Well, that’s awkward.
The house concert I am attending with some friends seems to be a benefit convert to help the friends and family of a girl, a local performer of some note, who died of a drug overdose. I didn’t know her. Still, it didn’t seem that anyone noticed that I didn’t know, that in many ways I didn’t really belong. I was in from out of town, I did not know the area, the people. I just managed to catch up with a few friends that had my contact list been more up-to-date and had my planning been better I could have arrange things in advance and been hanging out with them for the past few days, but wires crossed, things moved, but still I was here and with friends. The punks didn’t notice, they served me a drink, the bunch of us had brought our own beer, which we were hitting hard. I attempted to get in to see the band but the place was packed. Tighter than any house show I had been to. But, that was ok. I removed myself to the campfire to hang out. All around me were a number of black clad Crust Punks, and I felt very overdressed in my different colours of brown and tan and my lack of band patches. However, no one questioned me, and everyone was very friendly. What’s up with that? Friendly punks? The world is coming to and end.
Meanwhile, downstairs, there was a slight altercation between some dude who also had no idea this was a benefit concert for a dead girl… and the dead girl’s boyfriend who took great umbrage to whatever was said. People were pushed, fists flew, some amount of panic, but then tears, hugs, and an end to the altercation with a greater understanding. Again, what the fuck. What does someone have to do to get killed around here? I guess more than that.
At the campfire these two girls, each one crustier than the other were trying to see how they may know one another. “I know I have seen those tattoos, but I was drunk, so maybe we didn’t talk, or maybe we talked all night…” Finally, they realized they didn’t care, because it was the scene that brought them together, tonight, some other night, once long ago, it didn’t matter.
One kid put a few more logs on the fire, the music on the CD player was certainly not crusty, it was defiantly some commercial bullshit. But, no one cared.
An announcement was made for the final band, for donations to help the friends and family of the deceased, and lots of people chipped in. There was a container for cans, one for glass. The punks tossed their empties into the container.
The punks asked me to party in the yard. I said I was waiting for a cab with a friend. He asked us did we have a good time tonight? Yes, yes we did.
These may have been many of the same folks I saw under the bridge, these may have been the musicians down at the Saturday market, begging downtown, or just passing me by. Did I know that girl, did I see those tattoos before? Do we know each other or is it just the scene? Am I a secret underground crusty?
Kicking about the country I have been a bit of a hobo of sorts. I haven’t been on the outside of the train, but so many people have asked me, oh you traveling for work? Vacation? What do you mean just to see the country, to see how this country is connected? What does that mean?
Sitting at the fire I listened to this guy recount his traveling about, his being in Portland, his attempt to kick about in other places and how much he hated the place or the place hated him. Strange how people can not fit in, how places have attitude, how people have attitude to places. Is it the landscape that sets that up, or are people just people all over, petty, small-minded, and given to extremes – setting themselves up not to be liked, not liking others who don’t have cool band patches.
I had a long day. Rode a number of miles in the city of bikes, and yet my energy came back with a few drinks. Also, the camp fire. Yes, somewhere in the environs of Portland, I was at a camp fire. Someone put another log on, and I went over to this cart set up in the garage that was selling hotdogs. I ordered a Cuban hotdog and a Thai hotdog. Yes, I am at a crust punk band memorial to a girl who died of a drug overdose around a campfire two bus rides away from where I am staying, and I am eating two hotdogs for 5 bucks, one of which is prepared like a Cuban sandwich the other has Thai dressing. This is a strange place.
I am told that Portland is the place to be. I am told that everyone who goes out to the West Coast from the East Coast never returns, moves out there, leaves behind the cities of gray for the cities of potential and eternal happy.
I am told that Portland has no diversity. That after a few weeks, after a few months, the nice turns into passive-aggressive, the bike lanes a boring routine, the bars the same every night, the parties the same people just over here talking about this rather than talking about that…
Perhaps. Perhaps, this is a common issue, but I can see it, if not just because I am so used to the East Coast so used to hating things that when the girl on the radio said “I moved back to New York from LA because I needed to hate again, and I could no longer stand perfect weather” and the woman cab driver, an attractive young lady with really ugly glasses said, “that’s why I love working on Saturday night, I get to listen to The Moth Story Hour [on NPR].”
My friend lives in a basement and pays next to nothing in rent. His housemates were brewing beer when I got there and had made moonshine Bloody Mary cocktails earlier in the day from home made moonshine. There was certainly a DYI spirit here along with the recycling. Even the punks recycle, hell in a way, many of them invented it before it became mainstream.
Then, the punk show was shut down. Not by the cops, however, but by the punks themselves since you can’t make noise after midnight. Everyone started to leave, taking to their bikes, so many bikes – “hey, you OK to drive man?” “Yeah, I was just drinking Coke all night, you know anyone who needs a ride?”
We piled into a cab. We’re from the East Coast so my friend and I took turns pissing on the sidewalk and he ran down to get another beer since the night was early. The cab finally came and we three piled in, I had lost my other friends in the mix, but that was bound to happen, we planned to see one another for brunch anyway.
The cabbie did not have cool glasses. He seemed perhaps Chinese in the cadence of his English. “You in or out?!!!” He yelled to my friend who didn’t know if to jump in or take the bus. We were joking about, someone mentioned my unemployment and that I was traveling. This did not sit well with the cabbie. “You make more on unemployment while I work my ass off at this shitty job!!!” He said the city sucked, there was no money to be made here. “Saturday night is dead, the places all close down early!!!” he exclaimed, seeing an opportunity to tell us his difficulties, perhaps in his own way setting the stage for a healthy tip on the fare. So different that my other cab ride. The cabbie was so calm, relaxed, just along for the ride. Apparently this guy did not listen to the Moth Story Hour on Saturday. The girl in the radio cab told me that next month The Moth would be in Portland. I was going to bring that up, but this People’s Poet had other things on his mind.
Well, that’s awkward.