My brother McCune and I rented an SUV and drove up to Oregon. I used to live there. I didn’t like it so much. It is a great place to visit . . . big and beautiful, just like me, and there’s hardly anyone living there. And sure, there are bunch of cheesers in Portland, and some straight up klansmen in the hills and the places between—but like any other place, as long as you steer clear of everyone and go it alone, as is my wont, and blessedly normalized in The Year of The Virus, then it’s all good. We did our best to avoid any and all human interaction and for the most part we pulled it off. We saw Ashland, Eugene, the Umpqua and Willamette National Forests, Crater Lake, Thor’s Well, the Oregon coast and Cannon Beach, and finally we ended up, for some reason, in Astoria, in the northwest tip of Oregon where the great state of Washington is visible across the water.
During the miserable year I spent in Oregon, I always heard people talking about visiting Astoria. It’s just like a place you go to on the weekends, or when your parents are town and you’re too embarrassed to show them Portland. (My parents never visited me there. By then I had become, I think, a lost cause to them (lol).) I didn’t have two nickels to rub together when I lived in Portland, so going on vacation anywhere other than my black mold-infested basement was a pipe dream. At least there was no sales tax. . . .
AND SO: I never got to see Astoria, which is a sort of dream unto itself. I discovered this two weeks ago, and nearly half a decade after I first heard of the place. McCune and I saw the dream and lived inside of it for a while. I don’t necessarily mean that poetically. You cross this wrought-iron bridge, through a plume of fog, and end up in a sleepy little town by the sea, and there are lights in the hills not unlike the East Bay in the San Francisco Bay Area where I live, and steamboats and tugboats tootin down by the docks, and this vaporous grey haze lays overtop everything in all directions. There is some sort of statue on a hilltop park that looks like the Eye of Sauron from Lord of the Rings, for god’s sake. As McCune said, it’s a place a Stephen King-like writer would move to in an 80s movie to write a novel, or whatever. I mean, THE GOONIES was filmed there, as everyone there will remind you, so it’s already got this strange dreamy feel to it. To cross the bridge into Astoria is to pass through a veil. What kind of veil I can’t say! . . . but it is a veil. We stayed at this 50s-looking place called Atomic Motel, and once we dropped our bags off there, we swallowed a bunch of pills packed with COSMIC MUSHROOM DUST, and set off.
For the next seven hours, McCune and I traversed the entire town all twisted up and insane up there in our sad old brains. In all that time I don’t think we saw more then a dozen people outside, and only one of them yelled at us for wearing masks. Mostly we just saw deer. They were docile and unafraid of us. Sometimes they would be sitting on the sidewalk watching us from far away. We figured deer were the matron saints of Astoria. And look, our critical faculties may have been scrambled a little, but we were intact enough for us to see a ghostly deer-shaped image of light in the hills. It was an image produced by the full moon behind the trees. I didn’t have my phone on me, because you never want to bring that stuff along with you when you’re in that state of mind, LEST IT POISON YOU, and so I was unable to take a picture. It really happened! You don’t have to believe me though.
We got back to the motel round about two in the morning and talked about books and shit until the sky lightened, and then made our beds in hell and closed our eyes until checkout. In the morning we got coffee and ripped out of there. We exited many layers of dreams and drove south back to California.
McCune has texted me every day saying, “Do you remember when we went to Astoria and did mushrooms? That ruled.”
Here’s a condensed collection of pictures that I think sum of the whole thing. I did not manage to take any pictures of the secret hot springs and rivers, which were full of maskless people . . . so we had to leave those places quickly. Guess the secret is out.