As several disturbances head our way

IMG_6204I looked up and my family was gone, lost in the folds of Powell’s bookstore, Portland, the litmosphere they call it, and I wandered the displays sniffing cakes of handmade soaps, glassware designed for gluten-free beer, branded. All the Portlanders in their tatts and backpacks, polite when texting even, patient with my driving, everyone smiles. The look of the bar on a Saturday night before the show with Loren, the soft light glow and the pool tables, everything slanted from old fashioneds and cherries, orange twists. I stopped counting the number of songs the band played at 25, they kept going two hours before taking a break. Loren and I couldn’t hear each other on the drive home, found it hard at the bar to make conversation before. He brought up the feeling of disassociation, wondering what he’s doing, why he’s here, and I told the story about floating outside myself in a conference room at work, distracted by bird shit on the window and cranes in the shipyards below, thinking there has to be more to life than this, but maybe there isn’t.

It seems hippies are like venereal disease, you think it’s gone but it keeps coming back. They are at the Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood even, that famous ski get-away an hour outside of Portland. What’s worse, they’re all hiking the PCT and it’s like a fucking reality TV show in the lobby, at the bar, in the hot tub, the bathrooms: everywhere I go it’s the same crusty characters with trail names they’ve assumed to make themselves new, imagined.

We go to the Timberline for the outdoor pool, the fact you can run the circuit between swimming, the hot tub, the sauna, warming up, cooling off, goofing around — and our first night we meet the through-hikers, a girl with a dragon tattoo scaling her bikini briefs, some skinny guy from Boise with a bushy beard, shaded spectacles and a hat: then the cutie with the Bruce Jenner shorts who starts bad-talking anyone who does the PCT in sections, like why would you, that somehow the only way to do it is to take five or six months off and just do the whole thing, all 2,600 miles.

Lazing around the lobby fireplace on broken in cushions with fat arm rests, the finish long gone. Carvings above the entrances, Indian moon symbols for the month of year, mine the Ice Forming month, November. Posters from the 1950s, the idealized American skier, Caucasian through-and-through with goggles and angular grins, all that’s cool and fashionable about alpine sports in Hemingway, fondue, hot toddies, wool turtlenecks and bushy beards, snow bunnies, cocktails, cigarettes: the fact you get off faster at altitude and fall that much harder, and the sun’s five thousand nine hundred feet closer, the UV rays work the skin like a catcher’s mitt, creased and pliable — and life’s so good you can’t help letting it go trying to trap it.

The fashion of the PCT through-hikers, that well-crafted look of spontaneity and go with the flow, that woo woo shit in phrases you hear exchanged like knowing handshakes, “The trail will provide” — or, “I’m taking a zero today” (which I assumed as some pain medication or recreational drug but refers to mileage counts, which most of them were taking the whole time we were there, zero).

The guy from Boise gets into the hot tub and says we’re like pie man, sweet on the inside but oh-so-crusty out…and I tell them about my time with Brad for five days but no one’s interested; they’ve got their ice wrapped in bath towels and cans of beer, sort of their own thing happening.

At the bar there’s sours, barrel-aged porters, knowledge of hop differences and strains, and the bartenders carefully drying glasses as the radio plays Boston, I hide in my music, forget the day…and all the through-hikers are hanging onto it diddling their phones, keeping the tab open. One has two feathers criss-crossed in his hair, some pony-tail nub tied on top that makes him look like a chicken, a pinched face and matted beard, nut brown legs pink along the edges, a nice cut of meat.

How the sun lights the liquor in the bottles like a painter’s palette with all the possibilities, letting them screw me sideways for the price of a single malt: a woman at the bar spills some and says that’s the angel’s share, and I compliment the reference, toast them.

The pretty boy with the Bruce Jenner shorts emerges around the corner with a trekking pole he bought at the gift shop and climbs the stairs throughout the lodge with a look of wonder, unaffected by his self-fascination, the sheen of The Now.

And I sit with Dawn drinking beer watching our kids make sock monkey animals out of yarn, wrapping fork tines and tying off the loose ends, some kit they got at Powell’s, somehow Dawn has the patience to assist them. And the guy with the feathers in his hair holds his smart phone like a globe, transfixed. Off the decks outside in the morning with the mist, how the hills are folded and ribbed and give the impression they could go on forever, the same as the clouds.

The hikers leave their packs leaned against the fireplace, their water bottles and sun hats: some walk right into the restaurant with their packs still on, carabiners, poles, tribal ink on their wrists in stripes or claw marks. Our server’s named Dakota, the bartender Tatum.

And the idealized men in the oil paintings are looking stern in their patterned sweaters, erect, a good six feet tall. The odd rules of engagement with cell phones now, what’s rude, what’s not — everyone just seems so aware of themselves. And we kind of sit here drinking beer, watching our kids with the yarn and the fork tines. The look of unhappy couples passing by together too long, the constant rubbing. All the hikers’ legs look like elk.

In the morning when it’s time to go, the Bruce Jenner guy is making a show of packing his things up so anyone can see he’s really leaving now, it’s time: it’s a reality TV show and the tape is always running: look at me, isn’t this amazing!

With an hour to go until checkout time the kids have the pool to themselves and play some game they’re being chased by imaginary sharks, pretend names, everything on the count of three. And I go off to the hot tub on the other side, taking myself out of the frame to regard and admire it, a sheet of stationery from our room before we leave folded in fours, tucked in my vest pocket to look back upon some day and smile.

 

About pinklightsabre

William Pearse publishes memoir, travel journals, poetry and prose, and lives in the Pacific Northwest.
This entry was posted in humor, travel, writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

46 Responses to As several disturbances head our way

  1. ksbeth says:

    you’re right, it sounds like you were in an indie reality film

    Liked by 1 person

  2. rossmurray1 says:

    Deliriously misanthropic. I love this. Seriously, this is a gorgeous piece of writing, ending with the kids just being so unpretentious, as kids will be until they learn otherwise.

    Liked by 2 people

    • pinklightsabre says:

      Thanks Ross, I’m glad I escaped your spam filter! Dawn reminded me we were (at least she was) a lot like these characters when younger too. Very convinced of our own superiority somehow.

      Like

      • rossmurray1 says:

        Oh definitely a “kids today” feel to this, and why not? Me in my trenchcoat and brimmed hat…
        I want to set aside some time to go through you hiking epic.

        Like

      • pinklightsabre says:

        Hey, that sounds great. Yes, Kids Today. I had another encounter like that with a couple PCT through-hikers in the small mountain town Stehekin: they were a lot more interesting, but truly, not interested in anything my friend or I had to say. Made me feel a bit old to be honest. But there were shades of their inexperience that made me feel wise, I suppose.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. kingmidget says:

    Well done, good sir, well done. Some really good pictures drawn with your words.

    By the way, maybe if I had a trail name, I’d hike and backpack more. I’ll need to work on that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • pinklightsabre says:

      Thank you Mark! Glad you enjoyed and thanks for letting me know. I told my friend Brad he should go by the name Al Dente because he’s only doing a 200 mile leg (of the 2,600 PCT). He’s always almost done. Get it?! Ha! I guess we have trail names out here, too.
      Bill

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Fantastic details. I’m there. Reminds me of the lodge at Crater Lake too, which I bet is staffed by plenty of Dakotas and Tatums nowadays.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. amcmulin914 says:

    Something bugs me about that hippie stuff. I know its self-deprecating and coming from a decent enough place, but it’s the larger cultural issue that gets me. Like we have all these labels for people, which we often use to ignore their individuality and humanity. As a younger person and now getting older it always frustrated me to have, usually adults, thrust these dismissive labels. It says you can’t possibly be into whatever your into. It’s just a stage. It’s like we ridicule people for being lemmings and sheep, then we criticize them when they try to get some individuality (I get the irony in a assuming a subculture as an act of individuality). Hippies died at Deer Creek 1995. Most these so-called “hippies” these days got more Tupac rolling around in there then John Denver. Anyway, great writing, as always enjoyed.

    Liked by 1 person

    • pinklightsabre says:

      Totally, on the labels. I don’t know why, but I find hippies so fun to make fun of. Did you ever see that show The Young Ones, the character Neil? You can take all the labels and make fun. I’m not much into snark, I don’t like it, but I felt the need here, a quarter teaspoon of cayenne maybe. And there’s another side of this, I probably felt shirked by them, when I really wanted to connect but they weren’t interested, and I can’t blame them (their loss, ha!). Is the Deer Creek reference to Phish? I think that happened before 95, if it’s in reference to the large arena. They spiraled well beyond my consciousness in 93 I think. I love hippies at the same time. Just not on my sofa.

      Liked by 1 person

      • amcmulin914 says:

        All good, yeah Phish had that song about Deer Creek. It was about at a Dead Show a bunch of people crashed the gate, think the song is called “Gate Crashers”, has a great hook, “fuck youooooo, you cocksucking mother-fuckers”.

        Yeah, they missed out big time on some good company. I get knocking hippies, probably only reason I commented was cause mid-twenties I was catching the hippie label a lot, would piss me off, probably cuz it was mostly true, but also because as an 80s kid growing up I had nothing to do with hippies at all, so it just seemed anachronistic and dismissive. Thinking about this earlier I realized what the real problem is, it’s this fact that nobody seems original anymore. Like what were the hippies before they were hippies, beatniks or whatever? But now we got all these genre of peoples, hipsters, emos, SJWs, etc. these terms get used so much I don’t think they have any real meaning anymore.

        Liked by 1 person

      • pinklightsabre says:

        What were the hippies before hippies? Heh, that’s a good opener. I wish I knew more about the transition from the Beats on, how those cultures diverged. Going to the North Cascades, where Kerouac worked in a fire lookout one summer, made me want to read more of him, try to get it (as I haven’t with the stuff I read of him to date). I looked up Neal Cassady, read about him, listening to the Dead sing also about him (‘cowboy Neal at the wheel, the road to never-never land…’) and like any time I guess you just romanticize it and think you can find a part of yourself in it too. I read around the whole Beat thing in my early 20s, maybe it’s time I go back now. Thanks for sharing your resistance to the label, as anachronistic and dismissive, that makes sense. It’s cool when you feel you’ve transcended those labels. I did however read a bumper sticker coming out of Portland I really liked, Die Yuppy Scum. I probably fall under that label, depending on your POV. Wasn’t it Whitman who said something about being a contradiction, vast…something…Gate Crashers sure has a good hook. That will go far. Bill

        Liked by 1 person

      • amcmulin914 says:

        Think that Whitman word was “multitudes”, a great word I think. We all contain multitudes, that’s the consensus point. There’s a great video of Cassady driving that bus Further in that documentary of the same name, hopped up on old school speed. I didn’t start liking the GD until like late twenties, and my favorite stuff is Jerry Garcia Band, with Merle Haggard “Lonely Avenue”, “Run For the Roses”, also of course the blue grass stuff, think Shady Grove was the first Garcia song I ever really, really loved.

        There’s also a pretty dark side, conspiracy theories to the Dead, from research I’ve come across. I mean the LSD thing is pretty fucking crazy, and their strong association with it. Anyway, far out stuff man, right?

        Think I read On the Road and really liked it. Made me think of the Woody Guthrie book “Bound For Glory”, great freaking book. He’s sort of a protypical hippie. Feel like I should slap myself for saying that…

        Liked by 1 person

      • pinklightsabre says:

        Yes! Multitudes, thank you. Beer + chili cooking, sloppy lit references. I like the description of the Dead you’re into, that gentle Jerry stuff, what’s not to like. I find myself here humming with the possibility of something unattained but happy nonetheless, dicking around with notes and phrases. Life is good connected to others in the intro-net like you Austin, thanks for hanging here for a while, sharing your tastes and all that. Wish I could get you something from my kitchen now, this chili is bitchin’!

        Liked by 1 person

      • amcmulin914 says:

        MB one day we can hike a small section of the PCF and talk shit about hippies. Love chili. Enjoy!

        Liked by 1 person

      • pinklightsabre says:

        I’d love that, I could talk shit 2,600 miles probably, hardly a break needed.

        Liked by 1 person

      • pinklightsabre says:

        Thank you Austin, I’ll check it out!

        Like

  6. Ann Scanlon says:

    so much to love here. so so much. “that well-crafted look of spontaneity”, and your reference to a “sheet of stationary”–I play fly on the wall all the time and you’ve now reassured me that you’re the other fly I see from time to time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • pinklightsabre says:

      There’s a line from one of my favorite singers, from 96 I think “I wear my Parker pen under my own carefully-scruffed hair” which I like. I’m happy to be another fly or crow with you on the line looking down, squawking, doing other things — sometimes distinct and other times not, but not caring. Thanks for reading Ann! And for sharing your favorite phrases too, great to hear from you. Bill

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Yahooey says:

    I think Bruce Jenner guy may learn to be more subtle with age. Every once in a while, I am self-aware enough to realize how much I still do for show and how hard I work at making it look as if that wasn’t the case.

    And the line about hippies is itself back for another go round in a different context. And I will take it as, and thank you for, the licence to recycle some of my comments into posts – I like some of the comments I make better than some of my writings.

    Liked by 1 person

    • pinklightsabre says:

      I actually googled his (now her) name and forgot about the whole gender change, can you believe that? Dawn and I agreed it’s fun to make fun of those people but we were the same our age too. There’s something really genuine in that unadulterated self-fascination and part of me is making fun of myself doing something similar here, too. Yes, I had the hippy line in my head which I thrust on your blog, so thanks for letting me demo it there 🙂 — I like your comments and your writing too. More of both please! Nice to hear from you man. Bill

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Powell’s is a kind-of Mecca for me. I hope to journey there one day. I’ve been lamenting all week that I spend more time in the office sitting next to fools I’d rather kick in the eye than my own beautiful daughters or wife. I think this is all there is. For me, anyway.

    Why would someone care how someone else does the PCT? Does it negatively impact their experience? I constantly have to keep myself check. I insert myself where it doesn’t make any sense for me to be.

    Good to know Manhattan hasn’t cornered the market on pousers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • pinklightsabre says:

      It’s a really neat store. And there are other, smaller book stores downtown (cash only, guys wearing cardigans year-round); you’d really be in your element there. Yes, it’s an enviable life, to think about being home with your family etc., but it’s also not normal. I’m coming to the end but it’s like a digital file vs. paper, you can’t see how much is left.
      Those PCT through-hikers just want to build themselves up (the ones who berate others who don’t do the whole trail). They’re not all like that of course, so many of the ones I got to meet on the trail were great, they’re just not as fun to write about.

      Like

  9. byebyebeer says:

    This post is of keen interest because in one of your hiking posts, a commenter mentioned A Walk In the Woods, which I’d never heard of before and then saw later that day on a table of “Required Reading” at B&N. (We don’t have anything close to a Powell’s in these parts anymore after a local bookstore shut down, re-opened in half its previous space only to close down for good (?) two years later.) So I’ve been gorging myself on Bryson’s book and whatever articles I can find online, including ones about various murders on the AT trail and, well, it’s a heluva fascinating rabbit hole. And here you’re talking about through-hikers and backpacks, only your language includes so much color (literally) and exquisite details, like the nut brown legs with pink edges like a cut of meat. Just very neat.

    Liked by 1 person

    • pinklightsabre says:

      That is very neat, thanks Kristen. My wife has been gorging herself on Bryson too (part of me has been avoiding him for fear I’ll start aping his style). I first read an article by him in a Bon Appetit issue they used to do every May, featuring some international cuisine. In 2004, it was Scotland: and Dawn and I joked, how could there be anything good from there — and never really opened the issue but saved it, and then I took it with us when we went there, and lo and behold, an article by Bryson about climbing a peak there and drinking Scotch with the locals, as you’d expect. (We wound up making a few of the recipes when we were there, and then abandoning the magazine at my mom’s.)
      Yes, I’d heard about those murders on the AT too. I’ve done some of that trail, but found it more like a ‘green tunnel’ they call it, where you can’t see much. It’s spooky to be somewhere backcountry like that alone, and to pass someone on the trail, to say hi, and not have them say anything back. That’s happened to me a couple times. The trail can attract some freaks (I’m on that spectrum myself). If you find any stories of real interest let me know — and if you’re into the adventure stories, and haven’t read Krakauer yet, you might sample him. Some of those stories (the climbing/adventure stories) aren’t written terribly well, but the stories themselves carry it. Like Into the Void. Enjoy the weekend, and back-to-school, and the month. Bill

      Like

      • Anonymous says:

        This one stayed with me: http://www.outsideonline.com/2011326/murder-appalachian-trail

        Thanks for the tips on the others to check out. I hear you on aping style, but so far haven’t felt that pull with him. That’s cool about the article and recipes coming back to you guys in Scotland.

        I can imagine how the ‘green tunnel’ effect would make the miles seem harder and darker. He mentioned some trails near Delaware Water Gap, an area I remember well, and it sounded like a nice day trip…an easy 5 mile climb, he said, with a glacial lake at the top. And then I googled and it’s 7.5 miles and not recommended for beginners and be sure and bring water, it said, and all I could think of was the 1.5 mile family hike we did last month and how my kids acted like they were in the dessert when we got down to the last bit of water and how my legs felt like jelly for the rest of the day (and I run!). So maybe reading and local (wimpy) hikes are just fine. I am sore at myself for being too into beer or whatever the hell it was when I was still young and free and could have gone out and got myself chased by a bear. So thanks to those of you who write about it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • pinklightsabre says:

        I might have been up to the Delaware Water Gap before, if it’s off the PA turnpike on the way toward Walnutport/Palmer (my geography is fuzzy). We used to go on a short day hike up to Bake Oven Knob, do you know that place? One of my best childhood memories is from there, on a September afternoon going over those boulders. I’ll check that article too, thanks for sharing Kristen. Time to buy myself some new work shoes and get myself in interviewin’ mode. — Bill BTW, with the hiking you can really do it if you ease into it and take a light pack, go at your own pace, just enjoy yourself. It works wonders for me as far as the writing goes too. Best, Bill

        Like

      • byebyebeer says:

        I’m glad you figured out that was still me. DWG park runs through PA and NJ along the Delaware River. We hiked a few times when we lived nearby and I sure wish I remembered names. Not sure about Bake Oven Knob. Sunfish Pond was the glacial lake Bryson recommended and that’s on the NJ side. Be sure and break those new shoes in before you hit the trails…oh wait, never mind but may they bring good luck when you wear them!

        Liked by 1 person

      • pinklightsabre says:

        Hey thanks for the well wishes Kristen, that’s kind. Bake Oven Knob is one funny name, American Indian I think. Once you hear it, it’s hard to forget. Ciao, Bill

        Like

      • pinklightsabre says:

        Wow, what a story. I can see why that stuck with you. The woman Karen Lutz (who passed the killer but didn’t follow her gut instinct): I had a similar experience near our first house once, but I did follow my instinct, and surprisingly was right. I called 911 and reported two suspicious looking guys; they’d just stolen a car. They had that look about them. I had to ID them in the police car but then got paranoid they’d know where I lived (and our kids were really young) so I shaved my head. Not a good look. Alright, thanks for that tale — now I need to go outside and put on Prince or something.

        Like

  10. daveply says:

    It was interesting seeing your take on Timberline Lodge, a place I’ve been many a time. However, as I’ve never stayed overnight and rarely have been there in August I haven’t experienced the PCT crowd infusing their own brand of crustiness into the venue. I suspect they’re not really like the hippies I remember from the early seventies, probably more like the current variation of hipsters I see around Portland but don’t interact with much. Back in the day it was “don’t trust anyone over 30”, maybe that’s still true, or maybe they just think we older farts are just boring.

    Liked by 1 person

    • pinklightsabre says:

      Yeah, you had a chance to see some different strain of hippy most likely. Taking pot-shots at hippies is, well, I shouldn’t apologize for it. That Portland hipster look though, that’s its own thing. Portland is just so incredibly original I think, even despite the stereotypes or the fact many folks look like caricatures of themselves. I wish I had Matt Groenig’s eye for illustration; there’s lots of good source material there for parodying. Maybe that’s my draw to these hippies, the easy parody. Glad you enjoyed Dave, thanks for commenting and reading. Bill

      Like

  11. Lynn Love says:

    Love your descriptions of the hipsters, Bill – so spot on. There’s a self absorption, a self interest in being a young person, that they’re the first to experience life, that they are original when everything is derivative. Something (hopefully) you become more aware of as you grow older – that none of us are truly unique, that it’s all been done before, that it’s only unique to us.
    Just truly lovely writing – we were there with you in the hot tub 🙂

    Like

    • pinklightsabre says:

      That self-absorption I wanted to study; it’s fun to parody but also have to realize it maps back to who we were (as you suggest) when we were younger too, and a lot of the navel-gazing I do right here on my blog. But of course I think it’s different somehow. Ha! Thanks for the praise, and soaking with us in the tub there. Bill

      Liked by 1 person

      • Lynn Love says:

        I guess we all need a bit of self absorption early on just to work out who we are and what we think and believe. You can’t know what kind of person you want to be if you haven’t thought about yourself a lot 🙂 Easy to take the mickey out of the pretentiousness of it, but it’s something to be cherished too – that time before life has taken too many chinks out of you and put you solidly in your place! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  12. So much richness and detail, just like being there. I remember asking somebody if hiking the PCT in sections, as they were doing it, counted. I was an idiot, but I never had any Bruce Jenner shorts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • pinklightsabre says:

      Well thanks for being there with me Jon, and the weird associations that come my way. I had to look up Bruce to double check the spelling of his last name and forgot about everything going on with her now! It was like standing at the checkout at QFC all over again.

      Like

      • That’s funny. You know you’ve lost touch with pop culture when your innocent google search turns into something embarrassing. I asked my students why Kim Kardashian was famous because as far as I knew she hadn’t ever done anything. They informed me she made a sex tape…long pause, okay let’s talk about something else.

        Like

      • pinklightsabre says:

        I’m dumbfounded by that. Finding something so dumb it silences you.

        Like

Please share your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s