Lucky bastard. I was staying in a beachside cabin, cliff side, overlooking the sparkling ocean. And the weather was fantastic. The sun shone like a woman’s smile. Yet, I was troubled by something, something that had been niggling me for decades, whenever I visited the coast. The cabin was a small space, intimate, two closet sized bedrooms and one larger area that stands in for kitchen and dining and living room. In total, maybe all of six hundred square feet. And trimming out that limited space were an unrelenting number of beach decorations, beach paraphernalia, beach pictures. Indeed, all manner of beach symbols. Positioned everywhere.
Find the rest of part 1 in issue 6 >>>
SEA CHANGE, RICH N STRANGE
I was after something a little bigger. The beach is so much more than shells, starfish, and oversized rock. Scattered along the coastline were towns of people, the very people responsible for all that beach décor. No doubt, they would be steeped in very different kind of symbols. Symbols of their towns, their histories: life on the coastline. They were no starfish, these humans. What beach symbols representing themselves would we find? My intrepid research assistant, Anna, and I had chosen three different coastal towns that might hold clues. The towns were of differing character and industry—and overall vibe. Yet, they were all coastal towns, emblematic of life at the water's edge.
The intermittent weather begins to turn surly.
The partial sun breaks and grey clouds become ardently dark, the air chilly and moist, the horizon over the ocean growing black, as we drive south, away from Astoria, where we may have stayed too long. Weather is something more than polite conversation in this locale, it's part of the excitement, part of the disappointment. Part of the mood. Our next destination is known for a kind of sunny entertainment, a t-shirt-and-tan, penny arcade town. But, clearly, we will be seeing Seaside, Oregon in the rain.
Farmhouses, scattered cows, chickens, goats, and, every so often, a golf course, go sailing past, until we arrive at our destination. We park downtown and climb out. The streetlamps are in the shape of starfish, and, against the sky's grey blanket, the sun is a solitary pinhole. Across the street is a sober mural honoring an immigrant population. It's an inauspicious start to fun town, but a block later, after waving to a longhair cat in a display window, we cross over into a full-throttle city arcade. The earnest tone of the mural is behind us, swapped out for posters of board shorts, nail polish, and costume jewelry. The streets are lined with polychromatic shops and the sidewalks stirring with anxious people.
It begins to rain.
Anna and I duck into a confectionary, where we discover, alongside taffy that can be bought by the bucketful and rows and rows of assorted sweets, displays of butter, chicken, lobster claw, and underpants suckers. It's unclear to us just what mouthwatering delight comes labeled as "underpants." After a moment of examination, however, hardly daring to pick up the box, we move along. Some things are best left to speculation. We steer around several kids, standing zombie-like in the isle, paralyzed by the overwhelming bounty, their parents stationed nearby, dutiful and compliant. We pause at the front door, which is stickered with brand logos from top to bottom. It's strikingly similar to the sports endorsement you see on racing cars. But the association between the two remains foggy.
The rain slows and we hit the streets again, where the activity level remains constant, the weather be damned. Many adults can be seen with their hoods up and their heads down against the adversity. The kids carry on, hoods down, their hair wet.
Do you smell that?
As a color pallet, the look of downtown Seaside—the shop windows, cafés, signs, and game arcades—have much in common with the festive taffy available in the bulk bins. Everything is neatly coordinated, as if decorated by a tidy clown. Orange and green and red and yellow—eye catching, vibrant, gaudy swirls of sweetness line the street and shelves alike. And, as if not to be outdone, various motorcycles and cars parked along the curb also broadcast the same razzle-dazzle colors, designed to steal your attention. Everything proudly smacks of sugar, complete with marquee names like "Funland" and something called the "Center of The Elephant Ear Universe." One need only imagine.
WELCOME TO THE TIKI HUT
We continue our search for illumination. Walking Broadway, it's cold, and I glance up into the sky, one eye squinting in suspicion, and the sky seems to sneer back. Arcades are a shuck, you know. A good-natured way to lighten your wallet. Yet, they strike me as oddly poignant. Which is peculiar, since arcades are constructed for quite the opposite reaction: as a relief from meaning.
All the same, I'm reminded of my enlightening introduction to the coastal amusement center. It happened on a daytrip to Asbury Park, where my mother had dropped off my younger brother and me to entertain ourselves. Unknowing boys of seven and nine, we were perusing the New Jersey boardwalk, when we happened upon a curious thing that stopped us cold. It was a ride at the edge of the park, both attractive and utterly incomprehensible to our young minds.
The ride was called the Tiki Hut.
At that age, anything tiki themed brought to mind nothing more than a vague notion of bamboo wallpaper. Yet here, other than the a few stalks jutting from ride's marquee, bamboo was nowhere in sight. Nor was there a hut, per se. Instead, what we beheld was a single, giant oil drum, painted blue, resting on a makeshift metal stand. A solitary pole ran through the top and held the drum aloft. How could we resist such mystery?
We paid with our allowance and ran to the drum.
The attendant opened the drum door, a crude hole cut by a blowtorch, and we stepped in. Inside we found a strange austerity. Suspended from the pole were a bench and a single light bulb, glowing red. And nothing else. We sat on the bench and the man closed the door.
A moment later the drum began to turn slowly around us. We waited for more, patient on our bench. But that was it. There was nothing more. We knew nothing of the make-out session this savvy amusement intended to inspire. Instead, in its place, we were treated to the sound of a handful of broken glass that lay roiling at our feet, a janitorial oversight. The glass shambled fitfully—cashka cashka cashka—as the drum rotated on the pole and the red light shone its beacon of love. All we could do was laugh.
My brother and I talked about the Tiki Hut for years, afterwards. Later, as grownups, we determined that the Tiki Hut was a premonition of romantic life. There is the mystery. The entrance ticket. The exploration. The red light. The inevitable sound of broken glass. And the realization that you have become trapped in nothing more than a spinning drum, broken glass roiling at your feet. Cashka cashka cashka.
And we thought it was just gonna be an amusement park ride.
A COLORFUL CARROUSEL
After wandering Broadway, weaving in and out between the determined revelers, cruising by storefronts hawking ceramic starfish, glass dolphins, and other beach retail, we enter an open pavilion and walk down a long hallway to the building's center. The hallway terminates in full sized carrousel. And it's a sight to see.
The carrousel is an onslaught of white and green and red and blue, with plates of mirror glass spinning above the base, and sea horses and cats and fish that go round and round and round, children straddling their back—a classic. It's familiar to me. Once upon a time, I used to bring my daughter to the pavilion. She loved this brightly colored spectacle, which we often rode together. I confess it has been my favorite Seaside amusement. Though I once scored a near perfect game of miniature golf. And I can't golf. That makes a guy happy, too.
Anna and I watch as the kids go round in circles, the colors whizzing by, and I'm contemplating what it means to grow up. See what I mean about amusements…
CANDY, CIGARETTES, CORNDOGS
After a visit to miniature golf, Tilt-A-Whirl, and bumper cars, it's getting late and the hotel is a good distance off, so we opt to go. On our way back to the car, Anna stops me with a question.
"Do you smell that?"
I nod. That smell has been here since we arrived.
"Just what is it?"
I peer in the direction of the arcades and realize that Anna has totally nailed it. Seriously. I've not been paying attention. Amusement parks all have that same fragrance, from one end of the coast to the other. Just like the old cafeterias and lunch counters and department stores have their aromas. So what exactly is that smell, the aroma of amusement? We sniff the air. It's not hard to identify. Candy. Cigarettes. I say. Corn dogs, she concludes. Love it or hate it, there it is. Like a wafting memory.
We climb into the car and pull into sparse traffic. It's dark now, but the town shines brightly. On the way out of Seaside we pass rows of box stores, carefully situated on the other side of the highway, as if lying in wait. Box stores have no identifying aroma. That's not what they're about. But in this case, they do have a sea analogy. Like barnacles, they have attached themselves to a thing, and over time, demonstrate the tendency to cripple a vessel that once lured you to the sea.
The speed limit increases and we speed off.
We overnight in Netarts, a ways to the south, off the 101 and on a peninsula. At night, the peninsula is nearly lightless, frighteningly so for the city native. It's times like this when, for city folk, you realize how much light pollution plays a role in your psyche. In your sense of security.
Have some brownies—
Our hotel dwells on a slight rise from the sea, on Crab Avenue. Looking out of the hotel room window, toward the water, nothing can be seen other than an impenetrable blackness, from which radiates a mighty roar. After peeking around the curtain at the dark for a few minutes, I give up. Overtop the bed I spy an arrangement of gold decorative gulls, affixed to the wall. We're at the beach, after all. Over by the tv is a small stack of pulp fiction.
In the morning, I survey the coastline, the buildings, the sidewalks and streets, giving shape to the sounds of the night. The strip of beach, the entire distance from Netarts to Oceanside, is empty, as are the roads. For that matter, last night, so was the hotel desk when we arrived. It was a telling scene.
We rang the bell. In the other room could be heard soft voices speaking in a foreign tongue. For a time, we listened but were unable to identify the language. The proprietor appeared from the doorway and greeted us. The voices continued, hushed. The proprietor was tall man with a retiring manner, albeit no older than his mid-thirties. We asked about walking paths in the area. Providing rich and detailed descriptions of the trails and geography, while monosyllabic on all other matters, our host, in his answers, came across very much a part of the local landscape.
In contrast to Astoria and Seaside, this is the coastline of the solitary beach walk, the ruminating shore. The solitary individual.
Before departing Crab Avenue, Anna and I stop at a place we had been eyeballing since our arrival. Lex's Cool Stuff is a second-hand shop, decorated in the style of a beach fairy tale, an ideal site for an endearing indie film or best-selling novel, breezy and idiosyncratic. If you should ever have occasion to explain the Oregon Coast in a single image, you might be inclined to choose this fantastically decorated bungalow. It's a life-size postcard.
The front door is open and we wander in. There are two rooms decked out from floor to ceiling with countless recycled treasures. Necklaces hung from tree branches, dresses of faded-glamour, western hats atop albino mannequins, woven baskets fixed to the ceiling, lamps, bracelets, mirrors, desks, dishes, forks and knives and spoons positioned everywhere. And a floor hand painted with giant flower petals. In fact, there appears to be everything in this store but the owner. No one is home. In place of the owner stands a table in the center of the room, upon which is proffered a tin box, its lid open. The box is half full with squares of brownies and bourbon balls. And, before the tin is a note, hastily scrawled by the owner. One "Sexy Lexy."
Have some brownies— Make yourselves at home—
I love you— Be right back—
P.S. If you are in a hurry, there is change in the cigar box on my desk.
RETURN TO SENDER
We merge onto the 101 at Tillamook and head north toward our final destination. But I already know what we are going to find at Cannon Beach. Decades ago, while still living in Washington State, my family made trips to the Oregon Coast a family annual. Trips that were sponsored by an inexpensive rental in Manzanita, owned by a family friend, John. Cannon Beach was a jump north from Manzanita, and we often sojourned there for the bakery, prized by my father for their éclairs and sticky buns. Most of which left me feeling ill from the dosage.
That was a long time ago. But I still remember Cannon Beach as a funky coastal town, full of artists, full of characters. And a small contingent of lazy tourists. Squinting my eyes, I can almost see the women in peasant dress, the men in long hair and scruffy jeans. The sparely populated streets. The kooky art galleries. No one was in a hurry. The coast can be a difficult place to make a go of it, unless you are of independent means. As a girl, Anna and her mother lived in Cannon Beach. For a year, they barely scraped by. If appearances are telling, however, the tourist trade has been good to Cannon Beach, at least since our early hauntings.
Opening my eyes wider, I picture today's town. The rows of businesses with their aging cedar and paint cracking clapboard have mostly been upgraded to new cedar and fresh paint. The newness is still punctuated by ultra-white shops vending saltwater taffy and ice cream of yore. But their paint is fresh, too. I'm likewise pleased that the same fish n' chips joint from once upon a time is extant, though the interior has since been souped-up with wall art depicting fish, fishing, and a fish market. (Yes, indeed, the place is also a fish market.) There are newer pubs, as well, with their own micro brew and glass-blown taps, crafted by locals. The coffee houses have their own brand of roast. In the five-by-ten blocks that comprise downtown, there are more than six or more art galleries, a number of wine tasting shops, multiple clothes merchants, and an excess of blown glass in myriad window dressings and gallery settings. The beach here is one of the most beautiful on a coastline of gorgeous beaches, a long stretch of flat sand and a shoreline punctuated by great sculptured rock, protruding from both water and cliff.
The patient, it would seem, is in excellent health.
WHAT'S MY LINE
It occurs to me that each of these towns we've visited retains a strong sense of a distinctive, earlier era. And that each also represents a particular idea of what it means to be a coastal town. Astoria is the turn-of-the-last-century port city. Its ideal is utility. The ocean as something useful, as industry. Seaside is the 1940s ocean side amusement park. Its ideal is the get-away. The ocean as a playground myth. Cannon Beach is '70s counter culture. Its ideal is the vibe. The ocean as natural beauty.
My eyes are wide open now. We've come a long way from forty-one beach symbols in six hundred square feet.
There is a store in Seaside where you can purchase any number of beach emblem, beach tchotchke, beach sign, beach paraphernalia. That's all they sell. Any of the items, it seems, that can be found in your beach rental are available for purchase. Someone has discerned a market. No longer does the experience of non-stop beach symbols must needs be predicated on the length of your stay. You can bring home—beach takeout!—the countless reminders of the beach that overrun every beach cabin. And, while in the comfort of your own home, you can recall that once you were at the beach.
Here's where it gets tricky. I've put a lot of thought into these symbols, this phenomena, since my original accounting. And I've finally figured something out. All these beach symbols are a welcome mat, writ large. A decorative way of introducing guests to the local scene. It's a way of saying: this is what we eat. This is how we live. This is what we value. It's a friendly introduction. Yet, it is also something more complicated.
You see, on the other hand, a beach guest can easily find a painting of a crab in your rental or café or pub, wherever. But nowhere will you find a guide to the crab at home in its tide pool, or any information detailing the local flora and fauna, the other area residents. (Other than in a few bookstores.) The absence of guidebooks makes the painting's presence suspiciously like an inducement to dine on crab. If you catch my drift. An advertisement. The gesture, it turns out, is both a welcome and a sales pitch.
The speed limit increases and we speed off
Earlier this year, on a stay near Lincoln City, I was forced into the auto parts store, when my windshield wiper broke. An aging gentleman with a gruff demeanor manned its counter, clearly a local from the way he spoke to friends who came in. Not that he was unfriendly, but after I took an interest in a photograph of a classic car that lived beneath the glass counter top, his tone change from night to day.
That car, a '67 Dodge Cornet, he had rebuilt and dedicated to his deceased wife. It was a beautiful automobile and I told him so. Next thing I knew Pat was ringing up the special "family" discount on that wiper blade. I saved five bucks. The night before, I'd given my waiter a buck with my name written on it, which he proceeded to wrap up with a tack and a quarter and toss elegantly at the fourteen-foot cedar ceiling, where it stuck. The ceiling was covered with dollars, donations each and every one, supporting the local high school.
Both experiences reminded me of the obvious: that there are the people who live on the coast. And they have lives quite without the tourist. And lives that include the tourist. They have the welcome mat. They have the sales pitch.
Anna and I are heading north, closing in on Cannon Beach. It's a beautiful day. Though the weather is unlikely to last, we are feeling well. There is something about the Oregon coast that improves the mood, even after a short stay. As I blaze along the 101, snaking this way and that, peek-a-boo vistas come and go. Pipelines of trees race along either side of the speeding auto. The forest falls suddenly away to one side and there, briefly, is the ocean blue. Ditto the towns, which come up suddenly and are easily gone past before a lasting impression can take hold. As I blow past, so too my mind blows by. However, I know our exit. And we hook into Cannon Beach.
In a moment, I'll be seeing Haystack Rock.
Check out Eric and his mopeds in the our first issue >>>
A 70s RV is parked out front, its grill announcing that this is The Executive. A small American flag juts from the grill, canted at a loopy angle. In the near distance towers the pea-green St Johns Bridge. Behind the vehicle is a garage, its walls constructed of corrugated metal. While inside the garage are several second-hand glass-top display counters, covered with stickers and displaying motor parts and band flyers. There are red drawers with chrome handles full of tools. There is a concrete floor littered with grease spots. There is alternative music playing through wall-mounted speakers. Oh, and there’s a dog, lounging just outside the front door, cooling in the dirt.
This is Sabatino Mopeds (and scooters), a repair shop half full of mopeds and scooters, awaiting mechanical attention.
Some people. Ya just gotta love what they do.
Last time Folks Press visited Eric Sabatino, the sole owner, repair jock, and receptionist of this establishment, he held court in the suburban style car garage of his rental home. He has since upgraded. These days he’s living the grease monkey dream. Or the low rent version of it.
A hardcore moped and scooter aficionado, Eric is a longstanding member of the Moped Army and Puddle Cutters, where moped and scooter enthusiasts who ride together stay together. He’s all about this. What profit Eric makes from his shop goes right back into improvements. Say bye bye to low quality tools and hello to tricking out the shop’s cabinets and light fixtures with a better grade. Upgrades that increase the juice.
My old truck is a black rectangle—and it looks great!
“Hopefully, I’ll eventually be able to deal with what they attempted to do fixing the leak in the roof,” says Eric, with wry gaze at the ceiling. The roof slants the wrong direction, causing the rain to pool instead of drain. The jury-rig is a drain spout fixed to the wall inside, instead of out, the long pipe running the distant of the shop, clearly visible to all who enter. It’s bizarre.
But Eric is unfazed, laughing. “There’s a gutter inside!”
Eric is into this locale, it’s perfect, the right size, totally chill. The landlord is “awesome.” The view of the Gothic towered suspension bridge from Sabatino Mopeds is wicked. However, the garage’s lease on life is coming to an end; Eric gives the building two years left to live. St. Johns, formerly a working class neighborhood, is going condo. Indeed, right across the street rapid condo construction is ongoing, workers darting about the recently leveled lot like red ants busying their hill. But until the axe falls, Eric plans on living and working in this one place, where he’s able to park his home, The Executive, right at Sabatino Moped’s welcome mat.
“The RV is glorious,” says Eric, escorting us outside to get close and personal with the beast. No sooner are we beside the monster, than the proud owner exclaims, “Holy shit! Look at this RV! It’s so Breaking-Bad-meth-lab looking. And I got it for nothing.” His plan is to have summer fun in it. Sell it later. We take a tour. It has AC. It has heat. It has water. It has a fridge. “Everything works.”
We are watching his neighbor test a vintage motorcycle, which rides like the devil. It looks as serious as it rides.
“There are no good looking bikes anymore,” Eric announces. “Scooters or otherwise. Scooter, motorcycle, cars, trucks: nothing looks good anymore. Weird. They’re designed to look like tennis shoes or cell phones, or something,” he continues. “Almost like an insect. I mean, my old truck is a black rectangle—and it looks great!”
We head back into the garage, and Eric soon qualifies his proclamation. He points out a Stella. Stella’s, an 80s era Vespa series scooter, are made on the same tooling to this day.
“The Stella,” he quips, “is probably the only descent-looking motor vehicle in production today…”
We’re gazing at the Stella. And I have to nod. It’s serious rock 'n’ roll.
THE DOG HOUSE
Something else that’s new at Sabatino Moped is the dog, Rita.
“A shop like this needs an old pit pull runnin’ around, ya know?” Eric says. “I love dogs. If I live the type of lifestyle that would allow it, I’d have ten dogs, everywhere.”
For now, he makes due with Rita, the aging pit bull. Eric kneels down to Rita’s face and gently lifts her ears.
“She’s the sweetest little dog ever.”
It took a while for Eric to figure out to make the business work. Not the least of which was tamping down various urges.
“Just call first. It’s an appointment only shop,” Eric explains. “I played with having hours and it was just, like, ridiculous. Cause I couldn’t work. There was somebody always hanging out. Hey, I bought some beers. Wanna hang out and drink? Well… no. I can’t work, then.”
Eric stands behind the counter of his shop, a neon sign aglow behind him, surveying the rows of mopeds and scooters waiting for repair. The place suits the owner—funky, makeshift, one of a kind. And Eric seems resigned to life here amongst the oil stains.
“The appointments-only thing has been cool,” he finishes. ”So, if somebody calls and says, 'Hey, I need my tire changed.’ I say, 'Okay. Wednesday at two.’”
The party is before and after.
SUCH A NERD
Eric also digs music, and plays in The Silent Numbers, a full band that he’s been in “forever,” and Appendixes, a duo with his friend Beth, a “dark, slow music, with a lot of reverb.” Band rehearsal and recording sessions may be moving to Sabatino Moped, for the times between appointments. Makes sense, really. The offbeat garage, the far-out bands. Eric walks me over to a particular area of the shop and claps his hands loudly, twice.
“This room is a great drum space.”
Back in the main garage, Eric informs me of a recently acquired factoid. The Sure SM 57 microphone has been the official U.S. presidential mic since Lyndon Johnson. Eric loves this ditty. Though, maybe it isn’t Johnson, he qualifies. “I was drinking in front of Wikipedia at the time.”
Eric is a total nerd, and seriously fine with that label. And he’s not just an auto and music nerd. Useless facts are also a must. It’s true, Eric Sabatino hobbies include Wikipedia and cheap beer.
“Can I print that?” I ask.
Don't forget to check out Buddy B's 32 Second interview >>>
To survive the Wall Street soft-boiled coup d'é tat, one should be happy to exit the bank with a buck in pocket and the shirt on your back. Not all the natives are friendly, you see, and so I rushed out, having long ago read the fine print. Bounding onto the boulevard—crashing open the aluminum framed glass door a bit too recklessly, methinks—I turned east on Hawthorne, a district of old and new. Taking in the aging red brick and clapboard siding, second-hand stores and fancy card shops, pubs and glass-hewn gentrification, I was jazzin' along in a pair of torn canvas green sneakers. It was late spring, after all. The place was alive with spent candy wrappers and sunlight.
The street scene was predominantly domestic-consumer, grazing on retail. Moms tailing kids between the bagel cafe and the bookstore, clothes shoppers slipping between vintage window dressings, and the lunch crowd picking between burgers and salad. All the same, there were fringes of wilding urbanity. Skateboard punks. Teen smokers. And improvised homeless camps, which dotted the sidewalks and doorways. The camps make an impression. They are, in a manner of speaking, the sepia-toned bird in the crest of new neon America. While I'd come to Hawthorne to knock out a to-do list, I took a moment to salute their sacrifice. Albeit, today's handouts amounted to no more than nickel and dime glances and inexpensive thoughts, and so I kept moving.
It was then that I passed a busker armed with an electric piano. Sporting an oversized tiger face on a tie-dyed tee, a necklace with a mystical blue stone, and a curly street-Beethoven mop of grey hair bouncing upon his head, the busker stood upright, poised before his piano on a stand, delivering his songs in a manner entirely without concern, just another day at the office. Here was just another telecommuter, phoning it in. His piano, complete with bumper stickers, was connected to a portable amplifier, the device little more than a black box in a worn black leather bag, splayed open upon the sidewalk, out of which came the tinkling of ivory. By contrast, his singing was entirely unplugged; yet his voice gave no quarter to the amplified piano.
I thought to myself: now, this was… something.
The busker glanced at me but didn't miss a beat of performance. His left hand pumped chords, while his right often floated free, occasionally landing on the keyboard to hammer weirdly at the black and white plastic keys, attacking a quick melody, which often ended as abruptly as it began, a kind of vaudeville performance, the melody stepping backwards off a cliff and into the void, goodbye. The piano sounded, well, not of quality, its tone a low-rent squeezebox in a tin can, emitting signals along a telephone wire. Against this winsome tableau, every so often, when the man opened his mouth to sing, his lips spreading wide, flashing his teeth, a Cheshire cat, impudent and vaguely arch. Yup, this was something.
as the punk raced back to his posse, the busker called after him...
Three punks, young men all, came rolling past, waved generously at the older busker, and sailed on. “Hey,” the busker called out. “Aren't you gonna feed the bowl?” The three punks turned in unison, slowed, and lost rank. The tall, gangly one came running towards the busker, his arms flinging awkwardly about, legs bent at angles like a stickman. Sheepishly, the punk held up a quarter for the busker to see, brandishing it between two fingers, and then dropped the coin into the sidewalk bowl, with apologies, his face blushing red. “It's all I have!”
The busker smiled. And, as the punk raced back to his posse, the busker called after him. “Save the hippies,” he shouted. “Frooooooom… extinction.”
Okay, this fellow was a 100%—something.
…Though just what, that was the small wonder. A rounded belly. A mop top. A floppy Vandyke. That keyboard. Those songs. That Cheshire smile. This—according to the man himself—was the one and only Buddy B.
All The World’s A Stage
We think of ourselves like a movie. The movie is called Your Life. It's full-on Technicolor and you are the star of this consuming drama. Various other players orbit through your scenes, interact with you, but no matter how much they yell and scream, love and hate, no matter how much they might steal the stage, the script always remains your drama, your life.
It makes for curious entertainment when you consider that, at the exact same time your movie is running to a full house, you are playing roles, small and large, for others in their feature films. These other people consider you the exact way that you do them: as bit players for scenes in their feature. Counting the billions on earth, everyone in his or her own movie, is enough to inflict vertigo. That's a lot of footage, a lot of scenes, a lot of features, and a lot of stars.
We will not meet most people, however. Our audience extends out from an inner circle of co-starring and support-role loved ones to an outer rim of bit- part and cameo grocery clerks and auto mechanics. Everyone else is a stranger in a passing car or living on the other side of the planet, their films running quite without us.
While the Bard once proposed that life is a stage, contemporary life is more akin to streaming media: impersonal, immediate, and quickly passing. Motion pictures, moving data. But strangers still do rub shoulders, most every day, out on the street, at work, while on an errand, whenever we leave the house. Just wandering peeps, they pass our movie as a blur on their way to some far- away set. Sometimes one of these strangers will come crashing like an asteroid from a disaster film into our personal theater, capping skyscrapers and sinking ocean liners, changing the picture. Creating quite a stir.
In this way, Sam came into Olivia's life. Not quite an asteroid strike but a collision, certainly. For my part, I watched my own version, a short film of their short-lived association.
Watch the above video for their story.
There's a thing called the ha-ha. No kidding. Although it's nothing more than a clever way to make a fence without blocking view of the estate from your manor, it earned the name because of its invisibility. It's a sort of all-in-one ditch and fence. People of earlier centuries out walking would happen upon the thing and exclaim in surprise. Ha ha.
Or so the story goes.
Walking and surprises are bedfellows. We enjoy such things. The Japanese garden, harboring its own wisdom, is designed to tease the eye, resisting the long and straight view, investing in the intimate encounter, steering away from of the numbing grids of modern cities, where your destination can be seen as you approach, even from great distances. You see—it's good to be interrupted. Whether from the routine of behavior, thought, or expectation. People prefer surprises. They like a ha-ha.
On the eve of a full moon on the Willamette River, recently, there was a mile long train crawling slowly crossing the Steel Bridge. Overtop, on the upper half of the bridge, the lights of a commuter rail came slinking along, a snake in a Chinatown parade. The river was running inky black. A perfect evening. But it got better.
Along the river's footpath, far to the other side of the safety railing, on a slab of rock jutting into the river, were two fellows. They were giving flight to dozens of homemade hot air balloons. Made from a gauzy white fabric, each balloon was about the size of a grocery bag, with a makeshift Sterno attached to the center bottom. After being successfully lit, the balloons would rise up into the night sky, one after the other. First, a balloon would rise, catch the air current headed slowly north, then, at the same place in the sky, the balloons would shift to the south and rise swiftly. The lights, rising one after another, bending at the same turn, suggested paper lanterns lit on a garden path, for guests to follow.
A path winging up into the black sky. Ha ha.
Although there are no pictures from that night of the riverside ha-ha, people are always leaving a trail of surprise, of interruption, whether in the sky or in the yard.
Witness the Now Lately!
A Folks Press online talk show, starring our patented outré host Leo Daedalus. Featuring curious, unforeseen and, erratic subjects. It's a collision of The Now Lately and Folks Press, the birth of a new planet. Heavenly bodies are sucked into temporary orbit and cast off with brimming chatter.
...This issue, Leo interviews Doug Kenck-Crispin of Kick Ass Oregon History.
Watch it now. Don't be late.
Find the full interview here >>>