September 1, 2003

A Post Not About Clowns and Untruths

Let’s catch up so we can move on to better things like clowns with chainsaws and people who mutter untruths under their breath. I haven’t been taking notes the last few days and my brain is curdled as usual, so where I can’t remember the history I’ll no doubt make something up.

Tuesday Greta and Tyler arrived in town. That evening we went out for a drive down 35 to see Mount Hood and forests and turquoise rivers. Just when we thought it was getting dark enough to warrant a return trip to Hood River, Tyler veered off the road to take the winding path up to Cooper Spur. We spun the rental car up Mount Hood’s long spine to a place at 6,000 feet called Cloudcap. Tyler drives fast and reckless on winding mountain roads, and when the road turns to grit and washboards the belly of the car often bounces across rocks like a blown-up kiteboarder. “Glad it’s not my car,” was the refrain of the week. Tyler also jumps off cliffs, crosses rushing alpine steams and treads on rotting logs suspended fifty feet above waterfalls. Tyler has a foolhardy nature that makes me look like a sissy pants. He is my personal hero.

At the top of Cloudcap there was a neat log inn inhabited by trolls and a sunset. Frankly, we’ve had all the sunsets we can take, but this one was nifty because it was above the clouds and we could see Mount Adams and Mount St. Helens poking their brilliant little heads through the fluff. I didn’t take pictures, but if you send me a handmade postcard I’ll mail you a box of crayons so you can draw your own. On our way back down we argued over which direction to go and ended up taking an alternate route to Hood River. Alternate is newspeak for wrong.

Wednesday evening the wind was blowing so I went windsurfing at the Event Site. The wind was strong enough that I could waterstart and keep my small board upwind, and I spent a considerable amount of time using the harness. I only did my Wild Spinning Dismount of Horror once, which is progress. When other windsurfers started breaking out the 7.5s I knew it was time to get off the water.

Whine nost thou oneth thine Plank of Kill and Lines of Boosteh? one might ask in an accent that hasn’t existed for centuries, and even then never left the most drunken circles at the most scandalous of taverns. I didn’t go kiteboarding because my leading edge was busted. After playing on the merry-go-round I eventually got a new leading edge, but not until after a meddlesome Tiki that goes by the name of Ozomatli turned the spigot and shut off the Wind Machine for THREE STRAIGHT DAYS. If Count Basie were here he would have been so pissed he would have played FIVE notes in a solo. That’s rage for ya.

So Wednesday evening (yes, the same Wednesday evening) I went out and saw the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, which rocked much. It was nice to see a band working their musical craft with complete competence after the wishy-washy hippie music on Monday. The band started an hour late, and with that I have some advice for bands:

HEY, ALL YOU BANDS OUT THERE? EVEN YOU BANDS AS GOOD AS THE DIRTY DOZEN BRASS BAND? NONE OF YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH TO START AN HOUR LATE. NONE. Very few of you are good enough to start fifteen minutes late. You book these gigs months in advance and set up your gear hours before the concert, why do you need another hour of drinking before playing? Hell, if it helps start drinking on the drive over here. I don’t care. JUST FARKIN’ START ON TIME.

Anyways. Friends from Big Winds were at the concert. Friends from Samba Hood Rio were there, too. We danced and hollered and left at setbreak because setbreaks are too slow make us sui-homi-gene-cidal. Got home and had another night with five hours of sleep.

Thursday. Thursday Dills left town. Long live Dills! Besides that I have no idea what happened.

Friday I took the afternoon off and G&T and I went out to Punchbowl Falls. This has already been mentioned through a sophisticated system whereby the illusion of movement is generated by the rapid succession of still images. Tyler and I jumped off cliffs and climbed around in an ill-maintained fish ladder (how do fish climb ladders if they don’t have any feet?).

As we were preparing to leave some people showed up with barrels that they were going to use to go over the falls. They were too chicken to try it themselves so they handed the barrels over to us and we rode them over the falls. It was exciting. The barrels looked a lot like inner-tubes, and I should know because I’ve seen wild inner-tubes in Wisconsin’s Apple River. However, these inner-tubes weren’t dragging their youngling inner-tubes stuffed with coolers and Coors. Perhaps it is merely too late in the season to see baby inner-tubes, or perhaps Oregon has a different breed of inner-tube that nurses its young into adulthood before they leave the nest. Or maybe Oregon has a STUPID BEER TAX that turns my beer money in chalk and mousetraps for public schools, so instead of buying beer people steal water from the Columbia River and drink it for its hallucinogenic powers, because this is the sort of thing that happens when you try to legislate morality and finance public operations with evil and sin.

But I digress.

Friday night was another strong hit of karaoke at Jack’s. All the bad singers got there before us and signed up most of the spots, so whether or not the Bee Dub crew would make it to the stage was an open question the entire evening. I mean, hell, karaoke starts at 10:00, so we should be just fine getting our names in at 10:30, right? Bands never start on time, why should karaoke artists? We tried to placate ourselves with vodka Red Bulls, which is even less effective than you might think.

In the end? We got up. Hoo-wee we got on up, like a sex machine. James Brown made another appearance, and this was by far his greatest night yet. There may even be pictures available. After Jack’s we went to Savino’s, where we met lovely people until 2:30 in the morning.

Another Saturday, another morning of work on three hours of sleep. Around one o’clock, after I had inadvertently convinced a customer I was a master kiteboarder and almost sold him a kite before he had even tried the sport, Greta, Tyler and I bolted across the Hood River Troll Bridge (the one that sings you into a stupor and lulls you into oncoming traffic) to discover some waterfalls near Wind River.

The falls were magical, with three rivers that all convened into one valley and tumbled a hundred feet to the pools below. An entire wall of the valley was covered in thick blankets of moss that channeled a wide fall like Bob Barker’s Plinko machine (thank you, ladies and gentlemen, and good night!). I convinced my sister I had picked up a moss leech, but she will undoubtedly deny any claims as to my convincing her I picked up a moss leech.

What better way to wrap up an afternoon with nature’s bounty than with an evening with Nickle Creek? We headed to Portland, where we drove around blindly looking for a really good pizza place that I knew existed. I went there many a time with the “Habi-Trail for Oh the Humanity!” crew. We found it eventually and had pizza with feta cheese, artichoke hearts and sun dried tomatoes. To balance the universe I am sure that someone somewhere ordered a vegan pizza, which really amounts to carpet and staples baked in a stone cold oven.

Nickle Creek was at the Rosesomethingoranother, and since it was an all-ages show there were lots of delicious children and an old man that forgot his deodorant. The music was incredible; I’ve never heard bluegrass/Celtic/popular music done by such virtuosic players. I mean, the mandolin player in Yonder Mountain String Band is good, but every member of Nickle Creek could blow his Chicken & Watermelon away. Chops aren’t everything, of course, but they can go a long way. You take Nickle Creek, cast them into the wild and give ’em three hours to pick whatever the heck they please, and you’ve got yourself one hot session.

But I love Yonder Mountain, the Chicken and the Watermelon. Always have, always will. Nickle Creek was a different vibe, though. With less of a jam influence they can’t get away with slowly unfolding segues and such, but with their pop influence they can get away with stuff just the same. They covered “Taxman” by the Beatles, and their encore featured a completely unplugged rendition of Wilco’s “Poor Places”. Cool.

Greta and Tyler were heading back to Minneapolis in the morning, and after the show I had nowhere to stay in Portland so I had to drive back to Hood River. I kept missing turns and called in an accident to 911, and I got excited when I saw gas offered at the bargain price of $1.99 a gallon. When I stopped I knew I would need something to carry my battle-wearied soul back home, and the obvious options were pasty black coffee or Red Bull.

Then I found ROCKST*R ENERGY DRINK. The ‘a’ is indeed spelled with a star. Rockstar is a 16 oz. PBR Tallboy filled with freakish chemicals that would give pause to the peroxidites of Hugh Heffner. BIGGER, FASTER, STRONGER. It is twice the size of Red Bull and lets you PARTY LIKE A ROCKSTAR. It is NOT RECOMMENDED FOR CHILDREN OR THOSE SENSITIVE TO LOUD NOISES, MOOD SWINGS OR CAFFEINE. More than anything, Rockstar tastes like the enamel being stripped off your teeth. I can think of at least one person and one band that needs to get this drink to sponsor them immediately.

My trusty Rockstar saw me home just fine. I woke up early Sunday morning to give Motoshi and Miho a ride to the Portland Airport, which was hard to do because the wind had finally returned with a vengeance. At the terminal I got in an argument with the Northwest porters over what their job should entail. A women in a fluorescent vest barked at me for standing ten feet away from my car. And then my Japanese friends were gone. They would spend one day in Tokyo before heading down to New Zealand for a year.

I left the airport and missed the turn to get back to the Gorge. A common fable of Portland is that its mass-transit system, bike lanes and walking networks are so well-designed that it should be a model for other cities looking to alleviate gridlock traffic. In actuality, the roads in Portland were designed by drunken party apes to make driving so difficult and unappealing that frustrated motorists can’t help but to use the alternatives. Luckily there was another drive back to the ‘hood I wanted to try out; one that wrapped around the south side of the mountain.

I took the long and beautiful drive home, but was so tired I was completely numb to all of it. There were rocks and trees and cliffs and beckoning guardrails. Pishaw. Two weeks of little more than five hours of sleep a night was taking its toll, and I was so tired I didn’t even care I was numb. When I got home I slept for the rest of the day, and when I woke up I spent the evening baking cookies, drinking tea and reading Harry Potter.

I went to bed early, woke up early this morning (I can’t help that, really) and vacuumed, laundered and cleaned. I ate a huge burrito, took care of some business at the shop, grabbed a kiteboard and headed down to the Sandbar. I rigged up and spent three hours working on keeping the board planing and edging upwind. When I grew tired I tossed the board aside and practiced jumping, boosting myself five feet up into the air. When I had enough of that I landed my kite, packed up and went home. The entire session I didn’t need to throw my bar at the kite once, which means I wasted no time untangling lines and relaunching the kite.

I got home, rinsed my gear (and did not prop the board up outside the house) and started writing. First I wrote the word “ok”. Then I deleted the word “ok”. Then I wrote the word “let”. Then I wrote the word “us”. Then I figured it would look better as “let’s” even though I like to dabble in the formality of non-contractions on occasion, so I changed it to “let’s”. Then I wrote “catch up so we can move on to better things like” and paused for ten minutes as I tried to figure out something better.

And with that, let us simply move on to better things.