We got up pretty early in the Glacier RV park and hit the road. I was no interested in cooking or cleaning. We stopped at a Poison Store (so-called because I acknowledge that Diet Coke will probably kill me–though more slowly, I believe, than the high fructose corn syrup Coke that I used to drink). I got my poison and three corn dogs using the last of the money that Little Bird had given me for gas. Little Bird got her coffee, and I asked whether she had taken her four-times-daily medicine for her strep throat.
A few minutes after we left, Little Bird mentioned that she couldn’t find her phone–the phone that we had spent the entire day before retrieving. I stomped on the breaks and said “Get the F— out of my car!” Fortunately, for all involved, she found her phone before I had come to a full stop.
We drove and drove and drove. We got into Idaho.
And kept on moving. Our only stop in Idaho was to hit a Walmart. I can’t remember exactly why I thought I needed to go there, but I left the place empty-handed.
At long last we arrived in Spokane and started trying to find a place to stay. We quickly discovered that none of the RV parks allow tent camping. RVs only.
We went on into town to see about making other plans, maybe getting a hotel. We stopped at some “public house.” I tried flitting around the bar to strike up a conversation with someone, but didn’t actually, you know, talk to anyone. I gave up and went and sat at a table outside.
Little Bird was much more successful. She met a table of twenty-somethings who gave us some tips about where we might park and said that if all else failed we could go to their place. I was all for going to their place and being done with driving for the day, but the woman whose number she’d gotten wasn’t responding.
We set out in search of the place that they’d suggested and were not having much success. Thankfully, we got a text from the people and an address. We changed course and bought beer, which seemed the appropriate house gift. At the beer store, a fellow was giving the attendant a couple of boxes of little flavored cigars, “blunts” in the vernacular, in hopes that the store would be interested in carrying them. The attendant asked if he could have some, and the salesperson went to the truck to get him some. Though I had not been supportive of Little Bird and Ox’s use of tobacco, I knew that they would like free tobacco, so I asked if I could have some too. The guy gave me one of each flavor. Back at the car, I gave them to Bird, who was quite impressed that I was learning how to get free stuff. I suggested that she go talk to the guy, who vaguely resembled Snoop Dogg, a popular rap musician. She did and came back with a somewhat larger handful of cigars than I had been given. With beer and tobacco in hand, we resumed our quest for the party.
This was a very interesting group of people. One guy was a “beat boxer,” a guy who makes music by making noises, primarily with his mouth and a microphone. These noises are fed into a box that records the stuff and plays it back in a loop. It was really pretty fascinating. For the first time I pulled out the 200 watt amplifier under the seat and we plugged in to it. For a while I played guitar with these guys and it was pretty fun.
I was asked how long I’ve been playing guitar, a question I haven’t heard in quite a while. I don’t really know the answer. I’ve been playing since high school, so I guess that’s thirty-some years. In retrospect, the best answer might have been “since before you were born,” but I didn’t think of that. When you have been playing as long as I have, the answer is pretty meaningless. Most people get to a certain level in a year or two or three and don’t really improve much after that. I’m not much different, though I have picked up some new stuff in the past five years or so. Still, a teenager with unlimited time (which virtually all teenagers have) and great determination could be a better player than I am in a year or two, certainly five. Of course, he probably still wouldn’t know as many tired old rock and folk songs from the 70s and 80s as I do.
As it was, people claimed to be wildly impressed with my guitar playing. I didn’t even play that much. Maybe playing for longer than they’d been alive counted for something after all.
The beat box dude had also spent time busking in Portland, and gave me insights into the busking community in Portland. In certain places it can be pretty lucrative. He and his crew were making as much as thirty dollars an hour at times. Interestingly, it is rude to other buskers to stay in one spot for more than an hour. If you do that you should definitely apologize to anyone else who was setting up nearby, no matter how pitiful their act might seem. Portland requires a busking license, though he never got one. You should also not play for money in parks. You can, however, play outside shopping malls, and the best place to make serious bank is at the farmers markets. Many of these events actually have sign-ups to monitor where people set up, though he told one story in which that sign-up sheet was meaningless. He had been assigned to a spot where a group of dancers performed; when he tried to set up, he was told that they had been performing there for over four years and that it was their spot. The people kept a list, but they didn’t even pretend to enforce it. His stories made me want to spend some time trying to check out what this community was like, though it sounded like it’d take weeks to make sense of it all.
Also in attendance was a fascinating young woman who for her (high school) senior project had lived in a wheelchair. For two weeks or more, she’d spent all of her time outside of the house in a wheelchair and wrote about the experience. She told about one time when she’d been somewhere that didn’t have a ramp or something and she fell out of the chair. The proprietor, presumably quite concerned about a lawsuit or, perhaps, the welfare of the person falling out of the chair, was quick to help her get back in. And then, thirty feet away, she stood up, put the chair in the car and drove away. It sounded like pretty amazing experience. She bench pressed before and after the project. Her lift went from about 70 pounds to something like 130, pretty impressive for the 90 pound weakling that the might have appeared to be.
She also talked about a teacher who had offered to let students either write a paper or write a poem and perform it publicly. She opted for the public performance, which, though it sounded a bit scary, seemed like much less work than a long, boring paper. Unbeknownst to her, the performance was not reciting just one poem, but it was a “Slam,” requiring three performances. After the first one, she frantically went through her notebook, looking for something that she could do for the other two. She apparently did pretty well, as in preparation for her move somewhere near the east coast, she was taking the lead running the poetry slam at a place in Spokane so that she could start similar poetry slams in her new city. As a former teacher of high school kids, I begged her to let her teacher know what she was doing. Pretty much the only thing that keeps teachers going through the long hours, low pay, and all manner of indignities, is knowing that some kids lives are changed in positive ways. If this guy knew how this young woman’s life was changed, it’d make his year, or maybe even a couple of them.
These folks said that they had tents set up in the back yard. The original plan was for Bird and Ox to sleep in one of those, or to set theirs up back there. The tents had been open and were full of insects. When it came time for bed, they neither wanted to sleep in a buggy tent or set up their own, so we decided that they’d sleep upstairs in Walden, and I’d stay downstairs. We threw their packs in the front seat so that there was be room for me and popped the top for them.
If we’d known that we were going to sleep in this configuration, we could have just stayed at one of the RV parks. We would have, however, missed a pretty fantastic party. Had Little Bird and Ox not been with me, I’d certainly not have connected with this interesting group of folks. She tried to make the case that I could, in fact, have talked to these folks and gotten the same invitation. Though people seemed genuinely happy to have me in attendance, I’m pretty sure that without Little Bird and Ox, I’d have seemed pretty creepy asking to crash their party.