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Friday, October 31, 2003

Happy Halloween! Well now. Woke up a little late, I won't lie to you there, but the great thing about "the Land" is that it's virtually impossible to be hungover the next morning, because one beer can generally last you about four hours, as you keep finding it, keep thinking how great it is that you found it, and then keep putting it down, having forgotten to actually drink any of it.

Which is not to say that there's no after-effect from it. In fact, there's quite a pronounced after-effect, which comes in the form of this vague feeling that you're just... not... quite... all... there. You don't feel bad, by any means, but you do feel removed in no uncertain fashion, from the vagaries of reality. Things are no longer hilarious. Having a beer no longer seems like climbing Mt. Everest. But there's still a vague glow of... "niceness" to everything, and your physical coordination is still not quite up to par. Wouldn't want to be like that forever, but if you've got nothing to do, it's a decent way to spend an afternoon.

Started off by taking a nice, leisurely bath, which I was in desperate need of, not only because I was getting a bit rank and I hadn't shaved in a week, but because it afforded me an opportunity to lie very still for a half hour and just soak up the nice vibes for a while.

After that, I put myself together and decided to drive back to Eureka to visit the Six Rivers Brewery, which I had walked past the day before but had not yet tried. Since I had decided that I'm leaving here early next week, I'm in "do everything you missed before at the last second" mode, so off I went.

Now, as happy as I am with my new car stereo, I must admit that the bass response is not all that it can be, and I've had to turn the treble down as far as it will possibly go in order to avoid a major tinniness to the sound. It's just awful. During my drive to the Six Rivers, though, something amazing happened. Even in my state of not-quite-thereness, I managed to luck onto a setting I had not previously noticed, a setting that, when set to "on", blasts the treble up as loud as it can go, creating an unlistenably harsh sound. And guess what. It was set to "on" the whole time I've had the stereo. I switched it off, and all of a sudden -- everything sounded good! Like magic! So by the time I got to the brewpub, I almost didn't want to get out of the car, I was enjoying all my old records so much. But, you gotta eat.

My visit to the Six Rivers Brewing Company was, let's just say, a disappointment. First off, when I walked in, absolutely nobody was there, including, it appeared, any of the waitstaff or bartenders. I sat down at the bar with my newspaper, rustling it in an exaggerated fashion, hoping someone would notice I was there and come help me out. Well, it took a while, but my bartendress, a fairly attractive young blonde lady, came around to hook me up. I went to my "go-to" beer when trying out a new brewery: "I'll have an I.P.A., please."

"Sorry, we're out of that." Strike one. Strike two was when I realized that, as cute as she was, she had the second-most irritating voice in the history of the universe, all whiny and squealy and -- ugh. I backed off my I.P.A. request and went for the "Wildcat Amber", which she was able to set me up with. Strike three was when I took the first sip of this "Wildcat Amber" and was extremely underwhelmed. At this point I was thinking about not even bothering to have lunch there, since things were already on the downswing. Strikes four through twelve, though, came when another woman sat at the bar, who had the most annoying voice in the history of the universe, and she turned out to be good friends with the bartendress, and so right away, they started going at it, their annoying voices echoing shrill throughout the cavernous insides of the establishment. "Babababababa, and omigod, and she was all, like, and omigod, and bababababababa..."

Well, that was it. I polished off the Wildcat, and got the hell out of Dodge, hungry, but happy to have escaped that scene, and also happy to get back in my car and rejoin the enjoyment of my newly-reconfigured stereo.

Still in "adventure" mode, I drove past Ferndale and went into Fortuna, just to take a swing by and see if there was anything interesting there which I'd missed the first time. There wasn't.

Desperately hungry now, I came back to Ferndale and had a late lunch at Curley's, enjoying a chicken Caesar salad with a couple glasses of Chardonnay. Delightful! After an hour or so there, I went back to the apartment, and less than five minutes after arriving, Clash showed up, having finished up early at the radio station. Clash was in the mood to go to Curley's for a pint, so, for the second time in the space of an hour and a half, I wound up going to Curley's.

Had a couple pints there, while Clash once again was forced to converse with Lowell from open mic night, who is rapidly becoming my least favorite person in Ferndale. Nice guy, enthusiastic about music and about the radio, buys beers for people, got no complaints there. But this man could have a running dialogue for three hours with nobody else in the room. BABABAbabAbBAbaABabBAbAbabBAbAbababbababBABaba, that's my new nickname for Lowell. Jesus.

Anyway, we were both feeling a little drained after our days' adventures, so we politely withdrew from the Curley's scene. L. T. suggested making a quick appearance at the Palace, which normally I wouldn't have been in the mood for, but I was kind of curious how the place looked "the day after", so I agreed to stop in for a cold one. Which we did.

Amazingly, for once, we stuck with our plan to just make it a short visit, as we were both terribly exhausted, and having not eaten much all day, the beer and the wine were starting to get to me, and I just wanted to... sleep, or something... just... need... to... rest... but wait. There's my car.

So we did what any two people suffering from a tremendous amount of fatigue and weariness, who both desperately needed to get a good night's sleep would do: We got in the car and drove an hour to the Cher-Ae Heights Indian Casino.

The casino was rather small, but they did have a card room which had just opened, and there were games going on, so just for fun, I played cards for an hour, pocketing a cool $18 in the process. When I got out, Clash was standing by the exit, smoking a cigarette and generally looking about as bummed as a gentleman can look. See, he didn't have any money, and wouldn't take any of mine, so the hour I spent holding and folding and raking in the dough, he spent mulling around staring at slot machines and getting depressed. I felt bad about that, but the joy of my triumphant $18 victory tempered it enough where I was able to summon the strength to pile us back in my car and drive us the long, long hour back to the apartment.

After we got back, we both found our (florally scented, wink wink) second wind, and stayed up a bit longer listening to songs and jamming and doing nothing of any particular import.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Today, I accomplished the greatest feat of my entire life. No matter how long I live, I will never do anything as phenomenally astonishing as what I did today.

I got up at the relatively early hour of 10:30, both because I knew the landlord was going to be coming by again at noon, so I needed to get up on out of there, but also because I had an absolutely horrible, woefully depressing dream. Not about DP or monsters chasing me or anything, but it was... I was enveloped at all times by an overwhelming feeling of ineffectualness. First, my employer (whoever they might have been) sent me and a few other guys from work out on a retreat of sorts, where we would (for some strange reason) be supplied with hookers, all ready to have a go with us at our whim. But for some reason, no matter what I did, I couldn't get it going with any of these hookers, even though they were there to get it going with me in the first fucking place. All my coworkers are pulling Fredos with two, three, four of 'em at a time, and I'm wandering the halls like, "uhh, what... what's goin' on, guys?" So, after a while of this, I say, screw it, I'm going to go grocery shopping. At least that's something I know I can do. Upon hearing this, a couple coworkers and a couple hookers say, hey, that might be fun, so we all piled in my car, and off we went. For some reason, all of this was taking place in Rosslyn, VA, a place I lived for many years, so I knew that our goal would be to get to the Safeway on Wilson Blvd. A place I've been hundreds of times. But no matter what road I took or what turn I made, I couldn't find the fucking Safeway. Eventually, we just parked the car, because I knew we had to be close, and that we'd find it easily if we just walked around for a while. So we walked, and walked, and walked, through the parking garage, around buildings, up staircases leading to paths winding between the various office buildings and hotels, down elevators, everywhere, and I just couldn't find the goddamn grocery store. That's when my coworkers stole off with the hookers again and left me there alone. Then I woke up. Good morning.

Before leaving, I went through my pre-landlord routine of doing dishes and... hiding things, which I'm getting pretty smooth at. Then it was time for an adventure! Something to pick up my spirits and get me back feeling a little better about one Mr. Ben Parrish!

First on the agenda was a trip out to Old Town Eureka, which I hadn't seen yet, and which is the only part of Eureka which is not a gritty, dirty, disgusting place. Old Town is dotted with lots of nice little shops and Victorian architecture, kinda of like Main Street in Ferndale, but bigger, and not quite as genuine. Like a "Valu-Pak" version of Ferndale, but nice nonetheless. I popped into a few stores, got the general lay of the land, and then saw... The S&K Cardroom! Cards! I like cards! Let's play some fucking cards!

Not much (or, to be more precise, nothing) was happening at the S&K, though, but I did meet Dominic, the manager, and got the lay of the land there. Dominic says that the game they play there is $2-$6 spread limit dealer's choice, with the most commonly chosen game being Omaha Hi-Lo Split. If you know anything about me, you know that there's no way in hell I'd ever sit down and play Omaha Hi-Lo Split in a competitive, real-money environment, so I decided it would be best if I just left the S&K for the normal gaggle of rubes and old crocks who enjoy coming in there and deluding themselves into thinking that they're actually playing a real poker game, and left.

After a quick walk along the channel to the marina, watching various ducks and gulls do their little duck- and gull-related activities, I got back in the car and headed back to Ferndale. Once there, I stopped and made a trip down to the Ferndale Museum, where for $1, you can spend quite a bit of time soaking up some of the local history and looking at some of the ancient tools which made Ferndale the bustling little town it is today, namely, butter churning and cheese pressing equipment.

I asked the museum curator if cheese is still made locally in Ferndale. She said no, not right here in Ferndale, but, in Loleta, just up the street, I'd find the (famous?) Loleta Cheese Factory, where they still pound out tons of bland, uninteresting cheese for the masses. Well, that settled it! Back to the car I walked, and off to the Loleta Cheese Factory I went!

No cheese was being made at the time, but I still enjoyed browsing around their little shop of cheese and other interesting delicacies, from which I picked up a little block of organic white cheddar, a little edible souvenir, if you will.

Back in Ferndale, I challenged my socially anxious self, and spent the remainder of the afternoon walking up the street, and (get this) actually walking into lots of the cute little shops that Ferndale has to offer, and which I hadn't yet been able to force myself to walk into. This was, while still not a completely comfortable endeavor to me, somewhat enjoyable and satisfying. The highlight, definitely, was my stop into the blacksmith shop, not only because the steel and glasswares on display were quite impressive, but also because I was able to fire up a quick little chat with Gwen, the delightfully fetching shopkeeper. Just the fact that I eked a name out of her was quite an accomplishment for me.

But that was not the greatest feat of my entire life.

Came back to the apartment just in time to catch the Clashmeister walking in from his workaday world, at which time we naturally headed straight out to Curley's where we enjoyed a pint or two, met up with Lowell who runs the open mic night (and who bought us both our second beers, which was a nice little surprise) and just winded down after a long day. By this time, the self-hatred I felt upon waking up from the previous evening's nightmares was all but washed away, and I was feeling pretty good about life, and about myself. Good times.

Of course, you're not just going to walk straight home from Curley's without making at least a brief appearance at the Palace, which we did. Got a couple Buds, shot a little stick, played a little of that weird shuffleboard-kinda game they got there, and hung out.

That's when I broached the subject of... the Plan.

My plan was... well, see, there was still some of that fungal-type material sitting back at the house, and I did think it would be fun to get rid of that before I left town, just in one last glorious celebration of this trip, so I asked L. T., "Hey, since you can sleep in a little later on Saturday, what do you think about having a little fungi tomorrow (Friday) night, and have a little party?" I expected him to agree enthusiastically. What I did not expect was him to say, "Well, yeah, we could do that. Of course, Friday's a pretty easy work day for me... and, you know, it is still pretty early in the evening..."

Uh oh.

We anxiously finished the last of our Buds and ran out the door.

And yes, we took the rest of 'em. ("Dosed", as I'm informed it's called... I'm learning so much up here!)

And yes, we ended up taking a walk into the hills a couple hours later after they'd kicked in and we were both fully ensconsced in Mushroom Land.

Here are some of the things we learned that night, during our travels, and then later in the evening:

Stars are cool!!
I make the best chili ever!!
Ferndale is AWESOME!!!
And by the way, AHAHHAHAAHHAHAHHAHA!!!!!!!!

Fun was had by all, believe me.

Now, a funny thing happened as we were walking back from our little nighttime excursion, as we got back into town. But first, some background, for the uninitiated among you:

The Land, as I affectionally shorthand it, is the most wonderful place in the universe. Everything is beautiful, and often hilarious. All bad thoughts are completely banished. The entire universe is a warm, comforting embrace which just carries you on wherever you want to go, and things just get more and more beautiful. This much is true. What is also true is that the concept of dealing with people in the REAL world is so terrifying (and hilarious) that to even consider having any sort of intercourse with the "Real Worlders" is absurd beyond belief. There's simply no way to do it. At worst, everyone is a threat, and at best, there's just no way to connect with them. They don't understand. They are not where you are, and being on different planes like there, there's just no way to reconcile.

But sometimes, the thought is so tempting. Just to try it. Just to see if you can do it.

We reached the corner of Ocean and whatever the street is which parallels Main street. I wasn't seriously planning on trying to interact with anyone on Main, but I did think it would be fun to just try walking past Curley's, and walking past the Palace, just to peer in, like a little window into the real world, to be able to see the places in a new light. I just wanted to peer in.

Clash was staunchly against this idea, primarily, I figure, because he was afraid I'd want to actually try the unthinkable and go into one of these places. I assured him that that was not my plan, and that I just wanted to see the places. He was having none of it though, so we reached an impasse.

But then we came up with a solution. I would (insanely) walk down Main street, while he would take the back street, and we'd just meet up back at the apartment and compare notes. So, he took off in that direction, and I took off in this.

As I approached Curley's, I noticed that it looked a little dark in there. That's when I had the wherewithal to check my watch, which showed about 11:20 PM. Well, of course, you idiot, Curley's is not going to still be going that late. The whole town closes up at 9 PM, essentially. I don't know what I was thinking. Oh well. Well, I'm here anyway, might as well swing by the Palace since it's on the way and peer into that little world.

I approached the Palace, which also looked fairly dark. When we had been in there earlier, it was almost empty, so I was figuring (and 80% hoping) that it was indeed closed for the evening. I approached warily. I got to the door. I looked in the window.

Ah. Still some folks there, doing their Real World things, totally unaware of the astounding beauty that is all around them. Poor sods.

Then I looked at the door handle.

Then I thought... when will I ever have this chance again? Now or never, baby.

And friends, it sounds crazy now, sure, but your boy, your humble narrator, opened that door, and walked in. I had to stifle a guffaw, as the entire situation was so hilarious that I could hardly contain myself.

The first thing I saw was that they were in the midst of hanging Halloween decorations, and long orange and black streamers were hanging from the ceiling. AUugugghh!!! I didn't need THAT. Didn't I have enough to deal with?

I sidled ever so warily up to an empty spot at the bar, as far away from any of the other patrons as I could possibly get. I had one mission here, and come Hell or high water, I was going to do it. I was going to sit here, at the bar, in fucking Mushroom Land, and have a beer. One beer.

The bartender from earlier in the day came over. This was going to be a major test. She nodded at me. I summoned up the strength of a thousand men and quipped, "Long time no see! One more oughta do it." I stared into her eyes, looking for any sign of a threat, ready to jump up and run out at the first sign of trouble, but being the wonderful bartender she is, she went into the refridgerator and got my Budweiser.

Money. Uh oh. I'm going to have to exchange money for this beer. That's how they do things in the Real World, I remember that. I got out a $10 bill and slapped it on the bar. My adrenaline was flowing at a thousand gallons a second. At any moment, this could turn horribly wrong, and I would be found out, and they would cart me away, never to be seen again. Please take the $10 bill. Please. Just take it. She came by and took it.

Okay, so far so good. But, this transaction having not yet been completed, I was still a bit on edge. The wait was interminable. Hours went by. Eventually, though, she returned with my change. I left a $1 tip. This was monumental to me, because it would have been much easier to just say, "KEEP IT!" so I wouldn't have to deal with money again. But I left the tip, and unsuspiciously (I hoped!) put the rest of the money in my pocket.

I let out a huge sigh. The hard part was over. I was at the bar. I had my beer. Smooth sailing. All I have to do now is just sit here and sip this beer, as I'd done many, many times before, and then it would all be over. Maybe I should pass the time by watching some TV. I looked up. I looked up, and what was playing on the TV? Fucking Carrie. And not just Carrie, but the last scene, where she's killing everyone and blood is pouring over her face and disgusting, horrible bloody violence is befalling all of the kids in the room, and... AUUGUGHGHH!!! That is exactly what I didn't need to see while I was trying so admirably to hold it together. I quickly looked away and transfixed my eyes on the little Bud Light plasma light doohicky that was flickering (beautifully, I should add) behind the bar. Just watch the Bud Light bottle. The bottle will get me through this.

Then I slipped. Rookie mistake. I slipped, and I looked over at the back of the bar to see what was happening there. Ah, just some guys playing pool. Nice. Oh, and one of the guys playing is Danny! Our other regular bartender! I reflexively gave him a little social nod. Another mistake. Just as I gave him the nod, he put down his pool cue and began walking down the bar towards me!

Oh no. Oh NO!! I had almost made it out alive, but now Danny was coming down to talk to me. I was doomed. This was the worst thing that had ever happened in history. Closer, closer he came. Ten feet. Five feet. WHAT AM I GOING TO DO?!!??!

As he passed, I looked back at him and went, "Hey." He nodded back, and then... and then...

He kept on walking. Had to tinker with the big screen TV or something. Then he went back to playing pool. Yes. YES!! I had survived the worst of it. Nothing was going to stop me now. I went back to calmly (so as not to give myself away) sipping the beer and staring at the Bud Light bottle, and before I knew it, the bottle was empty. Fortunately, the bartender was doing something else, otherwise she would have asked me if I wanted another, and that would have been way too much to deal with. I mean, I am not Superman or anything, just a man trying to get through the most trying, desperately anxious, and yet hilarious, moment of his life.

I got up. I calmly exited the establishment. Then I TORE ASS down the street, giggling and skipping and hopping along like a schoolgirl, finding the apartment, running in, seeing Clash, and just dropping to my knees, triumphant fists reaching towards the heavens, and exclaiming, "I DID IT!!!!!"

Clash knew right away what had happened, and he responded in the way only another resident of the Land would truly understand: "No. WAY!!!!!!!!" We were both incredulous at what I had just done.

Mark it down. This was the greatest feat I have ever, or will ever, accomplish.

I walked into a bar, sat down, and had a beer.

After much celebration and breathless retelling of the entire episode, we proceeded to jam (well, to try to jam) a little, had some chili (best ever!), and then L. T. called it a night.

There is no possible way to express in words, or any other way, what happened next, so I won't even try.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Got up at 11 AM today, on a mission. That first batch of chili turned out quite good, but there were still a few ingredients missing, and I knew that as good as it was, I could do better. So, after I got myself together, I headed directly out to the Valley Grocery to pick up the missing ingredients (paprika, dark sugar, and beer), came back, and prepared to make the very best chili I could possibly make, given the fact that I don't actually know how to make chili.

Right before I started, though, I got... The Call. This was from Clash, down at the station, who was informing me that Cindy (Chico, of Tuesday Night Jam fame's wife) had called him and invited us both out to their farm in the middle of nowhere (the "Grateful Acre") for a lovely meal of roast fresh lamb this very evening! Oh! Well! I mean, I did want to go see the Acre, and I've heard wonderful things about Cindy's cooking, but... well, to be truthful, neither Clash nor I really wanted to do it, since, as he puts it, [we] generally don't want to do anything, ever. But it was a nice offer, and it would be my last chance to see the Acre (and Chico and Cindy, for that matter), so... alllright, I guess we'll go.

But I was all geared up to make the chili, though. Damn. What am I supposed to do with all this paprika and dark sugar and beer? Oh, screw it, I'ma make the chili anyway. Heck, it's better on the second day anyway, isn't it?

So, I got the chili going, then sat down for awhile to catch up on this website, which took enough time that by the time it was done, L. T. was walking through the door after a hard day at work. The chili wasn't quite done yet, but I reluctantly turned off the stove anyway, and we headed out to the dark, backwoods nether regions of the Humboldt Nation.

The drive was terribly difficult, what with there being no lights on any of these windy, tiny little back roads, and what with the sun going down and the remaining ambient light washing out any sense of contrast between the road and the cliffs just feet away, and also with random cows strewn over the road, which Clash suggested I alert to my presence by beeping the horn. Which I did. To which they responded with a sleepy-eyed stare, as if to say, "Yeah? Well, why don't you move."

Miraculously and eventually, though, we arrived, and quickly sat down to a fabulous meal of succulent, tender lamb, as well as an impressive array of other vegetable dishes, all of which had been put together with nothing but ingredients from their own garden. "Grateful Beans". "Grateful Potatoes". "Grateful Hollowed Out Butternut Squash With Raisins and Carrots and Some Other Random Things Which I Couldn't Tell What They Were". Everything was great (or... "Grate"! Ha ha!)

After dinner, we settled in with a little "dessert" of the "home grown" variety, if you catch my federally punishable drift, which mellowed everyone out a bit, and everyone was feeling good.

Then Clash got up, looked at his watch, and said, "Welp..." which fired me up, because, as lovely a time as we were having, I really did not want to spend all night there, and was happy to get home as soon as we possibly could. But then he finished the sentence: "...wanna play a few songs?"

But... But... Oh please... Please...

Chico, the ol' burned out hippie that he is, looked at me, saw the look of fear in my eyes, and came up with the line of the century, whipping out the ol' Godfather line just at the right time: "Every time I think I'm out, they *pull me back in*."

So there we went. Wednesday Night Jam. The Lamb Jam. It was, however, mercifully short, and after just a few songs, we bid our final adieus and headed out. And hey, you think the drive there was interesting, try doing it in pitch black, after just having had "dessert". I commented at one point that it was just like a video game, to which Clash sagely replied, "Yeah, except you don't get three guys." Good advice, Clash.

Made it back to the 'Dale safely, though, where we commenced with our own version of jamming for a while, until L. T. bowed out for the evening, at which point I finished up the chili and then spent the next three hours eating everything in the goddamn house. The munchies do tend to hit me pretty hard, this I have learned.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

I got two words to describe October 28: Low. Key. I mean, seriously. This was the lowest-key day since I'd arrived here. First of all, I got up late, which I've given up on trying to stop at this point. Then I went on a quick shopping trip to the Valley Grocery to get some peanuts and soft drinks. Then I came back and prepared to catch up on all my updates. But before I began writing the updates, I lied down on the couch, and just stayed there, napping all goddamn afternoon.

Clash got home a little early, still down in the lowest depths of his depression, which I wasn't happy to see. Then, so as not to leave me feeling left out, he proceeded to bring me down into the lowest depths of my depression by reminding me that this was Tuesday.

Tuesday N-- Tuesday Ni-- I couldn't even bring myself to say the words.

Remember how I described it before? Remember how great that sounded? Try picturing the same scene, except now the bass player (me) is still half-asleep and looking to increase that ratio, and the rhythm player (L. T.) is morbidly depressed. At least when we were playing before, sure it was horrible, but we were into it. Now it was unenthusiastically, depressingly horrible.

I'll be pulling up stakes here in a few days, which is a sad occasion for me. I'm going to miss a lot of things about Ferndale and about being up here. The Palace. The Curley's girls. The spectacular scenery and cool, fresh air. The Clashmeister. The No Brand Burger Stand. The unmistakeable Ferndale skyline. I'm going to miss all of that.

But I'll tell you this:

I'll never take another quiet Tuesday night for granted, as long as I live.

Monday, October 27, 2003

If you thought October 26 was low-key, allow me to introduce you to October 27, which makes October 26 look like October 20.

I got up, late as usual, and quickly got myself together and escaped the apartment to go do laundry, because at noon, the landlord would be coming by to show the apartment to a prospective buyer, and if I was there when they got there, that would necessitate interpersonal communication, which I had no interest in on this particular day.

Laundry was relatively uneventful, except the laundromat owner was having a fairly heated religious discussion with one of the customers. Seems the customer was, while of course a devout follower of Jesus Christ, unable to grasp the concept that Jesus Christ is not only the son of God, but also God himself! The owner was adamant about this, while the customer waxed nonplussed, trying to understand how someone can be his (or in this case, His) own father. I felt it best to stay out of this discussion, and simply focus on the proper measurement of detergent for my load.

Came back (just in time to meet the landlord and the prospective buyers as they left -- dammit!) and had an inspiration to do some cooking. Every time I open my laptop case, the menu from Chili John's keeps falling out, and every time it does, I think, "damn, that was good chili", and then every time I think that, I think, "I wish I could make chili like that", and then every time I think that, I think, "I'ma make some chili!" So I went out on the ol' internet to find some Texas chili recipes. This proved a lot more difficult than I'd have liked, because it seems nobody actually knows what the definition of Texas chili is, which is no beans, and no tomatoes. After finding 100 pages with titles like "THE BEST TEXAS CHILI EVAR!" with recipes that start, "First, open a can of Heinz tomato sauce and a can of kidney beans, and..." I finally lucked onto a page which had a recipe which looked at least close. I'd take that as my starting point.

Since the Valley Grocery here in Ferndale carries only about three different items, two of which are packets of ramen noodle soup, I wasn't going to be able to make it happen in town, so I got in my car, and for the second straight day (am I crazy, or what?) I drove to Eureka. Serendipitously, this gave me a good opportunity to listen to the CDs I bought yesterday. You can tell it's a low-key day when listening to CDs in your car on the way to the grocery store classifies as a "story".

Shopped at the Eureka Safeway, happy to be back in a real, industrial-strength grocery store for the first time in a month, then came home and did some stuff which I don't remember, at which point L. T. got home, and I started whipping up my chili!

After an hour, my chili looked like, to quote Harry Anderson from the show _Night Court_, "hot, wet garbage".

After two hours, my chili continued to look like hot, wet garbage. I was becoming distraught. Not only because the chili was not shaping up like I'd have preferred, but because we were on a definite timeline here, because tonight was open mic night at Curley's, and though neither of us wanted to, we knew we'd have to make an apprearance, because guess who might be there!! Our Sara hunt from Sunday having come up empty, we definitely needed to give the open mic night a shot.

By open mic time, we still had a large pot of hot wet garbage, so I turned the burner down real low, and we headed out.

Five seconds after we got there, we spied her, came up, and made our introductions.

Thirty seconds after we got there, we grabbed a table next to the bar (since, unfortunately, all of the bar seats were taken up).

Sixty seconds after we got there, Sara had decided to extricate herself from whatever social scene she had been involved with before we arrived, and sat down with us at our table.

Aw, yeah. This looked good. There was no way this didn't look good. Sara and Clash had a little witty repartee back and forth over the din of the house band, while I fell easily back into my role of wingman, a role I embrace heartily because it largely consists of drinking and not having to say anything clever.

Now check this out. Clash gets up to go to the restroom, and shortly after he leaves, Sara gets up from the table (it's just me and her now) and without even acknowledging my presence, goes back to stand at the bar where she was when we came in. What the hell is that? Screw you too, bitch! Oh well, more for L. T., I guess.

Then Clash gets back and sits back with me. Now we're back where we started. Which is when Clash made the coolest move I've ever seen, by getting up and sidling over to the bar to nab the spot next to Sara and just start shootin' the shit with her. That was the money. That was so the money.

Except now his boy is over sitting at this table all by himself, and it looks bad. So when Sara goes to drain the ol' lizard, Clash comes up and says, it's kinda uncomfortable, me sitting over there by myself, at which point both of our eyes lit up, because it was my time to leave! Which, since I didn't want to be there anyway, and I had hot, wet garbage cooking at home, I was more than happy to do! So I got the hell out of there, and went home, waiting oh-so-hopefully for Clash and Sara to walk in the door and then collectively tell me to go get a hotel room. This was gonna be sweet.

Fifteen minutes later, Clash walks... sulks... trudges through the front door. Oh dear.

Seems he'd made his play, he'd thrown the dice, he'd shown his cards, he'd upped the ante, he'd turned in his Keno card, he'd bought his bake sale raffle tickets, all of which had been met by a resounding indifference. And so he came back home, a broken, disconsolate shell of a man.

Naturally (after another plaintive stir of my hot, wet garbage), we headed directly out to the Palace to begin drowning his sorrows. It was quite the hopping place at this late-night hour! Everyone was having a good time. The guys in the pool room. Danny, up front, servin' the beers. And Bonnie.

Bonnie was the "other" girl I mentioned way back when we first met Sara. Bonnie has not attained the somewhat ethereal level of beauty which miss Sara has got down pat, but Bonnie's quite the cute little number in her own right, if I do say so myself. Bonnie's got lovely, long blonde locks. Bonnie's got a smile that can light up the room. And on this particular night, Bonnie is hammered off of her goddamn ass. Bonnie is ready to party with any one, or any thing, that showed up in front of her. We watched her sashay from one end of the room to the other, grabbing onto guys, dirty-dancing with girls, doing little "stripper-moves" against the bar. Bonnie was on fire.

This was God's consolation prize to L. T., we imagined. Sure, she's no Sara, but hey, you say one word to this chick, and it is as on as on can be. I mean, hell, she's over there grinding against whatever sixty-year old craggy old cowboy she woozily walks past. She's doing NC-17 movie scenes with her girlfriends against the jukebox. All you gotta do is say the word.

"Hey, Bonnie!" Clash said, as she walked directly past us at the bar.

All of a sudden, and just at the wrong time, Bonnie snapped to and had one horrible moment of lucidity. "Oh... hi," she said, after which she immediately made a bee-line towards the exit.

This, friends, was not my man's day. No other way to put it. Not his day.

But hey! Remember that... "plant" I spoke of earlier? Well, tonight was the night it was scheduled to be... how do you say it... "ready for the produce aisle"! So, we both had a bit of that, and wow! He might not have had the best day with the ladies, but at 1 in the morning, as far as I concerned, he was the magic man, motherfucker! I think even he was able to take a modicum of pride from his grand accomplishment of being able to put us both in a state where nobody could recite the alphabet if you gave them $100. Way to go, L. T.!

Anyway, he went to bed at that point, at which point I was able to impress myself by remembering that I was (still) cooking a pot of chili, and remembering where the stove was and how to operate the little "heat" dial. Well, this was it. Either it was done now, or it wasn't going to ever be done, and it was a lost cause.

I whipped up a bowl. I took a taste. Now, yes, it's likely that at this point, gnawing on tree bark would have tasted good, but it did seem to have come together quite nicely over the hours. Chili. You've got to give it time, that's all I can tell you.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Very low-key day today. And since I'm already over three days behind on this website, I'm going to make this short, not only so I can get caught up, but because since the day was so low key, I don't really remember much about what happened. Welcome... to So Now Then!

We got up (I think it's safe to say that from now on, the "separately" qualifier for such statements is strenuously implied) and decided to take a little shopping trip to Eureka. We stopped at the Borders in Eureka's major mall (the Bayshore), where we mulled about for a bit and then bought some music, his for his show, mine for my car. Then it was time to grab a bite to eat, and to my shock (and at the time, disappointment), Clash suggested "Kristina's", a place just up the street that he'd been meaning to try. He classified it as a "Family Restaurant", which was the shocking part, because Clash never seemed to me like the kind of guy who would be seen within 500 yards, much less inside a "Family Restaurant". But as this webpage has proven, I'm always up for whatever crazy adventure this guy has in store, so I went along with it.

Welp, Kristina's was indeed a Family Restaurant, and came with all the trimmings that term implies, such as families (defined as "four year olds being dragged along by their great-great-grandparents"), and such as menus that feature every recipe ever invented ("Would you like the chicken-fried steak, or the lobster enchiladas with truffle oil emulsion?") We took a seat at the counter, and got the coffee flowing.

I've learned a lot from L. T. on this trip, but you can go ahead and add one more, perhaps the most important thing he's taught me thusfar: If you learn to embrace the "Family Restaurant" atmosphere, there's no end to how satisfying it can be! Good, wholesome food with lots of butter involved, friendly waitstaff, and a reasonable price? C'mon! And there was no problem with ultra-hot waitresses distracting us from our good time! Not that Danial, our server, wasn't a sweet kid, and cute as a button, but we were definitely able to get through our meal without the faintest thoughts of suicide. Kristina's! My new favorite place.

After that, we kicked it on back to the pad, where I don't think anything happened. Then Clash went off with his big crate of CD's to go put his show together.

I genuinely can't remember what I did after he left, and before his show came on at 7. Great. There's three hours of my life that we'll never know what happened. Of course, if you add those hours to the other hours of this trip that we'll never know what happened, you could probably put together a whole separate month of updates just for that.

Anyway, then the show came on, and I sat around enjoying it, and playing the "home game" for the 8-9 "Cocktail Hour". After the 'Hour was over, L. T. came back, and we may or may not have gone to the Palace for a cold one. Shit, this sucks. Okay, from now on, I'm definitely going to be more rigorous about taking notes for these things. But this whole week has been so very uneventful that I don't think we're really missing anything.

Then we either got back from the Palace (if we went) or didn't (if we didn't), and then we did other things which you're not supposed to do, and then I think we called it an evening.

WAIT! BONUS EDIT! We did go out on the town for awhile, not to party down (necessarily), but to go on a Sara hunt! Having not seen the bespectacled beauty in nearly a week, it was crucial that we go from place to place to place to try to find her so we could go in and sit at the bar pretending that we didn't see her.

However, having come up Sara-less from the Palace, the Ivanhoe, and Curley's, we sulked back to the apartment. That's when we did the stuff we weren't supposed to do, and then called it an evening. Whew!

Saturday, October 25, 2003

"Top of the mornin' to ya."

Well now. So, that was Friday. And now here we were on Saturday. Firm, yet not absolute, foothold back in reality, we decided to just go about our daily business as if nothing had happened at all. So, of course, we started the day by going to Curley's for lunch.

While at Curley's, Clash brought out a microphone and some recording equipment for the purpose of recording "bar sounds" for his Sunday "Cocktail Hour" feature on his show, and so we got ol' Brenda to help us out by letting us record sounds whenever she shook up a martini or made some other kind of "noisy" drink. Unfortunately, nobody was ordering any drinks, so while I had assured myself that today, today, I was gonna take it light, I went ahead and "took one for the team" by ordering a Bloody Mary. The sounds came out good though (as did the Mary!), so it was all worthwhile.

After that, we came back, did nothing for a while, until it was time for L. T. to head out to the station to start preparations for his Saturday night show, which also meant it was just about time for the World Series game to come on. Shoot. Baseball. I'd forgotten about that. How am I supposed to "take it light" if I have to be at a bar all afternoon because there's no TV in this place?

Okay, so, I blew it. Yes, I went to the Palace. No, I did not take it light. But, the Marlins won, and I had a great time there at the bar, as one of the locals showed me how to play this dice game that everyone in town plays. It's funny. Everywhere you go here, there are these little dice cups along all the bars in all the restaurants, and everyone just somehow knows how to play, so you'll see large groups of people with the cups, slamming them down on the bars and tables, having a good old time, and you have no idea what they're doing. Well, now I think I'm officially a local, 'cause there I was, slamming down my own dice cup. A proud, proud moment for me, as I'm sure it goes without saying.

That brought us up to about 10 PM, which is when I drove down to the radio station to see how the big show was coming along. Clash let me in, and not only did I get to see how the big show was coming along, but I got to co-host for the last two hours! As Arnold Horseshack once said, "Did ya see me on the radio?!"

Midnight came along, though, so we shut down the Ben & Larry Show for the evening and went back home to get a good night's sleep.

Except, well... I mean, it's not really a full evening until you make one more stop by the ol' Palace to see how everyone's doing. So we headed on over there, and I endured some ribbing from Danny the bartender ("back again, huh?"), and we spent an hour or two playing games and ogling women (which, there actually were some there, which is very odd) before heading back and turning in for the night.

I think it's official. I think I actually spent more time in the Palace yesterday than outside of it. Shouldn't I get some sort of award or something for that?

I would tell you about how once we got back, there was a bit of "vegetative relief" involved, and that I got so incredibly high off of just one innocent little hit that I was writing notes to myself, Memento-style, because I couldn't remember anything for more than five seconds, but I think I've already made myself look irresponsible enough for one update. (But, one of the notes says, "Eyebrows itching." Which they were, in fact.)

Take heart, all those who are terribly concerned about my wellbeing, given the (completely exaggerated for comedic effect, I promise) events and misbehaviors documented herein: I've only got a few days left here. I think I'm gonna make it!

This is no time to get cocky, though.

Friday, October 24, 2003

It certainly started innocently enough. Got up a little late, shaking off the "car-lag" from four days on the road (as well as the requisite silliness from the night before). Tidied up a bit, went out and grabbed a newspaper, then came back and just hung around the apartment, catching up on email, doing some writing for the website, picking through the hundreds of pictures I took on my roadie, cropping them and shrinking them for your amusement (and by the way, the "Spelunker" picture should be working now), and otherwise just taking it nice and easy.

Then L. T. came home.

We promised... we promised ourselves that tonight we were going to take it light, dammit. I mean, I'd already had a big, tiring week, and my man had his radio show on Saturday to think about, so we certainly can't go crazy here and do something we'd be paying for the entire next day.

Now, naturally, you are going to want to unwind with a cocktail or two after a day, and a week, like this, so we went over to the Palace to just have a quick one. Well, a quick two. Well...

Alright, you get the point. We didn't make it out of the Palace until about 7:00. And that's when I came up with my Plan. A plan so incredibly crazy, so off-the-wall and wacky, that... that it just might work.

Remember our friends I spoke of earlier? Our friends from the fungus family? Well, there was still just a bit left, and I felt it would be a shame for them to go to waste. So, here was my plan. Enjoy a nibble or two, and then immediately (immediately, now) get in the car and drive out to the beach. It would definitely be a race against time, because we both knew that once it hit, there's no way either of us would be able to pull it together enough to operate a motor vehicle.

And friends, that's exactly what we did. Took a few bites, then with great urgency, got a few things together and got in the car and drove out to Centerville, just as the sun was fading from view on the horizon.

The hours that followed were, just as I'd planned, some of the most spectacular I've ever experienced. I kept saying it over and over, that the scene out there would be extremely cool even without the help of our little buddies, but man... once things got rolling, well, you wouldn't think such beauty could possibly exist on this planet if you didn't see and feel it with your own eyes (and discombobulated brain waves).

All of this bliss came at a price, though, that being that as intense as the great parts of this expedition were, even moreso was the sheer terror I was experiencing every time a car drove around the hill, with the headlights sweeping wide, horrible arcs along the misty shore. I was convinced, beyond a shadow of the faintest doubt, that each one of them was coming to get us. At once point, one of them actually drove onto the beach and aimed the lights in our direction (for whatever reason), and even though we were a half mile away, I knew that they were coming for us. It was over. My life was over. I was going to jail, and I would never taste freedom again. This might have been the worst moment of my life. And Clash is next to me, playing it up for all it was worth, joking about it ("yep, here they come! Just be cool!"), not knowing that I was stricken with an existential fear of such intensity that it was all I could do to keep from just screaming and running off into the wilderness. Then the car that held my horrible fate in waiting... drove off. I stopped. I sighed the biggest sigh of relief of my life, and I hugged L. T... it was over. This whole horrific ordeal (which, in fact, was a completely insignificant, innocent event) was over, and life was back to being as beautiful as it could ever be.

Okay, imagine how horrible that moment had been for me. With the car a mile away aiming its headlights at me.

Now imagine Clash losing his balance when a particularly strong wave came up and falling into the water.

Now imagine him saying we should go home because he was freezing cold and wet and miserable.

Now imagine us going back to my car.

Now (seriously here), imagine us getting into the car (me in the passenger seat, because there was no way I could even figure out how to operate the glove compartment door, much less the entire automobile), and just at that second, TWO cars, one big SUV thing and another sedan come RUSHING UP to the parking lot and immediately pull to a halt on either side of our car, sliding to a stop along the gravelly, sandy surface. This is in the middle of the night, with nobody else around for miles in any direction.

Just when I thought I'd experienced the worst moment of my life, I was then experiencing something thousands of times worse.

That would have been unnerving if we were both completely straight and sober. In our condition, though? That was the most horrible thing that's ever happened, I swear to you now.

Somehow, in a show of fortitude the likes of which I've never known a man could have, Clash was able to drive us back to the apartment, and when we managed to get out of the car and lock the doors, we took one step inside apartment 452 and just lost it. OMG OMG OMG!!! OMG! OMG!!! OMFG OMFG!!! You're dealing now with two people, totally out of their minds, emotions like live, sparking electrical wires, having just gone through the most intense experiences of their lives, and now they're safe, though nobody can figure out why. OMG! OMFG OMFG!!

Well, after finally calming down enough to form coherent thoughts, we both agreed on two things:

1. Never, ever, ever do anything like that, ever again.

2. That was the greatest thing of all time!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



Thursday, October 23, 2003

Just narrowly beat the Vagabond Inn's 11:00 AM check-out time, which is a bit of a step back from my (relatively) early starts the last couple days, but after the rigors of the Labyrinth the day before, I thought I'd earned myself at least a bit of a late morning.

Got back in the car, filled it up with gas, even though I still had a quarter tank left (see, I learn!), grabbed a bag of beef jerky, and set out on my way to Lassen Volcanic National Park, as opposed to Lassen National Forest, which encompasses the entire area around Lassen Volcanic National Park, and which, unlike Lassen Volcanic National Park, does not cost $10 to enter.

Already, though, by this point in my trip, I was running out of steam. First of all, I had spent way longer at the Lava Beds than I'd originally planned, so I knew that Lassen would be my last stop no matter what, meaning I'd have to cut the "southeast leg" of Yosemite and Mono Lake off of this particular sortie. Added to that, the fact that it had already been three and a half days of near total isolation. No friends, no phone calls, not even one email, and nobody around to do anything with. I'm all about being by myself, don't get me wrong, but being that much by myself, and in vast, empty landscapes which do nothing but enhance that feeling of stark alone-ness... well, it was getting to me. Plus, there's only so much awe-inspiring scenery you can look at in a short period of time before you start to get desensitized to it. "Oh, look, another awe-inspiring mountain vista. Whoopee."

So as I started my loop around the Park, I couldn't help but continually cast glances down to the park map to see how far I was to the end of it. Perhaps not the best attitude for getting your whole $10 worth, but hey, they got their money, so if I wanted to speed through this place as fast as third gear in my Prism could muster, that's my right.

Well, Lassen Volcanic National Park is pretty damn spectacular, I must admit. Hopefully you'll get at least a sense of how nice it is in the pictures I'm providing. And when I got to the trailhead that leads up to the very peak of the main volcano, well, I stopped the car, looked at the trail statistics (1.99 miles, +2000 ft. elevation change), took a deep breath, stretched out my legs, steeled my courage, and said, "Well, maybe tomorrow."

Went through the rest of the park, then drove about 50 miles to the small, insignificant town of Red Bluff, CA, where I was planning to stay for the night, and then go back to Lassen the next day to scale the Big One.

Sitting in the Red Bluff gas station, though, I looked deep within myself, where I discovered two very important things: 1. A big wad of undigested beef jerky, and 2. I just really wanted to go home.

And, so it was that four hours later I found myself rolling back into Ferndale, parking in front of the Repertory Theater, walking up to Curley's, finding my boy sitting there with a pint, watching the World Series, and... well, it was like I'd never left!

We spent the rest of the evening in the style to which we've both become accustomed, leading to many fun times which, naturally, neither of us can rememeber.

Nice to see y'all again. Nice to be back.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

So tired. So very tired. All I want to do is sleep. But here I am, at [checks watch] 11:45 in the PM, pounding out this garbage. Please, let it end.

Got up at 10 AM today, which I feel is highly significant. I am inching ever-closer to ending up on an actual human schedule again. What a happy day this will be for me. After whiling away a few minutes in inappropriate fashions, I dressed and headed back out to the Monument for another day of spelunk-tastic fun and excitement!

I stopped first at "Captain Jack's Stronghold", a small hiking trail winding through the once-domain of "Captain Jack", leader of the Modoc indian tribe who fended off a force ten times larger of American douchebags in 1872 before getting flushed out and hung. That's the one problem with this whole place. There's this pall of sadness over the entire area, because every other mile marker there's another helpful placard describing yet another horrific injustice which was perpetrated upon the rightful dwellers of the area by WHITEY. Really disgusting. Here, we'll kill all your people, then name the place after you and call it your "monument" and charge ten bucks to other white people to come in and shake their heads mournfully at your grotesque fate. Fair trade? Super.

After that, I popped back by "Fleener's Chimneys", to see if there's anything I'd missed from that place the other night when I'd seen it in the dark. Nope. Still just a bunch of big piles of lava. "Spatter cones", they call these. Okay.

Then, then I went back to Schonchin Butte, and rather than stopping halfway, I hoofed up the entirely of the trail leading to the fire lookout at the very top. Wow! I should have pictures of this on shortly, if they're not there already, but man was this cool. I would feel a pang of guilty dishonesty if I didn't admit to you here that one of the thoughts I had upon first arrival at the apex was: "This would be so awesome on mushrooms!" Quite a place.

But enough screwing around. Was I there to walk up hills and wish I was on mushrooms? Hell no, I was here to go into CAVES, baby! So I swung past the Visitor's Center again and loaded up on all the requisite doodads I'd need for today's assault on the lava tubes. And this was not going to be any ordinary assault. I was taking on the toughest, the most twisty, the most unforgiving, harsh tubes this monument had to offer! I was going to take on: The Labyrinth Cave.

For this, I figured, I would need three things: 1. A plastic "bump hat" which would continually fall off while I was trying to walk down the tube because nobody makes hats big enough for my medicine-ball-sized noggin. 2. An extra flashlight. 3. An overpriced, lame-ass booklet called "Inside the Caves!" which provided absolutely nothing of interest other than reprints of the photos which adorn the cover of the free pamphlet they give out to you upon entry to the park.

Stocked up, it was time to hit it!

Still a bit winded from the Butte trip, though, I thought it best to mull around for a couple hours, checking out some of the easier caves and other historically significant whatever they are. Saw ancient Indian petroglyphs, ostensibly painted thousands of years ago to commemorate whatever vision quests had taken place on that spot for the artist. From what I could tell, though, they all seemed to express a similar sentiment, that being: Chief Light-A-Match is a Faggot.

Enough of that silliness, though. It was time to hit the Labyrinth. With not just a little fear and trepidation in my heart, I suited up with my ill-fitting hat, my photocopied map of the cave, and my two trusty flashlights, and eased myself down the near-vertical ladder descending into the primary entrance point of the cave. I was going to conquer this bitch!

I conquered about 50 feet of it, turns out, before I genuinely began to feel I was near death, salty sweat dripping in rivers onto the basalt at my feet, bump hat slipping off every two seconds, breath coming short in heaving, wheezing gasps. Good lord.

With my last bit of energy I pulled myself back out of the cave and gave a forlorn, defeated glance to the freaky guy at the front desk, collapsed back into my car, and headed on out, vowing never, ever to return (at least until I'm in much better shape and have prepared myself adequately for the rigors of serious cave diving. Primarily, getting a plastic hat that fits.)

I could do another four pages on what's happened since then, but I just have to get to sleep, so let's just say, I drove for many hours, through remote, backwoods highways, in the dark, and in a most irresponsible fashion, ending up in Redding, CA, picking the first place to stay that I could find (the "Vagabond Inn", no lie), then walking across the street to eat dinner at (wait for it...) Denny's!

By the way, visitors to the Vagabond Inn in Redding enjoy a 10% discount at the Denny's across the street! Word to the wise.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

You are likely to be eaten by a grue.

      -- Zork

Before I begin today's update, I'd like to address a few questions from my treasured readership, who have taken the time and energy to write me thoughtfully-composed, well-intentioned emails over the past few weeks. For instance, "Hey, how come we have to wait a few days for the site to get updated with all your latest exploits?"

Also: "Hey, when is the 'Third Quarter Update' going to be posted on PWC3?" Also: "Hey, how come this stuff isn't as funny as the old PWC postings?" Also: "Hey, wahh, wahh, wahh, wahh, blah, blah, whine, complain, bitch, moan, and how come you always say you're drunk when you're writing these things?"

In response to the above questions, I can only offer the following two responses: 1. Because I am drunk whenever I'm writing these things, and 2. Let's take a little gander at the tally board of CASH I've received via the all-too-obvious "Donate" button on the right side of this page: Well, lookie there. We're still holding steady at a grand total of: ZERO DOLLARS! And zero cents! For no less than five or six minutes of daily entertainment doled out in appropriate intervals to countless hundreds (well, tens) (well, ones) of audience members! So maybe, just maybe, we can reel it in on the ol' Complaint-o-Meter for a while, huh? When I can quit my full-time job of quitting my full-time jobs and retire on the strength of your contributions to this website, then maybe, maybe I'll entertain your "comments". But probably not. Either way, shove it.

Right then. Well, I am going to have to make this one short, because as I write this, it is nearly midnight in some damn motel, and I'm deep into the trenches of semi-consciousness due to heavy doses of Tylenol PM and Black Velvet Canadian Whiskey, and I haven't been sleeping much lately, and I'm now convinced that the reason I'm not sleeping much lately is that I wake up every day at about 4 AM thinking: "Shit, I'm already two days behind on the damn website!" So, screw this. Watch me blow through this day, and probably the next day with it, with the greatest of ease and without a care in the world. Which is probably for the best, because the stuff that's been going on these last couple days does not translate well into text. For instance, I have not managed to have sex in the last couple days. That would translate excellently into text. ("I had sex.")

Got up on Tuesday bright and early (well, 10:30 AM, which doesn't seem early, except it's rare that I spend the night at a Motel 6 and don't end up chasing the noon checkout time the next day), and headed on over to Lava Beds. I was a bit low on gas, but I didn't let that faze me, as I'm sure I could make it to the Beds and back on what I had left. What I did let faze me was the fact that I took a wrong turn heading to the Beds, and by the time I was there, I knew I only had enough gas to high-tail it the fifteen miles back to Tulelake, which I had just passed somewhat haughtily not 30 minutes before. I am not proud of the way I handle automobiles and gasoline. It's such a ridiculous thing, not being able to just stop and fill up before it becomes a whole thing, but I keep trying to stretch it, and it keeps becoming a whole thing. I will strive to change that as this journey continues. I wouldn't place any bets on it, though.

Anyway, eventually I did make it to Tulelake, fueled up, and raced back to the Beds to begin my Day of (Legally Paid For, Unlike Yesterday) Adventure! First stop was back at Devil's Homestead lava flow, just to see how cool it looked in the daytime. It looked cool. Not quite as cool, of course, as the night before, but then again, I wasn't under the influence of anything except coffee, so that must be taken into consideration.

Real fast, now, I'll blow through what I did in the Beds on this particular day, because God do I need to get to sleep:

  • Merrill's Ice Cave: My first "daytime" cave, and boy was it freaky! As I would later come to understand, this is a relatively simple, small cave, but holy Christ! When you have to descend two near-vertical stairways, and you go from sunny and 85 degrees to pitch black and (literally) freezing within the space/time of 30 feet and three minutes, it is quite a shock to the system. I almost didn't make it down to the "ice" portion of the cave, I was so freaked out. But, steeling my courage, I got down on my butt and, all girly-style, inched my way down the final ladder to the ice platforms, in which is featured: a) no ice, and b) a little placard explaining why there's actually no ice here in this ice cave ("We don't know!"!)
  • Skull Cave: This was another ice cave, big, easy, and short, and which did, thankfully, feature some actual ice. Those of you who have never seen ice before would have been mightily impressed.
  • Schonchin's Butte (halfway): A large cone-lookin' formation, hundreds of feet high, and I got about halfway, or maybe a third, up it before saying, "Oh, fuck this."
  • Visitor's Center & More Caves: Finally hit the Visitor's Center and paid my rightful ten bucks (which, let's be serious here, you don't really have to do, but hey, I was having so much fun, it felt good to pay 'em back for the entertainment) as well as chatted briefly with the freaky guy at the front desk. Then it was off to explore more caves. My general policy for exploring the caves was: Go in just far enough to get genuinely freaked out and nervous, and then scamper on back. Like I said, in Merrill, that point came about ten feet into it. As the day went on, though, I ended up going further and further, and getting more and more confident. Caves, man. This is it. This is what I was born to do.
I genuinely never wanted to leave this place. My ten dollar donation had bought me a seven-day pass to this wonderland of weirdness, and at this point, I didn't think it'd ever be enough. Lava Beds, man. Buddhists have their "Mecca", and I, Ben Parrish, have my Lava Beds.

It was getting late, though, and the World Series was about to come on, so I drove back to Klamath Falls, Oregon, and explored a little of their "downtown" area. Their "downtown" area is pretty goddamn weak, I gotta tell you.

First I stopped at "Niks Sportz & Spiritz", which featured blurry Televisionz, loud Drunkz, and unappetizing Dinner Menuz, so I blew out of there and headed down the street to check out the rest of the establishments. What I found was that the rest of the establishments were all unbearably hot, as the day had been unseasonably warm, and apparently the technology of "air conditioning" has not yet found its way to Oregon's southeast border. I did pop in, though, to Waldo's for a pint. Waldo's, turns out, is a half-bar, half-Mongolian Barbecue. I was excruciatingly hungry by this point, not having eaten yet during the day, but if you know anything about me, you know that no matter how hungry I get, even seconds from death, I would never, ever eat at a "Mongolian Barbecue". So I finished my pint and left, totally unsatisfied thusfar by Klamath Falls.

Reaching my desperation point, I drove back to the Motel 6, and, for the second time in as many nights, went through the KFC Drive-Thru and sat in my room munching on Xtra-Krispy and watching fuzzy cable television.

It's a wild, crazy life I lead, for sure, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

Monday, October 20, 2003

To call it twilight is to cheat the night. The sun had long since bid its adieu and settled in for a good night's rest. Faint hues of dark blue and violet called out with a last gasp above the horizon to the west, but their cries were in vain. It was dark. And there he stood.

My plan, as you've probably read, was to get a good night's sleep, by way of our friend Tylenol PM, and then head out nice and early this morning on my big sightseeing trip to the northern/central interior. L. T. had even offered to help out, by promising to "set something up for me at 9:00 AM" which would get me going. My plan, as you've probably foretold, was a disaster.

First of all, here's the thing with Tylenol PM: It comes through in one giant wave of sleepiness, and if you don't catch that first wave, then you are screwed. Then you are up for hours. Then you will definitely be a mess the next morning. Catch that wave, or you're history (and you'll excuse any typos here, because I've just taken another one myself as I write this, and if I miss that wave tonight, then I'm totally screwed.) Well, I felt the wave come, and I felt it go, and then I knew I was in trouble. And as if that wasn't enough, shortly after I popped that pill, Big Fat Gray Cat (who I have heretofore dubbed "Bear", because... well, he looks like a little tiny bear) came in and decided to nap with me. Except he (she?) can't just lie there and nap, he has to claw your face off at the same time. He does that thing cats do where they exercise their paw muscles by stretching, grabbing, pulling, stretching, grabbing, pulling, except he does it all the time. Especially when the people he's with are trying to sleep. And he's not satisfied to just claw the air. He ain't happy until he's got a firm hold on a big piece of face. But he's just too damn cute to shoo away.

So between Bear and the missed Tylenol wave, it was fixing to be an awfully long evening. And it was.

The sign pointed him somewhere into the sagebrush beyond, along a trail nary a foot wide. He should not be here. He should not be following this path. He does not belong here. Little more than 100 years ago, fierce Modoc warriors fended off New Worlders by the hundreds on this very spot, and even they were wary of the night in this harsh, unforgiving wilderness.

At 9:00, precisely, the Ferndale Siren of Death went off. This was not too long after I was first able to register some decent sleep for the night, so I was none-too-amused by this unpredicted interruption. That was, until I remembered Clash's promise from the previous evening to "set something up for 9 AM"... Of course, one had absolutely nothing to do with the other; it was just one of those ridiculous, happy coincidences, but I could not help but give a little half-unconscious giggle at the whole crazy scene. Then I could not help but fall back asleep for another hour and a half.

10:30, though, now it was genuinely getting later than I really wanted to start my journey, so I plied myself out of bed, drew a bath, checked my email for the last time for however many days I'd be gone, did some final packing, and headed out the door.

By odd coincidence, L. T. had come back from the station that very minute, so while I was out on Main Street packing, he stopped by to wish me well. Ain't that sweet? "Stalking" is an awfully strong word, don't you think?

He took another swig from his flask. There it lay, beyond the inscribed wooden sign reading "Cave Safely" and doling out advice for those lesser men who had been here before:

His first cave.

At 11:30 or thereabouts, I set out. The route went like this:

Route 101 to Route 299: About ten miles, up now-familiar highway to Arcata.

Route 299 to Route 5: One hundred and fifty miles of awesome, rocky, winding roads among spectacular hills covered in evergreens with an occasional splatter of seasonal trees sporting bright yellows and oranges, like guideposts marking the way. A great drive, there's no other way to put it.

Route 5 to Route 97: About sixty miles, from nondescript Redding, to somewhat less-nondescript Weed, which is marked both by its hilarious name, as well as the astonishing views of Mount Shasta it features along every inch of its little backwoods town roads. Mount Shasta is this ol' volcano 'round here, you see. Mount Shasta is big. Mount Shasta is the prominent skyline feature from 100 miles in any direction. Mount Shasta is really, really neato.

Route 97 to 161: Stunning Northern California vistas all the way. Startling rock formations dot imperceptibly huge panoramas of trees, hills, fields, lakes, wastelands, and every other geological formation you'd care to mention. And all with ol' Shasta looming in your rear view mirror. Route 97 is to be highly recommended.

Route 161 to Route 39: Route 161 takes you through the Klamath Wildlife Refuge, which, as the name would suggest, features the world's largest collection of little tiny bugs which splatter on your windshield. I think it also features some wildlife, as well as a bazillion birds of various shapes and sizes, but these were hard to see through the tie-dye of bug guts which ended up smearing the entirety of my front windshield.

Route 39, through Tulelake (named for its proximity to Tule Lake), around Tule Lake, and right on into Lava Beds National Monument.

The entrance to the cave was not obvious. A deep hole sank into the earth before his feet, but there was no discernable path down into the netherworld beyond. Undaunted, he flipped on his flashlight, sat along the rim of the hole, and eased himself into the rocky bowl, inch by inch. Whether the shaking in his bones was from the rumblings of some long-dormant volcano, or the pulsing of his own adrenaline, he did not know. All he knew was that at his feet, leading down into the darkness, was a foreboding, forbidding hole, beckoning him to enter. And so, flashlight dancing off jagged edges of basalt and cooled aa lava, he did.

The cave was wide at first, seeming almost to welcome the newcomer. Further and further he went, the faint light of the waning moon ebbing quietly away from the opening behind him as he made his way.

The park (or "monument", if you insist, even though it's nothing but a huge swath of land dotted by information placards and Port-o-Potties) was closed, but that did not prevent entrance. And as I had commenced taking hits off my trusty flask right around the part I began stopping every ten minutes to wipe my windshield with Windex and paper towels, I was in prime form to just bust on into the place and start invading the hallowed ground beyond. Which I did.

First stop was "Devil's Homestead", an enormous lava flow which could be viewed from above from one of those handy "Scenic Viewpoint" parking lots. I parked, and got out. The sun had just peeked below the horizon, and so there was already an eerie pall cast about the scene, but when I looked over the bluff to the otherworldly lava field beyond (and below), I literally had to catch my breath. I came here in the first place to see weird, Martian landscapes, and bam, not five minutes into the monument, there I was on Mars. And in the quiet of the approaching night, with nothing around for miles except for whatever hearty little buggers learned how to survive in this harsh environment over the past billion years, well, I gotta tell you, this was the coolest thing I thought I'd ever seen.

As he inched his way further into the cave, the true meaning of "darkness" began to dawn on him. The flashlight had long since gone from being a handy accoutrement to being his only lifeline, the only saving grace between him and a long, torturous death. He began rubbing it with his other hand, less out of appreciation, more in a superstitious ritual, a simple prayer to the gods of Ace Hardware and Duracell D batteries. That's when he noticed that he had hit a dead end.

The flashlight cut a quick path over the far corners of the chamber. That's when he saw the opening. Little more than two and a half feet tall, a tiny little crawlspace, just barely enough to fit a fully grown human, and almost certainly not large enough to fit a fully grown human and a flashlight.

But this was no ordinary cave. And this was no ordinary man.

Down onto the rock, hands and legs splayed out to allow passage, he crawled...

Back into the car, and I headed off. Now it was genuinely dark, and as I passed the sign that said, "Pay Fee at Visitors Center", I had a hard time trying to think where they wanted me to go, in the middle of all this nothingness.

I passed a sign that said "Fleener's Chimneys", drove up the little side road it pointed to, got out, and investigated. Buncha rocks. Big deal. I hiked back to the car and got back in, anxious to find what I was really looking for. A cave!

Another mile or so up the road, another trailhead parking lot appeared to my left. I pulled in to check out the sign: "Something Something Trail" (it was late, you see). I fired the car back up. That's when the headlights washed past another sign just to the left of the trailhead: "Balcony/Boulevard Cave".

A cave!

I'd wanted to do this since I first played Zork when I was six years old. Lava Beds National Monument strongly discourages caving by yourself. I'm sure they even more strongly discourage doing it for the first time, by yourself, and at night, and without proper backup light sources, and half in the bag from a flask of Canadian whiskey you drove up with.

It was definitely time to do it.

I walked for about a tenth of a mile, now fully reliant upon my untried flashlight to show me the way, afraid some variety of unknown nasty "lava critter" was gonna jump out of the brush and eat me before I got there, when I came upon the cave opening.

Clawing, scraping, flashlight bumping around in the dark, he felt he would never reach the other side. But then, just as soon as desperation began to work its insidious tendrils into his ever more heightened senses, the tunnel opened up. He had done it.

Getting up and brushing the dust of a million years off his well-worn jeans, he surveyed the large room he had discovered. Nothing but more broken rocks, impenetrable darkness, and alien lavasicles, just as the last room had featured. But this was his room. He had made it. He had braved the traps of history, and had come through to this antechamber, which he was sure... which he was sure...

...which I was sure I had discovered! NOBODY had ever been this far before! I was standing where no man had ever stood before!! Naturally, it was time to take one last, satisfied sip off my flask. And just to make the moment all that much cooler, I flipped off my flashlight, and just soaked up the unbelievable sense of nothingness and isolation that the ultradarkness brought.

That's when I noticed the faintest, nearly imperceptible shade of non-blackness from the other side of the room.

I pocketed my flask and popped the flashlight back on. Oh, see, there's another entrance to the cave from the other side of this room. And, oh, by the way, there's a little manicured path, for fucking kindergarten field trips I'm sure, leading down into the room from that side.

Oh well. It was still my first cave. And it's still my room, I don't care how many six-year-olds traipse their dumb-ass selves down there.

Then I drove up to the nearest decent-sized town, Klamath Falls, Oregon, where I swung by Kentucky Fried Chicken for a few pieces of white meat and settled into their local Motel 6. Motel 6. Hey. That's where So Now Then started, wasn't it? You'd think after all this time and all these wacky adventures, thinking about that first episode wouldn't bother me anymore, wouldn't you?

Well, you're right.


Sunday, October 19, 2003

Watch now, as I attempt to put together a reasonably coherent update by deciphering my own hastily scribbled notes from last night, after I'd already had a full evening (and after I have already had a full evening as I sit down to write this.)

Well, let's see. According to myself, I had a triumphant morning, as I got up five minutes before the dreaded noon siren, cheating it, at least on this day, of its appointed annoyance. L. T. and I popped on out to celebrate by walking down to the local espresso stand and getting a double espresso (me) and double nonfat latte (him), walking back with our score, and sipping leisurely on the patio, beneath an uneasy, humid sky. All the papers and radio shows (ahem) announced that it would rain today, but fortunately, it merely threatened.

Coffee put paid to, it was time once again to move it on down to Curley's for a light lunch and another intolerably dull and disappointing tete-a-tete with Brenda. This time she had decided to break out of her normal brain-deadness and "expand her horizons" by serving me the wrong soup. Normally, I'd be willing to accept this, as it would force me to try something new that I might not otherwise have tried. But I wanted Curley's tomato & basil soup, which is (if you're in the area) the very best tomato soup I have ever had, no lie. It's as tasty as the waitresses are hot (and the bartenders are clueless.)

Anyway, I finally got my correct soup, did the crossword and watched football, and eventually Clash left to go do laundry and begin preparations for his Sunday night show (featuring the wildly popular 8-9 "Cocktail Hour").

After polishing off the crossword, I walked down the street to the laundromat, both to wave hello to Clash, and to stand there like an idiot on my cellphone for a half an hour calling everyone I could think of, because the laundromat is pretty much the only spot in the entire town that my phone works from anymore.

Then it was time to go back to the apartment, tidy up a bit, and plan my route! My plan was to leave early the following morning on a multi-day excursion to the northern interior of California, eventually winding up down in Yosemite, before making the long trek back. This soon began to seem unrealistic, as it turns out that every inch of road depicted within the atlas which I'd purchased for this purpose actually translates to a zillion miles, and so I began to have some misgivings about my plan. But, this is not a trip in which I sit around having misgivings. This is a trip where I just launch myself, unthinking, into any ill-advised hare-brained scheme I can think of! So I started packing.

Packing done, I moved over to the Palace to watch the beginning of the World Series game and catch up on the social scene. The social scene on this particular evening was: The bartender (Jeff) was serving drinks to the crowd which consisted only of myself, and everyone else who also works at the Palace. The foul-mouthed sixty-something craggy woman who has served me seemingly countless evenings was already through 3/4 of a large (1.5 liter) bottle of Corbett Canyon White Zinfandel (ugh) and was busy stumbling around the place telling all the other customers (her coworkers) that they were all full of shit, and she knows they're full of shit, because her husband (standing behind her) is full of shit, so she can recognize what full of shit looks like, and they are, so aaghghhhhh [fall asleep on the bar]. The Palace. Love that place.

Now there's a word in my notes which looks like "Jimming" or "Jimmin's", but I can't imagine what that might be, so I'll skip that part.

Time to get back to the apartment, though, because Clash's show was coming on, and I couldn't bear to miss a second! The first thing I did was call in, using a fake voice, and attempting to request a song ("Cheeseburger in Paradise"), but unfortunately, the previous DJ had just got finished playing that song, so I hung up, logged onto the internet, and started pestering him over cyberspace instead. (Tonight's "secret word", if you're scoring at home, was "ubiquitous".)

Before the "Cocktail Hour" was over, however, I took a Tylenol PM and curled up on the couch, in an effort to get to sleep early so I could get a jump on the big adventure the following day. As this began to take effect, the big fat gray cat came in again and curled up with me. I love that cat! He is the best. Of course, he is a bit skittish as well, so when I heard Clash walking up the stairway, I had to shield my face from the hailstorm of claws which naturally ensued once the door was opened.

L. T. headed back out shortly thereafter to go find Sara and work that angle a bit more, while I waited for the Tylenol to kick in and knock me asleep. Which, unfortunately, it never did.

"Jimmin's". I swear that's what it says. What could that possibly mean?

Saturday, October 18, 2003

Neither L. T. nor myself stirred until after one thirty in the friggin' afternoon today.

Neither L. T. nor myself could think of anything else to do but go on down to Curley's for a spot of lunch.

Neither L. T. nor myself could believe that either of us had ever had our eye on Brenda the Brain-Dead Bartendress, after the following absolutely earth-shattering conversation which L. T. struck up with her:

Clash: "So, how's everything going in your life, Brenda?"
Brenda the Brain-Dead Bartendress: "Good."
Clash: "Oh yeah? Things are going okay for ya?"
Brenda the Brain-Dead Bartendress: "Yup."
Crickets: chirpchirpchirp

Neither L. T. nor myself minded the idea of hopping in the car and wasting an hour or two before he had to go to the station, by driving up to the coast, driving along the cliffs of Centerville, and checking out the scenery.

Neither L. T. nor myself could believe the absolute stunning beauty on display as we hiked down Guthrie Creek Trail, stopping at one point in which all you could see in either direction was grandiose, golden cliffs, and the whole goddamn Pacific Ocean rumbling up and slamming square into those craggy fortresses, making it look for all the world like the entire continent was surfing.

Neither L. T. nor myself particularly felt like heading to the radio station, but out of a sense of professionalism, we did so at about 4:30 PM.

Neither L. T. nor myself has been anywhere since then, and it's 10:45 PM now.

Neither L. T. nor myself can wait to get the fuck out of here.

Friday, October 17, 2003

TGIF! Time to break from routine and get up early, get a fresh start on the day, and hit the ground running! This, of course, did not happen. What did happen was that I was once again woken up by the goddamn noon siren, which is starting to become the entire bane of my existence. On my way out of town in a couple weeks, I'm going to shoot it with a BB gun. Man.

Then it was bath time, which, while still luxurious and enjoyable, is starting to get a little old. I mean, first, it takes like fifteen minutes to fill the tub up, and then you have to get in when it's still way too hot, so that it won't be ice cold by the time you're done, and then you have to go through all these weird, painful contortions to get at all of the vital areas, and then it's a whole thing to try to wash your hair, and... ugh. Fuck baths, man.

You do enjoy reading about me taking baths and doing laundry and stuff, right? I mean, that's gold material as far as you're concerned, isn't it? Because believe me, there is more where that came from, friends.

I did manage to get myself out of the house today, though, in the form of a long drive up the 101 to see the other Redwoods State Park, as opposed to the one to the south which I described earlier. This took me through, in order, the towns of Loleta, Eureka, Arcata, Trinidad, McKinleyville, and Wiott, none of which were interesting. Lovely drive, though. You're rarely more than a quarter mile from the coast, so there are always stunning ocean vistas guiding you along your journey.

My first randomly selected turn to explore the area was onto Davidson Road, which first passes by Elk Meadow, in which are featured: Elks. Lots of elks. Just standing around eating, drinking beer, and watching baseball. Then the road headed up into a densely forested hill, which provided some really eerie darkness, along with some inspirational scenes of thousands of bright sunbeams breaking through the tall foliage, cascading onto the undergrowth below. Really neat. And, once you go all the way up the hill, you go down the other side, where it breaks through the darkness to empty out onto Gold Bluffs Beach, which is a beach that probably contains a lot of gold bluffs, except I don't know what a bluff is. I should look that up. Wait, here I am looking it up:

Ah, here we are. According to Merriam-Webster, a "bluff" is defined as "an act of deterring or frightening by pretense or a mere show of strength". So, the beach had a lot of those. Gold ones!

Then it was back over the hill to catch a "scenic alternate" road by the name of "Cal-Barrel Road", named no doubt after the famous explorer Cal Barrel Road who originally mapped out the territory. I hope you'll all notice that, even after all these years, I've not lost my ability to blatantly steal Dave Barry jokes for my own use at any time.

Cal-Barrel Road was actually closed, for no discernable reason, but I went ahead and stopped the car at the gate, got out, and snuck past the gate into the grand array of nature held beyond. Gingerly crawling up an embankment strewn with ferns and dried redwood, I stopped for a moment, turned around, and surveyed the scene in front of me.

What got me was not the hundreds of zillion-year-old, zillion-foot-tall trees stretching out endlessly into the distance, majestic spires standing sentry throughout the eons. What got me was not the overwhelming green laid out before me, the testament to the unstoppable force that is life, layer beneath layer above layer of living, breathing things, covering every patch for mile after mile after mile.

What got me was the absolute epic silence which the scene still somehow managed to afford. This immense, tremendous, endless showcase for nature's many and varied whims, and not a single sound. At all. No birds. No wind. No limbs swaying or cracking in the breeze. Absolute, shocking silence.

Then a bird chirped, so I got the hell out of there.

Drove back to find L. T. perched upon one of Curley's barstools, where I sat down next to him and did the crossword puzzle while he schmoozed with the locals. Yes, I had a beer and a cocktail while at the bar, but we'd both decided early on that today, finally, mercifully, was to be a day for taking it easy on the "fun", because we'd both been going way too hard for two straight weeks now, and that's just no way to live.

So, sure, we made an appearance at Curley's for a couple after-dinner cocktails, which, there's nothing wrong with that. Then, on the way home, sure, we stopped by the Palace just for one (1) Budweiser-brand beer, just to make an appearance, which, again, nothing wrong with that. Then it was back home, where we just relaxed, picked up a guitar or two and whiled away some time with the wholesome activity of perfecting our musical techniques. Or at least, trying to find some.

One neat part of this was that, while we were in mid-song, a big ol' fat gray cat came wandering in, and just made herself at home. Came over, let us scratch her, curled up in one or the others' laps, purring away violently, and generally just lying about, enjoying our night of "taking it easy". A nice end to a long, eventful week.

Then Clash got up and went to take a bath, while I tidied up and prepared to call it an evening and get to bed at a reasonable hour for once.

Then Clash came back down, all gussied up, and said, "Maybe we should go to the Ivanhoe, stop by there maybe." What's at the Ivanhoe? Why the hell would we want to go over there now? Now that we're all back in the apartment and winding down? Why? Why?


Ohhh, right. Sara. Good ol' Sara. Last Friday went so well, it seemed more than appropriate to head back and try to score a little more "face time" with the lovely Sara, sure. So, we went.

We could hear the ruckus from down at the 'Hoe before we even got on the same block. Once we showed up at the door, we were shocked. The place was absolutely humming. Packed from wall to wall. Music playing loud. People partying like it was 1999. I'd never seen this sort of scene anywhere in Ferndale -- hell, anywhere in Humboldt -- in the entire time I'd been here. This did not look good, though, for the purposes of getting some quality time in with the Target of Our (But Mainly Clash's, Because I'm Letting Him Take This One) Affections. We pushed on through, though.

Holy Christ. It looked like a Curley's Waitress Convention in there. Where are all these ultra-hot women coming from? Even in Los Angeles, beauties of this general quality were hard to come by. In between the distractions of the absolute deafening din of the place, and wiping up our own drool, we muscled up to the bar to order a couple Buds, which were handed promptly to us, and when we tried to pay, we were told that, some woman over at the other end of the bar was buying drinks for the whole room, so no charge! Bonus! Hey, it's loud and rowdy, and we got no chance of finding, much less talking with Sara, but hey, free beer!

We took a seat at the only open table in the place, and commenced to sipping our Buds while at once trying to catch surreptitious glances at the chick's ass in the white pants (good lord), as well as bemoaning the fact that it was not to be with Sara on this particular evening.


"Hey guys!"

There she was. And right down at the table she sat. And she sat there for a long time. And somehow, my man L. T. was able to do it again, and just be more absolutely fucking money than any man, particularly him, has a right to be. But we all sat there chatting and laughing for like an hour (with my job still primarily being to laugh at Clash's jokes, and pretend I could hear a goddamn word either of them were saying, which was not the case.)

One bit of macabre humor here. The barman at one point rang the bar bell and let it be known that the reason we were all drinking for free was because the woman (whoever she was) at the end of the bar was buying for everyone because her dad had just died. Half the room applauded nervously, while the other half wondered if applause was really the appropriate reaction, but what are you supposed to do in a situation like that?

After saying goodbye to Sara and leaving (another beautiful maneuver on our parts), we then went back to the apartment and spent the next couple hours celebrating our Sara-related victory, jumping around like goofballs, talking about how money L. T. had been, talking about how absolutely on it [probably] is with Sara, and...

Well, let's just say... So much for "taking it easy".

Send help. Please.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

I think, every once in a while, it's important to take a "day off", to do nothing but sleep late, get woken up by that goddamn siren which goes off here every single day at precisely noon, sit around reading the paper, doing laundry, cleaning up around the apartment, then do nothing until 5 PM, when the baseball game comes on, then go over to the Palace with Clash and sit there watching the entire 11-inning game, then stumble home and spend the rest of the evening trying to play "New Sensation" by INXS on the guitar until we're both about ready to just pass out, and then go to sleep.

So, today, that's exactly what I did.

All I know is, this baseball stuff better end soon so I can get back to the important business of exploring and doing new exciting things, because I think I've taken the "drink beer and sit at a bar thing" about as far as it can go.

Oh, by the way: Two weeks now, I've been here. Two weeks. This is unbelievable to me. Inconceivable. I barely remember Santa Monica. I feel like I've been here forever. That's two good weeks, folks. Holy moly.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Well, this is just horrible. This is awful. You'll notice that lately, I've been keeping a fairly rigorous schedule of falling behind three days, and then catching up and serving you a big ol' steaming load of content all at once. The reason I can do this is because I keep a little file on my computer called "daynotes.txt" (in c:/web/snt, if you're curious) in which I jot down little notes recounting the highlights of each day, so that later, when it's time to backfill, I know exactly what I'm going to talk about. And now here I am on Saturday, October 18, down at KHUM's fly-infested studios, and I look at "daynotes.txt", and somehow, the last three days of notes do not appear to be on here, which is bullshit, because I know I typed in all this crap before. So now we have a serious problem, which is that I have to somehow recall what happened nearly four entire days ago, during a trip in which I often find it difficult to remember where I was thirty minutes ago. I am not happy about this. But I'm going to soldier on, just for you good folks. Just note that anything I say about this and the following three days may or may not have actually happened.

It was another fitful sleep I awoke from today, which is a disconcerting pattern lately, but does explain why I can't seem to manage to make it out of bed until after the noon siren blows. Tonight's sleep was fitful because the entire morning was filled up with DP dreams.

DP dreams are dreams featuring la padre mort, my dead daddy David Parrish, and they occur approximately once every other month, and they are never joyous affairs.

The last time I saw DP in person was over Thanksgiving of 2002. I, along with my grandparents, had gone up to Oregon to spend a couple days with him and his wife, visit for awhile, and then kick it on back. It was a delightful time! Wanna know why it was delightful? Because other than him and his wife, none of us knew that he was stricken with prostate cancer and was mere weeks from his death. They kept that secret pretty well.

So, every once in a while, I have a dream about Pop there, and the dreams normally take the same general form. There's lots of family around. Everyone's doing their thing. It bears a strong resemblance, no small coincidence, with that last family get together. Except. Except, everyone knows. He knows. We all know. And rather than still putting on a good front, and being generally spritely and well-humored, DP is in a bad way. He is weak. He is laid up in bed, or otherwise hobbling around. He's exactly how I never wanted to see him.

He took great pains to make sure nobody ever did see him like that. Couldn't tell he had cancer, and didn't live long enough to become a doddering old man. I almost escaped from having to watch a parent decline and decay into a pale shadow of his former self. Except, every once in a while, my mind goes ahead and shows it to me anyway, just for kicks. Damn mind. Anybody want this thing?

After finally getting up, though, and shaking loose those haunting visions, I was able to sit down at my computer here and pound out the last three days of updates, which I was happy to do, because I knew that it would kill enough time that after I was done, baseball would be on and I could go to the bar.

Writing material of this high quality does take a bit out of you, though, so once I finished up, I decided to take a walk to my "office". My office is a particular stretch of Main street here in Ferndale, the only place in town where my Sprint mobile phone works (thanks, Sprint!) Happily, this is the same stretch of Main street which connects the apartment with the No Brand Burger Stand, so my little trip had three benefits. One, I was able to catch up on some phone calls and do some business. Two, I was able to test out my legs, to see how they were doing, after the malicious beating they'd taken two days hence. And three, there was a delicious burger waiting for me at the end of the walk! Well, the calls got made, my legs felt fine, and damn, was that a tasty burger! I find it humorous that with all the grotesque foreign (and illegal) chemicals I've subjected myself to lately, the one thing I'm going to end up addicted to is the No Brand burgers. Mmmm-MM!

But then, then it was baseball time, so I headed over to the Palace to take my rightful spot at the bar. But, whoa! The Palace was PACKED! I mean, there literally was not a seat at either the bar or any of the tables. Everyone in Ferndale was at the Palace, and many of them, even the drunken rednecks who normally fetter the place were dressed in their finest (jeans, t-shirt, and a tie!) I inquired as to what the big happening was, and it turns out that they'd all just come from a funeral... for the owner's wife, who had died suddenly the previous Saturday.

Rather than stay and pay my respects, though, I decided to just move it on down the street to Curley's, because, dead wife or not, I gotta see that baseball game.

No sooner than I sat down at the Curley's bar, though, but Susan, the wife of Curley's owner ("Curley") plopped down right next to me! It was a big day for bar owners' wives, I'll tell you that. Now, me and Clash have a little bet going as to exactly how old Susan is. He still thinks early forties, but I maintain she ain't a day over 37. Either way, though, however old she might be, she's lookin' good for her age, so I was more than happy to welcome her to join my little private party (in my own particular way, which would be: staring the other direction and trying as hard as possible not to have any interpersonal communication with her of any sort.)

However, as the beer and the baseball began to take effect, we engaged in a bit of barroom chatter, during which I ended up offhandedly making the suggestion that, rather than just having a "Happy Hour" there at the bar, they set aside five minutes a day, during which all the drinks would be free. It was said as a joke, but ol' (or not so ol', as I believe) Susan just hopped right on that idea, and started telling the other management-types sitting at the bar about what a great idea I just had! And she said, hey, when they institute it, it'd get named after me! We settled on the fabulous name of "the Five Minute Ben-der" for the event! Great stuff! It will, of course, never ever happen, but it was nice to at least feel like I was finally starting to ingratiate myself with the wonderful town of Ferndale.

Five o'clock rolled around, at which time Clash got off work and popped by to see the rest of the first game and the beginning of the second, at which time we kicked it on over to the Palace which had since cleared out, watched the rest of the baseball, had of course way too many Buds, then went back to the apartment and probably continued to behave stupidly, but at least I have an excuse for not remembering what happened there, since all my notes got blown away.

I do remember thinking, "I can't just keep doing this, getting up late and sitting at bars all day", but hey, it's baseball. What, like I'm not going to watch the post season? Featuring four teams, none of which I care about? Forget it!



Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Today, I got up and-- OW!!. Today, I got u-- AAUGHG!!!. Today, I g-- FUCK!!!

Today, I lied in bed for a long, long, long time.

Once I finally willed myself out of my safe haven of comfort, to the harsh reality of physical pain and wishing I was dead, it was all I could do to make it to my car and drive down to the burger stand for a (delicious!) burger. Then it was all I could do to drive back and walk on over to the Palace (ETA: 1:00 PM).

Then it was all I could do to sit at the bar all goddamn day, watching baseball. And if it's all I could do, then you better believe, that's all I did. Hey, these days can't all be winners. I could hardly walk, you insensitive ingrates.

5:01 rolled around eventually, though, at which point L.T. showed up to quiz me on my day's activities ("You didn't just sit here all day, did you?") and remind me that today was Tuesday.

Tuesday... Tuesday... there's something about... about Tuesdays... I just can't quite--

Oh god. Oh lord. Oh... oh, sweet Jesus.

Tuesday Night Jam.

And there's Chico, and here we are going back to the apartment, and here we are rolling joints, and here we are picking up our instruments, and here we are playing what must have been three entirely different songs at the same time, for three or four straight hours. Tuesday Night Jam. Yeah, baby.

The highlight of the evening for me was when I made the following joke, which I probably wouldn't have made were I not under the influence of the hippie lettuce, as it was a little mean-spirited, but which was just too funny not to make, as you'll soon see:

Chico (looking for some new material): "Do you [L. T. and myself] have any songs that you can play together?"
Me: "That's funny, I was just going to ask you two the same question!" [laughs hysterically]

Oh man. Good times.

Mercifully, TNJ ended shortly thereafter, at which time I made, for no particular reason, a double bacon cheeseburger. Kind of threw off my diet, but my friends, at 11:30, after a night of "partying Humboldt-style" as I'll now call it, there just ain't anything better than a good double bacon cheeseburger.

Or at most other times, neither.

Monday, October 13, 2003

The project. The project snaked its way through every cranny of my brain ("The Brain Crannies" == my new band) and tormented my dreams. The project. Until it was done, it would haunt every moment, and would be the center of my existence. The project.

What was the project? Well, Clash's landlord was coming over at around 11 to show the place to some prospective buyers, and so, my project was to... hide the plant!

You see, there's a plant in here. A leafy green plant. A plant which I am to understand one is not legally allowed to cultivate in this country. In an effort to elude the FBI's web crawlers, I won't mention the specific type of plant here by name, but if you think about it long enough, you can probably weed out the answer.

So, first thing in the morning, I got out of bed (well, couch), went upstairs, got the plant, brought it downstairs, hid it in its hiding spot, and breathed a sigh of relief.

Then I woke up. Crap! The project had still not been done! I had dreamed the whole thing, and the clock was ticking. So, I hurried out of bed, went upstairs, got the plant, brought it downstairs, hid it in its hiding spot, and breathed a sigh of relief.

Then I woke up again. FUCK! Alright, this is silly, now. Look, here I am, getting out of bed, going upstairs, getting the plant, bringing it downstairs, hiding it in its hiding spot, and breathing a sigh of r---

Then I woke up again. AUUGHGH!!! I keep doing the project, but still it isn't done! This is a nightmare! Let's try this again, shall we?

I got out of bed. I went upstairs. I got the plant. Now, while I was halfway down the stairs this time, I made a concerted effort to stop, look around, and confirm that, without question, this was reality, this was not a dream, and that the project was actually getting done this time, goddammit. Check, check, check. I'm wide awake, I've got the plant in my hand, I'm going down the stairs, I'm hiding it in its hiding spot, and now, now, finally, I can breathe one last, huge sigh of relief.


And then I woke up again. This was unbelievable. People asked me why I looked so tired the next day, and I had to make up a story to hide the fact that I spent the entire fucking morning taking the same goddamn plant down the same goddamn stairs a hundred goddamn times. The project.

Anyway, I did finally manage to get up for real, hide the plant for real, then meet up with the landlord for real, try not to look too suspicious for real (even though any room where that plant is, hiding or not, I'm pretty sure you can tell it's there), and then figuring out what to do for the rest of the day.

I decided to take one more trip back to Shelter Cove and the Lost Coast, do a little hiking along the coast, and then settle in back at an inn for the night. The drive out was as nice as I remember it, and it didn't hurt that it was a nearly perfect day, weather-wise. I parked at the trailhead for the Lost Coast Trail, a 25 mile stretch of beach which takes you along the King Mountain Range, an ever changing tapestry of ecological wonders, spectacular ocean vistas, and other stuff that the pamphlet said.

My goal would be to just go as far out as I thought wise, leaving enough time to get back, find a room, have a nice dinner, and settle in for the evening. I left at 1:40, and headed out along Black Sands Beach, named for its sand, which is unmistakeably gray.

See, the trick is that sand is hard enough to walk on, but when the terrain changes every 15 minutes, first becoming pebbles, then becoming large wobbly rocks, then becoming shattered driftwood, then becoming huge mounds of seaweed and flies, one mile ends up taking more out of you than three or four miles on terra firma. So when I looked down at my watch and noticed I'd been out there, heading north, for two hours, and then noticed that, whoa, I was actually pretty goddamn wiped out, and then turned back south and realized I had another two hours of this to go, only one thought made its way to my sweat and sand covered head:

Uh oh.

The hike back was... not entirely unpleasant, just barely. My thighs, particularly the left one, were so busy pumping anaesthetic through my muscles as fast as they could produce them, that they had no time left to curse my name. The patterns in the sand and pebbles under my increasingly wobbly legs began to form shapes and faces in my mind, all of them ridiculing me for thinking I could do a hike this hard, in my shape and with my lack of training. Seconds passed like minutes. And hours. At one point I genuinely figured I probably wasn't going to make it, so I took a photo (not featured) looking down the beach so that whoever found me would know how far I made it. Of course, that doesn't make much sense in retrospect, since they'd probably be able to figure out from where they found my collapsed, withered body, how far I made it.

Miraculously, though, and in great pain, I did make it back to my car, where I sat very still for a bit, and then tried to remember how to drive a car long enough to make it to the inn. Which I did. Ah, sweet relief.

What? $85!? For one room!? Ah, hell with this. So I got back in the car and drove home, careful to plan my driving route so I would have to press the clutch with my left leg the fewest number of times.

I parked back on Main Street here in lovely Ferndale, and gingerly trudged up the street towards Curley's, which is the longest that short walk has ever felt to me. Clutching the side rails, I made it up the three steps towards the front door, walked in, and found the Clashmeister sitting there, getting ready to enjoy open mic night. I took a seat next to him, ordered a (terribly overpriced) bite to eat, and let him know that, sorry m'man, but I don't think I can stay out and party with you all night tonight, because I have to go home, lie down, and die. But you have fun.

(Almost) true to my word, I came back, drew a nice hot bath, got in it, lied back, and almost died, except I had poured a little thing of whiskey for myself, and I'd hate to waste good (well, cheap) whiskey.

Clash got back around midnight, hammered off his ass, and let me know how genuinely angry and frustrated he was that the aforementioned Sara had not shown up, as he'd put a lot of emotional energy into making this the magical night where he would see her, and woo the bejeezus out of her. But she never showed. I tried to bring him down a little, but he was inconsolable. So, we just had a few more beers instead.

Women. Look what they do to us.

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Was this a day where great things were accomplished? Where astounding sights were discovered and captured on a 4 megapixel digital camera? Where I got an inch closer to my ultimate goal of figuring out exactly what my ultimate goal is? Where I moved onward, or upward in any fashion? Where I did anything even the remoteliest bit goddamn useful at all?

Of course not. It's Sunday, sillies! A day to rest? Hellooo? So, no, nothing interesting happened today. But it gives me a moment to tell you about a little mental project I'm working on, which Clash is helping me with, and which is continually and almost increasingly difficult for me as my life rambles on. And that project is to: stay in the moment

It seems that whatever is happening to me, I am there physically, but in my mind, I'm living an hour, a day, a year before and after it, decomposing it, trying to figure out how each passing second fits into the "grand scheme", deconstructing its ultimate purpose, value, and meaning. Always thinking instead of being. It's a horrible way to go through life. Even under the influence of massive amounts of illegal (but extremely entertaining) drugs, I have the wherewithal to want to know exactly how much of this I had, how much of that, how this compares with the other thing, and so I almost need to get a notebook down to figure out what's happening, while meanwhile my cohorts are sitting around in heaps, drooling uncontrollably and laughing at pieces of carpet lint. Same with anything else, though. I can't just stay in the moment. But I'm getting better.

For instance, I resigned myself early to October 12 being a day just full of moments, and I vowed to experience them to the extreme, unfettered by thoughts of what was and what might be, no matter how ridiculous those moments might have been. Here, now, were some moments from the day:

Having brunch at Curley's, doing the crossword puzzle with Clash.

Determining that Brenda, the lovely bartender at Curley's, unfortunately turns out to be dumber than peat moss, since she was unaware that my man L. T. is a big RADIO star now, even though we spent most of the last two weeks sitting at that same stupid bar trying to subtly (or not) let it slip that my man L. T. is a big RADIO star now. These subtle (or not) hints normally came in the form of waiting for her to walk by, and then loudly asking him, "SO, LARRY, WHAT TIME DO YOU HAVE TO BE AT THE STATION TONIGHT? TO DO YOUR SHOW?" to which he would equally loudly reply, "OH, THE SHOW DOESN'T START UNTIL 7, ON KHUM 104.3/104.7, BEN, BUT I NEED TO BE THERE A FEW HOURS EARLY TO DO SOME PREP WORK. FOR MY SHOW. THAT STARTS AT 7. ON THE RADIO." And like that. And I know she heard us, because the people at the flower shop next door heard us, but she just... she just couldn't pick up on it. Also, she prounces "especially" "exspecially", which irritates the hell out of both of us. So, too bad, Brenda. No soup for you.

Going over to the Palace and drinking beer, while L. T. somehow manages to stick with soft drinks and coffee, so as not to clutter his mind for HIS RADIO SHOW WHICH STARTS AT 7.

Definitely not expecting a local high school marching band to tromp into the bar and begin playing songs.

Watching in disbelief as a local high school marching band tromped into the bar and began playing songs.

Joking with Clash that, hey, we should request Free Bird. Huh huh.

Nearly falling off my barstool a minute later when, unprovoked, the first unmistakeable chords of said Free Bird began getting trumpeted, tubaed, and bass drummed into our heads by said marching band. I swear this happened. I swear this happened. I know, because I was staying in the moment.

Going back to the apartment, cleaning and bathing, while L. T. went off to the station to do his show.

Sitting at the computer writing email to him, trying to get him to say the SECRET WORD! I felt that if I could get him to work a specific word into his patter, and he said it on the air, that I would have had at least a part in making the show better. Tonight's word was "ostensibly". And he said it! I then danced the dance of the triumphant around the apartment for a bit.

Seeing a cat come down the stairs and peek out around the corner at me before running back up and leaving through whatever unknown hole he got in through. I am fairly sure that this happened as well, although as it was much later in the day, my recollection becomes less and less reliable. But I think a strange cat came in. I'm sticking to that story, anyway.

Waiting around for L. T. to get home, having a nightcap (or... two) with him, and then turning in for a fitful sleep, fitful because I knew I had a project to do the following morning, and it was weighing heavily on my mind! (See October 13 for the rest of the story!)

Saturday, October 11, 2003 -- TO THE X-TREME!!!

Well now, it would seem I owe a very heartfelt and very public apology to one Mr. L. "Clash" T., for writing the following in the earlier October 11 update:

Also, one of his fellow DJ's, who's actually a pretty hot babe, is here doing her own show, so it's quite active down here at ol' KHUM 104.3/104.7 Radio Without the Rules (Except Apparently DJ's Aren't Allowed to Let Their Buddies Sit Down at the Mic and Do a Whole Comedy Routine Which Would Be Totally Awesome, But Mr. Bigshot Doesn't Want Me Interfering With His "Show".)

...because no sooner did I get through uploading the above update, than I was asked by the aforementioned radio host to appear on his show, in a live interview segment! And so it came to be that your humble narrator participated in over six solid minutes of live radio tonight, my very first on-air experience, and truly the fulfillment of a lifelong dream: to get to be a wiseass over the airwaves.

I now present to you, a very special multimedia feature here on So Now Then...

The Ben & Larry Show (Yes, this actually went out over the air, live.)



Saturday, October 11, 2003

Damn, you thought the last couple days were late starters, check today out! Even Clash didn't make his first appearance until after 2 PM, which was not all that much later than when I first found myself up and about. This is definitely going to stop tonight, though. This is absurd behavior for someone of my considerable social standing.

This is Saturday, though, which means that the whole rest of the day is build-up to 7 PM, when his fucking radio show starts (I still can't believe it!) We kicked things off by going over to Curley's for a nice lunch, and an hour or so of gawking at the Curley's waitresses, all of the hottest of whom were out in force today. Whoa. Sara, she's a sweetheart, don't get me wrong, but in terms of just physical beauty, I'm having a bit of trouble trying to come up with anyone I've ever seen in the history of my life who matches up with either of the two main serving girls at Curley's. Holy Jesus. I'm sure they'll all annoying bitches, though, so I got no use for that.

After finishing up at Curley's, we did a little grocery shopping, and then right over to the station, where Clash began his show prep, while I got to the nasty business of catching up on this website. In fact, as I'm writing this, it's 7:27 PM, Clash's show is rolling, and I'm back on air-check duty! Also, one of his fellow DJ's, who's actually a pretty hot babe, is here doing her own show, so it's quite active down here at ol' KHUM 104.3/104.7 Radio Without the Rules (Except Apparently DJ's Aren't Allowed to Let Their Buddies Sit Down at the Mic and Do a Whole Comedy Routine Which Would Be Totally Awesome, But Mr. Bigshot Doesn't Want Me Interfering With His "Show".)

I don't know what the rest of the evening holds, but I imagine it'll be a lot of me doing air-check things, uploading pictures to this website, and starting to wish that it was midnight so we could go home. Oh, and trying to figure out how much I owe the government in terms of unpaid taxes and associated penalties, since I haven't actually been paying taxes for the last six or seven months or so. Stay tuned, then, because, this whole trip might be about to get cut awfully short.

Did I mention the little "Donate" button over there on the right, by the way?

Friday, October 10, 2003

And again, I am unable to get the day going at a reasonable hour. But again, what a beautiful day it was! I tell you, people who think Humboldt County is just about marijuana and rain just do not know what they're talking about. It hasn't rained for two days here! Heh heh.

Today's trip was a long driving excursion to the Lost Coast. The Lost Coast is an area approximately 45 miles south/southwest of Ferndale, so called because the terrain is so jagged and harsh that no highway was ever able to be built along it. As it is, then, it is a tough drive through tiny little winding roads for at least an hour to get to the "garden spot" of the Lost Coast, a teensy little town called Shelter Cove, which, unfortunately, looks to be becoming less teensy by the minute. Large, expensive-looking homes are popping up like weeds, and wherever there isn't a house being built, there's a real estate sign selling the lot. That being said, it could be that Shelter Cove is the place for me to live. The town is really little more than about four or five quaint little motels or B&B's, a couple of restaurants, and one general store, but all of these structures surround the center of the town in which have been built:

A golf course and an air strip! Are you kidding me? You could sit down with a pencil and a blank sheet of paper, with your one mission being to draw up your vision of "Ben Town", and chances are it's going to end up looking a lot like ol' Shelter Cove. You can play 18 holes of golf, take a quick trip in a Cessna, and hit a bar, all without walking more than about 50 feet.

Oh yeah, and also, the coast itself is very beautiful and picturesque and blah blah blah. But a golf course! And an air strip! Yay Shelter Cove!

The trip back was also gorgeous, but quite long, taking over two hours, so by the time I made it back to Ferndale, the evening was already gearing up. In fact, driving back down Main street, I took a peek into the Palace, and there was my boy, ol' L. T., already sittin' there, enjoying the game and driving all the Ferndalian women crazy!

Not wanting to be rude, I parked my car and sauntered down to the aforementioned Palace to meet up with homeboy and join him in a beer and a baseball game.

And that's pretty much all there is to say about ol' October 10, I think!

Okay, since you've been so patient about me being a little... "reserved" in my descriptions of the previous evenings, I'll give you at least a taste of what goes on during your average Ferndale evening:

The Palace was, once again, the site of serious human drama, as a very drunk woman and a very drunk man (apparently romantically involved, at least at the time) began having a very drunk, animated, and at times physical argument, which twice ended in him storming out of the Palace screaming "FUCK YOU!" at her, then returning less than a minute later to get one last point in. At one point, she went into the ladies room to find a little solace, but he busted on in right after her, which was the point where I actually started to think there was going to be some serious trouble there. But when they came back out of the ladies room, they were both (relatively) composed, and the guy exited through the back, while the woman came back up to the bar near us, sat down, and started sobbing uncontrollably.

When in Ferndale, visit the Palace Saloon, for the best in libations and free entertainment!

Seeking to distance ourselves as far as possible from all of these unpleasantries, Clash and I made our way to the back of the room to play a little pool. Halfway through our game, though, the distraught woman from earlier ("Monica", comes to find out) is now in a mood to have a little fun with the boys at the bar! And, so, amazingly, the next thing I knew, I was playing pool with Monica. I swear, this place is like a movie where you can actually go in and interact with the characters whenever you want, and oft-times even when you don't want.

Few more games of pool, and we decided to kick it on out of the Palace. Now, L. T., he was into going home, but then...

Well, let me back up a bit. Last Monday, after open mic night at Curley's, and after we'd gotten back to the Palace, one of the open mic guys (Lowell) was there with a couple of girls, the more attractive of which who was introduced to us. Sara. Sara the bespectacled. Sara the lovely. Sara the peach. Sara. Damn. You can do worse for yourself in this town than Sara, let me be clear about that.

So, we had both fallen madly in love with her within minutes, and it became our quest to seek her out at some later point and begin the courting process proper. Now, since I'm not gonna be here long, I'd decided that I'm gonna let her off the hook so she and L. T. can be free to pursue a relationship, but I would like to feel involved in the process, and do what I can to facilitate a burgeoning love. So I said, on this particular night, let's not just go home, but instead kick it over to the Ivanhoe, which is the establishment that Sara was purported to work at.

We saunter in. Take a peek around. No Sara. Take a spot at the bar. Take a peek around. No Sa-- WAIT!! Dude!! There she is! She just looked at me! She's right there, man!! Look!

Okay, now we have a serious problem. A number of them, actually. Problem one is, she is there, just a few spots down the bar. Problem two is, she saw us, without question. Problem three is, now we are stuck. Something has to happen. You can't just sit there at the bar, and you can't just leave, so something, for better or worse, has to happen. Problem four is, neither one of us were quite in prime form for smoothness, having already had quite a full evening over at the Palace, if you see what I'm saying.

So now it's a whole thing. What do we do? What's the move? How should we approach this? What should we do?! Can we escape out the back!? We're doomed!

(I should state right here that one of my goals of this entire So Now Then escapade is to get to a point of social comfortableness, where I need never be involved in a conversation this idiotic ever again. But, crawl before walk.)

And then, right then, just as our fretting over what to do was reaching the feverest of its various pitches, all the problems solved themselves.

"Hey! You're the guys from the other night, at the Palace, right?"

We turned slowly (well, actually, probably more like we were having epileptic seizures), and there she was, standing there, smiling at us.



Anyway, in this scenario, I am "wingman", which means that it's my job to just sit there very quietly, laugh at everything my man says, smile warmly at her the rest of the time, and generally be the rock, the foundation on which whatever conversation they get going may stabilize itself. I thought I performed marvelously in this capacity, but that's nothing compared to how my man was working it. Oh, my goodness. I could not have been prouder. He totally had a rap going with ol' Sara, and I never knew he had it in him. Of course, it helped that everything either of them mentioned, the other one had intimate personal experience with. "OH MY GOD, no WAY!" became the keynote of the dialogue. Oh, was that beautiful. Beautiful. L. T. is my new hero.

Eventually, that conversation brought itself to a close, at which time Sara went back around the room to rejoin whatever other conversations were going on. That was the only disconcerting part of the episode, which was that, boy, she was sure friendly with us, but then, she seems to be friendly with almost everyone in the place. And believe me, as you probably know, I've had quite enough of women who are friendly with everyone. But still, the whole thing was a delightful close to an already delightful day.

Of course, if he does actually end up with ol' Sara on his arm at the end of this, I am going to become extremely resentful, bitter, and angry, but as Ted Kennedy once said, I'll drive over that bridge when I come to it.

Some more stuff happened after we went back home, but I don't think anyone needs to hear about that.

Thursday, October 9, 2003

Whoa, did I get up late today! Every day I promise myself I'm going to reel it in a little and get back onto a regular morning/evening schedule, but this, it turned out, was not to be the day. In fact, I didn't really get moving until a bit after noon, and while I had planned to take a sightseeing trip today, at that point, I was thinking that it'd be better to make today a "rest" day, then head out Friday bright and early.

But when I peeked outside and saw how beautiful and sunny and gorgeous it was, I knew I'd never forgive myself for staying cooped up on a day like today. So, I filled the water bottles, filled my backpack, put on my hiking shoes, and off I went!

Today's trip was to the fabulous redwoods of Humboldt Redwood National Park, or whatever it's called. The drive down the "Avenue of the Giants", the former stagecoach road that winds through the heart of the park, is almost spectacular enough that getting out of the car and walking around seems nearly superfluous, but I did already have that backpack filled up, and I did need to get some exercise, after doing little other than sitting at bars eating cheeseburgers and free popcorn for the last week, so I veered off onto a little back road, then picked a suitably secluded spot, and began my journey!

On the down side, I was not able to ever really get "lost", as no matter where I seemed to go, the trail was never too far from either the road or the creek parallelling the road, and I was kind of hoping to get far enough out into the nether regions of the park to become genuinely panicky that I'd never find my way back and would have to resort to self-cannibalism to survive. Alas, no such panic was warranted. On the up side, however, wow. WOW. What a lovely place to just... be. On more than one occasion, I had to snap myself back to reality after realizing that I'd just been standing in the same place for 10 minutes gazing gape-mawed into the scenic distances. Also, just so there's no misunderstanding, those are some big-ass motherfreaking trees. If anyone ever tells you that those trees ain't tall, it won't be me, that I will promise you.

It began to get on into the late afternoon, though, so I hiked my way back to the car and headed back to the 'Dale, at which point I met Clash, who was just getting off work, and we headed up to the Palace to watch the ballgame and maybe have a beer, over which we'd regale each other with stories about our respective days.

...well, yeah, and that's about all there is to say about the day. Nothing else really to talk about after that. No sir. Not a thing.

Wednesday, October 8, 2003

Quiet morning and afternoon today. Got up, tidied up around the place (I do love keeping a clean home for my man while he's off earning a living), did a little shopping for groceries and various beers and ends, and headed on up to Curley's for a light lunch of a salad and a grilled portabello sandwich. Absolutely nobody was there except for me, which was a little unnerving, but on the other hand, I feel like I got some quality back-and-forth going with the cute waitress ("You done with that?" "Yeah, thanks!")

Then, after getting back to the apartment, I made myself some instant coffee and sat down with my atlas and my travel book ("The Rough Guide to California" -- an excellent book for exploring this, the greatest state in the lower 48) and started planning some trips! I decided that at first, I was just going to take little day trips to some of the more interesting spots here in Humboldt, and then later, perhaps next week, take a major, several-day trip around the northern interior, then down to Yosemite and Mono Lake, and then back. Originally I was going to do all that during my trip back to SoCal, but I don't want to have to lug all of my personal possessions around and have to worry about that, so I think I'll just get all the northern/central California stuff out of the way this month.

After an hour or so of that, I attempted, via email, to convince Clash to knock off work a few minutes early. Which, excellently, he did!

Clash arrived back home a few minutes later, at which point we headed straight to Curley's for a pint or two to wind down after his long work day.

And... uh... yeah, that's about all that happened today. No reason to say any more about Wednesday, October 8, 2003, as far as I can tell.



SPECIAL!! We here at SNT are proud to announce that we have captured extremely rare photographs from Mushroom Land, the fabled alternate universe of which beauty and happiness are the only inhabitants! The photographer, when confronted with the charge that his photos seemed only to depict a rather ordinary living room, responded: "Hehhehhehehe..." He then fell over into a lump on the floor, quietly giggling to himself all the while.

Tuesday, October 7, 2003

Given the truly moronic behavior of the night (and then early morning) before, I was somewhat suprised to wake up today feeling not-too-bad. I was less surprised, though, to see that the clock had already wound its way around to 12:30 PM before I was awake to see it.

Today, I had decided early, would be a slow day. Time to heal some wounds, take it a little easy, get things back in order so as to efficiently and effectively approach the remainder of the week. My primary task for the day was doing laundry at the town's coin-operated laundromat. This consisted primarily of two activities, one being walking around town buying various things in order to make change and get dollar bills to feed to the laundromat's change machine, and the other being fighting with said change machine, which I believe was originally installed when the town was founded in 1847. (Note: That year may or may not have been just made up by me as I typed this, but it most likely was.)

After fighting for awhile with the single-load Maytag machine, I went off to grab a bite at "Poppa Joe's", the local greasy spoon. Note, to anyone visiting Ferndale to have lunch: Go ahead and give a miss to ol' "Poppa Joe's" (advertising slogan: "We don't serve your kind here.")

Then I spent the next half hour trying to cancel my DSL service with Verizon Online, using their handy, easily memorable phone number, 1-800-567-6789. It's good that it's easy to memorize, because if you need any assistance from Verizon Online's customer "support" staff, you'll have to dial this number at least six or seven times, and be prepared to get dropped by their phone call handling system a number of times, before actually being able to speak with a customer "support" representative. Said representative which I was unable, on this particular day, to get a hold of, even after waiting on hold for 30 minutes and hearing that sickening little "click" right at the end which you hope to all hell means, "you've been taken off hold and will now be speaking to someone", but which you know in your heart means, "they hung up on you again." We here at So Now Then Enterprises are therefore happy to announce that our Mortal Enemy of the Week is officially Verizon Online! Congratulations, V. O.! You suck the big one!

Back to the pad, though, to meet up with Clash who was just then getting off of work, and who was still in a pretty bad way from the previous evening. Maybe a good evening to spend quietly, letting the body and mind recover, yes? Well, no sir! Because this is Tuesday. And Tuesday means: Tuesday Night Jam!

Tuesday Night Jam (TNJ) is what happens when Clash's buddy Chico (who you may remember from some of Clash's original hilarious "I Wish I Were Dead" blog entries) comes over, and we all grab our [musical] instruments, and just have a good ol' time playin' all the hits the kids love to hear!

Let me give you the TNJ Lineup, so you can better picture the scene:

Chico is on lead guitar, which means that his job is to play over the rhythm and take the burden of keeping a melody going, while also serving as the "front man" and vocalist.

Clash is on rhythm guitar, which means that his job is to lay in the pocket and keep the groove of the song going, while engaging in some brief harmonic interplay with the lead.

I am on bass guitar, which means that my job is to keep from either laughing hysterically or blowing my fucking brains out listening to these two try to play a song.

This band was so special, so impressive in its musical experimentation and creativity, that I kept checking the front door for eviction notices every few minutes. I think it's safe to say I have never heard anything like it in my life. And I take real solace in the knowledge that I've got six and a half more days now until it's Tuesday again. Wow. TNJ, man.

Eventually (after about sixty three thousand additional verses of whatever two-chord song we finished up with) TNJ came to a grinding halt, Chico headed out, and Clash and I spent the rest of the evening whipping up tasty snacks, discussing musical strategies for the next TNJ (oh god), and vowing to get to bed (separately, remember) at a reasonable hour.

Which, wonder of wonders, we did.


Sunday, October 5 - Monday, October 6, 2003

There's really no reason to combine these two days, but since I'm in danger now of falling three entire days behind, I better just whip on through my pages and pages of notes I've taken, so I can get this out to the fans and get back to the pressing business of destroying myself in every way possible.

Which, speaking of that, does anyone want to take over this domain name and the web hosting services included therein once I'm gone? Because at this rate, I can already tell, I am never making it out of Ferndale alive. I cannot be trusted with myself. Please, somebody save me from me. But you didn't come here for this. You came here to read whatever crap I can throw out into this file in the next half hour or so before Clash's friend shows up and we all sit around "jamming" for a few hours until I pass out again. Wait, did I say again? No, I mean, until I pass out for definitely the first time since I've been here.

We (Clash and I) awoke (separately, I do feel I need to keep pointing out) Sunday at around 10 AM, at which point we made our way over to Curley's for a delicious brunch of eggs, potatoes, and a heaping side helping of misery, as Curley's "Loveleys" (I just made that up) were out in force, ensuring that there was no possible way for us to enjoy ourselves.

Our dispositions sufficiently pummelled into the dirt, we decided to hop in the car and (angrily) drive out to the driving range in Arcata. This was at least a 45 minute drive, which, while scenic and enjoyable, seemed a bit excessive just to go hit a half bucket of balls. But, no matter, always nice to get out and swing a club or two.

This is already shaping up to be the worst update ever. I do apologize for that. I'm just a little distracted right now, and as you know, I hate doing this in the first place. So, just go ahead and change the station if you want and come back next time, when I'll get this puppy back on track.

Anyway, after the range, we got back and Clash headed out to the radio station to prepare for his Sunday night show (featuring the popular "Cocktail hour", a pure L.T.-invention, where he reads a recipe for a cocktail, and then plays lounge music for the 8-9 o'clock hour). Meanwhile, since I had not bathed or in any other way cleaned myself since the previous Wednesday, I felt it time attend to my own hygienic needs. This was in the form of a bath, taken in Clash's clawfoot tub! There is no shower here, so the clawfoot tub is really your only choice.

It had been years since I'd taken an actual bath, and while it is a little work intensive, and requires a lot of mental discipline to keep from thinking about who else uses the tub and what they might have done in it on several past occasions, it was truly delightful! Calming, relaxing, and best of all, cleansing. Love a nice bath, I do.

Then, it was off to the Palace Saloon (not the "Palace Station", as previously written -- I must have been thinking about the casino in Jean, Nevada), where I'd sit, have a cocktail, and write notes for this website in my little notebook. Before I even sat down, however, two things occurred which indicated that a nice relaxing sit-down is not what I was going to get here at the Palace on this particular night.

The first thing that happened was, a woman at the back of the bar, part of a group of biker-looking people with bandanas and 50 extra pounds each on, began screaming incomprehensibly at the top of her lungs. Disconcerted by that, I chose the furthest possible seat from that end of the bar, and as I pulled the stool out to sit down, I hear: "Should I call her?"

Assuming this was a conversation going on between two people out of my field of vision, I went about my business. Couple seconds later, though, "Hey, should I call her, man?" I take a cautious glance sideways, and see a guy I am later to learn is named "Glen", staring at me with expectant eyes, cellphone in hand. Glen has been at the Palace since 11 AM. Glen is 25 years old, a decent looking, stylish kinda guy -- not generally Ferndale material -- and wants to know whether he should call her. Glen works at the antique store under the radio station.

Glen is hammered out of his fucking mind.

Glen was, by his and his bartender's count, up to about 10 or 11 beers and a few bloody marys on the side. Glen wanted to talk. To me. To anyone. I had a feeling Glen had been having this same conversation for hours before I had walked in, but there was just nobody there to hear it.

"I dunno, man," I offered helpfully, while aggressively downing my beer, so I could make a quick escape from the establishment. But Glen was having none of that. Pulling up the stool next to me, he began explaining many many things about life, about himself, and about various other important topics, none of which I could understand. Glen also had a plan for getting a free flight on Southwest Airlines, and asked me for a piece of paper so he could write down the specifics of his fiendish plot. I've included a photo of that letter, so you, my faithful readers, can get in on a piece of this action.

I do admit to finding Glen just the slightest bit amusing, with his impromptu Foster Brooks imitation, and realized that I essentially had two choices here: Either leave immediately, or start drinking heavily, so as to get onto the same plane as Glen and be able to have a meaningful conversation. As I had a couple hours to kill before Clash's show started, I chose the latter.

Glen and I, oh, we had some good laughs after that, I'll tell you. One of the laughs I had was when he knocked over a full pint of beer into his own lap. One of the laughs neither of us had was when he knocked my vodka cranberry all over the bar. Glen's coordination was not what it might have been. And now the bartender was getting irritated. After every drink, Glen would say, "I gotta get outta here, after this one," but he would never leave. I knew then that the only way to get him out of there (which he needed to do, or I thought he'd end up in a hospital by the end of the night) was to forcibly remove him, by paying my own tab and pulling him onto the street. Which I did. I then offered to drive him back to the antique store, since he was in no shape to even be near an automobile. He declined, no doubt interpreting it as a homosexual come-on, got in his truck, and tore-ass down Main street, nearly running into several parked cars and narrowly missing a pedestrian. Glen, wherever you are (probably at the antique store), you're an asshole.

The other bad part about all this was that in all the hubbub, I missed the beginning of Clash's show, during which I'm told he did a special little "Ben set", filled with inside jokes only I would get, and featuring one of the songs on a CD which I played bass on! I'll never forgive myself for missing that, but whaddya gonna do.

God is this getting long. When is this ever going to end? Lemme see if I can do the rest of the evening in one paragraph:

Then I drove to the station and tried to get in the door, but was unable to, and Clash was not answering the doorbell, so to get his attention, I went around to the other side of the building, which the on-air studio window faces, and began yelling through the window and jumping up and down, while Clash was on the air. Being the professional he is, I doubt he cared for this, but that had to be some great radio, for whoever heard it. Once his next song started, he came down to let me in, and I spent the next couple hours in the studio watching him do the rest of the show (including the aforementioned "Cocktail Hour", which was cool). Then we went home, and I cooked dinner for us, using my famous recipe, "take everything in the house and throw it into a pan with a lot of butter". This was excellent. Then we went to sleep (again, separately).

Given the current length of this entry, I probably shouldn't have combined it with the following day, but it's too late to go back now, so here we go:

Got up the next morning at about noon, which was good, because I did have some sleep I needed to catch up on. Then, since it was Monday, I felt it appropriate to sit down and draw up a plan for the rest of the week, so I wouldn't just sit around doing nothing, letting my life degrade into a disorganized mess. Here was the plan I came up with:

1. Buy paper towels and peanuts.

I sat back and took a deep breath, letting my mind strategize on this plan for a bit, when I received an email from Clash advising -- nay, demanding -- that I go outside, because it was such a beautiful day! I explained that I had this plan I needed to get working on, but he continued to insist that I enjoy the day to the utmost, and let my plan sit untended. I had some misgivings about this, but did indeed make my way out the door, and boy howdy, it was a beautiful day! I mean, back in Santa Monica, it would have been considered average at best, but up here? In the Dale? Astonishing!

I took a little mini-hike up to the Ferndale Cemetary, and then to the hills beyond. It was beautiful! For years, I rebelled against enjoying nature in any of its forms, because my father liked it so much. But now, with him out the way, I'm free to enjoy all the lovely trees and brooks and birds and all that stuff! Just lovely.

Then I came back off the hill, and stopped by the store to buy those paper towels and peanuts. I was feeling pretty good at this point, having both enjoyed the lovely day, and successfully put paid to my big plan, so I came home and lounged about the place for a bit, playing some guitar, paying some bills, tidying up and whatnot. Then L.T. got off work, and we headed straight back to Curley's! For some reason! Which I can't figure out!

Curley's was ridiculous. All the hottest women from our previous visits were there, plus a few more even hotter ones, thrown in for good measure. It was totally absurd. And horrible. And expensive, naturally. So, after a few hours and about a hundred drinks, we headed on down to Palace, after stopping off at the store for a pack of Marlboros.

We stayed at the Palace for another several hours, another hundred drinks, and way too many cigarettes, while playing some weird shuffleboard-esque game and playing songs on the jukebox. This was, while amusing, a totally idiotic thing to be doing, but hey, you only live once, right? And now, in my case, about five years less than I might have otherwise, I'm guessing.

Then we headed back, where we stayed up until 3 AM having another hundred drinks and playing guitars and commenting to each other how much the following day was going to suck, and how stupid we both were for behaving like this... but, good times, right? Good times.

Excuse me, I need to lie down for a bit.

Saturday, October 4, 2003

I "woke up" (defined as, "found myself awake for the last time before giving up on getting any meaningful sleep") around noon, as previously indicated. The world was different. This was the first morning after the most intense, wonderful emotional experience of my life, and though I was no longer the benevolent ruler of Mushroom Land, the world was indeed not the same one I knew just 24 hours earlier. Flashes of visions of the previous evening zoomed through my mind like Rolodex cards, and I sat awake for a moment trying to determine which of them had actually happened, and which I'd just imagined. Finally I decided that every single one of them took a little from column A and a little from column B, and then gave up trying to figure it all out, and greeted Clash as he trundled down the stairs (a task which, just a few short hours earlier, I had determined to be impossible).

Clash was not feeling particularly well, which I owe to the fact that while I had been perfectly content to just dance the night away in Mushroom Land, he had been augmenting the experience with some fairly heavy alcohol consumption all the while. And while I wouldn't say I was in peak fighting form myself, I did feel an awful lot better than I would have suspected. Either way, though, it was time for lunch! The one non-Mushroom-Land thought that I do remembering going over and over in my mind at 3 AM the previous evening was: "Boy, I sure wish that burger stand was open." Three bosc pears and a scoop of Ben & Jerry's ice cream had served as my dinner, so I had been raring to go get some actual food for quite a while at that point.

We headed over to Curley's where I ordered a burger and (to Clash's great surprise) a beer. He went with a salad and (to my great surprise) a glass of lemonade. Apparently sometimes even staunch supporters of the Hair of the Dog can't quite pull it together enough to make it happen. No matter, lunch was nice as ever, except both Brenda, the awfully cute bartender, and Stephanie, the incredibly hot waitress were both hanging around, walking to-and-fro, making it difficult for either of us to truly enjoy our meals. I don't know why we keep going there, because the same thing always happens. Take a seat, order something, look at hot women and get all depressed, then pay an overpriced bar tab and head out. Does this sound like fun to you?

After this depressing enterprise, we got in the car and headed to Fortuna (the "fort of tuna", as affectionately (or not) referred to by Clash) where we found a street fair to walk through. Not a whole lot was going on at the street fair (except a long line of people waiting to get on the 'bus', which turned out to be a large hay truck, or something. Neither one of us could quite figure out what was going on there), so we drove on out to the coast to check out the beach.

I should state here that while the excesses and mental journeys of the previous evening had subsided, and I had a firm foothold in reality, I did find certain tasks such as driving to require significantly more effort than normal to pull off successfully, as physical coordination was still just a bit of a problem. Clash assured me that this is normal, with 'shrooms essentially being a "2-day endeavor", so I just drove on, pleased with myself each time I successfully navigated a turn.

The beach was great! Absolutely nobody was there, so we were free to walk along the shore without fearing we might appear homosexual to any onlookers. The crisp sea breeze and sense of isolation was invigorating to me, and two thoughts kept going through my mind: 1. These waves are a lot cooler (bigger, more magestic-looking) than the ones back in Santa Monica! 2. I bet this place would be really fun on mushrooms!

After that, it was time to head home and get ready to go to the radio station! To watch Clash! Do his own goddamn radio show! I have to say, I was really looking forward to this experience. I also have to say that I was the only one in our crew of two who felt this enthusiasm. L. T. was still not feeling 100%, and would have essentially paid any amount of money to get out of doing the show tonight and just stay home and lie down for the rest of the day. Unfortunately for him, he is broke, so no such briberies were able to be made, and like the professional he is, he headed on out.

The first couple hours were taken up by "show prep", where Clash did a bunch of stuff I didn't know what it was, while I drank coffee, wrote SNT updates, and surreptitiously surfed for internet porn. But then 7:00 PM came along, and it was showtime! To my great pleasure, Clash had given me a radio-related job to do during his show, which was to record "air-checks". This coming from a guy who a month ago didn't even know what an "air-check" was ("Hey Pinback, do you know what an 'air-check' is?" - Clash, like, a month ago), and now he's having me record his air-checks. Which means: I sit in the other room, and when he's going into or coming out of a "break", and saying stuff into the microphone (like what records were just played, what the weather is, what the station call letters are, etc.), I would hit "record" on this little tape recorder, and then I'd hit "stop" once he was done talking. To many, this would seem to be a somewhat mundane task, but as I was getting to be involved in an actual radio show, this was very exciting for me! I recorded a whole tape of air-checks, which I am hoping to be able to get a copy of, and if possible, get into digital form so you can hear some of it. Don't hold your breath, though.

Anyway, this went on for a few hours (it's a five-hour shift Clash does, you see), and just about the time it was starting to actually get boring, Clash started involving me in the show a little more. One song set he put together was songs all about alcohol, and he was frantically running around the room looking for alcohol-related songs. He asked me if I knew any. I suggested "If You Don't Start Drinking, I'm Gonna Leave" by George Thorogood, which he was able to find on the big MP3 jukebox they have at the station. He played it, it sounded great, and then he thanked me on the air for picking out that tune! We were making radio magic! Invisible airwaves crackled with life! Bright antennae bristled with the energy!

Eventually and mercifully, midnight arrived, after which we quickly packed up and drove back home, sat around having a celebratory after-show beer, and then absolutely collapsed. (In different rooms, I should add by way of clarification. Just so there's no misunderstanding.)




I finally saw the new color scheme on a non-LCD monitor, and indeed it is fairly revolting, so I'll temporarily change it to something a little less offensive until I can come up with something decent.

Friday, October 3, 2003

Okay. This was a day. This was quite a day. Anyone out there reading this who still holds me in any sort of esteem as someone worthy of respect and admiration may want to just skip ol' "Friday, October 3, 2003" and just move right along. I'll wait here while you sort yourselves out.


Now then. Things started innocently enough, as Clash headed out to his job at KHUM (104.7/104.3, Radio Without the Rules) which is just a lovely 15 minute walk down Main street. I lounged around the apartment for a bit, tidied up about the place, checked email, generally moving a little slowly and recovering from the previous evening. Then it was lunchtime, and I was very anxious to try the "No Brand Burger Stand" which is right next to the radio station, and about which I'd heard such good things from Clash. And you know how much I like a good burger.

I had thought we'd arranged to meet at the stand at 12:00, so it was a little disconcerting when I found myself waiting there from 12:00 until 12:30, with no Clash in sight. I went back home and emailed him to find out that in fact, he was waiting for me to come into the radio station rather than just wait at the stand. So, I went back to the station (in the car this time, since we were both famished by this point), and got my first taste of the real-life radio business when Clash showed me around his domain!

It's really cool. The place is highly reminiscent of WKRP, with a few laid-back, oddball characters roaming the halls, wacky posters covering every bit of available wall surface, stale coffee and old half-eaten muffins lying about the kitchen table while people complain about all the flies in the building. Adding to the amusement of seeing how a small-time independent radio station operates was the kick I got watching Clash run things from his command station at the front desk. Takin' calls from clients, scheduling on-air advertisements, talking business with his cohorts, getting me coffee. The dude just waltzed in from out of town with no money and no experience just a few short months ago, and now he's running the place! And we haven't even talked about his radio show! Awesome. Of course, I wasn't appreciating any of this as much at the time, because I was desperately in need of one of the burger stand's famous burgers.

Well, I took Clash's lead, and ordered the "cajun bacon cheeseburger", which was outstanding! Cute buildings, friendly, small-town atmosphere, and fabulous cheeseburgers? Hello? Why would I ever leave here?

After lunch, I kicked it at the station for a bit, then let Clash get back to work, at which time I explored a few of Main street's more important shops, such as the grocery store, the liquor store, and the book store. Arms full of newly-purchased groceries, liquor and books, I then made it back to the apartment and just lazed about until 5:00 rolled around, at which time I knew it was time to hit Curley's again and wait for Clash to walk in, triumphant after another successful workday, and share a brew with me!

SECOND WARNING: Here's generally where things start to turn from healthy, innocent fun into something completely reprehensible.

Well, one beer at Curley's ended up turning into four, as we were left transfixed by the stunning evening hostess of the place. Little hint for anyone thinking about visiting Ferndale, as far as the ladies are concerned: Percentage of hot chicks over the age of 16 not working at Curley's: 0%. Percentage of hot chicks over the age of 16 working at Curley's: 90%. Wow. Just makes you want to shake ol' Curley's hand, after an hour or so in that place. Or kick him in the face, depending on your mood.

After the beers at Curley's, we headed back to the apartment, chatted a bit, and turned in early to get a good night's sleep.

Ha ha!! Just kidding. That would have been even the slightest bit intelligent, and thus was not in the cards on this particular evening. No, instead we stopped by the Palace Station, a little dive bar just in between Curley's and the apartment, and sat down for a pint of Bud. While sitting here, Clash commented that the bar offered ash trays, and suggested that he'd seen people actually smoke in this bar. I didn't believe it, of course, because this is still California, and that's just not something that's done in the Golden State, by law. But the four Curley's beers plus the Palace Bud had imparted some courage to my man L. T., who stepped out quickly to hop across the street and buy a pack of Marlboro Reds. I didn't think he was going to do it, but damned if he didn't come back, open the pack (both of us casting paranoid glances down to the other end of the bar to see if anyone was getting their panties in a bunch), and fire one up! Not so much as a peep from either the bar staff or the customers. So you know what I did? I fired one up right with him! Now, those who know me know that I'm not much of a smoker, but I absolutely do not agree with the California law against smoking in bars, so to me, this was the coolest thing I'd done yet in Ferndale. Smoke at a CA bar. My life's pretty exciting, as you can tell.

I finished my Marb and started to get up and pay the tab when Clash, still flush with confidence, did something which I really did not expect him to do, and wished both silently and aloud that he hadn't, which was to order another couple Buds and a couple shots of tequila. Now, for a man like me, six beers and a shot of tequila is just warming up for the evening, but knowing I hadn't eaten since lunchtime, I felt that this was testing the bounds of my tolerance just a bit more than I would have liked. But, I'm a trooper, and went through with it. Things did indeed start to turn bad about halfway through the Bud, as I began getting irritated and angry at random things which certainly had no business bearing the brunt of my ire, and then began getting a bit nauseous after that (which, of course, further irritated and angered me.)

After finally paying the check and sulking back to the apartment, I decided that I was going to take it easy, alcohol-wise, for the remainder of the evening, and started drinking lots of water, which was a good idea. Perhaps not such a good idea was then soon after accepting Clash's offer of a bit of Humboldt's local "produce", if you catch my drift. Fortunately, as the ol' bong hit started to do a little something, the nausea from earlier had subsided, so I was generally feeling okay, enjoying spending time with my man L. T., and digging on the town of Ferndale, CA.

FINAL WARNING: Last chance. Abandon hope, all ye who read past here.

'kay, here's where it turns a little weird.

"Got something you might want to try." Uh oh. Whaddya got for me, Clash? I don't go in much for this drug stuff -- in fact, I only smoke pot when I'm with you, and just to be polite, so I hope it's nothing serious you're asking me about. Hmm. Whaddya got there, Clash? Something in a little plastic bag? What's... not sure what those things are, man. Can ya let me in on the secret?


I actually knew he'd come into some, and knew that this moment was probably going to come up sooner or later, so I'd practiced kindly but firmly declining the generous offer, as I was not particularly interested in doing something that I considered quite frightening, trusting my brain, one of the few parts of myself that I'm actually fairly proud of, to an unknown, possibly dangerous substance.

On this particular night, in this particular mood, however, I forgot my routine, and just said, aw, sure, what the hell. This is an adventure. Let's have an adventure.

Clash explained that what I'd want to do would be to cut off a slice of apple and eat the apple with the dried fungus, so as to not be overly reviled by the awful taste. Being the culinarily curious soul I am, though, I just asked him to let me try one "plain". Which I did. I put a bit of stem in my mouth, and as I bit down, it crunched a little and broke apart into little pieces... And, though he still refuses to believe this, I thought it tasted quite good! So I got a little more stem. And a cap. Maybe a second cap and a final bit of stem. I was assured that this was a relatively light dose, for a newbie.

Then I waited.


"Should be kicking in now," Clash said, 45 minutes having gone by. Nothing.
Another 30 minutes. "Nothing yet? Well, sometimes it doesn't work your first time." Nothing.
"Here, take another bong hit." Rather not, Clash. "DO it!" Okay, whatever man.
Another 15 minutes. The weed is doing a little something, but I'm waiting for wallpaper to start peeling off the walls or something. Nothing, though. Nothing.


-- ----- - ---

... .... ... ............ .... .. ... . . . .

Oh my.

I could go about trying to recall and relate any of the particulars of the several hours that followed, but brilliantly, I had gotten the laptop out while it was happening and started recording some of my, for lack of a better word, "thoughts". I'll now share those with you now, completely unedited. No, not all of it makes sense. Sentences fragment right in the middle. Typos abound (but relatively few, if you consider the state I was in). But it tells the story better than I could right now.

First, I wrote this:

I am typing this while high on alcohol, pot, and Humboldt's finest mushrooms, which I'd never tried before. I have no idea how I am typing this, because currently even the concept of typing seems hilarious to me now, as does every other thing in the universe. Even the spiders crawling over this screen just this very minutes, with the letters flying off the screen the second I'm typing them, like a chasing predatory snake sucking at the words.

I cannot stop smiling.

It is as if every drug I've ever taken and never worked finally kicked in at once. Bad thoughts try to get into my head again, to find their old, familiar, comfortable home, and they're just bouncing off my skull.

Sorry guys, not this time.

I better go now, though, because the screen is melting away...

I told u I was hardcore

I'm impressed I was able to fire off a joke that clever right at the end there. Anyhow, then another hour or five hundred passed (hard to tell, you see), and I wrote this, while at the height of ecstacy, in my little world I affectionately dubbed "Mushroom Land":

"Mushroom Land"
(now I am typing this from mushroom land... i dont know how long i get to be here, but hi everyone. hahahahaha lol)

Another fifty years went by, Clash finally turned in, leaving me all alone in Mushroom Land, to fend for myself. It was late and quiet at that point, and I had no particularly pressing items I needed to get to, so I just let the keyboard go and go and go, and we got this:

(alone at the end)
quiet now in mushroom land... what a beautiful place... something tells me to remember this, remember how great it can be...

The other part says to forget.

For the same reason.

quiet now. this is probably going to be embarrassing tomorrow.

I better go out for a walk.

Don't worry, I didn't. Now it's about remembering.. Flashes of what was...
dancing with a pear (bosc)
Midnight adventure
Post office!
Victorian wonderland
Heavy envelope
Funny stuff
This thing writes itself like the song lineup for our band... Big Ropes, with their hit single, "You have no chance with the hostess."
Up the stairs, down the stairs... hiding at the top (stairs are tough!)
Dancing that little jig. That little mushroomland jig. Good times.

I will miss this place.

Now, I hear sleeping can be a problem.

But we got that log, so I figure it was all worthwhile.
Living dream.
That's all it is.

That stuff about the spiders before was bullshit.
That was when I thought it was happening, but before it really happened.

There's no way I'm going to be able to stop typing this stuff, that much is obvious.

Like sending that one last missive out into the darkness, before... wait, I had a really good end to that sentence a couple seconds ago. Like... Ah, fuck it.

Oh well.

At least...

At least Centipede makes sense, now.

Then I spent the next two hours writing emails and BBS posts, what I called "a trail of breadcrumbs" at the time, somehow thinking that if I left little signposts, little markers as to where I was and what I was thinking, that I could get back there by following the trail later. This, of course, in the harsh light of day, makes absolutely no sense, nor does most of the stuff you just read above (though there IS a story about the post office and a log which you really should hear, because it's quite hilarious -- at least, we thought so at the time.)

Anyway, then to a fitful, restless sleep until noon the following day.

Let me sum up my feelings about mushrooms, by recounting one little conversation I had with Clash at the time, which I do happen to remember quite lucidly. I just turned to him, and said quite matter of factly: "This is the best I have ever felt." And goddamn if it wasn't.

I like Ferndale.

Thursday, October 2, 2003

And we're off! Got up at the bright, early hour of 8:30 or so, said a quick goodbye to Michelle and John, and hopped in the car to begin the long journey to Ferndale. Things didn't start too well, though, when it took me over 20 minutes to figure out how to get on the 101 going north from Paso Robles, including a stop by the bank to ask for directions. Normally, the Old Ben would never have done that, but it's truly a new day! The fact that the directions I was given ended up being wrong doesn't make this little vignette any less significant, I'd like to point out, and it all ended well when I was finally able to find the freeway, merge into a light morning traffic and put the pedal to the metal, all while watching the bike in my rearview mirror to make sure it didn't fly off.

The trip up to Ferndale was happily uneventful, and included some absolutely breathtaking beauty, which I've provided a few pictures of below, which of course don't even begin to tell the tale, but hey, aren't you impressed that I could even take those pictures, while driving with the other hand, and while continuing to make sure that the bike was still on the bike rack?

Ended up rolling into Ferndale at around 5:30, quarter to 6:00, which would put the trip at about 8 hours from Paso, which is about what I was planning on, so that was the money. Also the money is Ferndale, CA! Wow! I didn't truly have a picture of what a "Victorian village" might actually look like, only recently having had it explained to me what "Victorian" means, but damn, once you hit downtown Ferndale, you know that you are definitely in a Victorian village! Or, in Ferndale's self-proclaimed case, "the best preserved Victorian village in California". Ornate, colorful trimming seems to cover every door frame, every storefront, every cute little building in the place! Looks like a whole row of dollhouses packed right next to each other. Neato!

I parked right there on main street, and found Clash's apartment, which is really excellent. A big downstairs living-room/kitchen area, with a couple of bedrooms and stuff upstairs, and it's just delightful. And you walk out the door, and, bam, right there in the middle of this quaint little town, nestled up against the forested hills of Humboldt County. If I hadn't fallen in love with the place already, once I greeted Clash and he suggested we hop up the street a block or two to go to Curley's, his primary Ferndale hangout, for a couple pops and a bite to eat, well, I was sold! Even the faint drizzle and low-lying fog level did nothing to spoil the scene, In fact, after three years of boring old sunshine down there in LA, it was a relief to experience a little actual "weather" again.

So, dinner at Curley's, then back to the pad for jamming and hangin' out and some other stuff which I don't remember (this is going to be a running theme up here, I can tell already), at which point we called it an evening, since, you know, he had to be up in the morning to go to his big ol' bigshot radio job, Mr. Showbusiness over here.

I think some other stuff also happened, but it's just not coming to me. Good times, though!

Wednesday, October 1, 2003

Smoke fills this room. The afterbirth of a thousand Camels has already infiltrated every seam of my nylon Dell laptop case. Faint wisps of central coast schwag resin draw themselves through the seams of the curtain, the ersatz wall which separates the two main rooms of this tiny Paso Robles apartment from which I'm typing this now.

And I've been on the road now for eight hours. This little vacation is shaping up nicely, I would say.

I awoke in Saeid's outhouse, washed awake by the fresh, crisp breeze of the Santa Monica mountains, harsh AM radio alarm clock replaced by the plaintive chirping of a thousand birds and the rustling of the leaves of a million trees. Yes, this will do.

I said my quick, sleepy-eyed goodbyes to Saeid, who then headed off to work. I took a leisurely shower, looking over the Topanga canyon below, while the aroma of herbal shampoo and the Pacific ocean swirled around me. Yes, this will do, too.

I went over to my grandparents, to spend a few final hours with those perennially loving, doting, and generous octaganerians, assuring them I'd be back soon, and approving or disapproving the various dried fruits, nuts, and random other food and food-related items Grandma was putting into my "road trip care package". There was sadness in the air, as they really are genuinely going to miss me. But there was sadness too from my end, since as the day moved on I realized that the feeling was mutual.

Grandma was otherwise occupied, though, by her continued attention to ushering Freda through the somewhat unpleasant task of dying, so I was unable to spend much time with her. I used the time otherwise to chat with Grandpa, and use my awesome, spectacular laptop to burn MP3s of all of the CDs I owned onto a grand total of five (5) CDs which I'd take with me. Unbelievable, this technology. Then I took some time to go drive to the other side of Leisure Village to get Grandma's other sister, Rose, so she could come over and help with the urgent task of watching Freda die.

Three o'clock rolls around, and I pack up the car. Everything fits. Barely. Out of eyeshot of the grands, my last move is to sneak the flask out of my suitcase in the back and store it safely up front within arm's reach.

Then I leave.

Then I go. Then I leave. Then I start the journey. Then I get the show on the road. Then, then, the day officially became the first day of the rest of my life.

The first hour of the drive up to Paso Robles was filled with anxiety. What if the bike falls off. What if the taxes I have yet to pay take too big a chunk out of my savings. What if I take a nip from the flask and the cops stop me. What if I've ruined my life.

What if I have a concussion.

I flip on one of my new MP3 CDs, and get into the groove. I hit a desolate, beautiful part of the 101, and after double- and triple-checking to make sure no one else could possibly see me, I took a few hits off the flask. It began to work its magic. The music began to sink in. The beauty of the open road began to fill every last one of my senses. The mountains and oceans whipped by in a poetic dance. The air was warm and fresh. The sun was bright.

So it took one hour, one hour after my departure, before all I could think was: Boy, is this going to suck when it's over. Oh, I don't ever want it to be over.

Rest of the evening: Arrived at Paso, met Michelle and John, her boyfriend, who quickly took great pains to show me his collection of written correspondence with serial killers in San Quentin, which he was very proud of. Good times. Then we headed to Lolo's, their local Mexican joint, where I pounded chips, salsa, and carnitas tacos like there was no tomorrow. Then we headed back, after a quick beer and gas stop at the gas station. Then we sat around drinking and smoking various things, until 11 rolled around and those two working stiffs had to call it an evening.

There it is. Day 1. You could do a lot worse.

Rabbit, rabbit.

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