The Grand (and somewhat bland) Appearance

On the 9th of June, fellow writer Funky Mannequin and I left our home in La Grande, Oregon. The goal was to travel the length of the state and return to Portland (where we first met), and travel we did; through incredible heat, scrotal ticks, the corpses of decaying roadside house-cats, and the backs of vans owned by religious meth-head couples, we pressed onward. However, this story is about none of those things (though you can bet there will be more on such escapades later).

For now, let’s focus on The Grand (and somewhat bland) Appearance.

Upon reentering Portland, Funky and I were greeted by a typhoon of litter and profoundly retarded transit system. The destination was across town (the apartment of a dear friend Garrett), so we got change from a local barkeep and his transvestite girlfriend, seating ourselves at the nearest stop and checking the schedule. It read eight minutes – five minutes later, it read nine.

When the vehicle at last greeted us, it did so with an overweight woman screeching into a speaker-phone and a coughing man who would have shamed victims of the bubonic plague.

We were up to our taints in boozy broads and gutter condoms. We were home indeed.

Once freed of the public access vehicle, we promptly located Garrett’s building and illegally tailed a resident through the safety-locked doors. Instead of the stairs, we took a dangerous-looking elevator up a single story and reached the room in minutes, ushered in by a middle-eastern man bearing a plate of assorted fruits. “For you,” he spoke smoothly, presenting the organized dish of succulent offerings.

We took the juicy gift and rested upon a crimson sofa, breathing in the sheer emptiness of the apartment’s space. “Where’s Garrett?” we asked, slightly unnerved.

“He went to get you,” the man responded, producing a smoke and heading for the balcony.

“Of course.”

Eerie music filled the air. No, there is truly no joke or metaphor to be found here; there was suspenseful music quite literally flooding the room around us, echoing from somewhere within the walls (from which room we did not yet know).

On the coffee table before the couch, a sculpture of a pirate skull glowered at our knees (“I dug that out of the trash!” our friend would soon proclaim with an appropriately dramatic gesture).

When Garrett finally did arrive, he did so with a homeless companion named Jeremy (known to Garrett as “Gregory” for absolutely no reason at all). Jeremy talked about an ideal world on acid, grew offended when asked to play a love song, refused to shower, then gave everybody his filthy, filthy lice (they filled all of the hand towels, so cleaning oneself was deeply counter-productive). Levi cooked us delicious salmon to rectify these things.

That night, we watched a television of static. The channels wouldn’t change unless we were using the remote. When the remote eventually stopped working (no big deal, all of the channels were static anyway), Garrett opened the battery compartment and two small pieces of aluminum foil fell from the device. We were all dumbfounded.

On the television (or rather, within the static on the television), we saw intergalactic travel, spiraling serpents, parting seas, and a vigorously dancing man. The dancing man was so horrendously funny, we all laughed for a good five minutes (five minutes is an absurdly long and painful amount of time when you can only laugh). This television, like the pirate skull, was obtained from a dumpster.

The following day, Funky and Garrett made Jeremy the Louse King collect all of his shit and throw it into a sack, putting him on the bus and taking him to a tax-evading semi-cult otherwise known as The Boneyard (read: Road Trip Through PurgatoryMy Accidental Life As A Full-Time Meth Peddler: Part One, and Bags Of Flesh, Bottles Of Urine – all appropriately titled entries in the world of Boneyard lore).

“It’s a commune of artists,” they misinformed the Louse King.

He looked very worried, as he should have been. When they were traveling via the TriMet streetcar, he spent the ride face-down in his guitar. He knew they were stretching the truth.

When they reached the communal settlement of degenerate scum, the landowner was evicting a local junkie (Fini, Lord of Ice-Cold Milk). All of his greasy belongings had been tossed onto the lawn.

The Louse King was abandoned there, yet to be seen again.

So we made a safe return and lead normal lives, right?

Well, unbeknownst to my shitty little heart, this was but the beginning of a new breed of adventure – an adventure so lethargic, pasty, and unexciting that it would be a crime to shove it all into one post.

In stories to come: handguns, familial alienation, bloody intercourse, parolee sex-changes, cancer, long-lost siblings, and open relationships. Yeah, yeah, don’t get your hopes up.

Garrett, whose face is scribbled out because he doesn't want any photos on the internet because he's fucking insane.

Garrett, whose face is scribbled out because he doesn’t want any photos on the internet because he’s fucking insane.

Next Up: The Gland Incoherence
And Then: The Unplanned Interference
And Eventually Someday: Seven Sinks And The Bridge Of Despair
And Then Eventually Someday Somehow After All That: 260 Miles: The Borderline Homoerotic Tales Of Traveling Way Too Far On Foot And Getting Ticks On Your Nutsack

Road Trip Through Purgatory (or, My Accidental Life As A Full-Time Meth Peddler: Part Two)

Behind “The Boneyard” (a tax evading semi-cult, named after the unearthing of animal bones from below their back lawn), there is a massive hole in the ground.

Levi and I sat at the edge of this ditch, kicking loose dirt from its edge, earth and rock tumbling down to the pit’s bottom. The sun was hot and blinding, searing our backs through tee-shirts and thin jackets, drying the mud beneath our worn shoes.

“This is gonna be an underground greenhouse,” Levi told me, sipping from the brim of a black coffee, his long hair dangling over his face. “I’ve been doing all the fucking work though. Ripped a hole right down the ass of my favorite striped pants.”

“It looks like a mass grave,” I told him.

Rotating to look at me, Levi squinted through the blaring sunlight and shrugged, then nodded thoughtfully. “Huh. Fini should be here soon.”

As though waiting on a cue, the infamous Fini emerged from the cluttered house behind us, jarringly slender with the stature of a retarded hunchback. His smelly jacket blew in the late springtime breeze, eyes sunken to the back of his rotten brain and peering through inflamed rings of sleepless drug abuse. Slight winds carried trash and dust across the inconceivably filthy property, blowing against the legs of his undersized jeans, tight and childlike on his sickening chicken legs. Taking a long drag of a hand-rolled cigarette, he blew smoke into his own face and grunted, “Alright kids, let’s hit the road. Just a couple hours, right? I’ll get you the camping gear and we’ll all be set.”

Complying without question, my companion and I signed ourselves onto the most nightmarish trek that would ever grace our shitty lives.

“Garrett keeps asking about camping gear,” Levi informed me as we approached a small car. “He gave me a list and shit. Like, a color-coded document that’s all bulleted and fancy and shit. I don’t know, this guy says he’ll hook us up for free. He seems good for it, long as we come along and help him bring stuff back.”

Opening the hind-passenger door, Fini reached in for a small cooler, then shut the vehicle before we could enter it.

“Oh, not this car,” he told us. “We’re taking that one.” Pointing a scummy fingernail down the driveway, he drew our sight to a white, nearly windowless van, screws and nails jutting from its chipping sides. “You dudes can sit in the back on the way out. I rigged up some seats and shelves and all that, so you’ll have an alright time.” Laughing lightly under his breath, he wiped his nose with the side of a greasy fist.

Upon entering this automobile, the unfamiliar fellow slammed his cooler down and removed the plastic lid, hunger brewing in his beady little pupils. With shaking hands, he dipped his palms into the small box and produced a single bottle of milk, covered in frost and chilled water. With but one fluid motion, he wrenched the cap from its container and latched his mouth over the brim, sucking with famished aggression. “God damn,” he hooted as the flagon unlatched from his nasty lips. “There’s nothing better than ice-cold milk!”

Tossing it at Levi, he juddered with uncontrollable passion. “Ice-cold milk,” he announced again. “Really, you have to try it.”

Shrugging with absolute apathy, Levi lifted the frothy beverage and sipped a bit down. “Yeah, it’s pretty good,” he said.

“Pretty good?” Fini retrieved it, passing the drink to me. “Ice-cold milk,” he said.

“It’s lactose,” the words slipped almost nervously through my teeth. “I can’t drink milk, man.”

Deeply offended, Fini pursed his lips and raised his eyebrows, taking another hard swig before returning it to the cooler. “Whatever, dude.”

[Editor’s Addition: Mood Music for the ensuing smut-fest.]

Then, without warning, the world caved in on itself and we were cast into the proverbial fires of a very real Hell. It all happened so unbelievably fast – one moment, we were standing at the side of a crumbling-home-turned-cult-residence; the next moment, we were huddled down in the back of a strange junkie’s hazardous van, nail-riddled shelves lurching with every slight turn, tobacco smoke filling the airless space as we pressed a foam slate across the hind window to “prevent being seen.”

Emily (Fini’s girl) sat in the withered passenger seat, every inch and orifice of her body (visibly) perforated by some form of steel rod or ball, arguing with her partner over every line that oozed across his mindlessly flapping tongue. When we reached the toll-bridge into Washington, she had to take the wheel in his place, the crusty felon hiding in back with us because the entire state wanted him on charges of “avoiding a parking ticket” (widespread and repeated possession, production, and distribution of Class 1 Narcotics). Immediately after reaching our first destination (one of many, as we were soon to discover), we were forced to endure five hours in waiting while Fini dealt methamphetamines to a disabled woman and downloaded an unfathomably shitty phone application (“Asphalt 8” he boyishly chortled at us as he reentered the van, chucking his sticky smartphone into our laps). Emily had thrown us twenty bucks to spend on food, but not even delicious and pricey sandwiches could ease the discomfort of her boyfriend’s vile antics.

And as the North-Western rain came pouring down, my thoughts could only shift back to those frail few words, muttered so simply by Fini before we departed from The Boneyard. “A couple hours,” the putrid lie echoed like an ominous premonition through my aching head.

A couple hours. A couple hours. A couple hours.

A couple hours turned into five, which turned into eight, which turned into twelve-and-a-half. That’s right, over twelve fucking hours were we made to endure this travesty of a “road trip.”

And it only spiraled down from here.

Posing with one of Fini's hand-rolled cigarettes. Approximately two hours on the road.

Posing with one of Fini’s hand-rolled cigarettes. Approximately two hours on the road.

Next up: Seven Sinks And The Bridge Of Despair (My Accidental Life As A Full-Time Meth Peddler: Part Three)

Orion Flight Test

This is the first of what will be many writings concerning space travel. I am utterly captivated by the beautiful endeavor that constitutes our species foray into the cosmos. Suffice it to say that I find spaceflight, especially manned spaceflight, to be one of the most significant undertakings of the human race. NASA’s current focus regarding manned spaceflight has almost entirely concerned the development of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and its accompanying heavy lift rocket, the Space Launch System. On the morning of December 4th 2014 a day from this posting, the Orion capsule will be launched on its first unmanned test flight Exploration Flight Test 1. The capsule will be launched atop a United Launch Alliance Delta IV heavy rocket and complete 2 orbits with an apogee of 3,600 miles and a return velocity of 20,000 miles per hour. This test will provide critical data concerning the heat shield and landing/recovery systems. This is a great moment in history as this is the first flight of a crew rated space vehicle intended for beyond low earth orbit exploration since the Apollo program in the 1960/70’s. A live broadcast of the launch and flight activities will be aired on NASA TV available to watch on NASA’s website. If you are an American citizen you deserve to know where your tax dollars are being spent. The space administration is a civilian program that belongs to all Americans and whose discoveries are the heritage of all mankind. I encourage everyone to check out this incredible mission and to engage in all the astounding things underway in the space community.

Exploration_Flight_Test-1_insignia

My Accidental Life As A Full-Time Meth Peddler: Part One

After walking approximately seventy miles, I reached the Portland city limits. My legs were on fire and my conscience was beginning to fade, fourteen consecutive hours of travel weighing upon the many more spent without sleep. And yet, here I was at last, lost at the edge of my hometown with sixty dollars to my name and a ratty crust of hair plastered across my cheeks. Selecting a random block, my legs began to throb in its general direction, moving against all odds to keep me alive.

Countless buildings passed before another human presence was identified, some young woman sitting on the curb outside of a convenience store, a frighteningly large cigar burning between her skeletal fingers. Seemingly oblivious to my disgustingly disheveled appearance, she glumly informed me that she was a clerk on break, imprisoned in a graveyard shift to pay for a trashy apartment. When asked where one could find a place to sleep, she haphazardly pointed her stogie and proposed we have sex together; greasy, pained, and filled to the brim with undischarged fecal matter, I declined. She then offered to sell me acid, ignoring my awkward dismissal. After declining once more, I bid her farewell and my travels continued.

Soon enough, a filthy motel crossed my path, something cheap enough to rob me of all cash and house me for the following six hours (it was made very clear that I had to vacate by eleven o’clock). Crumpling into a mattress that reeked of adultery and well-fed scabies, I plugged my cell phone into the nearest outlet and proceeded to sweat my body-weight overnight. In no time, the light of noon was upon me and I fell sprawling from the mattress, taking a two-minute shower and drying off with a hand towel (the full-sized towels provided were all stained in copious amounts of shit). Tugging my clothes back on, I gathered my meager belongings and hit the road again. Within hours, I had reunited with my friend Levi.

The plan was to stay a night at The Boneyard (a tax-evading, independently operated semi-cult), later gathering supplies from a disturbingly gaunt man named Fini (unbeknownst to us, a narcotics dealer) before setting out on a group expedition to Eastern Oregon.

“The guys are kind of weird,” he notified me on the bus ride there.

Upon entering the strangely inconspicuous residence, I was greeted by its homeowner, a middle-aged man with frazzled hair pulled into a frayed ponytail. He held a hand-rolled cigarette and discussed his life as a digital effects artist, voice becoming comically gruff when he spoke while exhaling. “What genres do you like?” he asked me.

“Just about anything,” I told him, “as long as it’s not too bogged down with action scenes. I usually like a little bit of meaning.”

“I find meaning in action movies,” he told me, slowly crushing his cigarette against the tabletop with smoke billowing out from his nose. “Meaning in the violence.”

As if on cue, a large man came lumbering into the room with a plastic cup of beer splashing about in his fist. Immediately, an argument sparked over whether or not Vikings adorned their helmets with horns. “I am a fucking Viking,” he boomed drunkenly. “I know this shit.”

After a wry and condescending remark, the homeowner grinned and exited to the kitchen, dismissing his friend entirely. Directly following this departure, the Viking threw his arms out to the sides, twisting them in random directions and stomping his feet, screeching indistinguishable sounds at the top of his lungs with eyeballs protruding and tongue flapping around outside of his mouth. Then, just as spontaneously as he had begun, he came to a sudden halt.

“You know what I mean?” he asked me.

“Yeah,” I told him, giving a thumbs-up.

“Alright,” he grinned, leaving the room.

Calmly turning to me, Levi lifted an empty mug. “Do you want some coffee?” he asked me, utterly unfazed by what we had just witnessed. “We can wait out back for Fini to get here. I’ve got to show you this hole they’ve been digging.”

Nothing could prepare me for the events that followed.

First week back in town with Jolly Oswald and Funky Mannequin.

First week back in town with Jolly Oswald and Funky Mannequin.

Bags Of Flesh, Bottles Of Urine

Many healthy concepts fall to the wayside when one is recovering from a traumatic event. The cutting of hair, the changing of clothes, the flushing of toilets, the taking of showers (or perhaps the exiting of showers, once three full hours have passed). When my elder brother’s marriage was decimated by insecurity and distrust, he abused hard drugs and became homeless. When my father lost his job, he curbed his livelihood and spent his accumulated retirement fund on scraping by atop a blue sofa.

When I survived the rupturing of my veins, I coped by devolving into a shitty person.

Within days, I had isolated myself from all trusting friends, broken up with my long-term significant other, and watched enough internet pornography to give myself handcrafted genital herpes. Though I had moved off-campus, I was still clinging to the notion of successfully completing my first college year. Every day, I would return to the dorms and insincerely discuss classes with my friends, all the while neglecting a majority of my homework. Every night, I would walk into my ex-girlfriend’s room and beg for her affection, always reducing my logic to some pathetic copout about “being good friends and loving one another but avoiding any real relationship.” Commitment, responsibility, confidence, and overall functionality had become utter strangers to me. I was a pitiful train wreck of weakness and dishonesty.

Yet, by some ugly miracle, an absurd solution came to me amidst the thick of my wretchedness. It was delivered to me whilst sitting at home, trying my best not to think of my most recent counselling appointment (something legally required of me, as long as I wanted to avoid the loony bin). My hands were set upon my keyboard and a good friend of mine (a young man by the name of Levi Nelson) was sitting at the other end of cyberspace. He had been informed of a strange and rare opportunity, something that could change the course of our lives as we knew them.

“Boot companies will sponsor you to walk across the country in their boots,” he wrote me. “We need to investigate this right now. We need to get out soon. I’m going to get ahold of [our friend] Garrett.”

That was all it took to stand me up and dust me off. I needed to travel back to Portland by whatever means necessary. In fact, the very words “by whatever means necessary” may have actually crossed my mind at some point throughout the abysmal, amateur process that we referred to as “plan-making,” an essential and preceding step in what would be the longest fourteen hours of my life.

The original strategy was to drive back to the big city, meet up, and walk across the country (just like that). However, the far-reaching expanse of America proved too daunting a starting goal; we needed something simpler first.

The second plan was then formed; my friends would be driven into La Grande before commencing with a group expedition to Portland. That way, we would be allowed a small taste of a greater adventure, to determine whether or not we had what it took. And yet the use of vehicles made things “too easy.”

Here, the third plan was born; my friends would walk to me, stay for a week or two, then set out as originally intended. Levi knew members of a tax-evading, independently operated semi-cult known to the youth of Portland as “The Boneyard” (a name earned upon their discovery of animal skeletons, uprooted from beneath the soils of their backyard). A sunken-eyed man lived there with his profoundly pierced girlfriend, a fellow by the name of Fini, who dealt narcotics from a truck and proclaimed himself the group’s “acquirer of goods.” He would supply gear for their excursion, covering camping and general survivability altogether.

Nevertheless, Fini’s heroin-laced preparations took far too long and I became impatient. When visiting a friend’s family in southern Washington (and simultaneously contracting a terrible fever), I finally caved, spontaneously deciding the ultimate plan; from White Salmon to Portland, I would walk approximately seventy miles along the highway, stopping for nothing.

When the time came to return to La Grande, I broke the news to my friends and we drove back into Oregon, saying our goodbyes before I departed.

Within the first five hours, I had barely outrun two trains, stumbled into a homeless congregation in the woods, and discovered a garbage bag full of mysterious flesh.  There was dog shit on my hands and people shit on my shoes. The sun was setting rapidly and my nerves were quickly getting the better of me. After a certain point, I drew and unfolded a sizable pocket knife that had been supplied for my travels, shambling like some drunken rube down the side of the open road with a dark blade hanging visibly from my shaking fist. Two arm warmers (my inadequate substitutes for bandaging) shifted and began to itch beneath my sleeves, leading me to periodically scratch at my wrists and elbows as I shuffled alongside the speeding traffic. It would have been a feat to look more suspicious.

At one point, after the pinkish sun had at last disappeared behind the mountains, a sudden urge to urinate overcame me like a tsunami within my bladder. Bizarrely self-conscious about leaking onto the concrete road, my sleep-deprived brain informed me of a simple, indisputable alternative; relieve myself into the empty water bottle that I had finished off a short while back. Without questioning such logic for even a moment, I whipped my manhood out in the middle of the freeway and emptied my foul, dark, sickly piss into the frail plastic container. After that, all it took was a quick turn of the cap and I was on my way once more, piss-flagon secured at the side of my backpack and stance shaking like a junkie in the cold.

Surprisingly enough, it wasn’t until a good six hours past sundown that an Officer of the Law was called to investigate my undoubtedly frightening presence. When the alternating beams of blue and red began to wash across the road, I crawled up onto the highway’s median divider and tucked my knees into my chest, wracking my hazy brain for the best way to look like a “good guy” (thank Christ, I’m white).

“You alright?” the man called out to me, speaking quietly into his radio as he approached.

“Yeah,” I told him, greasy and heaving and coiled into a fetal position atop a slab of concrete. “I’m good.”

“Where are you headed?” he asked.

“Portland.”

“Oh. Whoa. Are you sure you’re alright?”

“Yeah.”

“Are you armed?”

I thought for a moment. “Yes.”

The Officer stared at me, hand near his hip. He didn’t speak.

“Wait, shit, no… I mean yes. But not really. There’s a knife in my pocket. Like a pocket knife. In my pocket. Also a wrench I found in the woods, but that’s actually in my backpack. Oh, and a giant screw from the train tracks. That’s also in my backpack.”

Miraculously enough, these words seemed to alleviate a small amount of the man’s tension, his hand now raised and bearing a bright light, scanning over me. “I’ll give you a ride,” he offered. “As long as you put the knife in your bag there.”

Keeping my movements slow, I lowered myself from the divider and unslung the rucksack, drawing the knife and storing it within. It was clear that he found me unfathomably shady, but any sense of intimidation had been shed over my cluelessness, and a break from eleven consecutive hours of walking sounded like a dream. Putting my hands up, I began to lurch toward him.

“What are you doing?” he asked me.

“Pat-down,” I said.

“You want me to give you a pat-down?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“I mean yes. Only if you want to, though.”

Reluctantly, the Officer ran his hands down my body, a wildly concerned eye set upon my face. When he was done, he wiped his hands on his uniform and opened the back door of his car. “Alright,” he spoke firmly. “Get in. You can leave your bag up front with me.”

I did as he commanded, clambering into the cramped, plastic space and jamming my sore legs into the tight gap behind the passenger seat. He walked around front, entered the vehicle, and set my backpack with a heavy thud in the space beside him. “How far are you taking me?” I asked through the barrier of steel mesh and bulletproof glass.

“I can only go about a mile or so toward Portland from here, but I know where there’s a payphone that you can go to.”

“I don’t have any money.”

“I can give you a bus pass.”

“Awesome. Thank you.”

Turning his key in the ignition, the Officer muttered more words into his radio and stepped on the gas, the vehicle jerking slightly upon startup.

Almost immediately, an ungodly stench slapped me in the nose.

Wafting through the backseat, some rank odor had found its way into the vehicle, musty and sour all at once. My face puckered in disgust and I began to observe the front of the automobile, mumbling through sparse conversation whenever it arose.

“My son’s adopted, too,” the man said.

That’s when it hit me, my gaze landing wide and trembling upon the piss-flagon. Its cap had loosened and the rancid urine was splashing in turbulent synchronicity with every bump in the pavement, some leaking down the bottle’s edge and onto the dark leather. At one particular moment, upon approaching the border of Troutdale, the cap slipped off in full and landed in the crevice between seats, wet and foul and lodged into a cavity of the man’s car. Putrid froth splashed out in a thick, yellow glob, landing dangerously close to a small, indiscernible control panel beside the Officer’s right leg. Yet somehow, by some brilliant work of divine intervention, he saw nothing, smelled nothing, and said nothing (well, at least that last one).

Just after passing Troutdale, the Officer pulled over to the side of the road and asked me to exit the vehicle. As soon as my feet touched the ground, agony shot through my knees and thighs; with great effort, I staggered over to the passenger door and waited for the man to open it, speedily reclaiming my bag with a nervous smile.

“I forgot the busses aren’t running anymore,” he told me, handing me a pass regardless. “Good luck out there.”

“Thank you,” I said, taking a step back to watch him pull away.

As the dark shape disappeared down the road, I dumped the flagon out at my feet and watched it bleed slowly into the pebbly earth. The cap was still in the car.

Turning, I continued my journey into Portland.

(Next: My Life As An Accidental Drug Peddler)

Pre-haircut Mack, setting out for Portland on foot - April 5th, 2014

Pre-haircut Mack, setting out for Portland on foot – April 5th, 2014