Small Town America 2

A Saloon and Squeaky Beds

Sweat and blinding light, it’s 5:30 am. Jesus, what a horrible way to wake up—I need water. My brain’s still hazy, it’s 9 now, much better—coffee. I’m greeted by my wife’s step-brother, ”Good morning.” He’s nine, and truthfully I was half asleep, so I don’t know how the conversation got started, but it ended with him saying, “Just, whatever you do, just don’t believe in Evolution.”

I naturally sought solstice after hearing something so crazy with a cigarette and coffee. It was Las Vegas, it’s not even ten, and it’s fucking balls hot. Yellow Jackets are buzzing by me, I assumed the smoke would keep them away. Nope. Only evolution could produce fast, flying, biting, swarming, stinging, shit-heads.

Downtown is block after block of banks, the humble resilience of small restaurants, and clothing stores,  another. Most of the buildings here can’t be higher than four stories. New cars in worn diagonal slots line Main St. I have an appointment at Sandy’s bank, so we can try and get photos from the roof. After that it’s lunch with Jamie’s mother Glenda.

I was sure we’d have to sweet talk the building owner, we are after all, a liability. After handshaking and some polite chit-chat, we’re climbing the ladder to the top. Standing topside, my joy is subdued by yet another fucking “thief in the night” thunderstorm. The look on the owners face was cryptic, “We can’t be out here in a storm like this!” he yelled, but he sounded like a mouse with how bad the wind had gotten. None of the pictures turned out well–shit for luck.

It’s time for lunch and unfortunately our meeting with Glenda was pushed further into the day, so we stopped at a new pizza joint: Sweet Basil. Sweet Jesus, best BBQ chicken pizza I’ve ever had. They even had beer on tap, it felt like home. Outside of the few posh pizza places in Portland, when you go out for a slice you’re surrounded by gutter punks, pagans, perverts and flat-out heathens. I’ve personally had a slice a day for the past four years–keeps the doctor away.

In the heat of small town living the nuances stand out: the Starbucks is filled with young men, all in collared shirts. Zero homeless, one black person, two middle-class looking Hispanic families (that’s as diverse as the city gets). Everyone over fifty is dressed formally. I’m now under the staring eyes of the locals. I counted four separate people who held their glance for more than three seconds, that’s one person per three bites of pizza—followed by two sips of Summer Ale.

It’s painfully obvious I’m not from around here. Regulars don’t see me around on a daily basis, so it’s obvious I’m not from Whitman college. My styles utterly foreign and I’m making no attempt to blend in with my grey acid-wash super-tight jeans, bright striped shirt, leopard print socks, and unpractical multicolored Nike’s.

We’ve had Sandy’s son Connor with us the entire time. He wasn’t hungry so he just sat there playing his hand-held. He looks up at me and says, “Is that beer? I hate beer. I don’t like people who drink beer.” I found that funny as I equally don’t like kids. It was time to get this one back to his mom. Then it’s on to Glenda.

Meeting people you don’t give two fucks about is horrible. And Glenda insists we stop and meet everyone she’s ever worked with. I’ll never see those people ever again. I doubt Jamie is actually interested in this shit either, but it must be done. We played along and it ended well: Glenda works in insurance, and has easy access to online data bases with the two addresses I needed to find the old saloon, and the brothel.

The Saloon was the place to be an eternity ago, now it’s just a restaurant. Dacres Hotel sits on top of the whole thing, another place that would have been nice to check out in 1907. Across the street in a grey building is the Brothel. Prostitution was legal in the city for a good deal of the previous century. Endless bed frames gather dust behind the windows, and I couldn’t get the sound of squeaking mattresses out of my head. I should have planned ahead better, and made arrangements to photograph the inside. The current owner of the building doesn’t even live in this fucking city, so getting inside was legally impossible. We were sent to speak with his in-city representative, but he was conveniently out of the office. I left the downtown frustrated, I had high hopes for those buildings.

Now it’s just a quick stop at the church for an inflatable bouncy house, which later proved to be worth the effort. I didn’t take any time to bounce around, I was much more concerned with what was panning out to be a glorious sunset. I walked the whole neighborhood looking for a great photo, only to be held back at every turn by some over-sized property. Finally, Jeff let me set up a latter, and I got cozy on the roof.

Around 9 o’ clock Dalton and Alyse picked us up for a drink, and we finished the night with beer and video games.


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