Ashland, Oregon. My heart beats here. I love this town, this cute hip village. But I sometimes want to slap the people who live here, mostly those who work in the shops downtown, across their politically correct faces. Working so hard at hipness is serious business. The young girl in the coffee shop wouldn't be caught dead smiling or laughing. It would clash with her tattoos. Not a lot of room for humor here, especially in the used book stores. Maybe it has to do with dealing with all the tourists. The first used bookstore I walk into has a sign in the window saying they buy CD's and books on tape. There's also a sign on the door that says 'No Food or Drinks". I have some coffee. I ask the man behind the desk if I can set the coffee on the counter. That's cool with him. Then I ask him where the books on tape and books on CD are. "Over there." He says this without so much as even a gesture. There is a lot of ambiguity in a place called 'there.' AAA doesn't have a map for "over there" so I inquire:
"Excuse me, but where might 'there' be?" "Up there." "Where is 'up there?'" He finally points. No sale.
Across the street I enter a place called "Books Books Books," another used bookstore. No signs prohibiting food or drink. I enter. A large sassy woman with a scowl prowls the store. When I conclude she works there, I ask her if she has any books on tape. "This is a BOOKSTORE!"
"And you have a prejudice against books on tape?" I say smiling.
"No, this is a BOOKSTORE!" The sound of the word 'BOOKSTORE" coming from her angry mouth makes the paint on the walls start to peel and crack.
I browse, stepping on the paints chips that have fallen on the floor. The noise doesn't seem to bother her. Maybe she doesn't hear it. She's probably used to it. I see a few books I'm very close to buying. I finish my coffee, and instead of just laying the empty cup down on the floor or on a shelf for her to deal with later, I take the high road & ask if she has a wastebasket back there to put the paper cup in.
"We don't provide GARBAGE SERVICE!."
Stunned, I stare in silence for a few seconds. Did she really say that? It feels like getting your face slapped. Rudeness always seems to leave me speechless. I just stare at her.
"There are WASTEBASKETS all over the SIDEWALKS out on the STREET you can use," she scrapes.
"You know…" I pause, staring at the paint chips falling on her head.
"WHAT?" she hisses.
"You used bookstore people have the worst FUCKING attitudes I've ever seen." Then I walk out still angry, feeling like I should have said more, feeling like I didn't insult her enough to balance out her rudeness.
The third used bookstore (yes, a persistent one aren't I?) is a pleasant experience. I thank the lady who owns it for being so nice and proceed to tell her the story about the wastebasket paint-peeling lady. She loves it. We have a good laugh and a great time. She tells me all about her, how she eats buckets of nails for breakfast and that she hates ALL men and other people in general, and that, in contrast, the owner is the nicest man. She keeps advising him to fire her, but he won't. This nasty woman, it turns out, is famous locally for her boorishness. I buy 8 books on etiquette and manners, a dollar each, and leave, thanking her for her insight and humanity. Walking back into "Books Books Books" I toss the 8 books I just bought on the counter and say "Excuse me, ma'am, do you have a wastebasket back there?"
Climbing back in the car, I wonder how the show will go in Roseburg tonight.
Working in a small mountain town Friday with the "comic" who booked the gig, a class reunion, and his family, I hear all about their Christianity and morality and how another booker cheated them by taking away their comedy room in Carson City, and how he is so happy now that the woman who usually books this room is finally booking him. Well, the place we're performing is one of her winter rooms on a once-a-month basis. The reason we're there is for a private party independent of the venue, the class of '72. But there he is displaying his typical American Christian values after the show trying to steal her room. If he gets it from her, she WILL find out and he'll be history as far as ever working for her again. WHAT THE FUCK IS HE THINKING?
Then I run into the woman in the restaurant who isn't sure if she likes Kerouac because Dylan's cuter.
I like my world better. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"But Dylan's Cuter"
Yosemite foothills. Having breakfast at the Meadow Ranch Café, the host looks at the book I'm reading and says "Oooh, Kerouac! Never heard of this one." It was 'Visions of Cody." I tell her it's one of his best, very experimental.
I'm impressed. She of all people here in this hotbed of rednecks and twangy guitars recognizes and knows about Kerouac? Is actually interested in him? Can converse about him? I am in the middle of a fairly big wow at this point.
After eating, paying my tab at the register, I ask her if she's heard of Bukowski. No, she hasn't. I tell her if she likes Kerouac, she'd probably like him.
"I'm not so sure if I actually like Kerouac," she says in a concerned yet literate tone.
"Oh, really?" I react, a bit taken aback.
"A boyfriend gave me one of his books and I'm not sure if I like him yet."
"I don't know. It a collection of parts of different books."
"Probably "The Portable Kerouac Reader" by Ann Charters," I tell her.
"I don't know. It's the one with him holding a cat on the front cover."
"Yeah, that's it."
"Well, " I tell her, "you have to know something about the era to appreciate what Kerouac did, he opened it all up for the rest of us."
"You mean the beat poet thing & all that?"
"I'll tell you who I really like…Bob Dylan! I love him"
"Yeah?" I inform her, "he was trying to be one of the beats." Then losing all credibility, she took out her brain, wadded it up, tossed it in the waste can & said, "Yeah, well he's cuter."
Huh? Did you just say what I think you just said? In the first place, NO, HE'S NOT! And WHAT THE HELL DOES THAT HAVE TO DO WITH IT? Or with ANYTHING?
All roads lead to Kerouac. All hipness beatness coolness flows from him to us, from his ink we now think. But Dylan's cuter? It's not about being "cute." I think even Dylan would cringe at your remark (after he took you to bed a few times…after all, I doubt if he's heard himself being regarded as "cute" many times by women). Dylan would cringe at cute. Dylan tried to get some of his writing published through City Lights Books but Ferlinghetti turned him down. Dylan did everything he could to get photographed with and be associated with Ginsberg and the boys. Dylan accomplished a lot. But he's no Kerouac. He stands on Jack's shoulders. Dylan took the spirit of the beats and made it more palatable to a wider audience through chords, rhyme, and an unconventional voice.
I guess that explains it, Kerouac didn't rhyme. It makes me wanna go home & break all my Dylan records.
Jesus died for our sins, but Judas was cuter, Satan was cuter. Beta was a better video format, but VHS was cuter. All thoughts of the struggles of the women's movement seemed in vain with that remark. How far have you come if one of your sisters, posing as hip cool & liberated comes up with that as her trump card to top someone in a conversation? Uses that to illustrate her point and conclude her thesis?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 10-9-97 Richland, WA
A Morning Page: The morning begins as unusual here in the wheat of fields. I heal in the aftermirth, there is no other day that will ever be like this series of nows that create this world that deceives yet delights me. I am here under the cool mist of gray sky morning of south central Washington. The teal iron gate outside my window disconnects the world in tall rectangular segments, but I am not displeased waiting for my coffee to brew in the cool room as I bow my head to the worth of these words that define me. I am here yes under the breaking sky, motel maid just outside the door unable to see me in my underwear glory, her problem I suppose it's all in how you don't look at it, but there are more pages in the book of imminence as the index swells and I in my room alone am grateful for the solitude I do receive. Three towns connected by fate and mutual hate like the hand hates the arm and the arm blames the fingers here in the valley of river bend and contaminated soil. A 14 hour drive north to keep them laughing, I am a part of the scheme, yes they say, he knows life is hard yet he laughs about it, we are not alone, all is well or at least not unwell for a few hours or a day or two. Laugh they will and they do but I am here in the drama, stuck like an ant in the jelly jar of human sadness and relative joy, many hours and miles away from my wife my kids yet in my heart I hold sweet Bojangles wherever I roam, think of him often through the tears of loss and drive on to the next town to ease a little pain. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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