Just Keeping Up
   The Tsunami Tsiren went off the other day.  It was Noon, so it was probably a test and I paid it no mind.  It's good to know that if the Dam breaks, we'll hear the tsirens and get out of the Tsunami Tzone, unless the Dam breaks at Noon.

     Speaking of Tsunamis, that guy who got pulled out to sea at Crescent City washed ashore exactly one month later in Astoria, 300 miles to the north.  He was from Bend, so I'd guess he was trying to make it up the Columbia to the Deschutes and Home.

     They're flying the Pirate Flag in Railroad Alley, though they've mellowed a bit, as have we all, with age and privilege and a rediscovered penchant for simply sitting and enjoying the view.  Down the way the Graffitti Garage sports a bright new Flying Heart.

     They've all moved out of the Hookah Lounge, and the gambling club's closed down, the weather's cold so the girls are wearing lots of clothes, what's a body got to do to have some fun around this town?  We've already planted peas.

     A woman who was 44, which seemed wise and old to me back then, told me I might have to leave town, put my troubles and my comforts both behind, and it seems to me now at forty-four plus seven more that it may have come that time again.

     It may be Time to take a trip.  It might be Nice to ride the train.  Maybe we could catch a sailboat and drift about between the Islands for a spell.  Maybe we could cross the mountains, cross the River too, we might as well, go traipsing through the canyonlands looking for the Rainbow Gathering, go drifting down the mighty Rogue on innertubes, rent a teepee at our favorite Hot Spring Spa, and rest there for a spell.

      There's hardly any Music coming here this year, so we're gonna have to make our own fun.  It's been awhile.  For today, though, it's really cold, so I'm staying home and drinking, but I put $15 in the bank towards getting something going....

Crazies, Clowns, and Kings! Rainbow Warrior #2
    "Naw, I think Rainbow still lives here."  I surveyed the sinking hulk of a house before me.  "If he'd left, the city would have hauled away the bus and burnt this place down for Vector Control."  Besides, I thought to myself, this might be the way Rainbow Warrior likes it.  The place looking like this, he don't have to keep propping up the fence to keep people away.  Fear of Some Deadly Tropical Disease was scaring off the transients and neighbor kids just fine.  I noticed Bob was still holding her breath.

     Rainbow answered the door, looking thinner than I remember, healthier, and surprised as hell to see me.  After I reminded him who I was, and offered to smoke a joint with him, he genially invited us in.  He's a giant of a man, Rainbow is, 6'4" if he's an inch, bred in North Dakota where you need a big stride to make any headway against the wind.  He'd owned half a million acres of strawberries until the local Sheriff beat him up for his long hair.  Rainbow took his settlement and his autoharp to Oregon, where on his first trip to the Pacific Ocean, he had a run-in with the local Police Chief, who turned out to be the same cop who'd beat him up in North Dakota!

     The cop had ruined his back, and Rainbow spent a lot of time in bed reading conspiracy theory and watching Three Stooges movies on tv.  Spel-czhek wants me to capitalize TV- they're in on it together!  Rainbow told me that the Three Stooges represented America in its basest, most truthful form.  Stupid, Violent, Vengeful, Mean-Spirited, Greedy, and did I mention Stupid?  He would watch them for hours while I read about the Kennedy assassins, who went on to work for Nixon, and how Bush was put in place by the Illuminati, and I remember being pretty convinced, and this was even Before we got Bush II!  Oh, no! Does that look like Bush 3? I meant Bush, two, cuz two's plenty, even for eighties tv! excuse me, Spel-Czchek, i mean, TV.

     "Got rid of the renters, looks like..." I began, after introducing Bob to Rainbow Warrior.  She was staring around his living room/kitchen/garage/storage unit/WTF?  Cement floor, unfinished walls, refrigerator and range, cardboard and metal boxes, bikes, trailers, this looked as unlivable as the outside of the house did!  When I lived here, the other half of the duplex unit had been pretty nice, for a hippy house.  There was a big living room and kitchen, decent carpets, a little greenhouse built onto the back, a garden space and a laundry line, it was a nice little rental unit, but Rainbow's side of the duplex had always looked pretty much like this.

     "Where's the big recording board? I remember you had a 24 track digital recording board in here..."  Rainbow looked so confused that it took me a while to remember just how long ago it had been that I had lived here.  He led us into the spare bedroom, now lined with acoustical foam and filled with microphone stands and digital recording gear.  He showed us his new electric autoharp, just waiting to be finally assembled, and for the first time, when I heard her gasp, I got the feeling that Bob realized just exactly who we were dealing with here.

     Shaped like a perfectly symmetrical Klingon Fighting Weapon, in a five ply laminate of Mahogany, Alder, and Purple Heartwood, twenty pounds of lumber teased and primed into the perfect sounding board for Rainbow's custom-strung Electric Autoharp, fitted out with damper foam specially designed for the Space Shuttle by the Jet Propulsion Laboratories out of Pasadena, charged up with electronics from a Les Paul on Steroids, plugged into a personally customized digital recording system that once recorded the voices of fairies so clearly that the elves came and asked if Rainbow could just "Make us sound a little sweeter..."

     "I just got this all set up again and recorded a little sound check, just fooling around...," he told us, leading us into the bedroom, which was surprisingly clean and livable, a bachelor pad within the outer storm, although his sound system, cobbled together since the seventies and stacked far too precariously in a corner for these earthquake-ridden times, preserved a little of that Louisiana Swamp Look that dominated the rest of his property.  We smoked while he cued up the disk and I watched Bob's face for the moment when the music hit her.

     Have you ever been Experienced?  Have you ever Heard an Electric AutoHarp?  Have you never heard Rainbow Warrior ranting in the moonlight, a simple little string-lute turned saxaphone, gone accordian, loosed like a bagpipe into the Warrior's Winds?  Have you ever been to an open mike where someone you've never heard of plays something that you don't expect that turns into something that you can't believe?   Have you ever had to nudge your friend and say, "Hey! Fishface!  Having a stroke there, or would you pass the pipe?"  because they can't believe what they're hearing?

     Happens all the time around Rainbow, sometimes just because of the things he says! , but mostly, and best, because you've never heard anything like it.  I'd never heard anything like what I heard that day with Bob, and I've heard Rainbow play before!  I remember one summer when he stunned the Ruch Barter Festival with a song about Kurt Cobain's death that put the blame squarely where it belonged....

    "I've got a rejection letter from Dr. Dimento here somewhere..." Rainbow tells us, for his song, "Piss Test the President!"   "No one would touch it for fear they'd be piss-tested themselves!"  The CD began with Rainbow warming up his harp, modulating strangely through a set of chords, the strings dividing as if on their own accord into several competing themes, contesting and challenging one another, a surging bass line pulsing through a shimmering upper reach, like a lite-brite rainbow glowing above a river of lava.

     "Here's where I let the instrument open up, begin to speak for itself a bit, " Rainbow camps on the pipe while he explains what's going on in the music, and I'm forced to use all my old tricks to get the damn thing back for a re-load. 

     The bass line begins to coalesce into what sounds for all the world like a Hammond B-3 organ, a dozen lines of music bundled together and sent throbbing through a speaker spinning like a merry-go-round through the bottom end of a song that sounds now like those very elves cheering as they ride that merry-go-round, topped by a silvery string of sound that could be streaming from the wand of Glenda, the Good Witch of the North, if it weren't being wielded like a riding crop in a Richard Burton dreams of Elizabeth Taylor fantasy....

     Finally, I think that Bob has heard enough.  She's sitting stunned and silent, and I don't think she remembers where she is.  I'm having trouble escaping that extremely fine high line Rainbow's recorded on the Harp.  The tone of that one note....it's so deep, so colorful, so fully wrapped around the wish that brought it forth that it cannot help but come true...

Crazies, Clowns, and Kings! Rainbow Warrior #1

     "My God, it looks abandoned!  Nobody could live here, look at this place!"  Bob held her breath as we stared into the swamp, which shouldn't have been there on that quiet old street, even if it was Eugene, and a wet spring.  Little purple blooming water plants thrived in the wetland that had been a front yard.  Moss, which covered the roofs of too many houses in that damp clime, grew down over the eaves to meet the mold and fungus growing up the slug-colored walls from the stagnant, staph-ridden, oily muck below.

     "There used to be a trailer behind the school bus.  That's where I was living when Frank Zappa died."  I pointed to the old yellow school bus slowly growing green in the Oregon Rain, her tires flat and sinking in the muck, a slick of motor oil trailing from her innards to give a greasy pastel sheen to the puddle in the front yard, which reflected the gently shifting Northwest Clouds that serve Eugene as Scenery in the absence of anything interesting on the skyline to see and the flat lack of any high spots to see any scenery from.

     "If you can call this living," snickered Bob.  "I wonder what happened. He must have moved out."  I stared out the slightly shattered windshield of my hippy-painted Volkswagen, which Bob had lately christened, "Stagger Lee", and pondered the scene before me.  This was Rainbow Warrior's house. 

     When I'd lived here, back in '93, that's right, the Old Century, back before dream-time set in for most folks, Rainbow Warrior was already way down the road, living in and forging dream-time for the rest of us, spinning ever faster and raising his vibrations past the point of human understanding, not to mention the norms of social behavior.

     I remember watching Rainbow conduct the Grateful Dead through one of their best sets ever, while back home, he'd barricaded his suburban compound against the onslaught of Deadheads who were bound to descend upon his place after the show.  We had to climb over the old cars, the fence, the picnic tables, the chicken-wire barricades, and all the old stacked-up oil drums to get home that night.  My date was a little put out...

Our Town #6
    These are real houses.  This is not a dream.  This is not a snow-globe stolen from a snotty child's hand, tho the snow be blowing sideways and it is really quite a storm.  The houses here are a lot like houses elsewhere, with fewer newer buildings because Ashland's always been the first to bust and last to boom, and once a family gets here, they tend to stay as long as they can, they pass the house down through the generations, enlarging it themselves on the weekends as their families grow.

     Eugene has many of these same houses, Vernacular I-houses, Colonial 4-squares, Craftsman Cottages, stately Victorians and prim Queen Annes mixed in with Spanish Mission styles with beige stucco walls and red-tiled roofs and Northwest Moderns that might look like anything from an Adirondack A-frame to a Suburban Dental Office.  In between these houses, in every alley and backyard, covering every vacant lot and rising taller than the maples that used to dominate the University District, Student Apartments have grown like weeds, like trash blowing onto a vacant lot, like troubles swept under a rug, until this tree-lined Academic Paradise has become a pressure-cooker of a rat's maze, reeking of bad cooking and hormones, awash in caffeine, alcohol, and incipient adolescent schizophrenia, a self-reflective beehive readying for a riot when a football game would do.

     When I lived here I never walked the streets or sidewalks.  When I lived here, I never walked around anything I could find a way to walk through.  Down alleyways, through parks, straight across the ever-fewer vacant lots.  Stop in the apartments under construction to smoke a bowl.  Through the church parking lot, over the old people's graves in the Pioneer cemetery. Down walkways, across lawns, up stairs and over railings, around the back, beside the stream, and when I had wheels, along the Bike Paths!, ride right, pass left, give warning when passing....

     I remember walking, sliding, slinking all these roundabout ways to the nowhere I kept ending up, and I remember that I walked this way not to save steps, but to avoid all the people.  My God!  They're Everywhere!  I'd forgotten how many people there were in Eugene, and how I ran and hid from them as often as I could.  That's why I know so much about the hidden parts of town.  I know you folks who live in Cities are going to laugh, but it's different here in Ashland.

     This morning I walked five blocks home from Bob's house to mine, down Iowa to Triangle Park, across the Boulevard a few blocks South of Safeway and half a block North of the High School, and I didn't see another soul outside a car.  I looked, too.  You have to look.  I remember that from my time as a Motel Maid.  If you don't see that something's dirty, you don't have to clean it, but you have to look.  Still, as far down the Boulevard as I could see, not a person was walking.

     There weren't even any High School Kids playing Hooky and smoking in the Triangle Park Gazebo!  Not 'til I reached home and saw my neighbor Crazy Terry standing reading hieroglyphics in the sidewalk did I see another person.  True, it was cold, it's April and there's snow on the ground, if that is really snow and not fallout from Japan, and Crazy Terry's Not my Imaginary Friend, tho it's sort of ironic we're neighbors, I mean, people keep coming to his house when they're really looking for me!  That's what comes from asking locals for directions...there's always some guy who gives as landmarks places that Used to be there, and the houses of People You Don't Know!

     True, Terry's not really crazy, and I'm not talking about myself in the third person this time.  I mean, the hieroglyphics Terry was staring at were really there.  Terry has been bleaching them into the sidewalk with rotting English Walnuts every Fall for years.  An Endless Procession of Infinity Signs as you make your way up our street towards the Boulevard.  Terry once told me that the City Fathers should infuse new sidewalks with edifying words, like the Constitution, or the Declaration of Independence.  That way, while people are walking around with their heads down trying to avoid each other, they'd learn something useful....

The End of the World pt. 1
    It's only early April and my neighbor's kids are playing in the radioactive rain.  I drove four hundred miles over the weekend just to end up here again.  I'm watching the evening news and all I feel is pain.  Oh, what i wouldn't give just in hope that things might change.

     Maybe if I sang a protest song to a crowd of Union Stooges standin' in the streets.  Maybe if I gave money to a politician who's been playin' with some corporation 'tween the sheets.  Maybe if I just stayed home and never made a sound.  Maybe if I played the creep and just kept hanging 'round.  Maybe if I took a stand and made somebody care.  Maybe if I told the man what you'd do if you'd dare.  Maybe if I left this land and floated clean away....

     I wouldn't have had to face this day, though they told us it would come.  The day we knew that we'd been killed, that we were really doomed to die.  The day we finally came to grips with the awful facts of life, that Karmic winds could bring our death, could blow to us like so many spring cherry blossoms the bits and pieces, the very particles of our rightful doom, could turn the sound of the evening rain tapping on the window into this insomniac obsession with the ticking of my watch.

     The question is, "Why aren't I at least closing the window?"

     And that's only the first of all the questions I may not have have time to answer....

Our Town #4

Area  - Total 6.50 sq mi (16.83 km2)  - Land 6.50 sq mi (16.83 km2)  - Water 0.0 sq mi (0.00 km2) Elevation 1,895 ft (577.6 m) Population (2007)  - Total 21,630  - Density 3,003.1/sq mi (1,160/km2)a

     About the size of Medieval London, with one-third the population, and a modern sanitation system, which, during the Flood of '97, resulted in multiple eruptions (! if you're reading this for sexual innuendos, there's one for you!) of water from the storm-water drainage system, and flooding in flat parts of town far away from any streams.  That's why our town has Tsunami Warning Signs, and Tsunami Escape Routes, even though we're over fifty miles away from the coast.  Those signs remind me of the Emergency Escape Route signs on the Autobahn in Austria.  They pictured a little stick figure, Running like Hell!  Remembering the Emergency Truck Ramps in the American Rocky Mountains, we called them the "Run Like Hell!" signs.

     No reason to run like hell here in Ashland.  If you want to run, move to Eugene!

     Ashland's the place for taking it easy, for laying low, for passing the days....But, no!  There's Work! to be done, there's Love to make, Dinner to cook, Sex to prepare for, and Music to play!  We're here because we Want to be, or because our VeeWees broke down after cresting the Siskiyou Pass and not even Old Rex Bounds at the U-Haul place could get them running again, so we found ourselves draped in Shakespearean garb selling Culture to the Rabble out here on the Frontier.

     I've often pictured Ashland as a Medieval Town.  I can see where the gates would be, where the walls might run.  Although our walls and gates are virtual these days, although the poor are kept out by high rents and taxes instead of by high walls, Ashland exists as a remnant of Feudal Times, a Gentry supporting a Serving Class.  When I arrived a decade and a half ago, the Serving Class had it Pretty Good!  The Lucky Gentry, the Boom-fed, Haphazardly Selected, Unexpectedly Wealthy Few!, remembered their roots and hired their old drinking buddies to landscape their acres and remodel their Victorian Mansions.

     Then the damn Californians invaded, like the Spanish would have taken London, if God and the Weather hadn't intervened.  Suddenly, they're hiring the cheapest bidder, and all my spoiled friends are moving into Real Estate, getting their licenses and exploring the more drunken possibilities of the Federal Tax Code  The Restoration Excesses in 17th Century London could not have surpassed the money-bath we enjoyed for OH! Only Two SHORT Years! and, I gotta, tell you, before Everyone! went broke, we really had a lot of fun....

     Now my carpenter friends are barely getting by, and the sound of Power Saws is a rare and welcome interruption in a morning's reflection....

Classic Bob Tale #3

     "Ok, Terry, when we get up there, be ready to run!"  The security guards at the gate were checking bags.  Inside Bob's backpack was a Frisbee and a quarter-pound of Columbian Buds, all sorted into quarter-ounce baggies for sale inside the stadium.  We were gonna make a killing!  If we didn't get busted first.  The security guard patted Bob's backpack, unzipped it, took out the Frisbee and flipped it over his head into a waiting Dumpster.  Bob grabbed the backpack, zipped it, took a big step back out of the security guard's reach, and shouted, "Hey! That's my Frisbee!  Give it back!"

     It was June of 1978, Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Oregon. Oregon Jam #1.  The Outlaws, Santana, and the Grateful Dead.  $12.50 per ticket.  We'd been listening to the ads for months.  Now we were inside Autzen Stadium, trying to see the stage through a haze of marijuana smoke that nearly blotted out the rare Oregon sunny sky.  Everywhere you looked someone was lighting or smoking a joint.  Bob said, "I don't think we're going to be able to sell any of this pot here today.  We better start smoking it ourselves."

     Security took so long searching people that the concert started late.  People were still waiting outside when Bill Graham brought us a free surprise.  Billy Idol! with his new hit, "Wanna be a Rock and Roll Star."  Oh, Goodie....Then the guitar army that was the Outlaws, with Their new hit, "Green Grass and High Tides."  Then Santana, with His new hits, "Oyo Come Va" and "She's Not There."  Santana flayed us for a full hour, his guitar still ringing as he exited the stage.

     Within five minutes, 15,000 people got up and left.  They'd come to see Santana.  Bob and I stretched out over three rows of seats on the sunny side of the stadium and lit up a joint.  And Another.  And Another.  the Dead were two hours late.  From our seats higgh (and I mean hii-igghh!!!) on the south side of the stadium, we saw Jerry Garcia's Limo careening into the parking lot, spitting gravel and swerving around the parking cones to the backstage entrance.

     It was the Worst GraTEFUL DEDa show I Ever Saw! (Szpel-Cscheck recognizes Grateful Dead as correct.  Szlpel-Czchek's a Deadhead!  We are Everywhere...)  Started late, Bobby's new wireless guitar set-up wouldn't work right, Jerry broke a string during Peggy-O, and then someone tossed a Big!  Ziplock Baggie full of 'Shrooms onstage at Bobby's feet, and Bobby Drawls, "Uh, we're all, uh, gonna take a little break!"

     Don't ever sit on the sunny side of the stadium for a long show.  We were roasting, literally.  On the stadium floor, things were getting out of hand.  MErry PRanksters kept lighting off smoke bombs.  A large group of Hell's Angels had taken over the middle of the field, and nudity and rampant drug use had reached a level of excess my little eighteen-year-old brain could only comprehend by smoking even More pot!

     The guy in the row behind us had his head down nodding out, and he didn't seem to come to as the Dead straggled back to the stage, and, seemingly blitzed to the gills, proceeded to tear out a Space that sounded like one of HG Wells's towering spider robot martians taking a screaming metal shit that wouldn't come all the way out...it was LOUD!  a mile away, people had to close their windows. 

     This was the old days, when volume was achieved by brute force, huge stacks of speakers (not the wall of sound) and big Horn Speakers on the field to reach the back of the stadium.  The speakers weren't all necessarily synchronized, so the mismatched sounds would bounce around the stadium and off of the mismatched roof on one side of the oval and collide like runaway electrons in a science project gone mad, which was essentially what the Dead had going on stage.

     Deadheads kept climbing into the speakers on the field, sitting In the big horns with their hands pressed over their ears, their bodies shaking with the noise, their faces filled with ecstatic grins of excruciating pain and delight.  Security kept tugging them out as the Dead were joined onstage by Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, banging on the Thunder Machine and screaming, "Now we know what Heaven's for..." and "What's Become of the Baby?" 

     Finally the Dead emerged into a scraggly, ragged-hem-of-the-flag version of "Going Down the Road Feeling Bad", trailing off into Jerry's "We Bid You Goodnight" solo, which sounds on the tape like the last banjo playing dancing bear out of the Valley of Death, Dancing off into the sunset, leaving the smoking wreckage of our minds behind.  The guy in the row behind us lifted his head for the first time in two hours, said "Great Show!" and climbed off up the stairs.

     We never got Bob's Frisbee back.  Did I mention that this was the first time that I took Acid?  I don't think I got off on it though.  That would happen on the Fourth of July....

Our Town #4
    My first place in Ashland was a basement room in a fancy house above the Boulevard.  The owner had had some trouble with the law.  His Corvette was covered and locked in the garage.  He was working off his community service by volunteering at a boxing club for angry teenagers.  One of them lived in the basement with me.  He objected to the nude photo of Keith Richards I had on my wall.

     "Why do you have a picture of a naked guy on your wall?  Are you Gay?"  He packed a big fist into his open palm as he asked the question.

     "Dude!" I replied, not quite grasping the seriousness of the situation, "It's Keith Richards, the Rolling Stone, Naked!"  It turns out the boxer had been arrested for beating up gay guys, and although his mother, who lived in the basement with us, insisted that it had all been a misunderstanding, that her boy didn't beat up gay guys to make up for the way she raised him, the boxer insisted that he did beat up that guy, and that he would do it again, to Me!, so I moved into my '62 Rambler Custom Classic Four-Door with the fold-down Full-Size Travel Bed and Uni-Body Construction and spent the spring and summer going places where people told me I really oughtn't to be going with a car like that, painted up like that, but that's a whole lot of other stories....

     My next place was a room in an apartment in one of those big student complexes with a stoner and his underage girlfriend, who used my "deposit" to pay their rent for the month.  When their finances improved, they bought a puppy, and rather than house-train it, they covered the dining room with newspaper and let the little feller poop his heart out for a month without changing the paper.  So I had to move out.

     The Rambler was toast to me by then, so I moved into an apartment with a co-worker.  The neighbor downstairs kept Iguanas and Snakes in his closet, and tarantulas in a glass-topped table in his living room.  Next door was a bloke from South Boston who liked to stage fights with his friends in the parking lot.  My roommate liked to pick up guys in bars, and it would fall to me to fend them off on the phone if she didn't want to see them again.

     When I moved from there into the student "Quads", four rooms sharing a kitchen and a bath and a half, I only expected to live there for two months.  I lived there for two years, in two different apartments, while three different quadmates tried to beat me up.  They all gave up, one because he was about to fall into a diabetic coma, one because he knew he'd lose his basketball scholarship, and the last because I was no match for a soldier with a Purple Heart just returned from Kuwait, and under the international rules of warfare, he was obliged to offer me the chance to surrender, which I took advantage of, Hell, Yeah!

     Finally, I got a place of my own, a Mother Hubbard's little old shoe of a house that was once a mule shed.  Upstairs lived a crazy woman who used to scream suicide threats into the night.  I used to call the cops, telling them, "I don't care if she kills herself, I just want her to shut up!"  She was pursuing a career in the movies.  One time I heard her having sex, and I heard her shout, "Here I come!  Here I come!  California, Here I come!"  The night she got depressed and played the Beach Boys Endless Summer album over and over at top volume, I knew I had to move.

     I found a stand-alone little cabin, four walls all my own.  Across the parking lot was an apartment complex for mentally ill people, many of whom became my friends.  They had a lot of cats, and one of them had a marijuana card.  On my side of the parking lot lived a lot of folks who probably should have lived on the other side.  There was the lady with the wheelchair who would spin about in the middle of the road and dare you to run her over.  One day while I was arguing with her, she tried to run over my feet with the wheelchair.

     There was the woman who was so loud at sex that even two houses down, she was louder than my apartment neighbor, the young girl who not only had a loud orgasm one afternoon, but exclaimed just as loudly that it was only her second orgasm, though as she said, and I could hear this from my apartment next door, the walls were so thin, she'd had a Lot of sex.  Her first orgasm, she went on to say, had been August 28, at 1:28 pm.....  The crazy people used to sit out on the porch in the summer evenings to listen to that woman on my side of the parking lot come.

     There was the buddy I chose to trade favors with.  There was always one, wherever I lived, someone I could get high with, someone who sometimes needed to bum a cigarette or a couple of bucks, someone I could hang out with for fifteen minutes here and there, which is usually all that I can stand.   Rascism and Drunkenness, Vulgarity and Crudity, none of that was enough to make me avoid them if they had some dope and were ready to smoke it!

     White Flight from Detroit.  Eight kids, four fathers, and Child Services hasn't even heard of the new one yet.  A hippy with her baby getting a visit from a woman and her twenty year old daughter who used to live in her little cabin back when she was a hippy with her baby.  The woman who tells the cops her boyfriend, who's wanted for beating up his last girlfriend, isn't home, she don't know Where he is....

     These are not the neighborhoods I grew up in.

     These neighborhoods are more honest. 

     These neighbors are more real.

     and LOUD? DAMN! 


Our Town #3

     How high is Ashland?  Wikipedia says 1853 feet.  I say it depends on who you ask.  Some people in Ashland are Very high.  i say it depends on when you ask them.  Festival season in Ashland can get Really high, especially the Fourth of July.  I say it depends on where you ask them.  Some parts of Ashland are higher than others.  In fact, sometimes the snow will stick in only half your yard!  There will be a straight line through your neighborhood with an inch of snow on one side and bare green grass on the other.

     I say it can depend on Why you ask them.  Who are you?  The FBI?  "Hey, Everybody!  These guys are the FBI!"  Honestly, I shouted that at a local pub one time when the FBI came through town trying to buy mushrooms.  After that, they had a real hard time getting high in Ashland.  Usually it's not the FBI, but some tourist hoping to find pot.  They see me wearing my pot-leaf t-shirt and think I know where to get some weed.

     One time the tourist needed not pot, but a pipe to smoke it in.  I ran into the kitchen of the restaurant where I worked, asked Bob the line cook what we might be able to use for a pipe, came out with a hollowed-out apple with a pastry tube tip for a bowl and that tourist got me Really stoned!

Our Town #2
    "Ashland is a city in Jackson County, Oregon, United States, near Interstate 5 and the California border, and located in the south end of the Rogue Valley. It was named after Ashland County, Ohio, point of origin of Abel Helman and other founders, and secondarily for Ashland, Kentucky, where other founders had family connections. It officially became a town with the name Ashland Mills in 1855. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 19,522. The 2007 estimate is 21,630 residents.[3] It is the home of Southern Oregon University and the internationally renowned Oregon Shakespeare Festival."

     That's how Wikipedia puts it.

     I would say, "This where I first smoked pot."  It's where I smoked my first pack of cigarettes.  They were Newport (menthol) filters.  I didn't inhale, but I still coughed like a *&^%.   I did inhale the pot, and I coughed like a (*^&*.!  Then we went to Safeway, the same Safeway store I buy my forties at today, to buy ingredients for a big hippy spaghetti feast.  I think i paid for zucchinni and eggplant.  The hippies were paying with foodstamps.  I'd never seen foodstamps before. 

     The feast was in honor of Bob, who'd finally found his way out of the Siskiyou Mountains south of town and hadn't eaten in four days.  The hippies got him stoned first, and then went for food.  After dinner, we decided to spend the night out at the Applegate River, soon to be dammed up and lost, though it's still a pretty cool place.

     There were five of us, and Bob's German Shepard, a big sack of food, two half-cases of beer and we were headed out in Bob's borrowed VW Bug.  To start the Bug, three of us had to jump up and down on the back bumper while Bob used a screwdriver to turn the ignition and pumped the gas.  Once inside, we sailed North on Hwy 99, turned left onto South Stage Road and five hippies, a big dog, a case of beer and a sack of groceries and all, slowed into the 25 mph zone headed into Jacksonville.

     That's when the horn went off, and wouldn't stop blowing.  Bob opened the door to check it out, and the horn stopped blowing.  He said it was weird that the horn would blow because it was disconnected.  He said it was a good thing the damn horn stopped blowing because Jacksonville was an old people's town full of cops even back then in 1974, and we had a big bag of pot sitting on top of the tub of peanut butter in the grocery bag in the back seat with the three stoned hippies, one of whom, me!, was only fourteen years old, not to mention the unlicensed German Shepard and the three people in the front seat of the Volkswagen, one of whom was Bob, the driver, who was Da-runk! and really Dirty! still, after his three weeks lost in the Siskiyous.

     Bob got back in the car, firmly yet gently pulled the door closed, and the horn started bleating again, and this time it Really wouldn't stop.  We were going to get busted for sure!  Right then a VW Bus pulled up and the driver got out and told us, "Don't worry!  I own a VW Repair Shop.  I can fix this."  He reached under the left front wheel well and pulled a bunch of wires loose.  The horn stopped.  The left headlight went out.  Bob sighed, "You know, I Borrowed this car...."

     We drove deep into the woods and in the dark I carried the grocery bag down the trail, tripped, and spilled the groceries and the bag of pot all over the ground.  The only pot we had left was what was stuck to the top of the tub of peanut butter.  We gently scraped off and smoked what we could....  We went skinny dipping, I mean, They went skinny dipping, I was only fourteen and too shy, so I wore my shorts and spent the night shivering.  I saw my Sister nude, stepping off behind the rocks with Bob like a Fawn slipping away with her Satyr....

     I got drunk for the first time that night, and I still wonder just where beneath the waters of Applegate Lake that boulder-strewn beach where all that went down might lie.  I'm sure the silt of time has through the years drifted down over the spot, has taken the roughness from the stones and boulders, has dimmed the brightness of the full moon laughing over my initiation, has softened my remembrance of that adolescent moment of truth, that first step over the edge which has become my path.

     I'm glad it all happened here,  in and around Ashland, Oregon, "A city in Jackson County..." as Wikipedia puts it.  I'm glad to be back.  It's starting to feel like home.


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