Pipefest 2. In my contract I stipulated that I would require a bottle of Andre champagne and a pair of black cowboy boots to get the job done. I ended up getting the boots, which were two sizes too big, but the only booze they had in the fridge was a twelve-pack of Olympia. I drank four or five cans of the stuff on camera in order to bring this psychopath character I created to life:
I told my friends I was portraying a freewheeling super-idiot named Rocko Cooter. I joked that I was a “method actor.” I never broke character. I rolled up my sleeves and shotgunned beers and, for God’s sake, I even smoked a few cigarettes. I had a Confederate flag tattoo on my forearm and a tattoo of a naked woman with “ASS PARADE” written above her head on my bicep. I skateboarded in those cowboy boots and swam in a fountain at Mountain View Cemetery, which I think alerted the security presence there. We peeled out in a decommissioned cop car before they caught us though.
It was a hell of a time. I think altogether we shot something like three or four hours of footage. This is all for a five-minute video! Isn’t that amazing? They tell me they have begun editing it, though who knows . . . apparently it will be finished soon. I reckon they need to get the word out as soon as possible, since the show itself is on May 14th. I’m going anyway, but maybe they’ll have me emcee it like I did the last one. If that’s the case I am prepared at moment’s notice to put on a blond wig and get up on stage to introduce the bands and fill gaps of silence.
You know, I think I did an all right job with that at Pipefest 1. I told some jokes and freaked some people out. Maybe that’s all you can ever hope for. I remember being kind of depressed that day. At some point I got down from the stage (which, if you’ve been paying attention, is a halfpipe), and went up to the house to get some water. I was on the porch sipping from a mason jar and feeling haunted and fucked out, and this guy walks over and puts his arm around me and says, “You were so animated on stage. What happened, man?”
To which I replied: “Hey baby, that’s showbiz.”
Anyway: I wonder if this new commercial will stomp on the balls of the old one. I really hope it does. My buddy Grant, who filmed the whole thing, and who let me borrow his cowboy boots, rented all this equipment from the camera shop where he works. He told me we used about $15k worth of stuff. Isn’t that nuts? That rules. I couldn’t get over how good it looked. Everything we shot is dumber than hell, but at any rate the production itself is pure and beautiful.
I wore myself out big time filming that thing. On Sunday my entire body was sore from the stunts, though mostly because I had been dancing on a halfpipe in huge cowboy boots. My thighs, man. I could barely walk. In fact even now, on Wednesday morning, they’re still giving me hell. Maybe I’ll never be 100% again. Hollywood!
As soon as that baby goes live I’ll post it here. It’s either the best work I’ve ever done or the worst. With me you never really know the difference. Hell, that’s maybe the only thing I like about being me. I think the kids at home are gonna love the hell out of it, though.
I am back in Portland now in a mostly furnished room. Dante is snoring at my feet. I don’t know where my roommate is. I think maybe he’s still sleeping at his other house. Well, well! I’m going to swallow a handful of melatonin and see what happens. Chances are it’ll be big and weird and heavy all the way through. Though hey, as far as I’m concerned, that right there is The Good Stuff.