≡ Menu

Marigold

Marigold woke up on the floor behind the bar. As usual the Yucatan sun beat mercilessly into his bloodshot eyeholes. He raised a meaty hand to shade his face and brush back his bushy, dirty blonde hair.

Morning.

Seagulls called to each other on the Riviera Maya and the humid, cool morning sea breeze boiled over his limp body like a salt-water gazpacho.

Lying there, memories of the previous night, mixed with thoughts about the duties of the coming day arranged themselves in his mind, like so:


Sigh.

“Marigold, why are we here?” his brain asked. Why indeed. With a heave he flipped up to one knee and drew himself upright on the de-laminating vinyl of the bartop. Hazy morning sunlight filtered down through the palms. Due to the nature of being built on sand, the whole pallapa and related structures leaned a bit in the oddball directions usually only seen in the customers after they’d been there for a while. Sticky too.

To his surprise, he found a dwarf with a broken nose in a straw hat and bright hawaiian shirt perched on one of his stools. Looking at him, with that look that says, “I’m thirsty.”

The pair took each other in. The dwarf stuck a half-burned Cohiba in his mouth and causually re-lit it with a fine lighter, a vintage Davidoff, noted Marigold. Taking a solid draw, he exhaled and slowly gazed at the rumpled figure before him with the patience of a man who knew he came expecting to wait.

“Marigold is a funny name for a man.” Cigar stuck back in mouth.

“Yeah, ask my mom about that.” Swipe the bar. Towel, clean enough. This guy has money to spend. “What kin I getcha?” with an attempted note of morning friendliness.

Fact Finding Timmy tapped his gold ring against the empty glass to his right, which gave off a tinny ring. “Scotch on the rocks, still got ice? And some coffee.”

Marigold rattled a couple of battered coolers behind the bar – a few stray cubes swimming in meltwater, waiting for today’s delivery of the fresh stuff. He sniffed his hand and behind the bar pretending FFT couldn’t figure it out, used his fingers to fish out a few survivors into a fresh plastic cup. Scotch not being the drink of choice of the gringo surfer crowd of Tulum, the single bottle of Johnny Walker was nearly untouched.

Marigold’s sleeveless t-shirt, chest hair peeking out of every crevice, the right thing for most of the Carribean weather felt sticky and a bit cold with sweat and salt. Marigold took a moment to breathe, brushing his hair out of his face. Pulling all the professionalism a man could have under the circumstances he set the drink in front of Timmy. With something of a sorry glance he followed, “Coffee. All we have is instant Nescafe, and there’s no hot water until I get a fire going.”

“Of course.” FFT leaned back with his smoke and regarded the mustachio’d bartender, as Marigold tended to the overnight disorder behind the bar. “Things didn’t go so well in Texas, did they?” the dwarf asked, eyebrow cocked.

Texas. Headlights. Fists. Money, but not enough. A long, terrible dark ride to Mexico. Marigold reached out for a toothpick and stuck it in his mouth as a delaying action. Spinning that tiny tree around his pie-hole a bit and peering through his dirty locks he sniffed, “You’ve got cash?”

FFT looked away, smiling a bit. Tapped out a bit more ash. Leaning forward, looking deeper into Marigold’s eyes. Cock the eyebrows, cold stare. “Cash?” #DramaticPause. The camera pans back, framing both figures backlit by the sun just starting to assert itself through the verdant setting of the Gulf of Mexico, a bit of cigar smoke floating through the frame.

Cigar: Tap tap, a quick cigar stab towards Marigold’s slightly blood-shot eyes.

“I’ve got something better, Opportunity.

{ 0 comments }

Portraits of Portland in the 90’s

It’s called The Moda Center at the time of this writing (2020) but in 1993 it was still The Rose Quarter, because that’s where we quartered our roses. For $300/month (or so) we had a roach-infested studio apartment in one of the hotel buildings originally built for the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition. From our place we had a quality view of I-5 traffic. Parking was free when I found it and we had a great claw-foot bathtub, a mattress, and a mushroom shaped stool to sit on. Everything else was a cardboard box. I’d sit on that stool and bang out job applications on an aging word processing machine propped up on a box. A friendly guy named Ray ran the place. I believe he was pushing 70 at the time. He liked to spend his time at Denny’s. I’d like to believe he’s buried there today. Ray did a good job of tolerating all his low-income tenants, always in good cheer and doing little favors for us. Ray had a big soul. We all worked at gas stations and fast food joints within walking distance. It’s hard to forget the distinctive smell of someone cooking frozen peas and cheap hamburger in a frying pan, and the sound of domestic disputes echoing down the hallways. Then there were the friendly teens taking their first steps into the world, and the gang of Rose Quarter security guards who’d sometime hang out in front of the building.

Northeast Portland. Hey guess what? Black people are scary, aaiieeee!!! We’ll talk about this more as you turn these pages, but short story long North and Northeast Portland were the only places in the area where non-whites were allowed to settle from the 40’s through the 70’s. Then there were us kids just trying to find a place we could cover on minimum wage. You wouldn’t believe it looking at these neighborhoods today, but in 1994 they were pretty scruffy. Were we even going to be safe there? We didn’t know.

The day came when we decided we could move up to a one-bedroom apartment. $425/month, just a few blocks north in a house that had been fixed up just enough to be legally rentable. One day I was putting that plastic winter insulation over the windows and discovered that they were only connected to the window frame on two sides. Slight pressure from a single finger nearly dropped the window pane out onto the street. The bathroom sink faced a window. At a garage sale I bought the passenger side rear view mirror taken off an old pickup and screwed that sucker into the window frame so I could shave. Affordable Housing!

Our place was on the second floor. It had an outside space just big enough for a chair and the hibatchi we’d picked up for $5. I had to climb out the window to use it. I still carry a sense of hatred for the gas “heater” that attempted to keep the place warm and dry. It didn’t happen, but we vowed to someday have a wood-burning stove for winter comfort.

Then our big break came. The lady across the street told me she was looking for someone to rent their two-bedroom place for $650. At this point, anyone living in 2020 Portland is gasping for breath – walking distance to downtown, two bedrooms AND $650/month? Yep, that’s the fun you missed out on kids.

Other things you missed out on: syringes outside the San Rafael motel down the street. The time a friendly prostitute opened my passenger door and jumped in looking for business. The people across the way we called “The Loud Family” because their kids would be playing in the street after midnight when we were trying to sleep. The old pickup truck parked nearby with the mysterious door graphics: “Friends’ Ethical Plumbing”. I never found out what that was about, but it sounds like a novel all to itself.

Our neighbors one house to the North of us weren’t terribly happy when we took over Marsha’s place. She and her partner let them use the laundry machines… and well, they never bothered to make friends with us. Not even a hello. I guess they were under a good deal of stress. I was there when the ambulance took one of the guys away to the hospital on a stretcher for HIV/AIDS related health problems. > Insert frowny face here < Some time later with new tenants that house next store was the scene for a whole new set of unexpected drama in my personal life.

{ 0 comments }

The Ballad of Jim Skinner

Here’s where Rob Vaughn is going to tell us the story of Jim “Jimmy” Skinner.

Ask your dog for details!

{ 0 comments }

Her-Story

This stumbling story perhaps starts with a breakup. I was a third of the way between Allentown and Key West when I cracked my journal and found her message. My heart had been breaking and I didn’t know what to do, but she left me with the encouragement to go off on my own for a bit and before long I found myself sitting on a cooler under a palm tree writing love letters to her using my great-grandfather’s portable typewriter and posters I’d pulled off telephone poles because I didn’t have money to buy paper. Key West was filled with flowers back in 1993 and I’d stuff the blossoms into the envelopes I sent to her.

Then the day came when I packed myself into my late grandmother’s Chevy and I sent myself to Portland to be with her.

The Year Zero

Perhaps it really begins with ZoeKat, our CEO – Cat Executive Officer. Later we also had Lucy, our Cat Financial Officer, but in the early days it was me and her and the kitty, shoulder to shoulder, into the future, fists out, backs to the wall. Jami really was on the cutting edge of reproductive rights, working at a local clinic. Wing nuts still think they serve Jesus by shooting doctors, you know. In 1994 North Portland was still a Pacific Northwest version of a slum, a haven for people who failed to be white enough and punk rockers. A place where lawns often went unmowed and beautiful wrecks of 100-year old homes were bought by artists and slowly renovated into beautiful places. Walter W. Cole, aka Darcelle, of well-earned Drag Queen fame had an amazing place just up the street. Read it and weep hipsters, our neighbor bought his beautiful victorian for $14,000. Our place came with some pedigree, we had reasonable evidence that the obscure indie band Pond had at least darked our towels. Our goofy friends across the street had a garage sale where they attempted to sell off a Budweiser can they claimed was soiled by Kurt Cobain himself, and a perfectly plausible story really.

Hello, My Name is Bigfoot

I’d get up in the morning and drive off to my minimum wage temp job in the tech support salt mines of Beaverton. There was a raccoon family that crossed the street at the same time every morning. More distressing was what’s-his-face and his dog. About the time when we’d moved from the one bedroom apartment across the street to Marsha’s comparatively palatial two bedroom semi-restored victorian he’d been dumped on the street by his sister. He mostly lived out of his car, but we saw him on her porch most of the time. The times we watched them try to feed their cat with baked beans and saltines. This is the North Portland you probably missed out on, like the dead teenage son of another neighbor. Gunned down in Irving Park under unknown circumstances.

“Gidget?! Shuddup!!” Yeah, little 20-something us repeated his reproachment to his fuzzy little dog over and over again to each other because there was humor in the sadness. I still do it. Oh Gidget, where are you now? After his sister moved out, we’d still see him living out of his car, moving around the neighborhood.

Triste, Sadness

After the breakup I discovered that all our friends had been hers and I was left with the kind of loneliness I’d only read about in divorced men. And so I packed up and headed out to Burning Man. There was a forest fire that forced traffic to go the long way around south of Kalamath Falls. I spent the night sleeping on a picnic table in some isolated park. I’d never driven to Nevada before. By the time I was passing Pyramid Lake I was starting to think the whole Burning Man story was an elaborate hoax. But then, I was parked on the side of the road taking a photo when a small Japanese car went by with WA state plates, two women with pixie cuts and mountain bikes. Maybe this Burning Man thing was real after all.

In 1996 the head count was 4,000 or so. By Empire and Gerlach one finally saw the evidence of the art community washing up on the shores of the gas stations and bars. The entrance to the playa, once you found it, $40 got you in and a compass heading. “Go that way and turn right after eight miles” I was told. Alkaline in every direction, a destination over the horizon. I was on my way.

I’m such a nerd, I’m just no good at this stuff. Feeling comfortable with party people. Always the awkward one, that’s me. The tire tracks and footprints in the playa dust of the Black Rock of 1996 constantly resolved themselves into pentagrams, gambling dice, smack and terrible visions of cheap Las Vegas vice in the dark of the night. Eventually I stayed up to dawn chatting with a friendly campmate – really all the BS about making friends at Burning Man turns out to be completely true. Back before Burning Man became mostly a rave, we had a rave ghetto, two miles away from the main camp so people who weren’t hopped up on goofballs could get some sleep. I’d pedaled out there, peeped the place out and was pedaling back across the vast yawning expanse of the desert with the stars exploding across the sky when I came across the tent, halfway between, like some kind of lost Tusken Raider hideout. Here’s the thing about Burning Man, just walk in and say “Hi”. Sure, I’ll try some mushrooms. Let’s go for a ride.

Here’s the Thing About San Francisco, And Your Butt

You are not extreme enough. Don’t get me wrong, I have had an amazing amount of fun that was created by the people thrown off the merry-go-round of the Summer of Love, but still. So much of what I’ve seen is people trying to hurt themselves while saying they are having fun. You don’t have to be on cocaine, acid, ecstasy and speed at the same to claim you’re having fun, and perhaps that’s a bit of difference between the Portland crew and some of the individuals one met from the Bay Area. Sure, we’d get drunk and shout at each other’s art cars with bullhorns, but we’re free from the chip on the shoulder placed by the Electric Kool-aid Acid Test. Or maybe we just don’t know how to party? It’s hard to talk about the Burning Man and Cacophony experience of that era without broaching the topic of not-so-legal substances.

{ 0 comments }

The Nose Parade

Just so you know, a wee bit of Portlandia history before Portlandia.

Like the Viking Funeral for my cat, we actually did that, shooting a cannon over the willy.  That stuff actually happened.
Before the fence was there, I was able to roll my VW right up to the riverfront by OMSI and put down the windshield and enjoy the view.
For that matter (and I do not recommend this) Soren and I more than once rolled Der Thing to the top of the interstate bridges and got out of the car to watch the fireworks.
These are things that happened, that we did.

{ 0 comments }

Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet

Hello friendly reader. We have a guest commentator here who will recount his experience with space-related music. Let’s begin, shall we?

Been a big fan of Shadowy Men since I first heard their theme song on
Kids in the Hall in college.
This post from my friend and yours, Bon Vivant, Rob Vaughn.

After I finished the very last final exam I had to take in gag school,
I grabbed a suitcase I’d packed and my pals from high school met me
outside of the hall to drive up to Toronto for a three day weekend. I
kept telling them to stop at a liquor store in the U.S. to buy booze
but they were hell-bent on driving straight through. By the time we
got there and found a hotel, it was about 8:30pm and like Oregon the
liquor stores closed at 7.

We left the hotel and were looking for a beer store (they’re open a
little later, no beer in grocery stores either, at least back then)
when I saw a flyer for a Shadowy Men show. My fellow idiots finally
figured out the beer stores closed at 9pm and were resigned to finding
a bar and paying the price. Told them I was going to the show and none
were interested; they wanted to go to titty bars, I wanted music, so I
split off alone.

I’d been to Toronto a few times and have always had a good sense of
direction and making my way around. Took some guesses, and a Metro
ride and walk later, found the little club they were playing at; more
of an art space in hindsight. I paid the $5 CAN and went in, There
were all sorts of friendly folks inside: solo people like me, couples,
friends of the band, etc. The lights were dim, the place a bit of a
mess and dirty, and said friends of the band were walking around with
cases of beer selling them for $1 CAN each.

I don’t remember the name of the opening band. They did a 40 minute
set of surf rock, all short tunes, good stuff. Place was pretty packed
by the time they were done. Shadowy Men came out and helped the
openers move their gear, except for the drum kit, which drummer Reid
was loaning them. They set up quickly and turned off everything but a
lot of black lights. They’d decorated the whole space with fluoro
reactive stuff: stars and comets on the walls, dayglo planets and
moons hanging from the ceiling, ufos and spaceships on wires that
would slide back and forth from the stage to the back of the room on
pulleys, and so on.

The two couples I’d been hanging with broke out some joints and we got
very high while slugging beer out of cans. The moment the geegaws on
the pulleys started moving, the band lit a couple of roman candles on
the stage and went straight into the first song off their first album,
which they played in full, followed by their 2nd LP. Barely a pause
between songs until they’d finished most of the latter, then some
witty banter from lead singer/guitarist Brian. At some point there
were a couple glow-in-the-dark blow up balls bouncing around the
crowd. The beer guys just started giving away cans and I had to pace
myself because I realized I hadn’t eaten in over a day.

They played for over two hours straight, then turned up the lights and
said “Thanks everyone, that’s our last show ever, hope you had a good
time” or some such thing. I excused myself and went up to the stage
where the band was just hanging out. I introduced myself and told the
guitarist how much I loved their music and felt it was crucial to the
TV show, and was bummed they were breaking up. Said I had almost all
of their LPs and singles, in particular the Estrus stuff, but had
never found a copy of a 7″ that they’d self-released. Connelly told me
to wait and went backstage, then returned with a copy of the single. I
asked him how much he wanted for a it but he just handed it to me and
said, “Nuthin’! Glad you like the music,” We chatted a little more
then I left to let others have a turn.

I found the folks I’d been hanging with and thanked them for the weed,
then split to catch the Metro back, since it didn’t run late. I tried
to find my pals at a strip club they said they’d be at, but it being
pre-mobile phone days, I had no way to contact them and didn’t feel
like paying a cover charge to get in to look, so I headed back to the
hotel. They were already there, drunk as hell, broke after spending
hundreds at the club and in the process of trashing the room. I’m
surprised we didn’t get caught and kicked out.

We hightailed it to another hotel at checkout time then hit the liquor
and beer stores. I don’t remember much more of that weekend after we
procured the booze. Some museums, some restaurants, book and record
stores and pubs for me, while they went back to the naked lady bars.

It was a completely random and lucky thing to catch their last show.
The next year I skipped the graduation ceremony over Memorial Day
weekend to fly to Portland and drive up to Bellingham to catch another
Garageshock. Can’t remember if Soren was on that trip in ’94 or not?
Don’t remember if they ever played at those, but at least I got to see
them once. The bass player died of cancer a couple years later, so
doubtful there’ll ever be a reunion or new material.

So, the author of this post doesn’t waste his time on them thar farcebooks, but the band in question continues to perform: https://www.facebook.com/Shadowy-Men-on-a-Shadowy-Planet-132699680204307/

{ 0 comments }

Practical Jokes of the Future

Want to cause endless hilarity? Forget about covering your buddy’s entire apartment in aluminum foil. Secretly put a Star Trek transporter in his shower.

Won’t he be surprised!

{ 0 comments }

Tonight the great mysteries have been unraveled.

Let us sit at the feet of a master.

Well, my friends are gone and my hair is grey
I ache in the places where I used to play
And I’m crazy for love but I’m not coming on
I’m just paying my rent every day in the Tower of Song

I said to Hank Williams, how lonely does it get?
Hank Williams hasn’t answered yet
But I hear him coughing all night long
Oh, a hundred floors above me in the Tower of Song

I was born like this, I had no choice
I was born with the gift of a golden voice
And twenty-seven angels from the Great Beyond
They tied me to this table right here in the Tower of Song

So you can stick your little pins in that voodoo doll
I’m very sorry, baby, doesn’t look like me at all
I’m standing by the window where the light is strong
Ah, they don’t let a woman kill you, not in the Tower of Song

Now, you can say that I’ve grown bitter but of this you may be sure
The rich have got their channels in the bedrooms of the poor
And there’s a mighty judgment coming, but I may be wrong
You see, you hear these funny voices in the Tower of Song

I see you standing on the other side
I don’t know how the river got so wide
I loved you baby, way back when
And all the bridges are burning that we might have crossed
But I feel so close to everything that we lost
We’ll never, we’ll never have to lose it again

Now I bid you farewell, I don’t know when I’ll be back
They’re moving us tomorrow to that tower down the track
But you’ll be hearing from me baby, long after I’m gone
I’ll be speaking to you sweetly from a window in the Tower of Song

Yeah, my friends are gone and my hair is gray
I ache in the places where I used to play
And I’m crazy for love but I’m not coming on
I’m just paying my rent every day in the Tower of Song

{ 0 comments }

Flat Mooners

You’d be surprised about how many people believe the Earth is round and that the moon is flat.

The moon, it's flat
{ 0 comments }

Dispatches from the Intarwubtubes

Sometimes stories come up, that need to be better documented than just in an email. Here’s a bit of conversation between myself, Wink Jr, Soren and The Lunky. Email starts right down there:

I tried reading this, skimmed over it.  I’m afraid the story didn’t grab me.
Though it did remind me of the night where I’d gotten lost exploring rural Nevada in Der Thing after that man burning thing that happens sometimes.  Eventually I ended up at I think it’s called Soldier Meadows dude ranch, where people like Hairy Larva and crew (used to) go to decompress after the event.  Somewhere around here I have a photo of me with The Larry.  In fact…   you can read all about it here, and you probably should:
http://tikimojo.com/amz.com/site/sbp/bm99/highrock.html

Welcome to High Rock Canyon

https://www.blm.gov/visit/high-rock-canyon

High Rock Canyon east to High Rock Lake is very rugged and remote and can be driven in four-wheel vehicles by experienced and well equipped explorers.
HINT: you are probably not equipped to go here

Yet I had told the staff at the state park in CA where I’d started out many hours before to be concerned if I didn’t show up so I was stuck continuing to drive all the frickin’ way to Gerlach so I could at least use the phone (remember, this was 1999 and nowhere Nevada and you don’t have phones everywhere) and make sure the Parks people didn’t call out the rescue squad – not just pointless in this case, but also expensive.
Long boring drive through the kind of areas where honest to gawd I would have not been surprised at all to have been abducted by aliens.  Not one sign of human activity in any direction other than the gravel highway.  Eventually ended in Gerlach, met a wonderful woman who invited me to spend the night at Planet X and eventually we had enormous amounts of sex, so I suppose we can call it a win all in all for everyone.
The next night, back in the campground just south of Lakeview, decompressing with a bottle of the local plum wine and a campfire, watching the sun over the lake I pretty much was sure I’d breached the 4th wall.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourth_wall

{ 0 comments }

The Speed of Death

Got me one of these things:

And I am fairly terrified of it. Death is going to arrive at any moment. That’s why I rode home at 80mph. Figure that means fewer seconds of sheer terror vs. 55mph which I’d still be experiencing sheer terror.

{ 0 comments }