Tag Archives: oregon

The Curious Case of Bobby Buckets

14 Nov

Life’s reset button

I’ve always had a difficult time with change. Such a difficult time that even the smallest decisions like getting a haircut will send me into anxiety for weeks. Due to this unfortunate personality flaw, I’ll tend to maroon myself in things that probably needed to change a long time ago. This goes for jobs, relationships, habits, and so on. A little over six months ago, I had what I considered a comfortable life. I wasn’t happy, but I would do nothing to change any aspect of what surrounded me. I was going on the seventh year of a rocky relationship, entering the 18th year of a career that was completely unsatisfying, and living my 3rd year in an apartment that I hated with an inconvenient location. When I look back on it now, there were many simple things that I could have done to make things better for myself. I didn’t see any of it at the time. It wouldn’t matter, because in the span of one week every aspect of my life changed. Life pulled the fucking rug out from under me and I could no longer unhappily sleepwalk through my existance.

It was a chain reaction, beginning with my relationship being destroyed. It had come out that he had cheated, and he no longer wanted to be my partner. I was devastated. I didn’t want to believe that he had given up on us after so many years together. I spent a lot of time not accepting it, and thinking that he would change his mind. This was the worst thing I could have put myself through, and it nearly destroyed me. He was my whole world, and now it was gone. I couldn’t function on any level. I stopped eating and dropped down to 98 pounds. I didn’t sleep. All I could do was blame myself and wallow in my own self-loathing. This state I was in led to the next phase of my life falling apart.

During this horrific breakup, I was on year 3 of a very high-stress job. I had been recently promoted, and the expectations and responsibilities were extreme. When the break up happened, I let the higher-ups know that I was going through personal hardship and I would try my best to not let it affect my work performance. They were sympathetic for about a week. They wouldn’t allow me to take any vacation time or leave, as it was a peak time for us and the business simply couldn’t run in my absence. They began to lose patience with me after I waasn’t back to my old self quickly enough. My work quality was slipping and I was distracted. I didn’t look good due to the weight loss and lack of sleep, and my co-workers and the people who worked for me were visibly uncomfortable to be around me. I was making mistakes, and I knew that it would be only a matter of time that I would be terminated. I’ve never been fired from a job in my life. Work has always been the most important thing to me, and I have built an excellent resume and refrences. I did not want a black mark on my career. I made the choice to quit without anything else lined up. Something I have never done before in my life. Hands-down the riskiest move I’ve ever done. It was the only option at the time, and I knew it. When I took my store keys and handed them in, the fear of the unknown was overwhelming. Underneath that, complete relief. I realized at that moment how much I hated working there. Truly hated it, and it consumed 45-50 hours a week of my time. The thousands of things and the hoards of people I was responsible for suddenly werent my fucking problem any more. What a wonderful relief.

The scramble to find work was immediate. Because I electively chose to leave my job, I couldn’t draw unemployment. I got paid out my last checks with that fucking vacation time they wouldn’t let me take, so that bought me a little time. All this time, I was still living in our small apartment with my now x that already had a girlfriend. He wanted me out. I needed to start working again. Through mutual friends, I found out a guy I knew owned a coffee shop/bar and might be needing someone. At different points in my life, I had been a barista and bartended. After some networking, I was hired. I was officially unemployed for exactly 52 hours. I would be brought on part-time, and at minumum wage. Obviously, not enough to live on but it would be some income coming in until I found another job in my usual carreer. I thanked my friend for helping me out, and promised to be the best damned worker he’d ever had.

There I was, 35 years old. Single, working in a coffee shop, essentially homeless. Definitely not how I envisioned my life at that point. Some days, I felt like a fucking loser. Others I tried to tell myself that I should enjoy the liberation of having no adult responsibilities. One of my customers offered me a room to rent in his house. I moved in, and my x and I stopped living together. That was both necessary and sad. The final nail in the coffin of our relationship. Although I felt like a personal failure, I honestly liked the job. It had been so long since I had worked with zero responsiblilty I had fogotten what it was like. My mind was completely clear while I was there, and I actually smiled while working. Not that fake corporate smile you learn to plaster on your face from years of conditioning. I could wear beat up sneakers to work. That alone was a blessing. I was used to living in staunch corporate dress which included 9 hours in high heels. I liked the customers, and was happy to see them. Even more wonderful, they were happy to see me. In my last career, I was upper management so any person I had to deal with was usually very upset and I would need to find a way to appease them which at that point was near impossible. I could play whatever music I wanted, and put whatever I wanted on the television. It was like an adult fantasy camp. I knew it couldn’t last. I’d have to make some actual money in order to put an actual roof over my head. Thats when I started tracking what I made at the new gig. With my minimum wage and tips, I nearly made as much as I was making in my last career. After taxes, insurance, and other bullshit taken out of my checks…shit. It wasnt quite the same, but it was damn close. That’s when I had to come to terms with the fact that I had been slaving away for the last 18 years, getting my fucking ass handed to me, killing myself with stress and I never had to. I had convinced myself that I should stay with that career because I had built a certain resume that afforded me a decent salary and I would be crazy to leave and go with something else. Now I could work less hours, with no stress and make almost the same amount of money. I honestly couldn’t believe it. I was sick with the thought of devoting my late teens, twenties, and early thirties to a soul-crushing carreer for no fucking reason and with no yeild. Life’s reset button forced me into leaving a career I hated, and showed me there could be something else. Better late than never, I suppose.

The black cat cafe

The cafe itself is weird. It sits on the head of Alberta street, which is a “destination” area for tourists. It has a long history of being a shady place for neighborhood folks to buy and sell drugs and for underage kids to get drunk. By the time I was hired, the business had been bought out and was in the process of re-branding into something else. The building had been there for so long and had been such a notorious institution in the neighborhood, the change-over was difficult. Many of the old regulars stopped coming in as an act of protest. Those that still came in still called it by the old name of “The Black Cat” and refused to aknowledge that it has a new name and was under new ownership. My first weeks working there nearly every customer that came in would ask those same qusetions in hostile tones:

“This isn’t the Black Cat any more?”

“Why did it change?”

“It sucks here now. Why would I come here?”

“Do you guys still sell cigaretttes?”

The neighborhood was resistant to accept any change, and the purchasing of the Black Cat pissed a lot of folks off. I didn’t mind feilding the angry crust punks’ questions. Still better than any one person I had to deal with in my old carrer. I would still get the occasional shady dude who would breeze past me with a backpack on heading straight to the back patio just to dart out again once realizing that either his dealer or his clientele is no longer posted up there. Some of the old customers continued to come in. Despite the name change and the lack of cigarettes, the place was mostly the same. The food menu remained, the coffee got better, and we still served the cheapest booze and beer on the street. I started to get attatched to the place, and the regulars that frequent it. I would notice if I didn’t see someone come in for a few days, and worry about them. I became the only full time employee, and essentially the manager as there are just some things you cant turn off even if you want to.

 

The way it was

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Bobby Buckets

It was a slow afternoon. I was working the mid shift, and I hadn’t seen a customer in at least an hour. That was typical in those days. Back then all of our business would be in the morning, then stagnate in the afternoons. I would keep busy. There was always something to clean or organize. Shit, just getting to pick my own music to listen to while I was working was still such a treat for me I could care less how slow the time was going. My shifts were 5 hours long. I was used to working 9-12. Total fantasy camp. My friend Kyle came in to hang out and chat with me. He did that often, as he lived 3 or 4 blocks up from the cafe and was always a welcome distration for me on those slow afternoons. He and I were alone in the cafe for about an hour before the next customers walked in.

A woman in her 40’s came to the counter accompanied by a guy that looked like he was in his early 20’s. They both ordered screwdrivers. I asked to see the guy’s id. He scoffed at me and started copping an attitude. He let me know that he used to work here, and the fact that I didn’t know that is rediculous. I told him that I’d never seen him before, therefore I would need to check his id. He finally gave it to me. I poured their drinks. He asked me those usual “why isn’t this the Black Cat any more” questions. I patiently answered them. I also patiently listened to how much he hated that it’s under new ownership and how badass the place used to be when he worked there. Former employees were always the worst to deal with by far. They have a weird sense of entitlement over the place, like they own it in some sense and almost always cause large amounts of problems when they decide to visit. The woman that was with him quietly hung back as he was going off on his tngent, smiling at me apologetically. She eventually cut him off and urged him on to the back patio.

By that time a few more customers had trickled in. All were regulars that I recognized, there to get a few cheap tall cans after clocking off from work. Kyle was still there hanging out. I had about 2 hours left in my shift. The uppity kid from the patio came in and ordered another round for himself and his companion. He asked me to make them “extra strong” and he’d “tip me well” wink wink nudge nudge. I told him I pour all drinks the same. He got pissy and said that he would tip me double. I again told him that I pour all drinks the exact same. He again expresed that he wanted his drink to taste “strong”. I said I could put in less orange juice, if thats what he wanted. He agreed. I poured the drinks and he went outside.

After about a half hour, the woman and the kid appeared at the counter, half-drunk drinks in hand. She starts chatting with me about the music I have playing. She is tall and blonde, in a fashionable coat and beyond pleasant. I can’t help but wonder what her relationship is to the much younger, and much shittier kid she’s hanging out with. She asks me if I wouldn’t mind putting a song on that she’s really been wanting to hear. Normally I wouldnt do something like that, but the cafe was slow and I couldnt’ think of any good reason to tell her no. I found the song and played it. It was some blues song from the 60’s. She sat and sang along, eyes closed and swaying to the beat. The kid and Kyle began chatting. We discovered that his name was Bobby, he had just moved back to portland after a brief stint in New York, and he was a homosexual. These were the three things he kept telling kyle over and over. It was also clear he was drunk. Way drunker than a cocktail and a half should make a person. Kyle has a way of engaging people, and kept trying to entice a conversation out of Bobby. He was stuck on that skipping record of the drunk where they just keep repating the same things over and over with more and more urgent tones. The blonde’s song ended. I put my playlist back on. They finished their drinks.

The blonde lady began to put her coat back on and was gesturing for boby to leave with her. He started to get up out of his bar seat and then snapped to attention. “I want to hear a song now. She got to hear one, now I want one.” I asked him what he’d like to hear. He took a long time deciding, and I just wanted him to leave. He was drunk, and getting louder and more difficult. He finally blurted out a song. I bent over the house ipad, busyng myself with try to find this song and artist I’ve never heard of on yotube. As I was still searching, I heard a loud crash. I turn around and see Bobby standing up on top of the bar, staring right at me. He had chucked his empty cocktail glass at the wall of liquor bottles. Thankfully, nothing broke. Not even the empty bucket glass now spinning on the ground.

Get off the counter.

The blonde and Kyle both stared at Bobby, frozen with mouths hanging open.  He jumped down behind the bar with me.  He swayed back and forth, looking dead in my eyes.

I used to work here.  I’m from New York.

I told him to get out from behind the counter.  The blonde grabbed his arm and yanked him hard out from around the counter.  She said “Bobby, I thought we were going to have a nice day together but I guess we aren’t now.  That’s a shame because I was having a really nice time with these nice folks.  Now we have to go because you did a bad thing.  you understand?’

Bobby looked at his feet in a moment of shame.  Again she told him that they had to go.  She apologized to me, and said they would be leaving.  She pulled on his arm and he went completely rag doll-limp and fell to the ground.  He remained lying on the floor of the cafe, spread out like a gingerbread man and refusing to get up.  He then emitted a loud scream, mouth hanging wide open with eyes staring straight up at the ceiling.  The customers in the cafe looked on.  I told the blonde that he had to go or I’d call the police.  She got him up off the floor.  I let him know he was 86’d, and no longer allowed in this establishment. At this point he appeared to suddenly have a very difficult time walking.  She had to help him to the door and they both exited and lumbered on down Alberta, arm-in-arm.

Kyle and I both looked at each other in a general “what the fuck was that” kind of moment.  The regulars talked amongst themselves and discussed what the hell must have been wrong with that guy.  I had only seved him two drinks.  Why was he so fucked up?  I could only guess one of three scenarios:  a)  He was really drunk when he got there and I didn’t notice b)  He drank his friend’s drinks as well as his when I wasn’t looking c)  He was on drugs.  Pobabaly all three.

Bout ten minutes later, he was back.  He appeared in the doorway, without his friend and swaing back and forth with that drunk-eyed expression.  I want my bag.

His friend had clearly ditched him.  I did not blame her.  He was back, looking for some mysterious bag he supposedly had when he came in there that contained his cell phone.  I did not remember him having a bag when he came in.  I helped him look all over the cafe and the patio.  He was unable to describe to me what this bag looked like, so I had no idea what he was looking for.  There was no abandoned bag.  He roamed around in circles and then gradually wandered out.

Ten minutes later, he was back. Bitch, stop hiding my bag. I’m from New York.
You’re going to have to leave. Your bag isn’t here. I didn’t even see you come in with one. You have to leave. If you come in again, I will call the police. Got it?
I used to work here. I’m from New York. Fuck you.

Get. Out.

He swayed defiantly, looking at me for more than a few minutes. A few of the regulars got up out of their seats to back me up, in case this dude was going to try anything. He eventually turned around and left.

Thirty minutes later, I was told by a customer coming in the cafe that Bobby Buckets was sleeping on the sidewalk outside of the cafe. And by sleeping, they meant passed the fuck out. Customers continued to come in, and I worked in the cafe alone leaving me unable to go and access the situation outside. Kyle went out to check it out for me. Sure enough, there he was right outside the building. He was passed out, face up and right on the sidewalk. He looked like he literally fell backwards onto the pavement, and it was under no mistake that he was fucked up.

Oregon has really strict laws when it comes to booze. Much different than when I poured liquor in California. For starts, anyone serving alcohol has to take an educational course and hold a permit and register with the OLCC (Oregon Liquor Control Commission). This education course includes everything from the legalities in which a bartender or establishment can be held to, how to identify and handle a visibly intoxicated person, how to check and identify fake ID cards, to the rules and regulations of personal conduct while serving alcohol to customers. The course is followed by a test, and you must pass with a certain percentage to get a license. You may not work as a bartender without one. When I started pouring booze in this state, I was told by friends that the OLCC does not fuck around. If they catch you violating any policy whatsoever, they could not only take your permit but will personally fine you. That means not only will you need to find another career, you’d better find one quick because now you’re heading towards bankruptcy. I was new to dealing with the OLCC, and was mindful of the horror stories that people had told me. This made me very concerned that I had a guy passed out in the front of the bar I was working at. This also made me afraid to call the cops. What if they took my license for over-serving? This was my only means for the moment. If they took my license, I could never do this type of work again and I had just started in this town. Now I know that I had nothing to be afraid of. I should have called the cops immediately. I didn’t know that then. This fear of the OLCC is the reason why everything happened the way it did. I asked Kyle to try and get him up off the ground and away from the building. I continued to help customers.

After a long while, Kyle returned. He said that he was able to wake him up and offered him a ride home to his house, wherever it was. He said he refused, and ended up running off down the street. Good. Gone.

Business continued on. A regular came in and told me that there was a guy on the side of the building who had ripped a tree branch down and was hitting cars with it.
No.

Kyle and 3 regulars went out to look as I helplessly stood behind the counter serving the line of waiting customers. What the fuck was going on outside? Literally nothing I could do. I sweated nervously, waiting for Kyle to come back in and tell me what was going on. Eventually, the group came back in. I was told the following happened:

He ripped our drainage pipe off the side of the building and was stabbing parked cars with it like a medieval jouster

He pulled an 8ft long tree branch down, leaves and all and was wielding it over his head like a fucked up flag as he was marching in the street screaming “bitch has my bag” and occasionally bringing it down on car hoods.

Laying down in the street, arms and legs spread akimbo while emitting various squeals and guttural noises.

Kyle and the regulars explained to me that several times they explained to him that if he just left this area and went somewhere else, there would be no trouble and everything would be fine. He refused. He had waged war upon me and the surrounding area, as I had stolen his bag. The gang assured him that I, in fact, did not have said bag and he needed to just go away. At one point, the argument between my regular (I’ll call “Eric”) became heated and Bobby spit in his face. Eric clocked him, and amazingly Bobby did not go down. After that, they came in to report what had happened. Bobby remained outside, dragging the branch through the street.

This is when the cops definitely should have been called. They should have been called the minute this fool took a booze-snooze on the concrete mattress. I know that now. Back then, I didn’t know that the cops side with the drinking establishments in situations such as these. I also worked for a privately-owned business. One of which where I personally knew the owners, and who were friends of mine. I didn’t want to bring any unnecessary problems, fines, or black marks onto their establishment. What if I got their liquor license taken away? What then? I also don’t trust cops in general, and prefer not to deal with them at all costs. Growing up in Fresno you learn that cops are not your friends, they don’t take your side, and dealing with them will almost always cost you a lot of money and even sometimes your freedom. I continued to try to control the situation. If this dude would just fucking leave, there would be no problem.

Customers came in. I had to serve them. Kyle went to see what was going on now. Bobby had abandoned the branch in the middle of the road, and snapped the windshield wipers off 3 of the parked cars and was throwing them like footballs at the side of the building. I dropped what I was doing and went outside.

I was fucking pissed. I ran up to him and started yelling.

What the fuck are you doing?

Give. Me. My. Bag.

You think if I had your bag, I wouldn’t just fucking give it to you so you’d leave? I don’t have it. It’s not here. You left it somewhere else. You need to leave. I’m going to call the cops. You will be arrested. You don’t want to go to jail. All you have to do is leave.

I’m not leaving without my bag.

What’s in this bag that’s worth more than going to jail?

My phone.

Buy a new one. You’ve vandalized property. At this point, a phone will cost far less than what you’ll be facing. Just leave. Do it. I’m giving you a chance of a lifetime.

By this point the cafe regulars had come to join me outside. They told him to go as well. He still stood there, defiant. He started arguing Eric again. It looked like it was going to turn into a brawl.

What happened next occurred so quickly, it’s almost hard to describe. Bobby ran from the side of the building to the front, which is on a very busy street lined with popular shops and restaurants. We have a very heavy, blackboard sandwich sign that sits on the sidewalk. Somehow, this scrawny kid picked it up and flung it in a huge arc right into the street. A speeding sedan plied the brakes, laying smoking rubber to a keep it from coming down on their hood and windshield. The car behind it had to swerve into the oncoming lane to avoid the suddenly stopped car. Miraculously, no one was hurt. Everyone stood, stunned. I needed to get to a phone and call the cops. I drug the sign out of the road so the cars would stop piling up. I ran inside to get my cell phone. We had a house phone, but it was an ancient piece of shit that barely worked and you couldn’t hear much more than static out of. Plus, my phone was closer. I ran around the bar and snatched it up.

Incredulously, two customers were queued up at the register waiting to be served. As I ran behind the bar, they tried to shout their order at me. I ignored them, and ran outside. One of my regulars was already on his cell with the cops. I called one of my owners. Bobby was screaming and yelling, flailing his arms and legs around like he was having a mental break in front of the store. My owner picked up. I shouted into the phone as best I could over the phone what was happening over the chaos. He said he was coming.

Bobby stopped flailing and suddenly darted in full sprint into the store. I pushed everyone out of the way and followed him in. He’d sprinted to the back patio. I grabbed the first weapon-like object I could find: a broom. I chased him in a circle off the patio and back into the store. He suddenly stopped dead in his tracks and faced me. Eric was next to me.

I don’t like you. You are mean, and you wear way too much makeup.

He reached over and grabbed a bottle of French’s yellow mustard from the nearby counter. I knew what was going to happen. I yelled no and threw my hand up in defense. Eric did not foresee, unfortunately. Bobby began squirting the mustard. First, all over Eric. In his face, his hair. Eric fell away, trying to wipe mustard out of his eyes. Bobby then began squirting the windows, the walls, the floor…. I ran at him to get it away from him. He emptied the rest of the bottle down onto my face and hair, then chucked the it down as hard and fast as he could onto my cheekbone and nose. My eyes instantly watered up and I couldn’t see. I staggered, trying to recover. By the time I could see again, the cops were there and arresting him. I wiped off my face with a bar towel and went outside.

The minute the cops touched him, bobby began to scream and wail at the top of his lungs. He didn’t stop. To say it was a spectacle would be an understatement. By this time, everyone from those stores and restaurants had come out and were lining the street to watch the show. Two cops and an OLCC representative wanted to interview me. I was completely freaked out. They asked me what happened. I told them everything from the moment he first walked in. They asked me several times how many drinks I served him. I told them, and also mentioned that he had paid with a debit card, and could show them the receipt as proof that he was only served two drinks. They asked to see it as well as my ID and liquor license. I took them inside and provided it for them. They looked at those as well as the mustard mess all over the inside of the building. My hair was matted against the side of my cheek, coated and reeking of mustard. I wanted to puke. Bobby was still screaming outside, bent over the cop car hood with his hands handcuffed behind his back. They took my information and thanked me for calling them. That was it.

I stood outside and watched as bobby decided to put a nail in his coffin by suddenly spazzing out and resisting arrest as the cops tried to guide him into the cop car. The largest, most terrifying wall of a man eased himself out of one of the back up cars and slowly walked over to Bobby that was flailing like a fish. With one beefy arm, he drug bobby up like a rag doll and popped him in the car. Bobby fell in silent amazement as the car door slammed. He began beating his head on the window in a rhythmic pattern. His current charges now included vandalism, assault (because of the spitting), public intoxication, trespassing (as I was later to find out, he had along ago been 86’d from this establishment) as well as resisting arrest. All he had to do was walk away. Hell, Kyle even offered to give him a ride home.   You want to feel sorry for someone like that.  Someone with a clear problem with either substace abuse, mental illnss or perhaps both.  You want to, but you just cant.  I had given him so many chances to avoid this outcome. The cops drove off. The owner showed up as I was mopping the mustard off of the windows. Eric was in the bathroom rinsing his hair and beard in the sink. I started to try and tell him what happened.

After

It turns out bobby is a notorious character in these parts, and had been 86’d at most establishments for similar erratic behavior. Apparently, he’s a deeply disturbed individual with a drug habit. That may be why he was so reluctant to take off without his bag that day. I also found out his nickname: Bobby Buckets. That wasn’t his real name, but what everyone called him. Not sure why. No one could say. At the Black Cat alone, he was 86’d previously for spazzing out, becoming violent, stealing, etc. Also, bizarre behavior such as pulling the bus tub down off of the counter and squatting in it while meowing like a cat. I felt like such a jackass for not just calling the cops when shit started to go south that day. Valuable lesson learned.

The cops and the OLCC came by two more times to interview me after the incident. They informed me that all charges were going to be pressed that were up against him. All of the people who’s wipers got snapped off of their cars were suing for property damage. My owner chose not to press any charges, as well as myself. Eric declined to press assault charges, as he had pending warrants and didn’t want anything to do with talking to the cops. Kyle and I were both subpoenaed to testify in court.

No one took a video of anything that happened. It all happened so fast and everything was so dramatic, I suppose no one thought to. I know I didn’t. No record of anything that happened….save one pic. Kyle got one glorious pic of bobby passed out on the sidewalk. The day after it all happened, he posted this to my Facebook wall:

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That night, I took the picture he sent me and decided to memorialize bobby in the proper way. I give you the Black Cat employee of the month:

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Bagby Hot Springs

1 Dec

There are many stark contrasts between living in Portland vs living in Fresno.  That, in and of itself could be its own essay. For this story, I’ll focus on just one of these differences.  Portland is surrounded by beautiful nature, and for the most part those that live here make efforts to get out and enjoy it.  Especially true in the summer months.  After being here for over 3 years now, I have discovered that the very best thing you can possibly do with a summer day is organize a group of friends and head to the river.  Any of them.  Friends and acquaintances are eager to join in, especially if you have a car to get there.  When I lived in Fresno, I rarely heard of friends heading out to do outdoorsy things.  The summers were unbearably hot, spring lasted about 5 days, and everyone hibernated for the winter.  Summer days in Fresno were best spent driving the two + hours to the gorgeous California coast.  If not that, then you could drag yourself to the mall or the movie theatre and enjoy some free air conditioning.  After moving to Portland, I slowly adjusted to the idea of nature activities.  Friends did them rain, shine, summer or dead of winter.  Certain activities are on a “must do ” list if you live here, such as Multnomah Falls, The Gorge, a summer day spent at the Bluffs, floating down the Sandy river, etc.  I’ve been slowly checking these off my bucket list as time allows.  Each one of these attractions have lived up to the hype and have been beautiful and memorable.  This story is about the one thing that everyone said I must do, that turned out to be the most bizarre and uncomfortable experiences of my life.  How can nature possibly be uncomfortable?  Read on.

Most of my friends who live here have mentioned going to the hot springs.  It was apparently a quick day trip from Portland, and was a relaxing and rejuvenating thing to do with friends.  I had never been to a natural hot springs before. I’ve never seen one, much less heard of anyone who went to one regularly.  It sounded really nice.  It also sounded like getting to Bagby Hot springs was relatively easy and not too far away.  One night I was out with a group of friends at a bar, having a few cocktails.  It was about last call, and a friend and his boyfriend left to go to the hot springs at 2 am to round out their night.  Especially in the light of that I figured it was probably right off the freeway and very easily accessible.  Even though a lot of my friends have been/go frequently no one really had anything to say about it except to try not to at night because the scene gets a little “nude” after dark.  I also heard that the water is piped into tubs for bathing, rather than it just being an open body of water.  I didn’t really know what that meant, but whatever.  still sounded interesting.

Ross and I had the day off, which was rare.  It was a surprisingly sunny November Sunday.  One in which a coat isn’t necessary.  That alone is a miracle.  We took our time around the house, went to brunch on a Groupon, then decided to finally do Bagby.  It was a gorgeous day, probably the last one we’d see in at least 6 months.   The weather was that magical mix of not too cold, yet crisp enough that a hot spring would be perfect.  Well, from what I could guess.  I didn’t really know how warm the spring would actually be.  They call it a hot spring, not a warm spring so I guessed it would be warm enough to hang out in.  We brought Ham, not really putting in any thought about weather or not dogs were necessarily “allowed”.  Considering the warnings of what goes on there after dark, I assumed it was an unmonitored area and bringing a dog would be completely okay.  Leaving her at home on a day such as this while we were embarking on outdoors activities seemed like dog abuse anyway.

I hate the tradition of “Portland brunch”, but I like the liquid part
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The directions to Bagby are vague.  This is pulled from the official website:

Bagby Hot Springs is located about 45 minutes South East of Estacada, Oregon. After the beautiful drive up the Clackamas River Basin on Hwy 224, you turn South and follow the Collawash River. There is a parking lot and campground located at the trailhead bearing the name “Bagby Trailhead”. The campground is to the left when entering the parking lot and is commonly known as “Nohorn Campground”. The only services at the trailhead are two outhouses.
“Follow the river”.  It doesn’t say for how long.  In fact, it makes it seem like its right off the 224.  Sounds simple enough.  We left Portland at about 2:30pm.  We hit Estacada at about 3:30.  If the town Estacada sounds familiar to you, its because I have a previous post from this town called “The greatest bar EVER”.  Sadly, the Safari Club has since shut its doors.    We drove by its former shell and looked at its current state.  Across the road there was a second-hand store that was open.  Since the sun was still championing on and not a cloud in site, we reasoned we had time to stop in.  30 minutes of picking though the owner’s impressive and bizarre collection of crap and were back on the road, turning South to follow the river.

This is the picture of the hot springs taken from the website. Looks magical.
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Had we known, we would have surely purchased a map.  A good, old fashioned, GPS doesn’t disappear, paper map made by Cartologists.  I had brought up directions on my phone, and “following the river” was for miles.  Miles upon miles.  There were also turns.  Ones definitely NOT mentioned on the website.  As we travelled along the river, I lost phone service.  I had the route plotted on the virtual map on my screen, but lost the dot to know where we were, precisely.  Also, I couldn’t zoom in to see details or markers.  When I did, the phone glitched.  We just kept driving, all the while feeling like we’d passed it.  How much farther?  When do we start looking for these turns?  Before I had a smart phone, I would always use paper maps, and I had this overwhelming sense of their timeless value at that moment.  After a few wrong turns, guessing where to go based on where other cars were going, and dumb luck we eventually approached a 8×10 wooden sign pointing to the parking lot of the camp.

Ham was absolutely dying to get out of that car.  The sun was setting.  There were a lot of other cars there, as well as a hand full of people getting out of their cars at the same time.  It was oddly comforting to see that this many other people found it completely reasonable to go to the hot springs at 5 pm on a Sunday.  With the sun slipping down, however I couldn’t help but look around at these people and wonder if in a few short minutes I’d be forced to see them naked.  We got out our supply bag that consisted of bathing suits, towels, bottled water, wine (important), and poop bags (dog, not human-related).  We did not have a flashlight.  In our defense, we thought this would be day trip.

From the parking lot to the campsite is about a 2 mile hike.  I know this now.  At the time. I had no idea.  No one mentioned the hike.  As we walked down the trail the sun slipped further and further down behind the tree line of the forest.  It was getting dark.  There was no getting around it.  There was no turning round at this point.  We had come so far.  We travelled on, Ham leading us with no flashlight.  Two miles isn’t really that far.  I’ve easily walked that running errands around town in no time.  There’s a sort of illusion in regards to time.  The way to something always seems longer than the way back.  This is especially true if you have no idea when or where your end point is.  It could be in 2 yards, or two more miles.  There were no markers or indications.  Occasional groups of people passed by going the opposite direction.  Everything about this seemed so strange and completely out of my character.  One of those situations where you are fully aware that this is a bad idea, but things are already too far set in motion.  The sun finally set, and we were in darkness.  Thankfully, Ross had previously put a flashlight App on his phone. Mine was useless.  The faint glow of the iphone screen did nothing.     We used the app for the last leg of our hike.  The scope of the light coming from the phone yeilded a small spotlight to guide us.  I tripped and stumbled along on the uneven ground.  We passed two guys going the opposite way, and out of desperation I asked them how much farther.  They said it was right over this hill.  Thank fucking god.

The campsite had an official park sign, and a low wood fence lining it.  There were no lights provided.  Not only that, after shining our tiny pin light around the area it was evident that no one else had any light source either.  Not one person.  No flashlight, no lantern, not shit.  we entered though the opening in the fence, and walked toward the lone structure standing in the darkness.  As we approached, I was taken aback with how many people were here.  There were 50, if not more.  Again, Not one of them with a light, all of them wandering around in complete darkness in the middle of a dense forest.

My eyes might as well had been closed for this entire experience.  That’s exactly how much visibility I had.  Ross led the way with the phone light, I stumbled and tripped along behind him, holding on to the back of his sweatshirt in one hand and Ham’s leash in the other.  For how many fucking people there were, it was oddly quiet.  People were murmuring in hushed tones, or passing by us in complete silence.  We reached the main destination, which was 3 wooden steps that I nearly face-planted on leading up to a wooden shack.  There were people milling all about, and it was very confusing to make out what the hell was going on.  The shack had multiple doors that lead to individual rooms.  On the porch was a picnic table, with people sitting on it.  As we approached the first door, five people were leaving the room and told us we could have it because it was too small for them.  We had no idea what they meant, but we took the room.

The 12 x12 room was made entirely of wood, and was completely wet on all four walls and floor.  There was a long tub carved out of a tree trunk lining the wall, a narrow bench coming out of the opposite to sit on.  The door to the room was a swinging wooden one, saloon style.  The roof was open to the night sky.  We stood in the middle of this room, wondering what the hell we were supposed to do next.  The tub was empty.  There was a spout coming out of the wall made of bamboo aimed into the tub.  A small trickle of hot water was dribbling out.   We shined the light into the tub, and saw that someone had shoved a pink and black striped sock with a knot tied in the middle into a hole in the bottom that served as a drain.  We stood there, looking at this with question marks over our heads for a good 5 minutes trying to piece together what to do.  Surely we aren’t to wait for the tub to fill up from this trickle.  It would take all night at that rate, if not longer.  People kept opening our swinging door to see if our room was occupied.  it became clear that we lucked out on getting this room.  All those people sitting on that picnic bench were actually in line waiting for rooms, and we essentially cut without knowing.  Ross told me to stay with the room.  He was going to take the light and see what other people were doing as far as getting water into their tubs.

The room, in all its glory.
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The pipe system leading into the tub.
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I stood in darkness in the center of this room.  Ham was in complete distress.  Before too long, I realized that she felt wetness, saw a giant tub, and thought she was going to get a bath.  Ham hates baths.  She won’t enter the bathroom at home unless carried in.  She could not be calm, and kept trying to run under the gap of the swinging door.  I couldn’t see anything, now that the light was gone.  I kept feeling Ham pulling at the leash and her nails scraping against the wood.  It was cold.  Fuck that.  It was Oregon, in the winter, high altitude cold.  Ross came back to the room.  He said people were hauling water to their tubs with buckets, but the water source he saw everyone going to was ice cold.  We stood in silence for a few minutes, trying to decide what to do.  Ice cold water?  Fuck that bullshit.  I was cold, uncomfortable, and tired.  I was ready to just say fuck it and go home.  Ham was still in a frenzy, and could not be consoled.

A man swung open our door.  He asked if he could come in and show his daughter what our room looked like.  Without our consent, he came right on in, holding the hand of a terrified-looking teenage girl.  They stood in the center of our room in silence for a good 5 minutes.  They eventually left, still holding hands.  Right after them, another man came in asking us if we were getting any water in our tub.  We said that we weren’t and with the aid of our light, he set in to investigate.  At first I though maybe he was park maintenance, but soon I deduced that he was just a regular.  The guy determined that there was a clog in the piping system.  The way its supposed to work, is water flows freely into the tubs.  We came on an unlucky day where shit wasn’t working.  He said the other side of the shack was getting water, but not this one.  The regular left our room and went about investigating the plumbing system.  A group of kids threw open our door and asked if we were sticking around.  This shit was surreal.

The door.
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Two buckets were sitting outside our swinging door.  I touched one of them and felt that the plastic was warm.  They are getting hot water from somewhere.  I had ross feel it.  He left me in the room to go try and discover where we could get the hot water from.  I sat in the darkness again.  The ledge to sit on protruded from the wall about 4 inches.  I balanced one butt cheek on it and crouched on the wet wood.  Over the wall in one of the other mysterious cabins came the sounds of a man having sex.  Long, guttural moans with the occasional  oh yeah wafted into my room.  There was no sounds of any partner, so I’m only to assume he was enjoying himself solo.  Ham continued to try and run out of the room.

Ross returned with two buckets full of piping hot water.  After traipsing in the dark and getting lost, he found an open hot spring near the shack that people were dipping their buckets into and filling from.  He decided he was going to do this.  Carrying two 10 gallon buckets in either hand full of water up a hill is hard-ass labor.  He would have to do all the work, as I have scoliosis and have a difficult time carrying a sack of potatoes these days.  He was on a mission, however.  We came all this way.  I sat with the light on his phone in the room and waited.   I could finally have a look around.  There was graffiti on every inch of the walls.  That, combined with the cold and the wet made me feel like I was in a serial killer’s tool shed, awaiting my slaughter.  The sex man was crescendoing.  I decided to put on some music from the phone.

The walls, from what I could see.
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This is fun.
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With the light and music on in our room, people stopped coming in.  Ham was shivering and terrified.  I pulled out one of the towels we brought and wadded it up for her to lay on.  she ran to it gratefully and finally settled down a tiny bit.  Ross was making trip after trip with buckets of water, but the tub was slow to fill.  I shivered.  I pulled out the bottle of wine I brought and started chugging to keep warm.  Elliot Smith came on the playlist and I could hear someone a couple of rooms over singing along.  Between trips, Ross said there was a woman in her late 50’s walking around outside completely nude and smoking a joint.  I peeked out my door and indeed saw a nude figure wandering around, talking to strangers passing by.  It was 27 degrees.  Ross kept referring to her as “The shining” lady.  I asked if it was the lady coming out of the bathtub before or after Jack Nicholson  makes out with her.  He said “What do you think?”  After nearly an hour, the tub was a little over half full.  He was tired.  I said lets just get in.

dog abuse.
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We had brought our suits.  The thought of hauling freezing, wet garments with us for the two miles back to the car seemed unbearable.  we decided to just get in naked.  I’m not sure if I’ve ever experienced “nude in the Oregon forest” cold before.  Ham’s towel she was laying on had soaked though from the moisture on the ground.  I wadded up my coat for her and she happily settled in on that.  I felt so bad for bringing her.

I got in the tub.  It was warm enough.  Almost too warm.  Its amazing how hot the water was.  We now realized why there was cold AND hot water.  You’re supposed to mix it.  Ross got dressed again and decided to go get more water to fill the tub.  I sat there, naked and pretty fucking vulnerable.  Anyone could push the door open.  Not that nudity here seemed to be a huge concern.  I’ve never been one of those “proud of my body” people.  I drew my knees up to my chest, watched the door, and chugged the wine.  There were little kids running around, families, naked women, sex dudes, and lord knows what else here all mixing it up with each other.  What kind of fucking place is this?  What if some fucking wierdo comes in this room right now and refuses to leave?  What if another creepy daddy/daughter duo wants to “tour my room”?  There is no reason in the world I should be involved in a scenario such as this.  I am not this person.  After 30 more minutes of filling and the door swinging open and shut the tub was a little more full and Ross finally got in.

I’m just going to say this and get it out of the way.  There was nothing sexy, romantic or comfortable about this experience.  This is not a sexy time, in any stretch of the imagination.  Thank goodness I was here with someone I have been with for years.  I would be absolutely mortified if I had come here on a date with someone.  In fact, I think if I had had this experience with someone I had even been dating as long as a year it would mark the end of the relationship.  The tub was narrow and long.  Long enough that we were able to lay in it on opposite ends and our feet didn’t touch.  The inside of the tub was rough and twigs and branches snarled out of the bottom surface making for a rather uncomfortable seat.  I also had the pleasure of the stranger’s sock smashed into my right butt cheek.  Lord knows where that sock has been, how long its been here or what organisms are growing within it.  Best not to think about it.  The water was NOT rejuvenating.  It stank of sulfur, and had a murky quality to it that left a film on your skin and stung in any cuts you may have.  I was afraid to rub my face with my wet hands.  Frankly, I was concerned about my various orifices being submerged in this liquid.  We tried to lay back and enjoy the night sky overhead.  My legs began to itch. The water was filled with unknown “floaties” that I couldn’t see but could feel. Something squishy passed through my fingers.  We looked at each other, and without so much as a word got out of the tub after a maximum of 5 minutes of soaking.

A picture to commemorate the first and very LAST time I will be nude in public.

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There are few things as cold as ” step out of the piping hot tub into 20-something degree weather wet and naked” cold.  We only had one dry towel now, so we had to share it.  I don’t think I’ve ever dressed that fast in my life.  My coat was completely soaked from being on the ground, but It was worth it for Ham to be comfortable.  I put that on, gathered our things and we left our room.  A couple was standing outside our door.  We told them they could have it, and the water was just put in.  Fucking gross, dude.  Communal stank water that people may or may not have just fucked in.   As we left, the crowd of people hanging out there seemed to double.  How and why?   And still not one person had a proper light.  We escaped this weird scene and began the long hike back to the car.

After about halfway into the walk back, the inevitable happened:  Ross’ phone died.  The light app as wellthe music playing to muffle out our neighbor’s sex-sounds really drained the battery.  We stood in complete darkness.  To the right was the sound of the river, above that we knew there was a cliff and a drop off down to it.  The trail was marked with an edging of rocks and sticks.  I’ve heard dogs can see in the dark…  our choices were a) allow ham to lead us in pitch blackness with the possibility of us wandering the wrong way off a cliff (not to mention tripping and falling) or b) crawling on our hands and knees for the next mile, using the rock and sticks on the edge of the trail as our guide.  We stood in silence.  I stooped down to test the crawling theory.  The sound of the river below was so loud at that moment, and all I could think of was tumbling down it to my death.  This is how we fucking die.  This is no fucking joke and we are fucked.

Moments before disaster struck.
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Before we could even speak to each other and begin to formulate our next move, off in the distance a blue LCD  light was bobbing in the trees.   It approached, and with it a group of 10 or so people quickly walking single-file down the trail in the direction of the parking lot.  Can we walk with you?   Our light died.  We followed this group that marched in silence.  We are so god dammed lucky.  As we neared the parking lot, we discovered that our entire group was made up of people who didn’t bring a flashlight/light source died that the leader with the LCD light had picked up along the trail.  That guy must have thought we were all a bunch of fucking idiots. We WERE a bunch of fucking idiots.  Who heads in to the deep woods after dark without a fucking light source?  Apparently everyone.

We got back to Portland at near 10pm.  Starving, stinky, cold, wet.  I’ve relayed this story to a few friends, and they are completely shocked by my experience..  Not one person had a negative story to share with me and all described everything as nothing short as “magical”.  For me, Bagby was about as magical as squatting nude in a trench in winter, while being forced to be intimate with strangers.  It will take a lot of convincing to give this another try. It was like everything I hate converged in one experience: Hippies, naked people, strangers having sex, dirt, cold, and blindness. I’m not sure who this experience if for, actually. Apparently the 50+ folks waiting in the freezing cold and darkness at all hours. I failed in getting a picture of The Shining lady for you guys. Apologies.

Y’all want to smoke a doobie?
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Live, Professional Wrestling!

17 Feb

I live in one of the least-gentrified areas of this town.  Called St. Johns, its a small burrow in the North part of the city, mostly undisturbed by the great hipster insurgence.  Here you will find watering holes offering no frills, filled with grizzled locals pouring no sort of liquors with “infusions” and don’t have any manner of “ambiance” or “philosophy”.*  The eateries are few, but reliable.  Nothing fancy.*  The entire stretch of it is about the size of the Tower District in Fresno, but even less hip than that.  With this lack of progression in this area, there exists a ton of weirdness, quirkiness, and plain out oddities.  There is a diner that hasn’t been updated since the 60’s that is one half eatery, one half ancient thrift store packed with dusty knitting sets and faded Avon products.  Down the street is a bar where its not uncommon to see the homeless gathered inside-shopping carts and all.  Its also somehow home to the best pizza cart in town, as well as a mostly-undiscovered great record store.

Most people know St. Johns by Cathedral Park.  For lack of better words, its fucking beautiful.  You can walk along the edge of the Willamatte river underneath one of the most visually-striking bridges ever built.  There is not one Portlander that owns an iphone that doesn’t have a picture of that bridge on it.  There is something really magical about walking though that park.

A shot of the bridge that doesn’t do it justice.
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A magical day with friends and dogs.  Its safe to say my back-yard may be better than yours.
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I’ve grown to love my neighborhood, and will miss it terribly the day I move.  Unfortunately, moving is nearly inevitable as I plan on working toward a lifestyle of using my car as least as possible.  The one flaw of living in St. Johns is its cut off from the convenient MAX line, and pretty much anyone we know.  No friends ever want to come out and visit.  My dream of living here is to be in walking-distance of things and live on the MAX so I can take it to work daily and also take it out on drinking nights.  Yes, there are two bus lines that run regularly through the neighborhood.  Its not bad, but the most frequent line makes so many stops, it takes an hour and a half to get to downtown where I work.  Shit, its something but living near a MAX would be the most ideal.  I’m completely out of my comfort zone here in Portland, and I hate to drive in this town.  If I had the option of walking or driving, I choose walk.  I hate the idea of driving somewhere within a mile, rather than just walking there which was so often the norm in California.  Also, like most larger cities, finding parking is a real bitch.  To free myself from the burden of a car is my ultimate goal.  I should probably mention that I don’t know how to ride a bike.  I grew up in the ghetto, and it wasn’t safe to let children ride bikes around, or play in their front yards for that matter.  I never learned, and now as an adult its a difficult task to take on.  I’ve made a few attempts, but without success.  Its ironic that I should end up living in one of the most  bike-friendliest cities and not be able to partake.  Its probably for the best.  I’m accident prone, clumsy, and generally lack street-smarts, so putting me out there in traffic with cars is probably not the best idea anyway.

On the outskirts of St. Johns is an Eagles Lodge.  If you’ve never heard of a “Lodge” and what it is, it can pretty much be likened to The Boy Scouts but for men. Usually war veterans. well, maybe more accurately described as a frat house for seniors. My dad and grandpa both belonged to a “Moose Lodge”.  I remember going to a family dinner night at one when I was about 6.  It was dark, scary, and confusing as a child.  I suppose its a dying thing, a relic of our past. Even so, they still exist. The one in my hood sits prominently on Lombard, the road that leads into St. Johns. Its one of those buildings I would have never noticed, save they host a really interesting rummage sale in their parking lot on good weather days. In addition, there is a sign they place out on Sundays advertising “Live Pro Wrestling-Here!  Tonight!”  After two years of passing this sign, I eventually became really, really curious.  I’ve never been to a wrestling match, professional or otherwise.  I know a lot of people get really, really in to it.  I also knew that if it was in St. Johns, it would probably be very weird.  Also probably very white-trash.  No need to be offended.  I’m white-trash myself.  Well, maybe you could say I have strong white-trash roots.  We had always talked about checking it out one night, my friends and I, but we never really had any particular reason to go. Finally, we had that reason.  We were at a bar in St. Johns for a birthday, and on the tv screen was a live television broadcast of the match.  It was EPIC.  Fake wrestling moves, trashy round-card girls, toothless audience members in attendance…everything I dreamed it would be.  We watched in awe for about a half hour, and made a pact then and there to go to one of the matches as soon as possible.

That day rapidly approached.  I had a Sunday off.  I started trying to do some internet research to see what time it started and how much it cost.  There was absolutely nothing online about it.  NOTHING.  I mean, I suppose it makes sense. I couldn’t imagine the event coordinator of the lodge to be on the cutting edge of internet technology. I’d be surprised if I saw a cordless phone inside one. The week leading up to that Sunday I didn’t work, I took to asking strangers in the street about it as I walked Ham. Everyone I asked had heard of it, they just didn’t know when or how much. I supposed I could just show up at 7 and hope for the best. Finally, one day I found a flier at that diner I mentioned before, with all the weird thrift store crap in the back of it for the wrestling.

It did, in fact start at 7. It also cost $10. That was actually, a little more expensive than I was thinking it would be. I couldn’t back out now. I had already built this event up in my mind to be the most interesting adventure I could ever get in to in my neighborhood. I tried to rally the friends, but all became instantly disinterested when I mentioned the cost. I suppose I didn’t blame them. No matter, Ross and Zach were still down.

Ross was off that night at 7, Zach and I had the day off. It would be perfect. We would pick him up, head straight there and arrive with it in full swing. Zach and I resolved that we would get drunk. I mean, how else do you view a Sunday night Wrestling match in an Eagle’s Lodge? We also weren’t 100% sure they would be serving liquor when we got there.  I can’t speak for the guys, but this is one event I don’t think I could enjoy on any level without a few drinks in me. We went to the Burrito House, and had about 2 too many drinks a piece. By the time Ross walked over, we were ready to wrestle.

We arrived, and the lot was full. We walked the perimeter of the building and couldn’t determine an entrance. Two girls smoking beneath the light from an overhead lamp eyed us very suspiciously. I asked them how to get in, and they reluctantly pointed out the entrance. We entered though an unmarked steel door, propped open by a metal folding chair.

So many promises inside.
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We entered, and I had to blink a few times to take it all in. It was similar to an elementary school gym. There was a ring in the center, ropes and all. Situated in a large square around the edge of the ring were long folding tables and cafeteria chairs. At the back of the room was a snack bar, complete with workers donning plastic gloves and shower caps. In the ring there were two men, semi-costumed performing a laughable dance of choreographed “wrestling” while a full house of patrons looked on. It was better than I could have even imagined.  

What does one wear to a professional wrestling match? That’s a good question. Like with most events I attend, the perfect outfit for the occasion is very important. I think tonight’s choice was spot-on.

Eye of the tiger.
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It was now time for me to size up the event. I did a slow walk around the edge of the seats, taking everything and everyone in. In the background, men with mullets and wifebeaters with permanent marker sprawled across them tossed each other around at a comically leisurely pace. The floor of the ring itself was made of some sort of material that made a very loud smack when struck.  Designed to make body slams and suck more dramatic, it actually made the obviously bad choreography look sillier.  The crowd appeared…bored for a lack of a better word. There was very little talking, just blank stares at the ring. More children than I expected were here. Like, I could liken it to a Wal-Mart on Saturday afternoon. Kids tore by me, completely uninterested in the match and absorbed in their own entertainments. After a girl in a Garfield nightgown stomped on my foot as she galloped past me, chasing a boy with an impressive rat-tail I knew it was time to determine if this joint was dry or not. I looked around and saw no adult holding any cups. Fuck. A silver-haired man standing alone noticed me looking around. He smiled at me, inviting me to ask him a question, should I need to with his open expression. I asked if there were booze. He smiled a mischievous smile and assured me that they in fact do. He pointed to a doorway I hadn’t seen before, on account of the men with capes fashioned from Glad bags obstructing my view.

I made my way through the door, and discovered it was where the “performers” (athletes?) warmed up and entered into the arena to “fight”. Men in leotards were doing deep stretches in the corner, and working out routines to do with one another when they got out there. Children were also crawling on the floors, seemingly unattended. Well, that’s not fair. They could have been children of the performers. A girl sat alone at a table, coloring. Indeed there was a full bar. Behind it, was the most comically sweet little old lady.

I was wrong! There’s a cordless phone right there!
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Normally, I’d be ordering a Greyhound or a glass of wine. I was feeling a bit sluggish(on account of all the margaritas and shots of Fireball consumed earlier), and since they had a gigantic Red Bull case I figured I go with that unlikely choice tonight. I ordered a Vodka-Red Bull. My bartender cocked one eye at me, and turned to get my drink. She turned back around, placed a can of Red Bull and a pour of vodka in a shot glass next to it on the bar. Still skeptical, she said I owed her $2.50. I stifled a laugh, and asked for a glass of ice. She obliged, and watched as I mixed the two. She apologized and said she didn’t realize I wanted them together. I told her not to worry about it all, especially since you can’t even get out of a dive bar with that drink for less than $7. She said she had never heard of it. I was incredulous, but charmed. About that time, Zach appeared at my side impressed that I had found the bar so fast. Ross was apparently wandering around, sober. Poor guy. I asked our bartender what time the wresting went until. She let me know 8:30. That’s right, this shit only went on for an hour and a half. I looked at my phone. We had 40 minutes.

After Zach got his beer, we turned around to take in the backstage performers. We both spied a pair of what looked like bumblebee- costumed gentlemen stretching out. We decided that we needed to take a picture with them. I approached them and asked. They told me “not right now”. We walked away insulted. Who the hell do they think they are? We decided to leave the area, after being rejected, and go find Ross. As we crossed the threshold into the arena, the two men that we had just approached burst past us into the crowd in a fake fight to the ring. We then realized that were distracting them from the act. We laughed and watched the action, no longer offended.

We had a lot to see, in a short amount of time. I put the guys on taking pictures as well. We split up and tried to get into it. It was hard to fit in. It was about this time, there was a raffle. I have to mention this raffle. We did not receive tickets, as I’m guessing they were handed out early and before we showed up. That sort of made me mad, as you may know by now that I love to win shit. That being said, it was hilarious to watch. A child came out to hold up each prize as they were announced. As the winner was called, she would run them to the person and collect their tickets. The prizes consisted of coffee cups, dish towels, and the best prize of all-an apple pie furnished by that diner with the thrift crap and the dusty Avon products in it. It was a pretty good-looking pie.

We had about 20 minutes left, after the raffle. We spent it watching a match where apparently some sort of winner was announced (based on what, I have no damned clue), and a belt awarded. After, there were mini matches and the wrestlers came to mingle with the crowd. They took pictures with fans and signed autographs. It was the liveliest part of the night.

The grand prize, in all its glory.
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Behold! The champion!
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I call him “Duck Fire”!
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This guy was a really cool.
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Fun for the whole family.
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YUP.
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The bar as you walk in. Complete with feral child.
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Crowd and haircut.
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The announcer in his slick-ass suit.
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I’m not sure who this guy was. He didn’t wrestle. I asked if I could take a picture with him and he said it would cost $25. Ok, Vin Diesel. He was about 4″5, BTW.
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Merch booth.
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Me and the champion. He really was the nicest guy.
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We weren’t the only ones memorializing the event.
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Drama.
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Thugin’
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The day-care center.
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Sweet pants.
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And now, some fight scenes…
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The A.V. Department.
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Rallying the crowd.
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The snack bar.
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Round card girl.
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Just a man’s ass in a thong getting flipped in the air…
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This kid gave zero fucks.
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Mingling with the crowd.
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Paparazzi.
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Playing independently, apparently
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Drop-kick in a leather coat.
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This pretty much sums up the experience.

Some shots of the action, at a clear distance. Also, Zach.

With 8:30 upon us, the night was at a close. People were gathering their children, Raiders jackets, and Rascal scooters. I couldn’t help but wonder about the lives of the wrestlers and how this whole thing worked. Were the same guys here every week, or would a new group come into town and this group go on to the next? Since I could find no information about the event online, it was impossible to research. I knew I’d probably never come to another one, so I wouldn’t be able to see if the characters were familiar or not. Was it entertaining? Yes, but not in the way it was supposed to be. I enjoyed watching the crowd more than the actual match. $10 was a bit steep, but I suppose the money goes toward the travel expenses if they do indeed have to travel.

I left not being any more a fan of the sport than when I arrived. I actually was left with more questions. Who are these men? Is this their only source of income or are they Radio Shack Assistant Managers by day? Do the round-card girls travel with them, or do they source them locally? Why was the building packed, yet no one seemed to enjoy the match? Why was an 8 year-old girl announcing the raffle? Why were there so many kids unattended by the liquor? Seriously, no one has ever ordered a vodka-red bull there before? Why is there no internet info, when the church thrift store down the street ran by old ladies manages to have a Facebook page? Do they have groupies and if so, can you point them out to me? How do people become fans of certain wrestlers, when there again is no online info? It was all so bizarre, and I was no closer in understanding the culture as I had been before I entered it. All I can leave with is Damn live professional wrestling, you even out white-trashed me.

*Since writing this, a new bar has opened up in my hood.  Its an upscale cocktail bar with drinks that take a good 6 minutes to craft and they even offer the artisan ice program that has been all the rage as of late (in short, cubes hand cut from blocks of ice that are designed to not water down your drink.  Yes, this is a thing here).  Its actually kind of cool having this new bar here, but its also a ominous sign.  The least gentrified area is coming to an end as we know it.  With a destination cocktail bar, a new eatery that is on every foodie blog as a “must eat”, as well as the best pizza cart in town…the writing is on the wall.  Soon the rent will jump, and the fixies will appear.  Its not a bad thing.  I moved here for all that crap.  Its only sad to say goodbye to the one area of town that reminds me most of home.

The Most Un-Traditional Xmas Eve

14 Nov

Prologue

If you happen to find yourself on Xmas eve, as an adult, without any family, nor a spouse and/or children such as myself your holiday may be a little non-traditional.  My holiday began to be less about family dinner and gifts the year after my mom died.  My family has always been small.  It was just me, my dad and my mom.  We were estranged from many of our extended family, for good reasons.  The bad thing about having such a small home is that you can find yourself losing it all so much easier.   Mom passed away in September of ’01.  I was 22 years old.  Clearly not a child anymore.  My father’s heart was permanently broken, and couldn’t bear to face the holidays any longer.  Rather than face both Thanksgiving and Christmas, he chose to leave for Reno on a gambling trip with a friend of his who was also without family.  He never asked me if I was okay with this, but I suppose I was.

Mom died in September of that year, and Thanksgiving was right around the corner.  I went to our usual gathering at my mom’s best friend’s house.  This group of people were not blood related to me, but I knew this group as family.  I had known them my entire life.  I called members of it “aunt” and “uncle”, “cousin”, etc.  I showed up for Thanksgiving dinner, like I always would with my boyfriend in tow.  It was awkward.  Mostly because I was awkward.  Also because no one knew what to say to me or how to act.  This is a normal reaction.  I don’t blame anyone for not knowing how to interact with me.  If I were in their shoes, I wouldn’t know either.  Most asked me how I was doing, and all wanted to share stories about my mom and how much she’d be missed.  It was too much for me.  To be in this very familiar setting I’ve known my entire childhood made her absence and my loss all the more obvious.  I felt strangled by everyone’s sympathy and the ghost of my mother clinging right behind me.  I pretended to take a phone call and left without a word.  It was all too much, too soon.

Soon after, Xmas rolled around.  Dad appeared in my doorway the first week of December and told me he would be out of town for the holiday.  He was near tears when he told me this, and I knew he was dealing with his own journey with grief, one I couldn’t possibly understand.  He went out of town every year after that for both Thanksgiving and Xmas until he died too.  I began my own traditions. My favorites are doing anything non-traditional like seeing a horror movie and chinese food with a friend.  Any time a boyfriend would talk me in to doing a traditional xmas with his family, it would nearly make me sick.  Of course its unavoidable, but personally I prefer to skip those holidays all together.

Xmas-Eve Pool Party

Ross is very much all about the traditional holiday.  He misses his family and home, and he especially feels it on those holidays in which one would normally be amongst both.  Through this relationship I have been forced to concede and celebrate these before blacklisted holidays.  I do so half-heartedly, but I do it nonetheless.  On this last Christmas, I would be cooking my usual “transplant dinner” on the afternoon of.  Every Christmas and Thanksgiving since I’ve lived in Portland, I cook a large and traditional dinner for all of us living here that are away from family to attend and enjoy.  I do it for everyone else, not because I particularly require it or enjoy the ritual.  I also do it for the challenge.  I love cooking and pushing myself to my very best culinary ability.  There’s also something really fucking satisfying about pulling off a gorgeous holiday feast that can feed 20 all by myself (or maybe thats years of domestic brainwashing talking).  Christmas eve, ross was depressed.  His family wanted us to come home for the holiday, but of course I couldn’t, being a retail manager.  We didn’t have a lot of extra money at this time, so we couldn’t afford a tree.  He was very sad about this.  I was personally relieved.  Not only am I incredibly allergic to xmas trees, I find the entire tradition strange and wasteful.  I really didn’t want to acquire one, vacuum up the needles, then have to dispose of it.

Ross was clearly in a funk, and I couldn’t help but have sympathy.  I can see how hard it must be to be away from your family on the holidays.  I wanted to cheer him up.  We didn’t have any money for a tree, but that didn’t mean we couldn’t be festive.  I spent $5 at Dollar tree and created a tree.

Push-pins, fishing line, box of ornaments.
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Of course it didn’t really cheer him up.  That shit took me FOREVER, though.  His parents had sent us gifts, and I positioned them under our “tree”.

It took quite a bit of convincing, but I finally talked him in to going out on Xmas Eve.  Portland is a town a lot of people move to, therefore many won’t be doing anything for Christmas day, so tons of people go out on the eve and drink.  I was excited to experience this.  There were actually quite a few events going on around town that sounded interesting and it was going to be hard to choose the right one.  I also had to pick something that Ross would even be in to joining.  Most of our friends that we’ve made since moving here are actually from Portland (rare) and have family activities to attend.  This means I would not only have to convince him to a) go out when he’s depressed  b) go out without the incentive of hanging out with our friends.   Challenging.  Finally, I saw it: Christmas Eve Pool Party.  It was perfect for me.  Completely non-holiday related.  no fucking Santa hats, no damned stockings, probably no Xmas tree.  Even better, a newly-acquired friend of ours was hosting the event.  After much convincing, he agreed to go.

It was free to get in, but you were supposed to wear bathing suits.  It was snowing in Portland at the time.  Also, when you move to the Pacific Northwest your body changes.  I achieved a new shade of pale that year.  I was literally as white as a glass of milk.  You also spend about 99% of your time here covered from neck to toe in usually many layers.  The thought of being in no more than a bathing suit is bizarre.  Still, I was determined to enjoy my non-traditional Christmas in the company of like-minded individuals for once.  This would be no depressing Christmas!  I refused to spend it crying in bed.  Not this year!  This year would be fun, silly, and hopefully drunk.  Ross was skeptical of the dress code.  He brought up a good point:  What if we show up and no one else is dressed up?  What if we go and we’re not having fun and want to go somewhere else?  he opted to wear normal clothes, but bring his trunks to change in to.  I was in a quandary.  How was I going to feel okay about being in a bathing suit?  I CERTAINLY wouldn’t be putting on a fucking bikini.  NO WAY.  I had recently purchased a size large, gold lame one-piece at a yard sale.  I decided that this would be my best option, as it wasn’t too clingy and provided a lot of coverage.  It was backless, though.  This means, I couldn’t wear a bra, reasonably.  I tried it on with one on, just to see.  I looked like I was doing Momma’s Family cosplay.  I opted for two sets of 5 band aids in a Red Hot Chili Pepper logo pattern.  That’ll have to do.  Now there was the issue with my legs.  They were so pale, they were see-thru.  I decided I needed to wear a pair of tights with my suit.  Trouble is, all of my hose had those shorts built in (women will know what I’m talking about).  None were sheer to the hip except a pair of flesh-toned patterned ones I got on clearance and never wore.  They were weird, but my only viable option.  I eyed myself in the mirror.  I knew full-well that the weird tights would appear to look like some sort of psoriasis in bar-lighting.  Fuck it.  I didn’t want to be sexualized anyway.  That’s right creepers, I have scaly-skinned legs.  I threw a dress on over this combo and we headed out.

The streets were deserted and dusted with snow.  It was unavoidable to realize that is was Christmas.  Ross drove us in silence.  The event was held at a venue in a location that I passed regularly, yet had never been to.  it was called The Grand, and sat right on the corner of a busy intersection.  We parked and saw people standing out front, having a cigarette in beach attire whilst donning leis.  I smiled.  Ross got into his trunks in the car, I ditched my dress and we headed in.

When you enter The Grand, there is sort of a hallway, leading to a podium where the doorman will check your ID.  Tonight, said doorman had on nothing but a speedo and intense back-tattoos.  This put me way at ease.  Clearly, I will be conservatively dressed if this is the standard inside.  He let me know that all ladies in bathing suits tonight get free vodka-soaked gummy bears all night.  Hell yes. We checked our coats and walked in.

The door guy.
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Best use of a speedo to hold a cell phone.
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Upon entering, it wasn’t very crowded. There were maybe 15 people inside. There were 3 women in the building wearing bathing suits that included myself, and two other girls. They looked a LOT different in their suits than I did. I ran to the bar to get a drink and claim my bears. Dudes at the bar were fucking leering.  This was clearly one of those things that sounded way better in theory than actually doing it.  I sped from the bar with my drinks and was glad to see Ross chose to sit at a back booth far from anyone or anything.

There were guys in various versions of suits.  The only bad thing was they could easily throw a coat over it and look completely normal and covered.  It really wasn’t that big of a deal.  I wasn’t exposed at the booth with the large table in front of me in the dark corner.  The gummy bears were surprisingly good, and considering there were only three of us that showed up in the theme dress, they would need me to eat more than my fair share of them.  Our friend, Paul came over and hung out with some of his friends.  Everyone was friendly, and having a good time. Ross was actually having fun.

Me, Paul, and a new friend. Horrible tights and all.
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A lighter shade of pale.
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There turned out to be musical performances. First up were the girls in the suits. They had a little two-person band, and were really funny. All their songs were comedy-themed and totally crass. They were enjoyable to watch and kept us laughing the entire time. During their act, we saw the crowd growing. I noticed that there was a stairwell leading down to a basement. There was a sign above it that said Andrea’s Cha Cha Club. Apparently this large space held a second venue, that was having its own event down below. It must have been “creepy old man” night down there, as within 15 minutes of Paris and Delaney hitting the stage the floor was filled with straight-up creepers. Dudes sipping their beers slowly, while eyeing the stage like they were at a sex-show. I shuddered. It was when the girls were singing their last song, charmingly about venereal diseases, I had to pee. I had felt like I needed to go for a while now, but it was becoming urgent. I knew I was going to have to stand up and use the restroom. My coat was inaccessible, therefore I would have to just march across the room and find the bathroom. Let ’em stare. The absolute worst they could do to me is leer. Yes, Ross should have escorted me to the bathroom. Those of you that know Ross, however know that he is far from knowing what the proper thing to do is. I stood up to go.

Cute.
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As if I were wearing a spotlight around my neck, all of those creepy dudes turned their heads to look at me the minute I stood up. I looked around the space. I couldn’t see any obvious area for the restroom. I sure as hell didn’t want to walk around and look for it. I darted to the bar, leaving my gold lame ass completely exposed to the crowd. I asked for the bathroom. The bartender explained it was actually downstairs, in the “Cha Cha Club”. FUCK ME.

Sleazy.
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I walked to the stairway. It lead into complete darkness. This may be the only basement I’ve ever ACTUALLY feared in my entire life. I made my way down the stairs. I could hardly see what was in front of me, and I was clinging to the rail to not take a header down and crack open my skull.  Two black dudes in their mid-40’s passed me en route. I heard a remnant of their conversation. One guy said to the other that he heard “bitches in bathing suits are upstairs”. They looked at me, shocked. Then instantly fanned out to block my passage down the stairwell. They started picking up on me, clearly so drunk they were swaying back and forth. I was vulnerable. Suddenly, a male voice came booming up the hallway for the guys to “get the fuck out of my way”. The guys jumped to march single-file the rest of the way up the stairs, craning their necks to look and leer back at me the entire way. After they cleared the stairs, I saw a second doorman, sitting on a stool and the base of the stairs. Oh thank God.  

“You okay?”  he asked as I descended the last few steps.

I let him know I was fine, but also let him know I was relieved to see him there.  I looked into the entrance of the Cha Cha.  It was absolutely packed with what appeared to be mostly middle-aged men.  Salsa music was blaring.  The few women that I saw in there were in tight, tacky dresses bumping and grinding against various men while the crowd watched.  Yikes.  I went to the bathroom and made my way back up the stairs.  I would make it a point to not need to go again.

Paris and Delaney had just left the stage, and the upstairs was still filled with the overspill creepers.  I wanted another drink, but refused to cross the floor to the bar.  I sat back down with Ross and made him go.  The next act was two white guys spewing really good hip-hop.  It was ironic, and funny.  Thankfully, this act managed to clear out all the weird creepers and force them back down to the basement.

Can’t imagine why the pervs weren’t into this act too.
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Ater this act, it was karaoke time. How fun. Ross absolutely loves doing karaoke. I like watching, not doing. I helped myself to more booze-bears and watched folks belt out their best Steve perrys and Stevie Nicks. There were a few kiddie-pools sitting in the middle of the dance floor filled with balloons. I wondered what these were going to be eventually filled with and when that part of the night was going to happen.

The crowd was definitly loosening up at this point.  Folks were running up on stage and singing in groups, as well as dancing and cavorting around the swimming pools.  Ross and I decided we needed to kick the party in high-gear by getting up and doing a little R. Kelly.  Don’t worry guys, I set up the video camera right before going on stage:

Clearly, I’m just up there as the “hype-man”.  Ross was asked to stay on stage after that and sing whatever he wanted.  This ranged from Luniz to Neil Diamond.  I took pictures, danced with whomever, ate gummy bears.  I’m lucky I didn’t barf in the pool.

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Finally, the pool got used. No liquid required.
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We covorted until last-call. As the evening wound down, I was pleased that it didn’t feel like Christmas at all. It was so nice to not have to think about it for even a minute. We sat, finishing our last drinks with our friends in the back booth. I was reviewing pictures on my camera memory. One picture caught my eye. Somehow, I had taken a picture of someone’s vagina. At one point, I was shooting a picture of a crowd of people dancing on the stage. Some girl was bent over, not wearing underwear, and I caught a perfect shot of her bare vagina. I showed to Ross. The other members at the table looked on. One of the girls at the table asked to see the picture. I handed her the camera. After looking at it for a minute, the handed the camera back to me. She had deleted the picture. I didn’t care. I wasn’t going to do anything with it anyway.  It was just funny that it happened.  Perhaps I missed my calling as one of those sleazy paparazzi trying to catch crotch-shots of celebrities climbing out of their cars.

We payed up and headed off into the night. Tomorrow, it would be Christmas. I would have to open gifts and cook a traditional meal for our friends. I would do my best to not feel sad. I would try and not think about painful memories and drink too much.  This night was weird, the right kind of weird.  Not sure what this year will hold.  I am certainly NOT making another one of those ghost trees again.  EVER.

Gothic Memorial Day

20 Jun

I had the day off work on this last Memorial day.  It was a typically gloomy Portland May day, so “normal” memorial day activities such as barbecuing or being outdoors in the sunshine were out of the question.  I checked the paper for any interesting indoor activities to do that day.  Low and behold there indeed was something interesting to do:  An annual tour and festival at a historic mausoleum and crematory.  There was to be vintage cars, food, crypt tours, music and refreshments.  Holy crap.  PERFECT.  I also remembered seeing this place as one of the top weirdest things to do in Portland on some website I looked at when I first moved to city.  I also knew from the website that the facility was only open to the public a few times a year.  I knew exactly who to call to join me on this strange activity.  I called up one of my oldest friends and asked her if  she would like to go.  Hell yes, she did.

There was a slight problem.  As you know from my last blog post, my camera hasn’t been working properly.  After it totally let me down while I was trying to shoot a family wedding, it needed to go to the shop for repairs.  There was no way in hell I was going to this event without a camera.  I mean, what’s the point?  The camera on my half-broken iphone 3 wasn’t going to cut it either.  The camera on that thing has less clarity than a homemade pinhole camera made from a shoe box.  I decided I would stop and get some disposable cameras on the way there and use those.  They suck, but its something.  Then I had a moment of clarity.

What do all goth kids (and most first-year film students) do?  Shoot black and white pics in a graveyard, right?  Well this is like the ultimate graveyard and I just so happen to have my old film SLR and 2 rolls of black and white film in my house!  YES.  HELL YES!  Don ye black clothing, wear extra eyeliner, and light a clove-we’re going to do goth-tivities today!

It’s probably time for you to press play and enjoy some background music for your reading

It took us forever to get there.  I wasn’t familiar with the area it was in at all.  My GPS on that afore mentioned crap phone I own was little to no help.  After driving up and down the same street 5 times and after falsely entering a posh country club (a blog for another time, perhaps) we finally pulled in to the parking lot.  Quickly we discovered that this bitch was PACKED!  Seriously?  Other people wanted to spend their memorial day looking at crypts?  I was honestly surprised.   The facility was also big.  Big enough we really didn’t know how to get in or where to begin.  We followed the crowd and entered one of the main buildings.  Bianca led the way, and soon yelled back for me to get out my camera.

A portion of the outer building
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I’ll take take this moment to mention that I’ve only been in a funeral home two times in my life-once when mom died and the second when dad did.  They all have a certain look and feel to them, and the mere sight of one turns my stomach.  No one has ever been happy about being in a funeral home waiting room, and you can feel it the minute you walk in.  It seem like these places saturate the misery held by its visitors into its walls.  I did not realize that was a open facility and was still accepting people for burial.  When we first entered the main building, we had to pass through the lobby of the funeral home to get to the other parts.  The beige carpet, potted plants, and sad drapes and chairs made me almost throw up when I saw them.  All that driven home by the multitude of Kleenex boxes dotting tables and counter tops in equally sad, beige colors.  Bianca hurried me past this personal horror and into the historic portion.

It was open for business in 1910.  I had never seen anything like it.  Creepy statues, stained glass, wall engravings, seating areas…it really is hard to describe.  It contained every type of way to bury someone imaginable-coffin, urn, fancy or meager.  Because they just kept adding on to the existing structure, the layout was totally bizarre.  Twists, turns, staircases going up and down everywhere you looked.  Some areas were very modern and sterile in design, whereas the older ones were creepily elaborate.  I’m not sure if I even need to mention this, but yes this place was spooky as SHIT.  It doesn’t even matter that it was daytime, and crowded with people.  This was an inherently creepy place with creepy looking shit everywhere you looked.  it was obviously the more antiquated wings of the facility that raised the most goosebumps.  Even if you’re a person that doesn’t believe in ghosts, such as myself, you really can’t help but be struck with the overwhelming magnitude of the graves contained within the structure, as well as the prolific history.  I must say, I’ve become fascinated by the way humans feel a need to honor the dead.  Seeing these elaborate memorials piqued this interest immensely.  We began to wander.  We didn’t see any maps, and we both began to feel a concern that getting lost in there was a very real possibility.  Bianca asked me, “What time does this place close?”  I told her the event was over at 4.  She then said, “We’re going to want to keep a real close on eye on the time.  I sure as hell do not want to get locked in here.”

NO SHIT.

She wore black, but kept it light with a hot pink beanie
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One of the memorial enclaves. The entire nook contains a family lineage buried in the walls
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The majority of the wings were very well-lit. Curiously, others were very dim and in a few cases, completely black.  I’m not joking.  I get that this is a very large building, thusly costing plenty to light and maintain.  You’d think, however that only being open a few times a year they’d go ahead and splurge on lighting the whole thing.  I’m not really sure why entire hallways and wings were open and pitch black.  They were neither roped off, or populated with on-lookers. We walked through all of them, taking in the atmosphere.  The graves went floors below ground level, as well as spiraled stories high.  Every time we found a staircase, we explored it.  Every turn was something unexpected and visually stunning.

Floor-to-ceiling graves.
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One of the scariest things we saw…an open grave ready for a fresh coffin.  The engraved marble plaque was propped up against a wall.  behind the curtain was a gaping black hole.Photobucket

An overhead view of the modernized wing. Blackened hallway off in the distance.
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The modern portion of the building was built in sort of a spiral.  The center of the building, at the ground floor held an impressive water fountain, adorned with cherubim.  The floors above and below were built around this so that when one looks up or below when standing in the very center, the fountain is visible.  When we stumbled upon the level in which this fountain is meant to be viewed head-on, it took our breath away.  Yes, it was also fucking creepy-looking.

What pairs well with a mass-grave? How ’bout evil-looking angel babies?
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We felt irreverent for taking this picture.
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How dark were these unlit portions? This fucking dark. Who’s a scaredy-cat now?
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Time for a new song, I suppose.

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The view from the upper floors is spectacular.
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Most of the crowd there that day were elderly people. Not just older folks, but people that were near their own ends. It was a little morbid to see these people shuffling along looking at graves.

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A note left on a grave with baby toys, clothes, shoes, etc.  possibly the saddest grave in the building.
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There was one area of the mausoleum was more awesome then the rest. It was in a portion for cremated remains. Rather than just the glass cases containing various urns, the family had turned the space into a little diorama of their loved-ones lives. There were hundreds of these, and each one was filled with trinkets, photos, even ashes housing their beloved pets. Each little glass case told a story about who was in there and what decade in time they lived. You guys can see to it that this is how I’m memorialized. Put Ham in there with me.

One such diorama. Me in the reflection.
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The massive mural that adorns the outside of the building.  You know here in Portland someone had to “put a bird on it”
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You can see Oaks Park from the windows. A cheerful view from our side, making their view from the ferris wheel quite bleak, I’m sure.Photobucket

As we got to the very top floor, it was obvious how high up we were in a very old building.  It was hot, stuffy, and overall very hard to breathe.  Bianca kept saying that it smelled like dead people in there.  I knew what she meant.  The dead flowers on the gravestones, the lack of air circulation, the elderly folk…  it was time to get some fresh air.  We agreed that we needed to get the hell out of there.  We began a hurried descent down about 6 floors, though endless hallways and corridors.  Luckily, exits were clearly marked and there would be no chance of getting lost and trapped in there.

Graves are everywhere, even in the stairwell.
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Not to forget, this is a festival after all! Just after you come out of the large portion of the main building, you are met with the anachronistic shock of a cheerful refreshment stand. Somehow touring a crypt doesn’t make me want a hot dog and popcorn. Oh and also eating food isn’t very goth.

They had donut holes too.  Surprisingly enough, no red wine.
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A historian giving someone a tour of some famous graves. No one sounded familiar to me.
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The large chapel. Dim as fuck.
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Me, in front of one of the older graves.
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In addition to the elderly that were there, there was also a good handful of goths there. Some total mall-goth kids, but a few serious ones as well. We walked past a young girl dressed in full-on victorian garb getting her portrait taken in front of one of the stained glass windows. It was comforting to know I wasn’t the only irreverent asshole there to take pictures. I desperately wanted to get a picture of the mall-goths for you. It just didn’t happen. Film camera in a low-light situation doesn’t bode well for quick, candid shots.

Seriously, why is it so dark in here?
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Bianca, bravely leading the way
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She told me she wanted to buy a plot to be buried here.  Shit got real.
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The flower room. Around the corner, a man was talking to one of the graves.
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Well put.
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Vampire movie-style graves. With the big marble slab top and everything.
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Cremated remains
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Outside view of one of the older portions of the building
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‘MERICA!
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After our tour, we were exhausted. Being goth is hard work! Frankly, there was a lot of shit to look at in there. Even though we covered a lot of ground, we probably only saw about half of it. There were way too many hallways and hidden staircases to explore it all. We decided we had enough. We also decided we needed lunch and I needed a drink.

Nothing celebrates life more than a big plate of mexican food. (We really wanted fish & chips, but couldn’t find a place that was open)
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Confronting all of My Deepest Fears at The Enchanted Forest

18 Apr

I saw it for the first time on one of my drives up to Portland from California.  You can’t see the actual attraction from the freeway, but you can see a sign adorned with castles and a waving psychedelic humpty-dumpty.  I pointed it out to Ross and said that it looked like it would be interesting.  I had forgotten about it until recently the Dandy Warhols played a show there.  I couldn’t make it to the concert, but I put The Enchanted Forest on my list of shit I definitely had to go see.  I had to wait, as all the best things to do in the Portland area happen in the good weather months.  Finally the day came, and I wasn’t really sure what to expect.  Our friends who live here have all been before, but I didn’t ask them any questions regarding what it was like outside or whether or not it was worth the trip and the entry fee.  I wanted it to be a total surprise.  I expected it to be a lot like a little attraction we had in Fresno called Storybook Land.  It kind of was like that.  It also was kind of one of the most terrifying places I’ve ever been.  Not the kind of terrifying in the sense that shit looked creepy (it did that too) but more so terrifying in a deep, psychological manner.  I was forced to confront nearly all of my fears that have been deep-set in my psyche since I was a child.  Also, that was possibly the best $10.50 I’ve spent in a while.  

The Enchanted Forest is about an hour’s drive south of Portland.  We arrived, and the parking lot was mostly deserted save a few cars and a punk couple making out on a motorcycle.  It was up on a sort of hill, with a giant facade with a castle painted on it.  You can’t see past it, so I still had no idea what it was like or even how big it was.  As we shut the car doors, we were instantly met with the sound of ear-piercing children’s screams from behind the facade.  These screams carried on for a long while and Ross and I just stared at each other.  We noticed a burning fire across the highway with clouds of smoke billowing in the air.  Is this some sort of ominous sign?  I took my Nikon out to snap a picture of the fire, but it started to act up.  It wouldn’t shoot a picture on most settings, and when it did, the colors were strange.  It had never really done that before.  I finally got it to take a picture, but I am mentioning it so you can excuse the following pictures.  They kind of go along with the general experience of being there:  blurry, strange colors, bizarre perspectives.  I decided I will use them anyway.  

The entrance
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We walked up to the ticket booth and were handed a little hand-drawn map.  It listed the main attractions you could buy tickets for and do.  There was a roller coaster, log ride, haunted house, and something called “The Challenge of Mondor”.  I know you’re thinking that the screams we heard upon parking can be attributed to the rides, but nay they were situated at the very back of the park and could not be heard or seen from the entrance.  Just beyond the ticket booth, there was a sign that directed us to the start point-the castle.

STORYBOOK LANE

This portion of the park is very much like Storybook Land…at first.  You walk along a path and look at little scenes from childhood stories.  Quickly we noticed that the faces of the statues were noticeably creepy.  Some of them had real hair and those baby-doll eyes that have the moving lids.  Enter the first of my fears:  Creepy dolls.  As a child, I had an Aunt who made very expensive ceramic dolls for a specialty shop in San Francisco.  Once a year, she would send me one for Christmas and my Birthday (my bday is in January.  I was one of those poor kids who would get the combo gifts).  My parents built a special case for them in my room.  I secretly hated them.  They were pretty, and I appreciated the gesture but at night while I was laying in bed the eyes on those things would freak me out.  There was this crack of light that would shine from the top of my bedroom door down onto the case and illuminate their faces ever so slightly, those sightless eyes glimmering.  I get an ominous feeling every time I see a little girl toting one around by the hair.  Needless to say, I don’t care for dolls.

The moat surrounding the castle. Ross threw a penny in and wished the camera would stop wigging out
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The castle
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While looking at that last photo, I realize there was a staircase leading down to something. We didn’t notice it at the time. I wonder what else we missed? Just like a good platform video game, the Enchanted Forest has many hidden things to explore.

Fake Plants.  Totally bizarre for Oregon which is so lush and green.
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I should take this time to mention that Ross and I were completely sober coming here. We don’t do drugs of any kind, as you probably know but we also didn’t have any drinks either. I think we really should have.

Welcome to your nightmare
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The camera was really acting up but I think you can see here that creepy doll appearance. Real hair, blinky eyes.
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The path leads you through the structures
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Upon entering the Hansel and Gretel house, I was struck by how dark it was inside. Along the left-hand wall there was a large glass window. Inside was a scene acted out by animatronic robots of the witch trying to coax Gretel (who looked like a creepy doll. P.S.) with a bizarre soundtrack playing. We stood dumbfounded, looking at it for a long while. It was seriously scary as shit.

Pleased to see other races than white depicted (this was the only instance).
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We enter the Alice in Wonderland Area.
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Just like the Lewis Carroll novel
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Heres where you can crawl through the rabbit hole.
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We were presented with a curious hole you can crawl through, simulating the famous rabbit hole. I asked Ross if he was down to check it out. He was hesitant, and expressed fears that it might get smaller and smaller and we would get stuck. Allow me to introduce my next, crippling fear: Claustrophobia. This is a new fear to me. My mom always told me she was claustrophobic, but I never experienced the feeling until recently. I’m not sure if I developed the phobia heretically or if my mind produced it in a way to be closer to my deceased mother-my therapist said both scenarios are possible. Either way, this phobia is brand-spanking new and I have no way to cope with it. Regardless, it was a sunny day and this park is for children, after all. It will be silly and in no way sinister. I got on my hands and knees and proceeded to crawl in. A very hesitant Ross decided to follow me. The tunnel made a sharp turn to the left, plunging us into utter and complete darkness. I couldn’t see ahead of me. Pitch fucking black in a tunnel 3 feet wide. Holy SHIT. I turn my head and hear Ross heavily breathing behind me. I bring up the camera and take a picture.

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We both felt a little better at that point, to see the light. I scurried down the tube. It was a little intense, I won’t lie. Finally, there was another sharp turn to the right and I could see the daylight. I crawled out, sweaty and breathing heavily. That prickly feeling of panic tingled my fingertips as I realized that the tunnel that I just scooted in was under poured concrete. If you don’t suffer from claustrophobia, that won’t have any meaning to you. If you do, than that probably made your skin crawl a little.
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As we exited, we were greeted by Alice herself.  

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Look how stoned this guy looks.
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Surprise! A maze!
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This maze was quite disorienting. It instantly conjured up an old memory of me getting lost in a funhouse maze when I was 6 at the Fresno Fair. It was a maze of mirrors, and I got lost and confused. I went in by myself because my grandma took me.  I thought it would be silly and funny, but it quickly became a lesson in anxiety.   I couldn’t get out for nearly an hour. I had resorted to sitting down and crying, waiting for someone else to come along so I could follow them out.  This one wasn’t nearly as intense, but it tricked us at least a few times.  Ross tried to just climb over the wall at one point.
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seen from the curving path:

The Enchanted RV Park
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We came upon the next area-Snow White.

Evil Bunny
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Seen through the little windows of a cottage
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Why squirrels?
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Behind the cottage
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The Mine was dark and cramped. When I say dark, we’re talking impossibly dark. Like, how is this acceptable for public safety? A few times we had to use our cell phone lights to see our next step. Christine’s next fear confession: I’m a little bit afraid of the dark. Not intensely, but I definitely don’t like being put in situations where I cannot see where I’m walking in to and cannot see what’s coming up behind me.
Ross stooping down to get in, and also removing his sunglasses to see.
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Inside the cave-a psychedelic wonderland
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The only light in the cave
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Blurry due to camera, but trippy.Photobucket

A window with animatronic elves.
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The next attraction. Holy CRAP.
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Inside the Witch’s cave
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A slide to get out
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LOL
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A diorama featuring what appears to be Dendrophilia
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Moving on, to the house of the three bears.
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Goldilocks is scary as shit!
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Next we encounter the crooked man’s house. Ross had never heard of this nursery rhyme. I only know it from seeing it at Storybook Land.

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Upon entering, I instantly became dizzy and nauseous, to my utter surprise. More so than when I visited The Mystery Spot outside of Santa Cruz as a child. I was 100% sober, and suddenly got the spins when I crossed the threshold.  The house is on a slant, and painted with psychedelic  paintings to heighten the effect.  My stomach began to lurch, and I had to swallow a thousand times to keep from throwing up.

Ross was unaffected.
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Admit it. The art in here is pretty good.
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Like, WOAH
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Happy to be out of the stomach-churning crooked house, Storybook Lane ended with a few homages to some classics.

That wolf is fuckin’ scary.
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Ross didn’t know this one either. Creepily enough, I was able to recite the entire thing off the top of my head.

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Western Town

Suddenly, the path lead us away from story land and into WesternTown. It was interesting how the park flowed into themes.

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It looked a lot like the Western town in Disneyland, by appearance. Upon closer inspection, it was a little strange. The crux of the entertainment was weird little wooden structures with strange little scenes inside of windows.

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This is really disturbing to me. Tiny head, giant body. Bigger gun.
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In the museum.
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Me, taking the bull by the horns.
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The boat-driving game.
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A shooting range-one of my favorite things.
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The last attraction in Western Town was The Indian Caves. They featured two of my fears: Claustrophobia and Darkness. Ross and I both entered the cave. Immediately, we were presented with 3 choices of routes. He chose one, I another. I wandered around the incredibly dark labyrinth. Suddenly, I was aware of not knowing where I was in reference to the entrance or the logical exit point. I figured I’d run in to Ross, but I never did. There were a few children roaming around the cave with me , soundless adding to the overall creepiness of the attraction. Eventually, I came upon a wall with holes in it to the outside. I passed it, and saw Ross standing outside of the cave. I pushed my head into the hole and called his name. He said after the rabbit hole, he couldn’t take being in there. I completely understood, and just wanted out. I milled around the tight tunnels like an ant. A little girl jumped out at me behind a wall and scared the living shit out of me, thinking I was her sister. After that, my feet picked up speed and jogged around the faux rock walls until I finally saw sunlight. I ran out and hugged Ross, chest heaving with anxiety.

The only reason you can see is because there’s flash.
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I would have ran into that faux stalactite had I not shone my cell phone light first. How is this safe?
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One of the possible exits out of the Indian Caves is a crawlspace. It tunnels under the caves, under the attraction in pitch darkness yards and yards until it empties out of a teepee across from the entrance. After the terror I experienced in the rabbit hole, I didn’t even check this one out. Even the little kids I encountered in the tunnels whispered not to go that way.

The exit.
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The English Village

Suddenly the path lead us into an area that was medieval themed.  It was an odd flow, I’ll admit.  It seemed it should have come after the castle at the beginning, but there it was, after Western Town.  There were more facades, featuring a little village.

The cheery towns-folk.  Meant to be fun.
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Merlin’s Cottage. If you look in this window, you’ll see a moving kaleidoscope, amplified by mirrors
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Da Vinci’s workshop
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The only attraction in the village is one labeled “Pinnochio’s Playhouse”. We climbed the spiral staircase behind a handful of excitable children.

Puppets from around the world.
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We next came upon a funhouse mirror. I think its necessary to mention that Ross tried to pull his wiener out to see the awesome effect of this illusion before I stopped him. I dare say many of you would have done the exact same thing.

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The train display. There were trains powered by buttons you push along with houses that light up. Photobucket

The scariest Pinnoccio scene EVARRRRR. Look at that fairy godmother.
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After the Pinnoccio area, we stumble upon a theatre that featured a creepy animatronics show that was packed with silent children in awe. I couldn’t even watch one of these shows, because the theatre was full both times we peeked in. It seemed eerie, from what I saw.

Look into the blackbird’s sightless face
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The Haunted House

After seeing the sheer awesomeness and horrific wonder that was the rest of the theme park, we decided we would buy tickets to do two attractions.  We would have probably done more but we were on a budget.   The haunted house was my choice.  I thought it would probably be super lame, one of those coaster rides where silly ghosts and ghouls would pop up on air-pressured hydraulics scaring no one.  Truth be told, there hasn’t been a haunted house that has scared me since I was 12.  Well, that is until this one.  

We entered, and I quickly discovered it was as dark as the caves.  Also, we would be walking through it.  

After the door to the entrance is shut, you see this
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Seriously? Holy fuck. The Haunted House literally looks like a house. It plays on fears that keep a confident adult up in the night. It is pitch black, with subtle acoustics piping in slight whispers to set one’s hair on end. Down endless dark hallways, smoky black mirrors line the walls. Some reflect back your own barely lit reflection. Others contain a horrific scene or containing a hologram with a slight apparition floating by to play tricks on your eyes. Whoever designed this haunted house knew what the fuck they were doing. We were scared-legitimately. Neither of us wanted to go first, nor bring up the rear.

Enter Christine’s next deep dark fear:  Mirrors in the dark. I went to Catholic school growing up.  With that came much paranoia, myths, legends and fears based on the faith that was being sold to us on a daily basis.  The schools also are not government funded, therefore unique in their own rights.  One afternoon when I was in first grade, two friends and I were in the bathroom.  Suddenly, the door was shut by an unseen classmate and the lights turned off.  The door and the light switch were inexplicably on the outside of the building, making this nightmare possible.  My friends and I were trapped, total darkness facing the mirrors above the sinks.  One of my friends started saying it:  Bloody Mary…If you are in catholic school, Bloody Mary is like the fucking ballsiest, fucked up shit you can do.  The other friend that was trapped with us went ape-shit at the first utterance of those words.  She began screaming and pounding on the door.  I began crying as the other friend kept chanting.  Ever since this incident, I am seriously afraid of dark mirrors.  This haunted house was full of them.  

The only reason you can even see this much light, is because the shutter is open on long exposure.  This bitch is dark.
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Ross, being brave and leading. I couldn’t have done it.
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This hologram was actually on the ceiling. It was of a serial killer with an axe looking down at you
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Everywhere you looked there was a floating face.
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Really? I’m supposed to bring little kids here?
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We left the haunted house in one piece, but we both agreed that it was hands down the only haunted house that was actually scary. As we were leaving, a very little girl with one of those backpack-leashes on staggered behind her mother crying. Indeed, Mija. This is a truly fucked-up place.

The Challenge of Mondor

We wanted to do one more attraction, but it was a very hard choice.  Both the roller coaster and the log ride looked awesome but something about an attraction with the name “The challenge of Mondor”  kept drawing us in.  We decided to choose that one.

The roller coaster-a mini Matterhorn.
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Twin Peaks-the ride!
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Challenge ACCEPTED!
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To challenge Mondor, you sit in a moving train while shooting creatures with a laser gun. Yes, it really is that awesome. Scary as shit creatures pop out at you, while you shoot at them with a laser gun as many times as you can. The hits are recorded on a screen in front of you. Ok, so these targets were just seriously fucked up. Some were silly, some scary, others satanic-looking. We were shooting these creatures of the damned for most of the game. It was basically like getting to shoot things in a 3D bad 80’s heavy metal video-minus the scantily-clad broads. Trolls, creatures, leather-wearing hooded figures…I mean it was pretty fucking epic. At one point, my laser gun had to be put sown to take these. It was so dark and everything was moving, I had no choice but to use flash.

funny
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AAUGGGGHHHH!
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Seriously? How are Christians not protesting this place?
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After the challenge, we knew we were spent, emotionally and mentally. It was time to go. We followed the path and found the food area. There was an outdoor eatery, as well as one indoors attached to the “water theatre”. You had to enter to leave. Admittedly, it was pretty neat.

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We literally had to exit the Enchanted Forest through the gift shop. Our experience was exciting, scary, and emotionally exhausting. I was glad we came, but I was glad to leave. I can’t help but wonder what a child’s perspective of it would be. Does it only seem fucked up because I have a lifetime of trauma to judge it by? I suppose I won’t know.  All I know is a maniacal genius may or may not have designed the Enchanted Forest.  Whether or not children like it is debatable.  

The Greatest Bar. EVER.

21 Mar

I have officially been to the greatest bar in all the land.  Of course, this is a personal opinion, as it is void some elements that a lot of you look for in a great bar such as titties.  Despite lacking that one element, this bar has everything else you could ever want and more.  So much more.

After my adventure to this bar in the middle of absolute nowhere, I debated with myself whether or not this was worth writing about.  After looking at the pictures, I decided it was a pretty fucking epic place.  I suppose I’ll let you guys decide .

As every great adventure here in Portland, this one began with Jed.  Jed is a friend of mine who has lived in this town for a very long time and knows every place that is here, used to be here, and sometimes will soon be here.  He’s the one that sent me on my adventure to Roosters, so you know he’s legit.  He told me about this bar that he likes to go to a lot called The Safari Club, that is a few towns east of Portland.  He said that it had taxedermied animals as part of its decor and that it was one of his favorite spots.  One day I had really nothing better to do, so I decided to go check it out.

It was no easy sell to get Ross to go here. The bar is located in Estacada, OR which is about an hour’s drive. Its not near anything else awesome, so literally the drive was just to go to this bar.

Near the set of Deliverance
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During the long drive, I looked at the map to see if there would be any other points of interest along the way. I noticed a cemetery on the outskirts of Estacada called The independant order of odd fellows Cemetery.  I got really excited, thinking it was some sort of bizarre cult’s burial ground and a brand new adventure was forming.  After some internet research, I realized it was disappointingly not.  I mean, why would a bizarre cult’s cemetery come up on Google Maps?  Not sure what I was thinking.

Ross was incredibly put out by the distance we were driving, and he was definitely letting me know that this bar had better be worth it.  Damn.  No pressure or anything.  I was really hoping this wouldn’t turn into a “Geraldo and Al Capone’s vault” situation.  When we finally arrived after getting lost once and driving on a few back-wood winding dirt roads, the bar was unassuming from the outside.  I could feel Ross’ glare.

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Then there was this in the window next to the doors.
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We walked in to a mostly deserted space. The bartender was friendly and liked that we were there to check it out and take pictures. He let us know that all but 3 of the animals are real.  At first, the bar looked quite small with just a few taxedermied heads dotting the walls. Shit, what a bummer. I went to find the restroom and discovered the place was absolutely huge with display cases similar to a museum filled with animals staged in various scenes and battles. Holy. Crap. Out came the camera.

I photographed 1 of the 3 fakes.  Try and guess which one
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I hung out and pet the kitty for a whilePhotobucket

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The cases even contained little birds, squirrels, rodents…  everywhere you looked you’d see something newPhotobucket

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I mean, this is a bar people.  It feels like you’re having a cocktail at the Natural Museum or something.  We ordered mini-tacos and looked at all the animals.  Each one had a plaque below it stating the date, country, and specifics on the expedition on which it was acquired.   I soon noticed that all of these animals were hunted by the same man.  One guy.

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PhotobucketI’m not sure I can sleep at night knowing that an animal like this is realPhotobucket

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Almost immediately after arriving, a man sitting at the bar approached us.  He sat down next to me in the booth so close he was somewhat sitting on my lap.  About two inches from my face he asked me if I’d like the tour.  Everyone in the bar seemed to know him.  He told me he had been here 30 years.  Was this one of the owners?  He was clearly very intoxicated.  Not the kind of intoxicated you get from drinking too much one night, nay the kind of intoxicated one gets from being drunk for years.  I couldn’t help but think of the first time we went to Astoria and found ourselves checking out Mary Todd’s Workers Bar in which Mary Todd herself stumbled up to us, fell into my lap and asked us for a ride across town.  He asked me again if I wanted the tour.  I didn’t want to offend him in what could be his own bar, so I said sure and drug Ross with me.  

The tour begins
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He walks us to the first of the large cases, points to certain animals and proceeds to tell us what they are.  Around the time he labeled a caribou as a California deer, we knew this guy wasn’t the owner of anything except possibly a rusty shopping cart full of cans.  We kept trying to shake him, but then he would reappear.  There wasn’t really anyone else in the bar, and he wasn’t going anywhere.  He also kept touching me.  He asked me if I wanted to come take pictures of him “dropping trees”, also of a piece of property owned by a lady he knew with coyotes running loose on it.  Tempting…

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The bartender and another group of people coming for the first timePhotobucket

He told us that the bar was built specifically to house the owner’s collection.  Mr. Park would go on hunting expeditions all over the world in the 60’s and 70’s and have his trophies stuffed.  Obviously this man had an obsession.  When he passed away, the family sold the bar, animals and all and it became a chinese restaurant.  During this time, the place fell into disrepair.  He said that most of the restaurant was closed off and became filled with trash.  He also described some shady shit occurring in the back rooms of which I interpreted as a possible brothel.  Recently, the bar was purchased by a local who absolutely loved the place.  She cleaned it up, restored the animals as best she could, and re-opened it.  Hooray.

He also told me that the bar can be quite spooky at night when he’s closing up and there, alone in the dark.  He said that this animal in particular gave him the creeps the most at those times.  He said it gave him the willies that this little guy wasn’t full-grown.  Indeed.

Forever young
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while I was hearing stories from the bartender, “Tour-ey McGee” was regaling Ross with tales of his illustrious military career.  He said that he didn’t want to offend us, but it is a fact that he was born to kill the world.  He said that at 16, he was the youngest man in military history to drop a nuclear bomb.  He went on to explain the eerie coincidence that his social security number and his military ID number are the exact same, only switched around.  He seemed surprised that we didn’t recognize him, as he’s been on the news 6 times for homeless advocacy .  They must have a lot of slow news days in Estacada.

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The Nukeist, possibly plotting ways the world should be killedPhotobucket

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If there ever was a place Big Buck Hunter should be…Photobucket

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Yes, its a honey badger.Photobucket

I deemed this scene as “most dramatic”Photobucket

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Again, that thing is BADASSPhotobucket
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After our guided tour, The derelict sat at our table and asked us if any of us were writers.  I said that I was, and he said that he would allow me to write his story.  I politely declined, and he laughed at me.  He let me know I was making an epic mistake, and he’s been getting offers from famous writers his entire life.  I was passing up a grand opportunity.  As he moved on to tell us that the VA hospital was going to remove his shoulder in two days, a silver-haired woman in a Budweiser sweatshirt appeared at our table as well.  “Get a load of this!  This girl doesn’t want to write my life story”  he says to her.  She looked at him and laughed.  She then turned to me and shook her head, with an apologetic look.  She took a long sip off of her Rainier and told him to shut the fuck up and leave us alone.  Lady, you are boss.

(The elephant head was fake)