I’m on the train from Portland to Seattle, bumping along through the farmland and the industrial backyards of the wetlands and river valleys of the soggy northwest coast. We past my old stomping grounds in Centralia where I did the research for Death And The Language Of Happiness, and I strained to see the bridge that replaced the one where they hung John Wesley Everest the unlucky member of the I.W.W. who got caught up in the riot of 1919. Last time Jan and I were there we cleaned his grave. Railroad rides always feel like glimpses backstage to me.
The reading at Powell’s bookstore last night went well. There was a nice crowd of about twenty five people who seemed to enjoy themselves. I read from the mystery and we had a good discussion then I closed with an essay that included a good quote from William Stafford who was both the poet Laureate of the United States and the PL of Oregon, he lived only a few miles from the store where we were. If anyone could be called a “favorite son” it would be Stafford. We had a fine time and I left feeling bolstered. Then went to dinner with some good friends and ate at a joint called The Woodsman, and ate the best pork chop that has ever touched my lips. I ate with Chris Bernard who used to be a reporter in Sitka and is the author of “Chasing Alaska” his friend who is also a writer and my old friends Jody and Willa who have recently moved to Portland. Willa loves everything about Portland, and Jody is adjusting after twenty fifty some years in the south and the east coast. Jody is solidly blue collar but an autodidact and incredibly well read. He doesn’t take to trends or fads. He also is not one for political group think. We had a fine time talking about Portland, about the artist in residence at the dump where he goes, and when he worked at the hardware store in Portland about helping a customer who wanted food for his pet ant. In the singular. One pet ant.
I enjoy Portland. I like the various neighborhoods, and the music scene seems lively and diverse. I like the people with all their community problem-solving energy. New Yorkers have always loved to make fun of life on the west coast, all the way back to Fred Allen, through Woody Allen and his Las Angeles phobia. Now Portlandia likes to make its stereotypes, which is fine. I like it weird though. If not there… in Portland, where then? And besides, where else could I get a brined and wood smoked slow cooked pork chop with perfectly cooked pork and beans with a delectable cornbread biscuit, served without an ounce of irony? Perfect, I’m telling you.
Tonight, I will be in Seattle with my family and tomorrow night will do a reading at Third Place Books in Ravenna. Then I’m off to Moscow Idaho… I will take my time to drive through that beautiful wheat country. Maybe I’ll stop and get a bottle of wine in Walla Walla and pull off somewhere in the Palouse and write another short note.
Along a slow stream
a muddy pony stands still
as the train blasts by.