Clinton St. Quarterly, Vol. 3 No. 2 Summer 1981

with me. He is also “coming down” off an acid trip last Friday, drinking a lot of beer to wash the demons away. He is excited as only he can be! Marty’s longest-standing fantasy has been that the both of us should enter graduate school and get high- paid teaching assistantships for being poets! “Can you dig it?” Marty looked me knowingly in the eyes and laughed wildly. “HA, HA, HA!” To hear Marty cackle full-throatedly is to comprehend that a both ironic and insane vision of the universe are compatible. Golden West College is a typical Southern California college. When Norman and Ada give passionate speeches there on Earth Day—about the dangers of nuclear energy and the consequences of continuing the arms race—25 or 30 persons listen attentively. The 15,000 or so others sun themselves or study unconcernedly, even though they are almost sitting on a stockpile of nuclear arms. Next door, Seal Beach Naval Station is the largest facility for nuclear weapons on the West Coast. What the two speakers would discover in their mini-tour of campuses is that very little political activity exists among students today! Norman and Ada resolve that in the future they will work only with organized movement people, such as the Center for Investigative Reporting in Berkeley. This group put together the informative article, “Where the Bombs Are,” in a recent issue of New West magazine. Our own Tom Bates, late of Oregon Magazine, was the editor. Applauding their righteousness, we warmly said goodbye to Norman and Ada, for a week. David and I drove to Echo Park. My most vivid recollection on the endless freeway was a pink and black billboard which proclaimed fancily, THE LAST MILE IS THE LONGEST. In small letters, “With diarrhea!” A Pepto-Bismol ad. Echo Park DOWNTOWN L.A. is another country, and Echo Park is only a few miles from downtown. I love this Mexican neighborhood with the Pioneer Market, open 24 hours. Its fresh corn tortillas. Genuine taco stands. Brown kids, and yellow and black, play on the schoolgrounds. Rows of palm trees lace the hillside above white-washed stucco houses. There is a Cuban grocery selling sweet bread and ethnic food. The Suki Suki Club. Chicano murals of hotrods and class struggle. Families live here, going for upward mobility. We stay with Steve and Cathy of the Jarry Puppet Theater, and their 8- month-old baby Rene. They left Portland five years ago to live here. Steve, half-Mexican, has continued to working with puppets and school kids. Sometimes in bilingual programs. Their hospitality to Davdi and myself, Marty and Lorna, was simply marvelous. Steve’s big thing is to take friends to Dodger games. Too bad Valenzuela wasn’t pitching! Still, there ain’t nothin’ like the big leagues. 1 had expected to be bored, but we got drunk on $1.25 cups of Oly. The fans were riotous, and a huge TV screen showed pratfalls and replays. To organ oratorios, it flashed CHARGE signals. One teenager rooted himself hoarse, slapping his cap against his thigh. The view was dizzying straightdown from the heights of Chavez Ravine to the neat green field. It was a close game with San Diego. Tied one to one into the 11th inning, Davy Lopes hit a triple. Pepped up by the victory the fans cheerfully streamed out of the stadium. All 45,000 of them! In the crush, beer-and- baseball-intoxicated David leaped over a fence and tumbled down a slope, scraping his hand. He got lost in traffic. Marty, lagging behind, turned down the wrong street and walked to Chinatown, miles away. Beyond Broke MARTY AND I were scheduled to perform on Sunday night, at the Beyond Baroque Foundation. In the afternoon, a potluck dinner was held in our honor at Brooke Juniper’s house. Bill Bowling, Tom Bates and his wife, Kathy Kanzler, and Jim Kiehle of the old One Dollar magazine were there. Jim is the art director for Oui magazine. Tom Bates, who lives in Pacific Palisades and is a senior editor at New West, talked with me about our marijuana-and-grape- growing movie PAYDIRT. The tall blonde man from Oakridge looked more like a movie-star type than he did in Oregon. Cork Hubbert called to say he would try to be limousined to the reading. His career has soared since PROPERTY. He’s had parts in the Hunter Thompson movie, CAVEMAN with Ringo Starr, and recently had a lead role in the munchkin flick, UNDER THE RAINBOW. I almost forgot, Ted and Carol showed up. They had the 24th St. Gallery in Northwest, and now own Oranges/Sardines on Omar Avenue! I must admit the reading in Venice was “strange.” The palm trees, the stucco ex-City Hall now occupied by B B Foundation. It was Sunday, but—ONLY THREE CALIFORNIANS WERE IN THE AUDIENCE! The 20 or so others were Oregonians. It was a high school reunion, an Elks gathering, one thousand miles from home. What do you call one who leaves his state or region willfully? I coin the word “exstatriate.” There sure are a lot of exstatriates from Oregon in California. WILL I BECOME ONE OF THEM? GOD FORBID! Bury me not at Forest Lawn. The Great Read-Off CURTIS VS. Christensen. Did he win? Did I lose? Poetry shouldn’t be a competitive activity, but it is. I opened the first 15 minutes with nature stuff, the blackberry poem and the one about my red rambler named “Ambler.” Marty followed. We took a break. Then I jacked up the audience with “KY Jelly & Mt. Hood,” followed by “Paranoia”—the poem about the genitals of God and storm-trooper boots kicking my teeth in for writing it. I finished the set, dedicating my last poem to the greatest state in the 50, with “The Beaver-like Creature.” It’s about the furry animal who sexually exhausts the trappers and loggers to the point of death. Clapping nervously, the Oregonians were both shocked and enthused. A dizzy strawberry blonde Reaganite woman from Roseburg—Is Southern Oregon truly part of Oregon?—kept extolling the virtues of her childhood, as I read. She blurted and bleeped. Everyone kept telling her to shut up so the poets could be heard. Can you blame me for being off my mettle? Marty admitted I threw him off his timing, with my fervid bad taste and ranting voice. He recovered fairly well, despite the wine he’d drunk at the potluck, to give a cerebral, sensitive, though at times mumbled reading. He kept fiddling with the microphone, an actor’s prop, switching it on and off, so the listeners got involved in his mechanical shortcomings. He terminated with “Frisking The Cobwebs” to a near standing ovation. Frisking The Cobwebs poets wither endlessly away like pearl-blooming oysters harrowing the flux to make a little something glitter out past dreaminess not even their best friends know quite what to say to them I don’t know who won, really. The house was rooting for the both of us. The really practical and utterly generous thing was that someone—probably Bill Bowling—passed the hat and gave Lorna a hundred dollars, warning her not to tell Marty or me about it until the next day! Good Friends Don't Imbibe COORS GOOD FRIENDS are forever so. Bill had not only shown us L.A. night life, bought us Chinese dinners, here he was paying for our trip. What a guy! He jogged and ingested health food. His entire persona was marvelously vital. He had a good job, as a set locater in the film industry. He urged me to move to L.A. Give up the rain. And the middle-aged blues! Only once did he get upset, when I ordered a Coors beer, which I enjoy drinking when I cross the border. (I guess because the state trooper for Henry Weinhard’s won’t let it in. Is there something Freudian in the fact he’s changed his name from “Dick Curtis” to “Trooper Dick?” In these right-wing times, it’s good to know your dick’s a little trooper, when you’re sloshing down the suds!) Bill went on a tirade: “WHAT? YOU’RE DRINKING COORS BEER! They filter it with asbestos! For 5 months I’ve been receiving mail to boycott Coors. They discriminate a gainst their employees! The Teamsters have been trying to shut them down. Overnight 140 gay bars in downtown L.A. decided to boycott, and the next morning—did it!” The Poet’s Dilemma MARTY’S prediction that “We’ll make out like bandits!” had come true. Unfortunately—after thanking Steve and Cathy for putting up with us, saying goodbye, and getting onto the freeway—Marty continued to babble about the success of the reading. All the way back to Santa Cruz! I had a more serious discussion to bring up with him. “Are you an Oregonian? or are you a frigging Californian?” I asked point-blank. “Marty, it’s like Ken Kesey used to say, ‘Either you’re on the bus, or you’re off the bus.’ You gotta decide. I can’t do it for you. When are you cornin’ back to Portland? Home!” “Eventually. I know I can only stay in California for 2 or 3 years. We haven’t made any friends here. Californians are so casual nothing registers. I want Lorna to finish school, so she can get a job in computer programming and make $25,000 a year,” he replied coolly. At the hotel in Santa Cruz, Marty suddenly castigated me, “WALT, YOU’VE BEEN HYSTERICAL ON THIS WHOLE TRIP! EVER SINCE WE LEFT L.A. Calm down and have a few beers.” He looked at me owlishly, intent behind his glasses and baby-smooth face. “Walt, you know you’re on a trip. Just because I read better than you did in L.A. doesn’t mean you should freak out. Ever since the reading you’ve been acting weird,” Marty continued to hammer home his version of the truth. What is California? IS THERE such a thing as a “Californian”? I won’t bore you with many more details of our journey. We met Norman and Ada—all done with public speaking—in Sacramento and headed home via Reno. We were glad to be going back to Oregon. Overwhelmed by the vivid impressions of the last two weeks, each of us, in his or her own mind, asked the question, “What is California?” It’s a state of mind. It’s a place to escape from. It’s a geographical location, but what else? As we left Reno, the local media mentioned the 4th underground bomb-test of the year had gone off uneventfully. Little do they realize that each underground nuclear explosion, as in a domino effect, chips away at the fault lines of the San Andreas, the big one. Our own Department of Defense—bomb by bomb—is trying to bring about the destruction of the great state of California. Can the entire U.S. of A. be far behind? It’s like the poet laureate of peace, Kenneth Patchen, said in his Poems of Humor & Protest: “I DON’T WANT TO STARTLE YOU BUT THEY’RE GOING TO KILL US.” I believe when the Apocalypse comes, Californians won’t even blink an eye. They’re used to “it.” What’s it? Twentieth century mindwarp! It’s just another freeway exchange, another sniff of cocaine. It’s switch ing the TV to another channel. When the bombs start falling and the missiles start flying, a true Californian will start whistling the theme song of DR. STRANGELOVE. I felt upon crossing the Cascades, at the headwaters of the Willamette, a sense of being in God’s country. Even when it’s “home-grown,” there’s no green like Oregon green! Bill and Cork and Tom, you guys are closer to sun and success in the movie capital of the world. Yes. But for six months of the year, doesn’t the sun—through the puked-up yellow gray smog above rush hour—resemble, not a Sunkist orange, but the Union 76 imitation plastic globe? Is your earthquake insurance paid up? Real life isn’t a movie in a warm and comfortable landscape. I recall, many years ago, when Kesey confided to Marty and me that “Oregon is the citadel of the spirit.” Is it true? We are cruising in the same fast lane they are. If the Naito- spawned condos between the Broadway and Steel bridges aren’t a prime example of Californication, what is? When Tom McCall called the kraft mill in Albany “the armpit of Oregon,” he left out other smelly parts of the state’s anatomy. It doesn’t matter where we live. Scientists calculate it would take as few as thirty nuclear bombs in the stratosphere to wipe out the ozone layer. Despite my aforementioned xenophobic musings, if the blankety blank rain continues through the summer, I’m emigrating to L.A. The cacti and palm trees excite me. I’m sick of moronic moisture! The roses are redly erotic and libidinously stimulating, but so what? Maybe Marty knows what he’s doing living in Santa Cruz. He’s escaping “the rust.” I’m allergic to rain. Or is it beer? My bones itch. When Trooper Dick stopped Norman and Ada, David and me at the border, he questioned us, “WELL NO W— Whereyoufolks goin ’with all that blarney?" “Sir, we heard there was a shortage in Oregon. ” “Son, just turn that semi full of bottled B.S. around and send it southward where it came from. Oregon’s got more ‘n 'enuffor everybody. Y’hear?” Then the trooper contemplatively continued, “We belong to thefamily o fliving beings on this planet. A redwood, a child, a bird, the yeast thatferments the beer. Don't you Californicatorsforget it!" He gave me an authoritative stare. “If one batch of critters goes extinct, all the others are threatened. ” “Dick," I gently reminded him, “we’re on vacation. I’ve lived in Oregon fo r 25 years. I ’ve got the green mold on my underwear to prove it!" Afterforcing us to pour out 100'so f gallons o f false hope, Trooper Dick allowed us to drive toward Klamath Falls and the gore-colored pumice highway beyond. With itspelicans and piled high clouds, Upper Klamath Lake lookedprettier than Lake Tahoe. Don't tell the tourists. Can that shimmering lake country be the home of Puff the Magic Dragon? Clinton St. Quarterly 47