The sweet smell of woodsmoke mixed with ocean spray

img_6465I pulled into Portland around sunset, crossed the grated bridge through the city limits, two fingers of light left on the horizon. Hard to keep my eyes on the road with the snow-covered volcanoes on my left, the sky turning the color of abalone shell, blue-turquoise-pink. Loren and I stayed up late playing records, then down the rabbit hole of YouTube, digging out rare clips. We watched some late-period Bowie videos that were hard to watch, a 16-minute interview with a record producer isolating each of the eight tracks on the song “Heroes,” then I slept on the couch in the same outfit I wore to work that day and the next, drinking the same cup of coffee in the car all morning long, driving to the coast.

The trees are tall along the roadsides, some have their arms up like they’re being frisked. We ambled along a clammy-smelling, muddy trail to a cove where the surfers gathered, and sat for a time watching the waves break, a slurry of brown-gray foam, the dull rush of sound collapsing, ricocheting off the rocks. Foam bubbles raking the shore, spitting up again: Loren distracted by the bits of colored plastic there, his mom wanting him to call back by 3 o’clock her time, the fact she and her husband were coming for 16 days and voted for Trump, the likelihood that would come up during their stay.

We picked our way down the coast starting at Canon Beach then south, stopping in small towns, a Saturday morning with the monkey puzzle trees frozen in the mist, people out with bonfires burning trash, blue smoke, the quality of light from the muted sun Loren and I argued over, getting the exact phrasing (he called it ‘dusty light’ but I challenged if that was a texture or visual thing he was going for, then thought what a dick I sounded like, for saying that).

The constant changing of CDs on a road trip. The fact I have tinnitus and sometimes use that to my advantage to turn the music down, or say I need a break. A package of half-eaten roasted seaweed Loren had on the dash above the steering wheel that would slide down and fall off one side when we turned: he’d catch it with one hand and put it back and then it would slide down the other and he just kept putting it back.

When we got back to Portland it was dark, Loren knew I wasn’t drinking for the month, but as we sat there waiting for the lights to turn, looking out the car window, it seemed there was nothing better to do in Portland on a Saturday night.

Loren cited a Buddhist belief that we should break the rules we set (implying to do otherwise is putting too much power in the rules), and then he asked if I’d ever heard of a French experimental book in which the author set out to write a full-length novel without using the letter E, but then decided that was too contrived, broke down and used the letter (but only twice): and somehow, there was a lesson in that for me to consider having just one drink—but I shook it off and we went record shopping instead, had sushi, made smug comments about the cherries they used as garnish, then watched a documentary about Antarctica when we got home.

The Bowie video isn’t from his last record but one that came before; the concept is that it’s the next day following the recording of “Heroes,” in Berlin, and Bowie’s clearly older and not doing anything to hide it, he’s sentimental about his time there, but doesn’t sound it: and walking along some beachside town with Loren he gets sentimental about his time in Berlin too, when he was single and made music with friends he played with in San Francisco, the singer had moved to Berlin and took Loren to an abandoned Soviet bunker on the outskirts of town, through a cutout in the barbed wire fence and into the ruins of an old fortress, its murals of Russian aristocrats in the dining hall, tunnels filled with puddles leading to darkness underground…and leaving, the signs in German that warned of hidden mines, ‘trespassing verboten.’

In the morning before I left we talked about his itch to get out and travel again, that feeling of being penned in by money and work. I took the 5 north playing ambient CDs he leant me but they only made me tense from the coffee and all their plaintive strumming, and I had to pull over at a rest stop and clear my head with some fresh air, reminded of stops we took driving across Germany with Eberhard, that you could pull over and actually sit down for a cup of coffee and enjoy that moment like it was part of the road trip, even if it didn’t feel like it.

I think Loren was feeling limited in his life like he wasn’t getting his due, the way it starts to pull back and you see yourself through the camera, and it doesn’t feel as interesting anymore.

In the morning the mountains were wearing veils and I strung together towns from the south to the north, taking Highway 18 east to Auburn; even though it takes longer than 405, it’s more scenic. And when I got home I picked out something for dinner, left the Volvo in the driveway, it showered, and when I pulled away there was a dry patch roughly the shape of my car there on the pavement, soon to be washed out again and erased.



Categories: musings, travel

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

23 replies

  1. Wait, what? Bowie did an interview with Loren? This is a six-degrees of separation moment!

    Super details today, but I love the ending with all of its metaphorical layering.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This was a lovely meander, but who is Loren? At one point, I wondered if he was a fictional companion on a journey remembering Bowie. But, I am easily confused that way and lack many cultural references when I can’t Google something to look it up.

    Liked by 1 person

    • He’s a close friend from childhood who lived in Portland. Sorry, I don’t often qualify characters and see how that’s confusing. But appreciate you asking and reading (and caring to ask), thanks! Bill (and actually you can google him, Loren Chasse)

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This was a lovely stream of consciousness type road trip through your brain. Like Kevin, I was “wtf, this guy interviewed Bowie?” But then I reflected on how your thoughts seem to meander forward and backward, perhaps replaying conversations as you drive. All of a piece, no beginning, no end.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cool, glad you saw it that way! I wrote it quickly in the early morning so I can see where the transitions could be hard. But I was trying to tie the connections I saw through the three of us (me, Loren and Bowie). I like making those connections, happy you enjoyed, thanks for telling me! Bill

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Loved the abalone shell colours and the frisked trees! And you and Loren and Bowie – wonderful stuff, Bill, so contemplative and not a little mournful


    • Hi Lynn, thanks! Always lovely to hear from you…was reading your Devil of Moravia today and sorry to ask, I feel like I have but I’ve forgotten: did you write that whole piece out and you’re releasing it in posts, or is it serialized (writing/posting as you go)? Was just curious. And are you releasing a post each week, I think (on that story)? Cheers, Bill

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Bill. Not sure you have asked before, but I’m writing Devil as I go, making it up as I go along. Oh, dear, does it show? 🙂 I have a rough idea of where things will end, a few ideas of what might happen inbetween and the relevance of the clock, but aside from that … winging it. And yes, after a very shaky, intermittent few posting months, I’ve been trying to post a new instalment every Monday. Might put it on Wattpad when it’s done, or one blogging pal suggested making a POD novella from it, though not sure it would sell. Does anyone want to read a pseudo Regency, slightly tongue in cheek picaresque romp these days? Probably needs more sex if I did want it to sell – Fifty Shades of the Devil? 🙂


      • That’s sad, the more sex part, but true probably. I’m glad to hear you’re serializing it and making it up as you go, well done. I’m curious what you learn about how readers respond to that. I’ve wanted to create serialized stories (my whole blog is that pretty much) that aren’t time/plot-dependent but rather, people can enter and exit and consume more if they choose, without missing much of the theme. But yours seems a more traditional plot arc, so I’m not sure that will work. Is it really dependent on the previous instalments? Sorry, I reckon it is but had to ask. I am happy you’re doing it that way, I think that’s a lot more interesting. I think it’s how Mark Twain wrote Huck Finn. But he couldn’t sort out how to end it really.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, serials are a funny one on blogs, I think. People just dipping in won’t want to commit to a long read – so I don’t think the instalments draw as many readers as some of my weekly prompts – but folk do seem to latch on and sometimes go back and read previous episodes, so I thought it was worth persevering – especially as I’m enjoying writing it. The story arc’s tough, it’s true and probably would be different if I planned it out first. I’m tending to leave a cliff hanger at the end of each episode, which I might not do if I wrote it all in one go. Dickens wrote a lot of his novels that way too, weekly serialisations in Household Words (which he edited). It’s an interesting discipline but not the easiest post I write each week 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  5. This was a lovely meander


  6. now you, loren, and bowie. that’s a road trip-

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This is meaty, with tender bits and gristle.
    Those Buddhists sound like rationalists.


  8. I was so caught up in the imagery I almost missed the plot!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. “I think Loren was feeling limited in his life like he wasn’t getting his due,…” I get that, have often felt that way. Now, it seem more like I’m not pursuing my due.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. People just dipping in won’t want to commit to a long read – so I don’t think the instalments draw as many readers as some of my weekly prompts – but folk do seem to latch on and sometimes go back and read previous episodes, so I thought it was worth persevering – especially as I’m enjoying writing it. It’s an interesting discipline but not the easiest post I write each week 🙂


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