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Another two month hiatus and he returns!! This time with a strange story, the genesis of which I can't possibly recall. Here goes

Angry Ghost Rants to an Unsuspecting and Disinterested Mouse

Fuck my life.

I mean, you know, fuck my afterlife.

Caught in this dead end fucking job. I’m not being cute here. I don’t know how to make this anymore literal. I’m dead. This is the end. And I’ve got a fucking job.

Old Smithtown Manor, a crappy 17th century relic brilliantly built atop an old Indian burial ground. But do you actually see any fucking Indians haunting this motherfucker. No, you see me, rural farmhand from Nebraska trapped in this musky, mold infested claptrap that smells, or would smell if I remembered smell, like an old jockstrap, stuffed at the bottom of a pile of other, older jockstraps. Fuck, I don’t even get the run of the house. I bet the upstairs has some pretty cool antiques, and at the very least I could find a window or two. But nooo, I’m stuck on this 4’ by 4’ fucking patch of cracked linoleum in the Northeast corner of the fucking boarded up pantry. Spending my days clanking old pots, rattling old glassware, and talking to you, stupid fucking mouse.

And then there’s Bob. Fucking Bob. All nice and comfy over in the main foyer. Prime fucking real estate he’s holding there. Nobody ever spends the night in the pantry. No its always “I dare you to spend the night in the old Smithtown foyer,” or some shit. On top of that he’s got chandeliers, and candles, and old paintings, and a whole other bag of goodies that bump in the night. Have you ever heard the screams coming out of that room? I’m a ghost and even I’d call it uncanny. And what do I fucking get: corrugated linoleum, peeling stucco, mold stains, and yes, you, stupid fucking mouse. No, no that was not an invitation to come closer. Don’t you fucking approach me or I will crush you beneath my astral foot and, well you won’t quite get squashed, but you’ll probably feel a weird chill or something like that, and you’ll find that pretty difficult to interpret and it will probably delay you for a couple of seconds.


Then the other night the fucking the Ghost Hunters filmed here. Don’t have to tell you they did the majority of their filming. “We’re getting massive spectral energy readings in the main Foyer.” “Check out these paranormal frequencies, they’re unreal.” The walls may be sturdy, but they’re not soundproof, assholes. I’m dead, but I’m not fucking deaf. And what did they do with the pantry? Turned it into a God dam R&R room for the crew. Oh, and guess where they stashed the porta-potty? That’s right, atop a trusty, old 4’ by 4’ patch of cracked linoleum in the Northeast corner.

Where’s that stupid fucking blond kid with the dumb-ass bowl cut and the overly protective single mom when you need him. Hell, I’d even settle for Bruce Willis at this point. Get em ‘on board. Together we’ll release my Manifesto: Dead and NOT Loving It. Show the world a thing or two about banal minutiae.

And then you and me we’ll…what’s that? Oh you’ve got to get going? So soon? You sure you don’t want to…I mean we could rattle some of the glassware together and…Okay. Yeh, I understand. Family comes first. Goodnight mouse. Same time tomorrow, okay?

What happened. Last we spoke it was like October. Man that internet is slow!

So the blog is back, though it is now less of an excursion and more of an experience, and localized more in Central California than the Northwest. Allowances must be made.

Lets get things started off with some links.

I wrote a story. It did well. Honorable Mention in a contest. I will post it here soon. Catch it here first www.flaskandpen.com

Charles started a blog. Its good. Its quirky. I write occasionally. Check it out here. www.thecuisinart.com

And now on with the first new post. An adventure in San Francisco.

On Valentine’s Day, while some sipped champagne, composed fruitless love letters, or more accurately masturbated with a homemade lubricant of tears and self-pity, many converged amid gather storm clouds to exhaust their own romantic frustrations and sexual aggressions in a much different manner. Below is one man’s recollection of what truly happened on that day.

--Two thousand, contiguous, nameless faces. A light drizzle. Heavy fog lingers over the Bay. In the distance, storm clouds foreshadow the events to come. Even the women and children have been called to arms. I scan the masses. There are no allegiances here safe what fellowship and love entail, and even these bonds are uncertain when pillows are involved.

--Phone calls from invisible sources. Where are you amid this madness? I’m next to the statue? What statue? Actually it is more of a structure? What structure? Its pretty abstract so I’m not sure what you call it. Nevermind, I’m going to wave my red pillow in the air. Yes, I am aware there are about a hundred red pillows in the air. Mine is the one near the statue. What statue? Actually it’s more of a structure…

--I am alone. Utterly, utterly alone.

-- Off in the distance a light thwack of matted goose against corduroy. The sound precipitates a contagious frenzy that circles outward until my hand is no longer my own, raining down upon the button nose and ovular face of a bearded Spaniard in khakis.

--The fray has begun.

--It does not take long for the first feathers to burst from their cotton linings, leaving one to speculate what part their owners played in such an early release. Tricky knife work, or a premature exertion of excessive force? The feathers hang in the air listless, like ash from a volcanic eruption. Some see the airborne threat, and bring masks and bandanas to their mouths. We not previously versed in the terms of this peculiar battle must do without.

--A circle forms. Contained within a man in a chicken hat. “Chicken hat,” screams the crowd. We stop our small conflicts and swarm upon him like moths to the flame. We are the mob and the mob asks no questions. One feels sorry for the individual who thought a chicken hat would suit the festive nature of this battle. One feels sorry for all the hapless souls who brought backpacks, hats, or any clothing accessory easily identified in the sea of flesh and pillows. Panic sets in. I begin to question how my own outfit will be perceived amid the madness. Jeans. Black Shirt. Blue flannel. Wait, how blue? Medium blue. Phew. Facial scars? None of note. Hair? Sweaty and mousy, but not spiked enough to stand above the crowd. Pillow? Red—but, then again, its Valentine’s Day.

--Predictable, little warrior. You are a prisoner to your zealotry, and thus you must swing first. I find my timing. Side step. Grab your pillow between my elbow and ribs. “You cant’ Grab my pillow, it’s a rule,” you say. “Rule, MWUAHAHAHA. There are no rules in pillow fights,” I thrash your rule abiding face with my pillow of anarchy, bringing your perfectly ordered little world to a standstill in a shower of feathers. I watch in ironic horror as you twist my own maniacal laugh back upon me. I am left with a limp, tattered shroud of linen. You hold a mace of hardened goose and a score to settle. You beat me senseless. Without weapon I flee. The ground is littered with the dead. Gutted, sinewy strands of tattered goose lay muddied with footprints, and soiled with spit and sweat. I search the cotton gore for an intact pillow. Please. Please. Success. It will take some time to grow accustomed to the new weight. But I am optimistic, even in these dark times.

---Amidst a particularly hazy storm of white feathers and the pungent odor of farts, released comfortably and openly in the confidence that no one will ever identify the asshole of origin, two men fight opposite one another. Perceiving a presence behind them they turn, pillows drawn. Their eyes light up. Their embrace is as vicious as the swipes of their pillows. How long has it been since they last saw one another? How many have they lost along the way? The questions do not linger, and the reunion is soon shattered. Love has no place in a pillow fight. Not even on Valentine’s Day.

--- Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves. You once taught me a valuable lesson. Relationships based on intense experiences never work. I should have paid heed to your advice. Knocked to the ground with a sideways blow to the face. A defensive reflex, my feet swipe the floor like antennae, feeling for my assailant. I connect with her shins, bringing her down on top of me. Eyes lock, lips meet. We do not part, but instead steal a moment. Our lips are sweaty and the kiss is sour. Yet we hold. “Make out,” I hear, and realize my mistake too late. Pillows guided by anonymous hands pummel us like shoes in a dryer. Is it their jealousy that fuels them? Or is it a painful reminder that one must never let sex obscure the task at hand? Especially when pillows are involved.

---A miracle. Among pillow induced pain and feather related emphysema, I find an old friend. We agree to join forces, fighting back to back. We fight small fish at first. Graduating soon to dual wielders, and similar duos. From the distance lumbers our greatest challenge. He rises high above the crowd like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, or an Ultrasaurus in a new growth forest. “Get the Giant,” cries the masses, and once again we are united by purpose. He has physics on his side. One by one he flattens his assailants like hapless moles in circular arcade prisons. Some attack his thighs. Others attack his abdomen. His blows are powerful, but they exhaust him quickly. Soon he ceases his attack. Was it the combined might of our pillows? Or in the distance did he glimpse more supple prey? Who knows what a giant sees above the fray.

---Thirst consumes me. I meet someone and ask for water. She provides Fresca. It offers no refreshment and leaves a sour taste of over processed grapefruit in my mouth. What is Fresca? What is its purpose for existing? Why does grapefruit need to be carbonated? I spit the remnants about the crowd. The girl follows suit. Our actions enrage a pack of Asians. They swarm upon us, fueled by a sticky, grapefruit flavored vengeance. I look upon Lady Fresca. Her eyes speak of courage and loyalty. We are bonded in this Fresca debacle, she and I. I know then that she will follow me until the very end. I, on the other hand, will have no part in such madness. I grab her by the shoulders and toss her into the hoard. In the ensuing confusion I flee.

----The fray continues, but I will no longer play any part. I reconvene with my friends at long last in front of the statue, which is perhaps more accurately a structure. We share stories of battle, sipping interchangeably upon water and beer. We wonder had this been Lord of the Rings how quickly we would have died, and how we would have met our ends. We settle upon seven seconds, though allowances are made for protagonists.

---I arrive home. I go on to cap the night in true warrior fashion—with beer and pizza, though to me it tastes like mead and mutton. I revel in my moments of glory, and toast to the fallen. Finally, returning at long last to my chambers, I put the day to rest in a most fitting manner: I lay down my weapon, and let it at last fulfill its intended purpose.

Bicycle Excursion: Mt Humburg to Klamath

Day Four: Humburg Mountains to Brookings-51 Miles

Woke up at 7:30 to a chill mist enveloping the mountains. Quite beautiful but necessitated scalding shower if progress were to be made. Clamor of friends indicated they had been up for hours. After a hearty breakfast of ricecakes and Gatorade, went to bid farewell to my less ambitious friends who, unlike Shea, had not given themselves such a strict time frame and intended to loiter and explore. Instantly recognizable that the “slight knee pain” of last night has blossomed into mature agitation. Worse yet are the miles of hills guarding the exit of Humburg National Park. You know that pain where you can literally feel joints tearing? Land finally settled into a flat and windy stretch. Began to wonder why people decorate the sites of a loved one’s auto accident with flowers and pictures. Personally, I would not want to be memorialized at the location where an bad decision, like text messaging while driving a curve, precipitated my unfortunate demise. Eventually pulled into Gold Beach, which looks like Jersey with large, looming mountains to the east. Could not continue any further as my knee felt like a Texas Chainsaw Massacre and had swelled like Orson Wells in his twilight years. Called my PT friend for advice and sucked down enough IB Profun to ensure at least three months would be subtracted from my liver’s life expectancy. After sitting in an uncomfortable patch of gravel on the side of the road, choking down wheat bread and peanut butter, regained the courage to give riding a shot. Pain and swelling not decreased. Evidently IB Profun short on bravery, and after encountering scope of the problem, dissented and struck for the urinary tract. I decided to alter my style so that I pushed most of the force on my right leg, though I’m sure this will bite me in the ass down the road. The road to Brookings was the most beautiful I’ve seen since northern Oregon. Miles of State Parks with Vistas, rocky outcroppings, small isles, coves, and Oregon’s tallest bridge. Finally arrived in Brookings, which is kind of like a Giant strip mall with a pretty beach. I noticed several businesses made some bad decisions during the naming process including the “Wacky Tobaccist,” and my personal favorite, “Tranny Man Auto Repairs.” I pull into my hotel with a terrible knee and prepare for a long night of icing. 

Day Five
: Brookings to Klamath-41 Miles

Knee had become a busted carburetor and I was lost in a land without mechanics. I decided to trudge on under the delusion that a 41-mile trip would be tolerable. Six miles of relatively flat land confirmed this assumption and I arrive dat the California border. A silly roadside celebration followed, accompanied with promotional photo shoot. About a quarter mile beyond the sign was an immigration station. Attendant handed me a pink LED and congratulates me on my bicycle trip. After several miles I came to a road construction site staffed entirely by women. I found my passage riddled with cat calls and wolf whistles. We are truly in the 21st century, I thought passing through this twilight zone of gender dynamics. So this is what violation feels like. Land was mostly flat and pastoral. Three miles outside of Crescent City, the road transformed into a sprawling, sparsely vegetated, highly gusty, Eastern U.S style freeway. The sprawling highway was a perfect precursor to the equally eastern Crescent City. Binghamton with a beach. Bought some more rice cakes and made camp to lunch by a small roadside divider Conversed with a vagabond named Cliff who engages in bird like migration each year. He gave me advice about the treacherous hills that awaited me ahead. Everyone I’ve met on this trip has had advice to give. But Cliff—toothless, grimy, bird’s nest beard, corrugated skin, yet still carrying the latest edition Motorola—struck me as a man who has literally been everywhere. I heeded his advice and soon learned the truth behind his words. Horrible, mind blowing, apocalyptic hills. I felt like Sisyphus. Mumbled cursing soon turned to aggravated screaming. Within minutes I was threatening undeserving wildlife. Made solemn vow to punch the animal that crossed my path in the forehead. No desire to kill. Just inflict an abrasive contusion between the eyes. At several points the road began to curve downwards. Excitement grew and I took pictures, thinking with cleverness of how I would later indicate in my blog “this is the moment it all changed.” Hills were as duplicitous as a cheating ex. The slope around corners simply reveals previously hidden inclines steeper than the preceding descent. Elevation actually gained! Ready to consign myself to the endless purgatory of upward motion when the trees opened into a 600 foot Vista of brackish air and sun-reflecting ocean. Careful descent. I signed my name on a rock, though no one will ever see it. Perhaps good fortunate will give my Sharpie great life expectancy and some distant, visiting alien historian will postulate about the great Shea O’Neill and what his mysterious Oct 1 08 markings signified. Continued down at increasingly dangerous speed, though at least my knee is given a rest. Almost missed my hostel entirely. Grows out of the redwood forest like some wooden outcropping. After checking in and unpacking, went downstairs to enjoy a meal. All around me families enjoyed home cooked pizza, lasagna, and other extravagant dishes. I looked on enviously with a peanut butter sandwich. Actually found someone at dinner who played cribbage!! Huge development. When last girlfriend and I broke up I was left with an addiction to cribbage in a world where no one plays. My skills have apparently gone rusty and I was demolished on several occasions. The night ended sitting around a fireplace with Cliff and Thyme—aging hippies. Cliff has no confidence in America’s ability to save herself, and Thyme is very knowledgeable and interested in Mendocino county marijuana policy.

Bike Trip

Goal: 620 Miles from Eugene Oregon to San Francisco via Coastal 101 and Route 1.
Reality: God Only Knows

Equipment: Secondhand bicycle purchase riddled with mechanical problems; bags; infants tent

Purpose: Inject a new experience into my trip. Also seemed an adequate way of ensuring I had transportation when in San Francisco.

I am far too exhausted for wit. All notes will be composed into a more cohesive narrative that I will submit to travel writing websites in the future. I’ll post that completed text at the end. For now I'll keep you updated with periodic notes.

Day One: Eugene to Florence: Distance-62 Miles

126 is a long and ugly highway out of Eugene. Miles of barren flatness combine with headwinds to stimulate frustration. A wearied body begins to delight in the small things. For example, discovering you’ve actually traveled three miles instead of two results in a hearty bout of impromptu caroling. Day one continued without incident until mile 16 when I blew a horrible flat. Customary to the spirit of this trip, I am without patch kit or pump. After redistributing the weight of my load, I set foot on my first hitchhiking endeavor. Immensely difficult to hold a bike weighted with 50 lbs of luggage with one hand while keeping the proper geometric alignment of a thumb pointed towards traffic. Was finally picked up by a salt of the earth, pure blood Oregonian named Henry. Henry greets me in thick coastal drawl and begins dismantling my bike with mechanic precision. My first thought is robbery/murder. I downgrade to simple robbery. I’m tossed into the car after the bike and my thoughts turn to kidnapping. In reality I’m chauffeured to a nearby derelict, hole in the wall Salvation Army, curiously placed in the middle of nowhere. Miraculously, we find a pump and a patch kit among the various knickknacks and useless trinkets. Henry buys us both ice cream cones at a small café next door and comments on the ice creams quality. Henry patches my bike for me and I learn the following facts: Henry is banned from Iowa and New Mexico: Henry believes in collecting metal from others garbage: Henry has been run over four times: Henry dislikes Mexicans and Rednecks. I bid him farewell and I continue my trip down 126. The road is without incident until a steep one-mile climb into a shoulderless tunnel. I begin to regret the trip, though I alter my mindset when the wind rustles my hair on the way down. The final leg into Florence is wrought with clumsy termites, fading sunlight, and marshy wetlands. I pull into Florence more exhausted than I’ve ever felt in my life. Hunger and exhaustion conspire to purchase four doughnuts, two bagels, and a jar of peanut butter. Pull into the campsite at dark and start to set up camp. Soon discover that in my haste to make a shelter purchase, I accidentally  bought a children’s tent. Measurements are 5x4 and necessitate sleeping along the hypotenuse. Also discover that the tent is not waterproof. And somewhere along the way I lost my I-Pod.

Day Two: Florence to Coos Bay: Distance-52 Miles

Woke up earlier than I have since August and began dismantling my children’s tent. Late night mist and early morning dew combine with inadequate waterproofing to make me look like I have sweat gland deficiencies. Excited for today’s trip as it brings me past the Oregon Dunes. Famous relics of glacial expansion, now expansive golden domes: God’s Zen garden (sacrilege?). Conversed with a couple about my trip. Discovered they were also headed to San Francisco. Secretly prayed they would give me a ride. Continued onward and blew out my tire again. Fortunately it occurred next to a gas station. Fingers crossed I entered and was rewarded with a patch kit. Plopped down and began my virgin patching session. Fifty minutes and ten Sambo-blackened fingers later I had accomplished my goal. Air deflated instantly. Went in for round two and discovered the real culprit this time around. Bought a Gatorade and complained to the attendant about my need for a new tube and frustration that all bikes shops are closed on Sundays. A man at the fountain soda station comes and shakes my grease stained hands, introducing himself as Moe and telling me to give him a call when I get to North Bend. He owns a bike shop, he informs me, and would gladly open it up when I arrive to sell me a new tube. Fortuitous indeed. Continue to ride. Realize that a symptom of loneliness and exhaustion is creating inside jokes with yourself. Few sights more pathetic than a grown man, poorly attired for bicycling, screaming “clumsy termites” at the top of his lungs to no one in particular. North Bend and Coos bay both relics of an earlier Oregon. Once thriving fishing/logging communities they suffer the fate of every small town trying to make it in the modern age. Moe fixes my tire and gives me a few more bike mechanic tips. Decision to camp or stay at a motel comes down to deciding whether to go up a hill (campsite) or down a hill (motel). Eventually the bliss of a bed is too strong.

Day Three: Coos Bay to Humburg Mountain State Park Distance 60 Miles

Woke up feeling like the Dinosaurs felt post-asteroid, and concluded that I needed to lighten my load. Took out about  15 pounds of books and clothes and went to the post office to mail them ahead. Sad to leave the comfort of the hotel, but I set onward out of Coos Bay. About five or six miles out of Coos Bay met up with a roaming band of hippies and tagged along. Company is nice. Ability to draft even nicer. Embarrassingly outbiked by the hippies for the first 10 miles. Eventually regain my stride. We had lunch in Bandon—they ate homemade hummus and vegetables. I had peanut butter and a half a bagel. Ominous clouds rolled in and framed the rest of the day. Huge headwinds battered us like early mariners. Many hours later we arrived sweat soaked and exhausted in Port Orford. As we were shopping in the grocery store it began to rain. We took a vote and decided to muscle onward for seven more miles. Pure, unimaginable hell. Near consistent hills, coastal-powered headwinds, and showers fight our advance. At least the views are beautiful. Finally we arrive at the park and everyone agrees it was for the best. We hang out with other bikers at the campsite, two of which have brought their dog with them. He is a sheepdog named trucker and he gets to ride in the sidecar. We had a nice communal dinner and there was brief talk of a card game. No card game occurred. Before I pass out I notice that my left knee is a bit uncomfortable and there is slight swelling. I ignore it and pass out.  Awakened at 4 AM to the sound of a Cougar mauling another animal a quarter mile from the campsite. There are few sounds more terrifying. At least I have the thin, water soaked layer of my infants tent to protect me. Lets just hope cougars don’t prefer the supple, veal-like flesh of young children.

Finishing Whistler and the Bar Monologues

Chronicles of Whistler Part II

Call it an unconscious method of dealing with fear. Call it boyhood yearnings sprung free from the subconscious. Call it whatever you want. But when grown men stray from wooded paths, we reclaim the childhood identities of our imaginary action heroes. The brush is our kingdom and we are the knights charged with rescuing fair cottonwood maidens from the malefic clutches of power-hungry Dougals Firs. Hollywood penetrates our play, as we often sprinkle our adventures with catchy and pointed dialogue. “Well Douglas, my coniferous friend, it appears we shall be “hem-locked” in combat “fir-ever.” Why don’t I use my Sitka sword today and we’ll “spruce” things up a bit.” Add to the fray a diverse collection of raspberried sound effects, self whistled soundtracks, and the occasional plot driven monologue, and you’ve got the makings for an extremely low budget Michael Bay production.

Lets change the perspective for just a second. Surprise! You are now one half of a modestly obese, newly married couple brightly festooned in the latest in synthetic fibers, complete with the new edition, aerodynamically-grooved New Balances. Today is the inaugural run for these aforementioned purchases,  and you’ve decided a brisk and breezy 10 k through the woods would suit the occasion. Brief and breathless conversation punctuates the jog, consisting mostly of insignificant and unnecessary remarks about the color and pulchritude of passing scenery. Midway through a particularly negligible comment about the similarity of an adjacent spruce to a tree from your childhood, you notice your partner has come to a standstill, and appears to be examining a curious figure in the brush.

Your thoughts turn to the image of a bear. You think, should I be fearful and see if the salesman was telling the truth when he said New Balances could outrun bears? Or should I relax, take reverence, and prepare this story for the girls at the hairdresser/guys at the game on Monday? Not terribly deep into the contemplation of these options, you notice that what you thought was hair is actually clothing. Then you remember that bears don’t wear clothes. And if they did, you doubt they’d sink to the level of secondhand, Old Navy camo shorts.

Now that the mammalian critter’s taxonomical identity has been cleared up, you become distressed at the fact that he is wandering unchaperoned through the brush. What more, he has begun parrying invisible swordsmen, while striking forceful blows to the trunk of a Douglas Fir with a decaying limb of pine. And he appears to be talking to someone.

 You hearken close while scanning the surroundings for the banter’s intended recipient.  You find none, and soon become aware that he is not attempting conversation, but weaving a narrative—a surprisingly expository one at that. Your mind flashes to the article you read in Life about schizophrenics who neglect their medication. “Come darling,” you say to your equally distraught partner. “It’s about time we put these rubber soles to the test!”

Unfortunately, I remained ignorant my voyeur’s mannerisms until long after I had macheted my way through the thick, dense underbrush of the imagination, to emerge into the shimmering, crystalline reality of Lost Lake. I am not exaggerating. It shined with Caribbean warmth, a sparkling menagerie of cerulean, sapphire, and aquamarine hues. And though the duplicitous image of such vibrant blue invites the thought of warmth, I knew that the water would be just as cold as the icy gems that color its surface.

I set about exploring a conveniently placed dirt path that encircled the lake. I reengaged my amateur taxonomy skills, inappropriately labeling the native hardhack as “fuzzy, pink vibrators.” The Lost Lake Park was filled with flocks of tanners, bookies, ponderers, and two half naked football jocks who spent more time ogling the bronzed beach denizens than actually tossing the Nerf.

I felt now that a beer was deserved, so I heightened the pace, and walked down to the Whistler Brew Pub. It is a rustic dining establishment that serves tasty beers and offers free tours every Thursday and Saturday. I checked my invisible watch. Damn—it was Tuesday.

I settled in and allowed the barkeep to present me with samples of such lumberjack themed beverages as Grizzly Lager, Wolf Bitter, Red Truck Ale. Eventually I settled on the Grizzly Lager, which had a confluence of smooth and malty tastes that reminded me of 18th Century English beer. Or at least what I imagine 18th Century English beer must have tasted like.

In my stomach, the beer continued to marinate the already soused muscles, so I decided to take a digestion-inducing walk around the establishment. After examining the heavily wooded architecture, which I classified in my notes as “cedaresque” despite having no idea what classifies as cedar, I noticed another material equally prominent in the establishment—plaster. Of the eleven servers I counted, five had broken or fractured limbs of some variety. I have never seen a place with such a high broken bone to waiter/waitress capacity in all of my travels.  The culprit, I later learned from the barkeep, was mountain biking. Except in one case in which the culprit was a misguided embrace of an individual far too large to be hugged in such an emotive fashion.

The Bar Monologues

In a particularly lazy and languorous moment, as I slowly merged with the couch much in the way mold merges with a rotten sandwhich, I had the sudden inkling to free myself from such wasteful habits and head out for a midnight bout of socializing and drinks. The subsequent effort involved in dressing myself for the midnight tryst with my alcoholic mistress has scarce been matched. The closest comparison I can possibly draw is when, at the age of 5, my mother designed to dress my brother and me in matching blue/green tweed vests, ironed slacks, and wool knit, Easter sweaters—effectively crushing any nascent self esteem that we had developed over our measly five years of existence.

Unfortunately, my scant traveler’s wardrobe offered little in the way of fashionable attire. At best, I might hope to achieve a “middle aged jogger” meets “early 20th century woodsman” look. In the end I pulled off what I at first thought to be a fashion Hail Mary, but what in actuality looked like Tom Cruise in Magnolia.

Shea O'Neill Tackles Victoria and Paul Thomas Anderson.

The walk to the bar was one of constant self-guessing. The saturation of downtown Victoria with window shops and restaurants creates endless opportunities for shifty, sideways vanity glances. I saw the image of myself skewed, cropped, and stretched so many times that I rearranged my wardrobe in the middle of the crowded street on two occasions.

Conversing while self-conscious about your outfit is surprisingly difficult. You begin to imagine that the only reason people talk to you is so that they can avoid looking below your neck. In the end, I calmed myself by remembering a quote from Poe that helps in such moments: “who cares how time advances, I am drinking beer.” Yes! Who cares how the night moves forward. I have beer. I chose to honor Poe by composing my own drunken thoughts on a napkin. Perhaps I will write a poem about crows or jackdaws in his honor as well.

I got drunk fairly quickly. I ended up leaving the bar with a beer-sprinkled napkin, ornately decorated in illegible, royal blue Sanskrit. This soggy souvenir contained my observations of a drunken and solitary night. The napkin’s contests have little philosophical value. If anything, they paint a picture of what courses through the drunken mind of Shea O’Neill when he is lonely and in a new city. I have copied the napkin’s contests below verbatim, with notes if appropriate.

1. “19=toooooo young! I consent: 21 good age”
    -I believe this particular remark stemmed from my observations of Victoria’s pre-20 bar crowd. One might argue that this is unnecessary, and that 19 year olds are capable of handling the maturity involved in drinking. I offer the following photographic comparison as a counter argument.

19 Year Old Shea                                             23 Year Old Shea

2. “Reentering dating game more difficult than originally anticipated. One and a half years of industry secrets and trade tips missed. Perhaps purchase Single and Ready to Mingle T-Shirt?

3. “No social glue more adhesive than the exchange between a fantasy football player and any stranger who also happens to play fantasy football.”

4. “Addendum: Watched Eagles game earlier and STILL hesitant to throw my opinion into the fantasy fray. Imagine its like trying to talk about inertia at a mixer for particle astrophysicists.”

5. “Husbanding quarters to play HOTD!!!!!”
    -Though foggy, I believe this is in reference to a small surplus of quarters I had accumulated in order to play House of the Dead. It should also be noted that the exclamation points are circled in different color ink with a line pointing to a barely legible note saying “Why?” Apparently, progressively drunker Shea was unhappy with lesser-drunk Shea’s earlier proclamation about the merits of House of the Dead. Perhaps this was future Shea’s way of communicating with past Shea to warn him about this potential arcade game letdown?

6. “Have decided, no longer a fan of the lime=training wheels metaphor for tequila shots. I used training wheels DURING MY BICYCLE. Lime is a post drink vomit inhibitor. Henceforth when declining lime and salt shall tell bartender “no auto-deploy drag race parachutes for me please.”

7. “$54 dollars—6 beers—4 shots of Jameson—No sweat broken—I MUST POSSESS THIS POWER!!”
    -I believe this was in regards to a neighboring bar fly who purchased a heavy load of drinks, paid immediately, and continued to socialize like he hadn’t dropped half a C note. Jealousy further fueled this remark as I spent most of my night debating between budget beer that tastes like soggy cardboard, and budget beer that tastes like sweaty gym mats.

The Chronicles of Whistler: Part I

The trip to Whistler began, unfortunately, under the fascist regime of a hangover. An unadvised bout of cultural bonding over the glue of strong spirits had occupied the previous night. The result being that ambitious and early morning Shea had to be sheathed beneath the sheets for another two hours and settle instead for a normal, working man’s departure time of 8:30 am.

My somnolent bus ride brought more misfortune. After succumbing to the siren’s call of sleep, I awoke to find our bus carefully snaking a steep and windy road, completely bounded by mountains on the right, and an ever expanding bay, flanked with heavily forested islands below a dense thicket of fog on the left. We had somehow traveled to Middle Earth and I had slept through the journey!

I love Northwestern roads. Unlike so many other things mankind has accomplished, these roads remain completely obedient to the mercy of their geography. Progress loves two lane highways, but not when one lane runs the risk of sending 50 percent of passengers plummeting to a scenic and watery death. The bus moved slowly—whether out of caution, or a shared sense of awe inspiring reverence remains to be seen.

We arrived in the village of Whistler sometime around 11. Unfortunately the village is a somewhat chilling vision of the future of capitalist cities. Whistler is a town where a consumer business (tourism in this case) has grown so powerful that it has actually assumed control of the town. Boonies and surrounding pockets aside, the City Center, the actual heart of Whistler is a never-ending expanse of smooth, rustic, cedar, corporate boutiques, and Swiss charm—a prodigious and all encompassing Ski lodge. Heck, the town itself is even called The Resort Municipality of Whistler, a careful reminder to any tourists who may have accidentally wandered into town without intentions of breaking the bank.

I set about first to find Lost Lake. Though not actually lost, it is quite conveniently isolated within a 30 km network of serpentine trails that run the scenic gamut from sun bleached steppes, to towering coniferous groves, to lush, verdant wetlands of sinewy moss and hardshake. All of which are overflowing with the promise and hope that a meandering black bear may cross your path.

The naming of Lost Lake’s trailheads was apparently accomplished in a fashion similar to an infant’s nascent classification of objects they encounter around the house—arcane and with inchoate reasoning that invites much eyebrow shifting and unscripted home movie making. What, if anything, do Gypsy’s Drum, Tin Pants, and the ever so salaciously dubbed Donkey Punch have to do Douglas firs, minks, and hemlocks? Meaning, apparently, can only be derived from reducing oneself to intense metaphoric speculation. Hmm…I supposed the knotted roots and felled evergreens littering Pinnochio’s Furniture do in fact resemble something I might find in Geppetto’s living room.

As I continued my trek through the forest I encountered a peculiar “yield” sign on three occasions. Curiosity piqued, I decided to investigate. The upside down triangle bore three silhouettes (one in each corner) against a school bus yellow backdrop. In the top left corner was a biker, in the top right a hiker, and at the bottom a bear. Emanating from the biker were two black arrows, one directed at the bear and the other at the hiker. A similar arrow pointed from the hiker to the bear. The bear, however, offered no arrows to his stenciled companions. If I were to derive meaning from this sign I believe it would be, in Whistler, bikers yield to hikers and bears, hikers yield only to bears, and bears yield to no man.

More wandering and botched photography followed, mixed with the occasional and short-lived stint into dilettante taxonomy, until I began to realize that I was indeed becoming quite lost. I attribute this largely to the inadequacies of Whistlers maps, ALL of which employ different scales, perspectives, keys, and geographic markers. Though, I wouldn’t hesitate to name my innate directionlessness on the list of potential co-conspirators.

Anyway, being lost in a tourist destination called Lost Lake has a bothersome quality about it. A place that can so easily be found hardly deserves the title of Lost. And yet here I was, passing the same cottonwoods and yielding to the same bears (in my imagination) like a record caught in a groove. Imagine my excitement when, peering through a nesting of firs I glimpsed the lake in the distance. My rudimentary cartography skills determined that it would take a ten-minute walk to reach the lake by conventional means, so I decided to strike out, John Muir style, into the wild.

It amazes me how quickly fear descends upon a man who can no longer see the path. Each crackling branch, crunching pinecone, and gravity induced rock amplifies and invites previously formless shadows to shape shift into all manner of ghoulish adversaries. Some might call this fear unwarranted. Do you, they ask, really believe that this small, well-lit liminal patch between two highly frequented tourist locations is a propitious breeding ground for cougars, bears, and rapists?

Yes. I do.

Does Shea O’Neill survive the woodland quest? Does he see the fabled lake? Or is he writing this correspondence from the waiting room of Purgatory? Find out in next weeks blog!!

Portland Island Camping

Last weekend I went camping with Miles, Cameron and some Salt Spring folk at Portland Island in the Gulf Isles. The scenery was truly picturesque. A 180 degree panorama with still, blue waters in the foreground, and the faint silhouette of some distant atoll disappearing into the mists of the horizon. As if posing for a postcard, two seals plopped right up to our beach, basked briefly in the receding sunlight, and continued their play in the surprisingly crystalline and frosty waters

My comrades surprised me when, noticing the seal, they turned to one another and, in the same tone to which I might point out the amblings of a common squirrel, said “oh look, a seal.” How fortunate to be able to treat the basking of a seal with no more shock and awe than a morning erection, or a visit from the mail carrier.

The camping trip commenced with a long anticipated and atavistically pain inducing game of “Flinch.” Much like the Buffalo and Conch that came before, Flinch is another Canadian game with the goal of causing pain, humiliation, or embarrassment amidst a chorus of laughter and inveterate beer guzzling. Two teams stand apart at an arbitrarily chosen distance, spread their legs, and stick their arms out like they’re on a cross. Teams then toss a Nerf football at one another (though Nerf is quite the understatement for this wickedly accurate, hard, rubber, killing machine of aerodynamic perfection that gives a shrill, warning whistle as it hurdles towards your genitals). The object of the game (of course) is to hit the other team in a place where it would either hurt, or make them “Flinch.” Drinks are then portioned according to the region of contact, or if they person flinched.

The gang hunted Raccoon’s as night one’s central activity. Oh how these people amuse me. They each possess a near preternatural mastery over whittling, fire starting, tent construction, boating, crabbing, and clamming, yet when it came to hunting Raccoons, they were clueless as a Republican Vice President wielding a 12 gauge. I spent the night hilariously reeling as squadrons of 5 armed with homemade spears, chased the raccoons with the uncoordinated zeal of atavistic children on a quest for Piggy’s glasses.

Miles, perpetually nude and loquacious in a libertine fashion, was the center of entertainment the following day. He was followed closely by Rhys, a large, and normally soft spoken man who transformed with help of spirits into an even larger, hirsute, giant who’s sonorous voice and drunken slurring birthed an obstreperous pidgin dialect. He spent most of the day experimenting with his new tongue, while twice attempting (with abject failure) to pilot a small, aluminum boat (once sinking the boat entirely)

Incredulous as it may seem, Miles actually possessed almost total control over the maneuvering of his boat. His drunken antics closely paralleled the his degree of nakedness, culminating with a stark nude demonstration of nautical prowess. Deciding life on land no longer suited his nautical needs, Miles sped off half clothed towards the distant horizon. We saw no more sign of him for 35 minutes. Then, just like that, he appeared, hawk-like and bronzed, from the distance, barreling towards us and brandishing his tan lines, and hanging an underpants flag above his head. Following several prurient gestures and subsequent applause, he sped off towards the next horizon.

All in all not a bad weekend.

Life in Victoria

Sorry for the belated update!

The Loonie and the Toonie for the benefit of Buskers and Bartenders everywhere

Loonie: The slang for a one dollar Canadian coin. Name is derived from the picture of a loon on the coin
Toonie: The slang for a two dollar Canadian coin.

Walk by any American street and peek into the guitar case, box, or top hat of any busker and what do you see: a penurious pile of copper and nickel, draped with the occasional soggy strip of green cotton. Walk by the same scene in Canada and you’ll witness something entirely different. You will see a veritable wishing well of gold and silver, and gold within silver; poker, stacked chips of loonies and toonies like some Sunday stroll at Warner Brothers.

Upon contemplation of the matter, I have derived the following conclusion. A dollar, though made of cotton, has the weight and consistency of paper, and an unfortunate susceptibility to air resistance. As a consequence, all monetary exchanges of bills (minus those of a degrading nature that take place between man and his prostitute) must be undertaken with a certain degree of hand-to-hand intimacy. Americans, however, seek to avoid intimacy with strangers at all costs, the only true exception being the exchange of money for goods and services; simply because they have no alternative (though online shopping may soon render this point moot).

This is unfortunate for an American busker, who requires some degree of intimacy to receive anything more than a quarter. The average American lives in perpetual fear of busker proximity. Handing a dollar to a bum, or depositing it into a box at a height where it will not be taken by a swift breeze, both run the risk of a prolonged conversation with the recipient. Even worse, a misguided drop, or attempted lob can result in a physics demonstration of wind and inertia, putting the donor in the precarious position of either staring cruelly as a busker chases the wayward bill, or joining them on the chase.

With toonies and loonies, pedestrians can literally toss large monetary denominations without fear of rogue wind currents. Even more fulfilling is the sense of satisfaction that can be derived by thumb flicking a two-dollar coin like some monocle wearing plutocrat into the hand of the lesser proletariat. Fortunes can only increase for the busker on account of the tendency of loonies and toonies to become mixed in with lesser change. A hurried pedestrian will often indiscriminately palm a wad of change in passing, showering the busker in an accidental rain of loonies and toonies.

Everybody wins!

Bartenders have it even better. Common knowledge has it that no American bartender in the history of American bartending has ever given a $5 bill as change. Instead, they break it up into five singles, thereby increasing the inclination of the customer to tip. The solution is quite ingenious, and all American bartenders go to sleep at night confident in the belief that no other country in the world has created a better strategy for swindling drunks of their money.

Incredulous as it may seem, such a strategy exists just beyond our northern border. Lets say you purchase a drink in Canada for six dollars (typical, trust me) and pay with a ten. Unlike in America, in which you would receive four singles, Canadian bartenders will typically give you a pair of toonies for change. This thrusts Canadian bar-goers into the terribly unfortunate position of either giving up two dollars as a tip, or subject themselves to a night of parsimoniously portioned shots.

Rifflandia and the Slow Death of Public Storage

On an impulse I bought a ticket to Rifflandia, Victoria’s inaugural hipster, music festival. The ticket cost me a whopping $62 dollars. The lineup I had planned to check out included Black Mountain, the Walkmen, Man Man, and Handsome Furs. I logically concluded that each band was worth about $15 for an individual concert, so the math worked out in the end.

The first show I would see (Man Man) began at six. I had three hours to wander the streets of Victoria and find a public storage facility to stash my laptop and camera to allow for better two-step swaying at the corner. As a historian, I am always fascinated to see the changes made to society in the wake of 9/11. Increased racial tensions, stricter airline security, and watered-down, grass roots conspiracy theorizing come to mind. But I learned this weekend of an even greater price paid by North Americans: the disappearance of public storage.

Bus stations, malls, convention centers. These are all locations that once had walls of lockers for storage. Now they have none. Over-saturated fear that John Q Terrorist is planning a full-scale, C-4 locker bombardment has precipitated a near complete and total eradication of dependable public storage. Though I would image that a terrorist determined on wreaking havoc would just shrug their shoulders at the loss of public lockers and toss the bomb into the bathroom wastebasket instead.

I decided to try something new before seeing the Walkmen. Instead of lingering mindlessly with the rest of the disaffected, zombified hipsters, shuffling begrudgingly towards the stage, I made a fast break at first applause to secure a position inches from the stage. Front stage—since first gaining popularity for the area with the highest frequency of teenage, Beatles-induced fainting—has become a promise land for the concert going public. 

This fantasy soon ebbed into an obnoxious reality. The stage (and most stages I believe) are set up so that the speakers stick out a few feet from the stage. As a consequence the first two rows do not get to hear the amplification of the singers voice, but rather hear the distorted and delayed echo. Die-hard hipsters will attest that this sacrifice is gladly given for an up close and personal intimacy with the singers gyrating, sweaty, Denim suffocated crotch. Personally, I just do not see it.

Two New Drinking Games

I spent Saturday afternoon with Mile’s and Cameron’s soccer buddies watching a tournament. Though I cared little for the games themselves, I became an avid enthusiast for the two new drinking games I learned.

The first is entitled Conch (though it is pronounced like Poncho, a mispronunciation I hear the Victorians take great pride in). Anyone who is outside holding a beverage is a participant. The drinker who holds the “conch” can at anytime take his or her beverage and place it to his or her head.  The last person to “conch” has to chug the entire contents of their beverage and earns the right to be the next concher. The typical strategy is to wait until someone has gone inside to refill their beer, and conch when they’re not around, forcing them to drink their full and freshly refilled beer.

The next game is entitled Buffalo. Each day, all drinkers may only drink their beverage from one hand. For example, on Saturday drinking is only permitted with your left hand. Anyone caught drinking with their right can be “buffaloed,” and as a punishment must chug their entire beer. The game gets especially tricky around midnight when, the changing of the day signals the changing of the hand. Diehard enthusiasts typically spend the hours just after midnight engaged in heavy-duty policing.

Current Affairs

I have made the executive decision to bunker down in Victoria, British Columbia for a while. It is a wholly beautiful city with a hip, young crowd, good nightlife, and a proximity to a host of outdoor activities and further travel destinations. This is the first time I’ve ever made a decision like this.

My room is…well it’s a room. It measures no more than 10.5 by 6, and can be accessed by descending into the basement, and navigating a complex labyrinth of cement pillars, and discarded furniture. I often joke with my new housemates that I am the grotesque, ogre of a son, locked away in the basement when company comes. My room has three different wall styles. One is teal paint with white rim; one is a flat and unchanign desert of linoleum tiles; the last is a brick wall. On this brick wall is a proudly displayed piece of art (and when I say proudly I mean, three nails hammered deep into the brick proudly). I sleep on a single, which is honestly the first time I’ve slept on a single since, I believe, my crib.

Stay tuned for more stories to follow.

Thoughts on Seattle

12:00 PM: I will burn this city to the ground. Raze it to its heathen, prostituting roots until all that remains is the decaying, ossified matter of the very first loggers. Yes, Seattle boasts an impressive cityscape. And yes this sprawling mass of water and peninsulas should have been taken forebodingly. Seattle, I am finding, is far too big. The public transportation deemed “easy and adequate” by locals is completely incipherable and archaic to virgin travelers. “Just take some time and get used to it,” they say. I imagine even chaos theory mathematics can be understood if you’re willing to devote time!!

12:00 AM: I would like to make amends for my earlier blogging behavior. Please attribute my cranky rantings to excessive weariness and a heavy pack. The early entry was somewhat of an exaggeration, much like most of my life. Seattle is not actually so bad once you get the hang of it, though I still think the public transportation needs work. I was very surprised to learn that the Space Needle, an iconic symbol of Seattle, is actually the centerpiece for an overpriced and kitschy amusement park. Go figure.

I checked out the Experience Music Project and the Science Fiction Museum. EMP was informative, though I had to laugh at the “Hall of Seattle exhibit.” This exhibit is dedicated to the history of all the “unsung” Seattle natives who, contrary to what the “media” wants you to think, actually played definitive roles in creating every single musical genre currently known to man. “What’s that you say? Oh well you could probably argue that punk had its roots in London, but what you fail to realize is that there was this small little Seattle garage band back in the late sixties who was totally doing things with punk music leagues above and years beyond what the Sex Pistols were doing.” Grow up. Accept your honored place as the bearers of grunge, Jimi Hendrix, and Sir Mix-a-Lot, and move on.

Don’t even get me started on the Science Fiction Museum.

Engaged in my first act of bribery today. Frustrated and unable to locate an affordable hostel on Island, I splurged for a hotel room. The clerk originally priced me at $140, but after looking ear to ear for his superiors, he dropped me to $110.

Thinking myself king of the system, I determined a bribe was in order. Bribing, unfortunately, is not as easy as Hollywood would have you believe. The furtive finesse with which mob bosses slide packets of hundreds into the hands of police chiefs more closely resembles a gangly teen’s first sexual experience; a bumbling, awkward fist clenched tightly over a wad of sweaty money, fumbling with blind desperation to make contact with the open palm of its intended recipient.

Jump ahead several hours. Checked out the nightlife in Seattle. Most bystanders directed me to the famous Pike Place; in particular the snazzy, hip, prohibition joint café Zig Zag. Getting to Zig Zag involved navigating an impossible complex of intricate staircases. It was literally like descending through MC Esher’s own private fortress. Zig Zag had the ambience of Al Capone’s private 20’s hang out, with powerful drinks to match. I had to fake manliness to keep them down.

After Zig Zag I found an arcade bar that I’ve since named Seattle Pixel. I attempted to use my sharply honed Ms. Pac Man skills to impress the locals. Complete and utter backfire. Seattle Pixel’s Ms. Pac Man follows completely different wave patterns, leading Shea into intricately set ghost traps, and losing him three dollars and the respect of several transients. Seattle Pixel reminds me of Pixel’s rebellious child. Seattle Pixel shaved its head and called itself a punk and began hanging out with the wrong crowd. One day Seattle Pixel will get its act together, go back to school, get a real job and become Regular Pixel. Viewed from another angle, Seattle Pixel is what would happen to regular Pixel if Jim suddenly and inexplicably passed away and left everything to the care of James Dean.

Next morning I awoke and met an old friend on Mercer Island. Mercer Island is the Beverley Hills of Seattle and houses business executives, doctors, Microsoft employees, and professional sports stars. My friend informed me that the Seattle Supersonics have been relocated to Oklahoma City. I struggle to envision a more terrible fate.

Big Mike!!

On the bus ride to Port Angeles, where I was to catch the ferry to Victoria, I met Big Mike! There is no more appropriate sobriquet for such a burly, husky, rotund gentleman. Big Mike has a teardrop tattooed on his face to celebrate his release from twelve years in prison. Big Mike feels “sorry” for his atrocities. Big Mike is headed home to see his girl and he is gonna ask her to marry him. Big Mike works on cars and calls punch buggies slug-bugs. Big Mike likes a world in which a man can make something of himself. Big Mike is unfortunately 150 pounds too heavy to play the hero in Michael Bay’s next disaster thriller.

Big Mike and I spent the next three hours engaged in a discussion of books and tattoos. Big Mike has no shame for his gelatinous form, and delights in showing me tattoos that hide beneath folds of human skin previously unknown to science. Big Mike wants to tattoo his face like a scary clown—with neon ink. “Invisible to the naked eye,” he tells me, “But you must beware of high toxicity.” I told Big Mike this was a fine idea as long as he had no plans of making love to the future Mrs. Big Mike beneath any black lights—for that is a one-way ticket to trial separation.


Victoria is wonderful. More thoughts on that will follow tomorrow for now we shall chronicle the meeting of Miles and Shea. Throughout this world we all pick friends that, for whatever reason, we love and extol above all others. For some reason my friend Laura McGorman has decided me apt to fill this role (of this I am flattered) Of all her male friends, there is only one other to which she holds in similar regard—Miles from Victoria.

So alas, it was indeed destiny for Miles and Shea to one day meet in Victoria. So I waited for miles with my stomach growling at some local pub, pounding down double chocolate porters (I’ll drink thick drinks and wear wool hats whenever I please dad!). I had always pictured Miles (don’t you?) as a tall, gangly, shaggy haired man with an untrimmed goatee and a poor sense of style. A gentleman bearing this description walked in and I hailed him to my table. He promptly ignored me. The real Miles is a little shorter, muscular, and though he has blonde hair, it is short, spiky, and concealed beneath a hat.

There is no need for gushy exclamations of fellowship and comradely. Suffice if to say that we hit it off and I now have a new friend and a place to stay in Victoria.

Alas, traveling alone is…lonely. But what we lose in loneliness we make up for in mystery and the benefit of the doubt. In a place where no body knows your story, you have the blankest canvass possible to reinvent a new life, or fix perpetually obnoxious character traits that friends find repugnant. But beyond even this, you have an untarnished driving record! And so the ever-trusting Canucks concluded that it would be an appropriate business decision to allow Shea to operate a gas-powered scooter for three hours. Below is the only footage that survived

Mothers Part II, Addictions, and Swedes

As promised, more simple thoughts and recollections punctuated with the occasional insight.

The Devolving Days of Di and Shea

Day One:
Like most travelers to a new city, Mother Di sought to live the finer life while the money was still rolling. Hotel fifty, though spoiled by soul adulating evangelical orations, was nonetheless the coolest hotel I’ve ever laid my head. The rooms were cloud white, with a plasma screen television, high priced coffee, bohemian furnishings, and a balcony overlooking the waterfront. We supplemented our high style living with high style dining at an upscale, wine bar in the Southeast. I had clams marinated in heaven and my mother sampled the Artisan Cheese plate imported via time machine from the egalitarian fields 17th century Italy. Stuffed and contended, she was ready to sign off on Portland in triplicate.

Day Two
My mother, despite being a caring, loving, and supportive woman, is an artful, and coyly calculating queen of manipulation. The best example is in her approach to dessert. She feigns fullness as the dessert menus are passed, taking care to cast furtive glances at the menu, her brain operating on auto-search function for any of the following words; coconut, almond, chocolate, overload (extra points if the latter two are used together). While the rest of the table debates the best possible dessert choices, Di O’Neill hangs back, and casually tosses her suggestions into the fray. She does this both casually and congenitally, serenading our subconsciouses with her light voice. Ten minutes later the table is filled with dessert that nobody actually wanted, but ordered anyway, leaving Di O’Neill with a fresh and voluptuous smorgasbord of her own design.

I discovered during her visit that these puppettering skills can be applied to choosing adequate lodging conditions. And so, despite spending most of the day debating whether I would prefer to stay in Cannon Beach or Portland, I ended up riding in the passenger seat at 7 pm, eagerly anticipating our arrival in Vancouver Washington! How, you ask, did I go from arguing the benefits of coastal sunsets, to vehemently supporting a medium, sized outlying suburban town? Just ask my mother.

As a result we spend night two in a “rustic” (only in architecture, as there is nothing rustic about a location adjacent to a Red Robin). Our dinner was eaten at the kitsch and popular hotspot Beaches (the site of an aforementioned flirtation debacle) the meal was, relatively edible, but left one always wondering if there could be more.

Night Three
Complete and utter devolution. Our Quarters—the scenic airport Clarion. The site of nourishment is Shari’s—Sizzler’s inbred cousin of the Northwest. The meal was “Asian Teryakki Stir Fry—an appropriate sobriquet considering 90 percent of the meal was coated in a sickenly, viscous layer of salt bag and boil teriyaki sauce that left me unhappily plucking at whatever remnants of shrimp and vegetables had avoided the marinated. Unfortunately the meal was accompanied by the “loaded” (with heart, wrenching cholesterol) baked potato soup. Toss in a future appointment with a cardiovascular surgeon, and top it off with six armed DEA officers and a drug-sniffing dog searching the premises for a “dark skinned individual,” and you have the conclusion of Di O’Neill’s Northwestern Excursion.


Beyond the slight postpartum addiction every good mama’s boy feels when his mother cuts the metaphoric placenta, my loving mother left me with two other physical addictions. The first is coffee. At least my previous exes, both heavy coffee drinkers, had enough concern not to immerse their beloved in this bitter, yellow toothed, world of artsy coffee shops and acrid breath.  But each morning coffee was forced on me like cough syrup to a child with ague. Though if I’m too be fair, this addiction was probably further fueled by the saturation of the Northwest Coffee market, and my inability to say no to that which appeared to be the norm in this area.

The second addiction is Habanera Vodka. Bizarre and ridiculous, this I am know. But Hitler once said that people are more willing to swallow a lie the bigger it is. Perhaps, our esophagus is more willing to swallow a drink the more unpalatable it sounds. The drink had a penicillin yellow tint to it, and came in a tall martini glass, with sugar on the edge, and pepper shavings on the top. It tastes fair to good; it is sweet, with a kick of spice. But it’s when you swallow that the drink finds its true calling. Like it’s tickling your larynx into a rumba, your throat becomes numb, hot, and ultimately more relaxed than a winter’s night spent by the fire. The only problem—the drink bears a $9 dollar price tag. Now, when she visits next, instead of a thriving young scribe of the Northwest, she’ll find a lonely, bitter old man, begging strangers for $9 worth of change to “catch a bus.”

New Travel Companions

While preparing my journey further north I had a fortuitous meeting with two Swedish Gentlemen in my hostel: Andreos and Nichol. Andreos, as his name might suggest, did have quite a mythical, god like look to him. His unique bone structure caused him to hunch like a majestic bird, and his facial features jettisoned out at pronounced angels. His compatriot was quite the opposite, his genetics striking towards burliness in preparation for long, Swedish winters.

They had a wonderful approach to driving as well. Being from Sweden they attested that Americans had far too many signs on their road, and such an over abundance would only make American mind’s weaker, and actually had the potential to confuse more. I am inclined to agree.
We made it on a single tank of gas, and I didn’t have to spend any money (safe for buying them a Diet Pepsi and M and Ms. They were both musicians, so we spent a great deal of the ride talking about and listening to music. What caught me most off guard is when they would fire up Maroon 5 or John Mayer and serenade me until there was no tomorrow. Good kids, hope I see em again.

Next Issue: Thoughts on Seattle

Hostels, Evangelicals, Coasts, and Mothers

Evangelical Ministers and Other Embarrassments

Mama Shea visited this weekend (I know. I’m totally doing the whole traveler thing in fast forward. It’s usually a month or two before the parent stops over to give you a shower, a nice hotel room, and a break). Thanks to her more “liberal” pocketbook we had the opportunity to spend our first night in the ultra modern, uber-chic Hotel Fifty, adjacent to Portland’s scenic waterfront. The concierge warned us that it might be a little noisy until 10 PM on account of the popular Portland City Fest, hosted by Luis Palau.

A simple Wikipedia search, the staple of our generation, would have revealed that Luis Palau is not a poor man's Santana, but rather the putative Latin man’s Billy Graham—a veritable evangelical virtuoso of the Pacific Northwest. He had come unalloyed to inspire the spiritually inchoate. And he intended to do it 100 yards from our balcony.

Listening to Luis Palau helped me understand why he has a track record of over a million converts; if my ears were micturited upon so feverishly by this verbal onslaught, I, too, might call on God’s reprieve.

We decided our second night would be better spent away from the Waterfront, so we extradited ourselves to Vancouver, Washington.  Though traces of his sermons could still be seen across the Columbia River; the late night fireworks of another hundred converts giving themselves up to God.

Vancouver was the site of another unfortunate incident. After a fairly unpalatable dinner served by a coquettish waitress, I decided in a numbing haze of Margaritas to leave my phone number (cause you never know). My move was slick; I wrote it inside the receipt with a small, self deprecating note. She would open it, see the numbers, remember my handsomness, and the note would reaffirm my hilarity, and I would secure a date. Unfortunately I had not accounted for the actions of a sauced and sassy Di O'Neill.  So, as I coolly exited the premises to the chorus of our waitress proclaiming her sadness at our departure, my mother butted in and said, “he left you his number on the table.”

Thanks mom! Now, when shes sitting by her telephone late at night debating whether to make the call, she can remember that all future dates run the risk of maternal chaperoning.

Highway 101

If Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 is the metaphoric strip of purgatory where the discarded transients, vagabonds, and artists congregate, surely Highway 101 is where they buy summer homes. Highway 101 is a long, verdurous stretch of highway that traverses the vast and mountainous Oregon coast. It snakes from narrow, curving roads through towering mountains, to long, flat roads beside sandy beaches. It is incredulous to me how there are not more accidents along this road, as its almost impossible to operate the vehicle and not sway your head from side to side like Stevie Wonder on the piano. Lush, contiguous forests block the road's advances on either side, and moderate the sunlight, painting the landscape in flickering hues of deep mossy green, earthen brown, and lime.

I have seen the beaches on Highway 101 twice now. First alongside my idiosyncratic, Indonesian travel companion, and second with my equally idiosyncratic birth giver. This three-day separation has given me the opportunity to view the coast through two distinct lenses. On my first trip, a thick, damp mist enveloped the land, while on the second trip, the sun illuminated colors and unveiled previously obscured landscapes.

The beaches I got to see were Ecola State Park, Cannon Beach, Seaside, Del Ray Beach, Oswald State Park, Arch Cape, Cape Meares, Cape Lookout, and Rockaway Beach.

Another thing these coastal excursion have helped me notice is the care that Oregon state officials show towards their citizens. From lobbying for smart growth cities, to providing countless public transportation opportunities, to making their beaches clean, dog friendly places of recreation, it is very evident that Oregon is democratic at its core. But the most unique benefit offered to Oregonians is highway-side water fountains, pumped from nearby natural springs.

Thoughts on Hostels

Since my arrival in the Northwest, I have stayed in two very distinct hostels under the Hostel International umbrella; Hawthorne (Portland) and Seaside (Oregon Coast) . Hawthorne was frequented by a young, predominantly white, bohemian, well-educated smattering of American and European travelers. Seaside, on the other hand, drew from a more middle aged demographic and a much smaller diversity pool of beach bums and old hippies.

In Hawthorne, conversations adhered to this rubric.

“Hey, my name is Shea.”
“Hello Shea, I am Roland.”
“Cool man, what are you doing in Portland.”
“Oh I’m just tapping into my inner spirituality.”
“Oh… that’s cool”
“Yeh, I was just reading this (insert Marxist, spiritual, or philosophical text) and I discovered that we as humans (insert Marxist, theological, or philosophical maxim.). Have you ever read (insert second Marxist, spiritual, or philosophical text). You totally should man it talks about (insert hour long diatribe)”


I’ll be blunt. I am no intellectual stud, but neither am I a dullard. I delight in deep conversation with close friends and loved ones and I understand that as millenials our collective intellect must be applied to today’s problems. But how about a little foreplay first? What happened to the old days when travelers could gather around campfire, bullshit, tell stories, and lose themselves in the throw of laughter. Now it seems like every traveler is so eager to cliff dive into deep and overcrowded intellectual reservoirs that they forget that splashing around in shallow pools can be equally meaningful.

In situations such as these I feel like an intellectual prisoner at the existential Nuremberg trials. I feel like a doctoral candidate on review for my PHD. I remember discussing some of Portland’s outlying geography with a few travelers. I made an offhand comment about how Mount Hood had such a commanding presence on the horizon that I could just imagine its peak housed a Zeus of the Northwest, staring down ominously upon the landscape. The man I was engaged in conversation with, Kyle, gazed perplexedly at me and answered, “actually Shea, I found the mountain to be quite beautiful, even spiritual in its existence.” I excused myself to the bathroom following this response.

People are so unwilling to showcase the tiniest parcel of their naked flesh, yet they so readily expose the naked core of their soul. I cannot understand why. Have they, like porn starlets, become so accustomed to exposing their inner flesh that it is as commonplace as stripping down for a bath? Or, like stage performers, is this routine so engraved in their minds that the conversation takes no more effort than pulling from a script?
Seaside, on the other hand, offered a welcome reprieve from such intellectual endeavors. The travelers shared my mindset. Rather than use their downtime in the hostel to brainstorm the greater solutions of life, they used it in an attempt to discover why the hostel’s living room was absent a couch, and how we could create a replacement from the loose cushions scattered about the hostel.

Perhaps I am just a shallow dullard, but I refuse to become one of those travelers. The kind that return from their experience, sit down with a cup of authentic, matte, tea, put their leg up on their knee and say, “Man, I discussed Eastern philosophy with this newly converted, white Buddhist from New Hampshire. It totally changed my life man, I can’t even explain it to you. I’m sorry bro, you just had to be there.”

No, no. I think I would rather just come back, open up a beer, put my hand down my pants, and began to plot my revenge on Greenpeace.

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April 2009