Tunnels, Tubes and other Dark Spots [Guest Post]

The following tale is my father's take on his most recent visit to Portland, briefly described in a previous post of mine, Seven Days of Portland Life.


An odd mixture of religious zealot, scientist and pervert with more than a dash of anarchism thrown in I do not readily fit in anywhere, but I belong in Portland! Spending a week there I was impressed by the social if not racial diversity that abounds in Portland. There is so much life to enjoy on every corner at every hour of the day and especially at night. Olde chronicled some of our exploits in his recent blog but I think a few particular experiences deserve more elaboration. While we exposed ourselves to the snobbish boutiques and cafes of Hollywood/Broadway and NW 21st streets, I much preferred the more lascivious and dark side of the city.

For instance, we attended The Portland Mercury’s annual “talent” event called “Pizzazz!” It was a sordid mixture of the talented and the talent challenged. You haven’t lived till you have seen a unicorn rip its heart out of its chest and squeeze blood all over the stage and the audience, nor till you have seen a middle-aged fat guy sing badly while wearing nothing but a sock over his dong. Put it away sweet cheeks. On the more talented side there were some dancers and tumblers. What impressed me the most though was that the Portlanders in the audience genuinely enjoyed the show! It was cheesy; it was trashy, and certainly campy but it was great fun. There was no jeering though it would have been well deserved a few times.

The night before Halloween we decided to go on the Portland Underground ghosting tour... We met downtown at the Skidmore Fountain at ten pm. Our well meaning and educated host who did look an awful lot like the porn star Jeremy what’s his name did his best to conjure up ghostly images for us while parading us around for an hour or so on the freezing streets of the Portland above ground. Strangely, I was comforted in my misery and old age by a lovely twenty something woman who appeared without explanation, became attached to my arm and in the ethereal mist accompanied me down the steps into the darkness of the underground, to do the unspeakable in my mind, only to disappear abruptly later on in the tour leaving me standing fully clothed and again in my right mind (though into the night I continued to hear the voice of the siren beckoning me to imbibe with her). We explored the maze of corridors interconnecting the basements of many of the buildings; saw the remnants of an opium den, and the cells used to break the will of women to force them into prostitution. We heard the tales of the poor dumb drunk bastards who were drugged, clubbed or otherwise shanghaied by the white slavers. Hmmm, being sold into slavery and loaded onto ships to do forced labor to earn profit for the rich white guys sounded oddly familiar. Oh that’s right Halliburton, yeah the U.S Army… boy things haven’t changed at all.

We decided to go see Jeff, my newly adopted son! We drove to Amboy, Washington about an hour and a half northeast of Portland on the slopes of Mt. St. Helens. After picking up Jeff we drove on to the Ape Cave. Actually there are neither apes nor any cave. What we found was North America’s longest lava tube. A Lava tube is formed by the extrusion of molten lava through itself as it cools on the outside while flowing down an incline. Picture an old fashioned car radio antenna that telescopes out upon itself. Climbing down the stairs from the surface we proceeded to the left down a large open tube approximately 20 feet in diameter and surprisingly flat on the bottom. A very easy walk approximately one half mile downhill to the end then a return trip to the stairway. But now we had a choice. Either go up and out into the warm sunlight or continue to explore the more challenging upper two miles of lava tube. You know that Jeff, Oldie, Kesia and Don Dada chose darkness over light. We proceeded on into the much less-traveled upper tube. No longer was the floor open and passable but rather strewn with huge boulders that had collapsed from the unstable tube roof over our heads. Hand over hand climbing and jumping from one boulder to the next we climbed up into the heart of the mountain itself. At one point scaling an ancient waterfall within the tube we were exposed to the gaseous vapors emanating from the very depths of Mordor itself [That would be my Dad’s anus leakage –Ed.]. As a party we began to despair, considering even the embrace of a perilous escape upward through a vent hole, with the certainty of falling to our deaths if we tried such a foolish venture. We encountered strange beings moving in our direction from the other end of the tube, from our destination. They were unable to speak with any meaning or intelligence and their words were a mere whine in our ears. We suspected their minds had been taken captive by the ever present and croaking rock picas. Having no guidance, no hope, no 40 oz beers, we pressed on agreeing to end our lives together if we didn’t reach the golden ladder in 30 more time units, this latter destiny being avoided when on the 28th unit of time we beheld the spectacle of light, and proceeded up the ladder and into the fresh air, the grip of the rock picas on our minds lessening with every rung. We found ourselves fully clothed and in our right minds, over a 1000 feet higher in elevation than where we had started.

Olde trying hard to find new amusements for his demented father, and being too hung over to consider doing anything else that involved alcohol for at least 8 hours suggested a trip to (Scrabble)Bagby Hot Springs about 65 miles southeast of Portland. Amazingly easy to locate given its relative remoteness, I promised the caretaker of this treasure that we would never tell our friends of its beauty and serenity; that we would never describe the unique single hot spring cone that feeds the 136 degree crystal clear odorless water into hand-hewn troughs that distribute the water between five private tubs (for the modest) and into the original four hand-hewn log tubs out in the open air for the naturists among us. The natives reportedly would travel over 100 miles to enjoy this holy, healing spring. We were fortunate to visit here on a quiet, cool, misty morning. It was a delight to lay out in the log tubs watching the billowing steam waft around us, letting our minds recall the simplicity and integrity of nature, the benefits of focusing on friendships, family and forbearance, the hope of a future based on cooperation rather than exploitation…..Then as if we were in Gorillas in the Mist a hoard of tourists descended on the hot springs, suddenly, noisily, devoid of introspection or reverence. Soon we found ourselves fully clothed and in our right minds hiking on the trail back to the parking lot, expressing our gratitude for the experience by relieving the forest of discarded beer cans [Pabst Blue Ribbon. Thanks, hipsters, I bet you found it ironic to enjoy nature, and then trash it. –Ed.], burned underwear and other signs of the blight called mankind.

On one of my evenings with my boys, after biking around downtown and drinking in Kells’ basement, after over-indulging (make that gorging) on nearly every appetizer on the happy hour menu at the lounge [Portland City Grill –Ed.] on the 30th floor of Big Pink, and after generally having a great time, my soul was still not satisfied. Leaving Olde and Kesia at their apartment, I set out on foot at 1:45 am. I believe you can only see the soul of a city at night, only by experiencing its reality after 2 am: when the only bar open in the neighborhood was Holman’s (a friendly, dark spot); when you can no longer get back from downtown on the Max; when the loudest noises heard are not gang bangers but rather the occasional crash of a dumpster being emptied into a garbage truck. Though I am completely at ease, I must appear to be a threat as the lone pedestrian crosses the street before passing me on the opposite side. Looping up along Sandy Blvd., I discover additional signs of life: Men (only men) coming and going from Steam Portland [Probably had something to do with it being a gay bathhouse. –Ed.]; Men and women entering, but not leaving the Fantasy for Adults Store. No visible police presence. No violence, just people seeking meaning during a too short lifespan. I continue on up Sandy, and then cross back over the highway and head west into the Hollywood district, no longer snobbish, the decent folks having retired hours earlier, the boutiques dark save an occasional window display. I stop for a moment to visit with a man who rides his bicycle by me, rather intoxicated but quite lucid and amicable. On his way to work… I thank god I am not. I pass the Travel CafĂ© [Costello’s –Ed.], wishing they were open for a traveler now, but to no end. I console myself by pilfering a hot off the press, still in the bundle copy of the Mercury. At the next shop over, an interior decorator, I am suddenly brought back to reality by the fourth chime of a grandfather’s clock. Finding myself again fully clothed and in my right mind I wander the few blocks back to Olde’s place. I am tired, at peace and impressed by the serenity of Portland at night.

-Don Dada


luckygreen said...

Ah, the moment of truth...the blog we've been waiting for. Well done.

I like the word play with (scrabble)Bagby...

Is there another visit on the horizon?

Pork said...

If Jeff is Don Dada's adopted Son, does that make him my adopted something? Great commentary Don, can't wait for your next guest post.

Sluggy said...

Good Lord, Oldie! Your dad is something of an enigma...hard core, if you will. I feel light-headed and exhausted just reading his freakin' blog. I'm gonna go sleep off this second-hand lascivious hangover now!