I sit alone on a bench outside a darkened record store in North Portland.
That one sentence is all I've been able to write today. "I sit alone on a bench outside a darkened record store in North Portland." It's not a bad sentence. I've written worse. It has geographical specificity, which is exciting, plus a certain evocative sadness. Can't you just picture it? The sun has recently set, Mississippi Avenue is deserted, and there I am, alone, unshowered, oily, fidgeting on the slatted wooden bench whose design is indifferent to human contours, no doubt a cigarette smoldering in my hand. I can sure picture it. Then again, I was there. Apparently.
But, still, it's not much for an entire day's work. I set this Saturday aside for writing, to finally finish this infernal multi-part saga of a road trip that I hardly remember anymore. I got wasted at pehrspace last night, so nothing involving physical movement was going to get done today anyway. It seemed like the least I could do--given the fact that, before any of us knows it, I'll be dead--not to squander an entire day.
And, yet, here it is, after midnight, early Sunday morning, and that's all I have come up with. One sentence. I'm not sure why. I got most of the heavy stuff out of the way in part two. Part three should be a breeze. But here we are.
I haven't been feeling well. That's one thing. Physically I'm fine, aside from all the fatal diseases that I'm convinced I have. But the poison in my brain seems to be reigning unfettered. What can you do? It happens.
Also, so much has happened since we returned from Portland. Nothing life-altering, or particularly interesting, but however anonymous the days have been, their events accumulate, and they clutter your mind, and that awesome rock and roll road trip a couple weeks back grows faint, its sensations vague, the whole thing best left forgotten, lest your day-to-day life--where you're handcuffed to work and routine and responsibility --becomes, by comparison, even more unbearable than usual.
It feels like trying to wring meaning out of a half-remembered dream that, once put into words, wasn't that meaningful after all.
I sit alone on a bench outside a darkened record store in North Portland. It's Saturday night. In a few minutes, Manhattan Murder Mystery will be playing a set at the Black Rose Infoshop, an anarchist bookstore and show space.
I'm doing my best to feel well, but it's hard. I may not be smart, but I'm old enough to know that--even on the road, with the shackles of work and home a distant, booze-drowned memory--freedom is never attainable. You're always tied to something, or someone. You always end up stranded someplace you don't want to be. You always end up wanting to lie down when you must stand up, having to pee when there's nowhere for you to go, wanting to eat something yummy when the only thing available is Portland's unique take on the cuisine of Mexico. Freedom's allure still remains, but it lies in its elusiveness, in all its promise that can never be fulfilled in this world.
Which is a frilly way of saying I was grumpy, I wanted MMM to play already, and then I wanted to go back to the house and get drunk, preferably in a prone position.
I didn't want to wallow, or bring anyone else down, or come off like the big jerk that I am, so I went for a walk through the neighborhood. I smoked too much and unsuccessfully tried to pet cats.
And, after completing a circle, I end up back on Mississippi, on a bench outside a record store. A scruffy couple approaches.
"I really hate to bother you," the man says, "but we're stranded out here, and my girl's pregnant," gesturing to the lady, who is indeed pregnant, "and we just really need a place to stay for the night. I'm really, really sorry to ask you, but do you think you can help us out?"
It's hard to reject personal appeals like that, especially on an empty street with no crowd to blend into. So I break out my wallet and find that my smallest bill is a five, which I'm disinclined to part with. But I've already crossed the point of no return by extracting the wallet, and what's five bucks anyway--five-eighths of a well drink at the Echo?--so I give it to them.
"Thanks so much," the guy says. "Hey, if you're interested, we've got a bunch of Vicodin. I don't want them, and she can't take them because she's pregnant, so you can have one if you want."
I don't particularly want one. Vicodin is pretty low on my list of favorite substances. But declining free drugs is not a habit I want to cultivate--there's something unacceptably grown-up about it--so I accept the pill and put it in my pocket.
Later that night, a quick google search indicates that the pill is not Vicodin at all, but is in fact a 500 milligram acetaminophen. The moral of the story being, some people are so inept that they can get burned on drug deals even when they're not trying to buy drugs.
It's hard to reckon what the guy's motivation was. He already had my money. Perhaps he hoped to brighten my evening with the placebo effect? Or maybe he just wanted to poison my liver, not realizing that I've got that job under control.
It's an inexplicably cruel world.
A few minutes later, up the street, MMM plays a strong set for a small but enthusiastic crowd (except for the girl who was reading the whole time). The Black Rose has a no drugs or alcohol policy (there's also a "no bullshit" policy, but that one's less strictly enforced), but, even so, when I return Teardrop's guitar to the performance area after he throws it down and runs out into the street at the end of "Parking Lot," I notice some barf on the floor.