Monday, September 29, 2003

Land-Ho! Part 5

(An excerpt from my serial story about buying land on which to build my little house and garden)

After swashbuckling one must always drink something soothing, like sassafras tea or hard liquor. Jane and I, still clad in our hiking boots and wool sweaters stuck through with twigs and leaves, made our way to The Muse. Thursday night at The Muse Pub in Port Willamette was the best night I’ve had at any bar, ever. It was that night that made me feel all-the-way right about moving to the Olympic Peninsula.

There are four open-mic nights a week in Port Willamette, all at different venues. Far be it from me to attend the open mic nights in the town I live in now. Every melodramatic straight white college boy in town has to get up there and share his underdeveloped artistry with a room full of overly appreciative stoned hippy-girls. I am so nauseated by the layers of cliché in the work and in the room that I can scarcely stand to be a part of it, let alone share my writing. When I heard there were that many open mic nights a week in a town populated by only 7,000 or so persons, I envisioned a tiny town loaded with overly self-involved mediocre artists, writers, and musicians.

I was annoyed, but I also was not expecting to really relate to what ever community I live in. At this point my alienation is one of my prized possessions and I have little urge for “Community” with a capital C. (A word too often said with a snotty sense of virtuousness possessable only by the college-educated.) My intent has been to move somewhere more desirable in which to live out the rest of my alienated years in sweet freedom. Somewhere a little closer to a major metropolitan area than my current isolated province. Somewhere where I can go watch beautiful gay men walk up and down the streets. Somewhere where I can go to literary events now and then, as well as decent music and where I can get a steady supply of Asian ingredients for my kitchen. Somewhere close yet far away. I just want what everyone wants. I maintain there’s nothing radical about my lifestyle.

The Muse is an upstairs bar, with French doors that open onto a balcony overlooking the oft-moonlit Puget Sound. Despite the fact that the walls were beautifully painted, the lighting was subtle and warm, and the clam chowder was excellent, this was not a yuppie establishment. There were no identifiable tourists in the room and the locals are not known for their upward mobility. The crowd was not only exceptionally good looking on the whole, with a healthy and open look in their faces, but they had the grit and glory about them of the working class. When people must endure the blows of capitalism unshielded by privilege they often take on a certain lovely, heart-breaking bitterness, to which I relate, and by which I am very much moved, especially when drinking whisky.

A blue grass band was playing. The lead was a tall, thin, clean shaven man with glasses and a black cowboy hat. Even though it was Thursday night at 11, the room was packed and people were tossing down drinks like they didn’t have to work in the morning. Since Port Willamette is not a college town, there was a refreshing absence of a college scene. The crowd was populated by people my age and older, not the other way around. How I love crows-feet and flecks of grey hair. How I love smile-lines and the dark shine in the eyes of mothers. The music seemed familiar yet foreign, and it came down through me while I looked at the living painting of the world before me. I then realized that the band was playing a bluegrass version of the Violent Femme’s “Add It Up.” My joy was for once complete and unreserved.

A curvaceous grey haired lady in a hippy-floral patterned dress made her way over to the blue grass man’s table after he played. Next act was a smoky-voiced jazz singer, easily in her seventies, wearing a very sexy dress. She sang a few haunting and flirtatious standards while I watched the grey-haired woman Jane and I named “Our Favorite Woman” entwine her arms around the body of the blue-grass man, despite the obvious difference in their ages. I blushed and took a cigarette outside, where I immediately blushed again to see two beautiful young gay men in a tight embrace against the balcony railing. Their slow kissing was punctuated by long, loving looks into each other’s eyes. I tried to be causal and lit my cigarette, wondering how I could maneuver myself in such a way as to watch them without making them uncomfortable. Could this really be a small, rural town? Ecstasy! The boys were on it, and I was in it.

The night was a victory for art, in our art-hating, art-commodifying world. As talent after talent took the stage, I felt I must be somewhere else in the world, maybe Central America or Europe, where I have never been but where I imagine local culture has not been so decimated by mass culture. The word community could almost be used to describe that night at the Muse without making me ill. I would rather avoid that all together, though, and simply say that here was a little untelevised, home-made beauty for the weary, tucked away in a small seam of the world, as private as a kiss.

by Pirate-tron

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