The Ides Of March

 

Last Light Seaside Oregon
Last Light
Seaside Oregon

It is March 2nd already, almost a month since my last blog. The pinnacle of my winter is past now, I’ve just returned from my annual pilgrimage to the Fisher Poet’s Gathering in Astoria Oregon. As usual the event was wonderful, reading and listening to the work of over ninety of us, an affirmation of our blue collar love of the sea, the environmental and political issues and the simple raw passion of being on and near the water. The drive down this year seemed long and tedious, with several detours on the roads and an expired passport, but it is all over now with more fond memories filed away.

The most westerly bicycle rack in the USA
The most westerly bicycle rack in the USA
The disciples Longbeach Washington
The disciples
Longbeach Washington
The Baptist
The Baptist

I’ve managed to bring home some insidious virus and I’m not feeling particularly energetic. I’m sitting here in my bunny slippers with a schnozzy nose and bleary eyes so this blog will not hold any creative considerations or polemic perspectives.

In my last blog, ‘The Cowboy Jihad’ was written only with available information, which I confessed at the time. There has since been a lot more digging on the subject among myself and my peers. While in Astoria I managed to share brunch with a lady who has an intimate knowledge of the Burns and Malheur Lake areas in Oregon. There is a very different slant to the story when taken from a local perspective. It seems that the radical ranchers who came from various other states to establish the standoff with the feds were not much welcomed by local folks. The community was/is harshly divided, schools were closed as the event heated up, the National Guard was on standby. Apparently the general local consensus was that folks just wanted these outsiders to go back to their home ranches, pay up their overdue taxes and range lease fees (The arrears total many millions) and let the residents of the epicentre get on with their disrupted lives. Many of the facts we received through the media are grossly slanted or blatant lies.

Old Blue Lips Some Astoria flavour
Old Blue Lips
Some Astoria flavour

I am a Canadian and a US insurrection is none of my business so long as I can cross through my neighbouring country without being shot or imprisoned without just cause. There are plenty of issues here at home to poke my beak into. My resolve is to maintain and inspire the value of a questioning mind and to

Downtown Train Avery old wooden railway caboose on mains street in Astoria
Downtown Train
A very old wooden railway caboose on mains street in Astoria
A restored tram car in Astoria
A restored tram car in Astoria
Astoria Dawn A view from my motel room
Astoria Dawn Rainstorm
A view from my motel room

be aware. For example, two days ago when boarding the ferry M.V. Coho for the crossing to Victoria, I reviewed the Canada Customs form I was handed. I noted that items like switchblade knives and bear spray are “prohibited.” Hand guns are “restricted.” What the hell?

All I want to do is go sailing. The muddy waters of our own greed, apathy and resulting misgovernment are leading us into our own figurative Ides. For me, it’s all reason enough to move along and just be, instead trying to make sense of things. If I can’t be part of the solution then I am part of the problem.

Ready to go Prawn traps in a back alley of Astoria
Ready to go
Prawn traps in a back alley of Astoria
The Liberty Theatre a lovingly restored relic of the 20s and 30s It is gorgeous inside
The Liberty Theatre
a lovingly restored relic of the 20s and 30s It is gorgeous inside
Rooked An amazing chess set in an art gallery window. The board is about five feet square
Rooked
An amazing chess set in an art gallery window. The board is about five feet square.
Another art gallery window. This metal sculpture is about four feet long. The tail, the jaws, the fins and the eyes move. They're cleverly recycled motorcycle lights
Another art gallery window. This metal sculpture is about four feet long. The tail, the jaws, the fins and the eyes move. They’re cleverly recycled motorcycle lights.
Yes Really! A car lot in Port Townsend The cars are all 60s vintage Morris Minors
Yes Really!
A car lot in Port Townsend. The cars are all 60s vintage Morris Minors
Look ma! No airbags, no seatbelts, no radial tires, Wot? No GPS!
Look ma!
No airbags, no seatbelts, no radial tires, Wot? No
GPS!
Real wood! A little English Oak
Real wood! A little English Oak.
An Oscar Meyer Weiner, the dirty old weiner flasher. Even I find this slightly vulgar. "Mommy, what's he squirting on his head?
An Oscar Meyer Weiner, the old flasher. Even I find this image slightly vulgar. “Mommy, what’s he squirting on his head? For some reason he lurks on the edge of the Morris Minor car lot.

 

Well it's not exactly the cover of the Rolling Stone but that's me, the Fisher Poet's poster boy. Reproduced with permission of the "Coast Weekend'
Well it’s not exactly the cover of the Rolling Stone but that’s me, the Fisher Poet’s poster boy.
Reproduced with permission of the “Coast Weekend’

 

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Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”

George Orwell

Fred Goes For A Drive

Fat Man In A Tiny Trailer       Part 1

This series, Fat Man In A Tiny Trailer, is the first in a series about my motor trip to Mexico and back home to Vancouver Island. I’m incorporating it into ‘Seafire Chronicles’ as part of that journey.

Orf to see the wizard
Orf to see the wizard
The little guy brings up the rear at the Coho Ferry terminal
The little guy brings up the rear at the Coho Ferry terminal

Aboard the M.V. Coho, Victoria is in the rear-view mirror, Port Angeles ahead. The journey has begun!  I’m feeling utterly ragged, old, obese, tired, even in some pain as I sit at this lap top computer blinking in the light of the sun setting over the Strait Of Juan De Fuca. There’s a fabulous sun dog hanging over Race Rocks. It’s twin lays to the south over the Olympic Mountains.  The seas are calm with a light Easterly wind and no swell. Never leave port on a Friday it is said, but I feel optimistic.

I love this old boat and its crew’s informal competence. The Coho runs as a successful example of free enterprise and should embarrass the hell out of British Columbia Ferry Corporation with its incessant whining and fare-raising. But…I’m leaving that all behind for a few weeks and hope I come back far better able to cope with life in the fat lane. (NO, not a typo!)

It’s been another day in the life of Fred, driving down to Victoria from Ladysmith, touring auto-wreckers along the way to find parts for the old truck I’m driving to Mexico. I actually found what I needed in only five stops, had a lovely visit with my daughter in Victoria, left Jack the dog in her care and I’m off.

God knows I can’t afford to do this, I already live the role of poor starving sailor-writer all too well but I also know that I can’t afford not to go. I can’t see anything clearly so I’m off to walk in the desert, literally and figuratively. It’s time for a pilgrimage. Thanks to a very supportive spouse and other good friends, I will see this through.

My personality flaws have me digging a grave with my fork. The fatter I become physically and mentally, the lower I feel and so even more comfort eating occurs. It is a deadly spiral. I’m two-hundred fifty-four pounds and with a surgically repaired heart it is overdue that I come to terms with living a whole life. I can plead to be a compulsive artistic type but I also know most artists aren’t recognized until they’re dead so better anonymous than stiff and famous. This will be a travel-log, more spiritual and esoteric than geographic but I hope its going to be as much fun as painful epiphany. 

I’m orf to see the wizard!

I’m armed with a down-loaded e-book call ‘FatLoser!’ It is about self discipline and mental toughness, explaining in blunt terms how to regain control of your life. It has grabbed my attention. I’ll share some quotes from time to time.

So rule one: Get used to feeling hungry and living with it.

I once smoked like a smelter and was only able to quit when I resolved to discipline myself to live with my compulsion. I knew that to stop smoking did not mean I would quit craving them for the while. So, a change of life style, a change of habits. Like so many in our culture I eat for every reason except to fuel a healthy mind, body and lifestyle.

Far out man!
Far out man!

This morning I’m writing in a tiny cafe on the Washington coast south of Forks. After buying a few groceries there last night I think it should be re-named ‘Knives.’ Wow! The store is the only game in town and bloody-well knows it. Their prices are

The seagull crossed the T
The seagull crossed the T

rapacious. I spent the first night in the trailer parked in a gravel pit under the waining gibbous moon. Rolls of fog drifted by, freezing in glittering beauty everywhere. All around me was the burned ruin of a raped forest and in the distance, I could hear the surf roaring on the beach. It was eerie. I managed to bend the truck’s back bumper against the trailer tool box while turning around on a muddy logging road and the trailer wiring needs some attention. But I’m taking the glitches as a good omen. I buy coffee and a small breakfast of biscuits and gravy, the sun is shining. I won’t eat for the rest of the day. The pavement where I’ll work on the ‘Rig’ is dry. Life is good.

Yeah Really.... A drift woody!
Yeah Really….
A drift woody!
As named by Lewis and Clark
As named by Lewis and Clark
Astoria Oregon and the bridge across the Colombia River as seen from Dismal Nitch, WA
Astoria Oregon and the bridge across the Columbia River as seen from Dismal Nitch, WA

In Astoria I stopped for a day to visit with my good friends Dave and Renee who live aboard their grand ketch ‘Aquarius’. I’ve met these folks through the Fisher Poet’s Gathering. I helped them in the early stages of their purchase when the boat was up in Cowichan Bay. I didn’t do much except to do a quick survey and help tie the boat deal up until they were able to close it for themselves. Mine was a tiny part but it sure is a treat to see how a plan can go right. The boat clearly is loved and responding nicely to their attention. It is very homey now and the two enthuse about the day they can cut her loose and sail South.

Astoria dawn
Astoria dawn

I then drove on down the coast as far as Newport, Oregon. The day was bright and warm and sunny. At times the road wound along a cliff-edge hundreds of feet above the pounding surf, where sea-spray clouded windshields and kept the road wet. Even though it is January the beaches

This marina is FULL!
This marina is FULL!

were filled with people. Happy children flew their kites and dogs pattered about happily. I acquired an indelible image that day while picking up a few supplies in a Fred Meyers store. This is a monster retailer that sells ever thang under one roof. I didn’t find the coffins and the used aircraft section, but I’ll bet they’re there. Some food isles ended near the sporting goods and there, next to the potato chips, I saw a father bending over with his very young daughter admiring the handgun display. Say no more!

Haystack rock, Oregon coast
Haystack rock, Oregon coast

Next morning the sky was clear and warm. I rose at five AM and headed inland to Bend. After the snowy cold of the mountain pass and the tourist town charm of Sisters the central and eastern Oregon Badlands are dramatically different from the coast. I felt a very long way from the sea and wanted to turn back. Eventually I turned south from the dying town of Burns into an ever expanding panorama of semi-desert high plains, volcanic rocks, cones and ridges and finally entered Nevada in the dark at a ghostly place called Denio. IMG_0105

A ghost from days past, when men were men, and nobody knew what a computer was
A ghost from days past, when men were men, and nobody knew what a computer was

It had been a T-shirt warm kind of day, but I awoke in my little trailer to find frost on my blankets and door windows, my water bottle was almost frozen solid.  I learned that the temperature was ten degrees Fahrenheit. Oh yeah, right, it’s still January!

Choose your ride
Choose your ride

Now writing in a dreary cafe in a deary place called Valmy Nevada, I’m catching up on my notes and taking another back road south from Battle Mountain. My diet is supported with a scarcity of restaurants in

Sport model, Sisters, OR
Sport model,
Sisters, OR

this big country with its many very big people.  I don’t know what they eat but WOW! My Fat Loser manual points our how libido and physical attraction diminish with the onset of obesity. Perhaps that’ll be nature’s way of thinning us porkers out!  It has occurred to me that a good analogy is how poorly a gasoline engine runs when it is out of adjustment and trying to burn a fuel mixture that is too rich. It just doesn’t operate smoothly, uses too much fuel, and is slowly self-destructing while offering diminished allround performance; just like a human!

Perhaps it’s the old pilot in me, but I’ve learn quickly to top up with gasoline at every chance in this big country. Signs promising ‘Next gas 127 miles’ may well be proven liar when and if you finally get there. I’ve filled a Jerry can with fuel that I carry in the back. Signs in fact are vague, sunburned blank, missing, or badly shot up. I’m glad I have a compass and altimeter which have actually proven their value, as well as the off-road floodlights I installed on the truck. Jackrabbits, deer, and antelope bound out of the dark vastness immediately in front of you.

IMG_0113

After studying maps and Google Earth I thought I had a handle on my route but nothing prepared me for the vastness and hugeness of this country. It is stunning. I have driven past a hundred fantastic photographs in my determination to get to Mexico as soon as possible. My bladder and aching bottom determine where the next photo opportunity arises. Maybe this will be known as the squirt and click trip.

The evenings are already clearly longer with the southing I’ve made but oh God how I miss the ocean! Sea of Cortez or bust! 

Posted in Parker, Arizona