I went to a karate class in Salem a few months ago. Much sweating was done, and the ache and tiredness of the muscles was staying with me as I drove back to Corvallis. The fog was rising up on the fields, and a I felt a thick and heavy spirit coming through the air. Something in the air was tugging at me, telling me to not go directly home, but to make a stop off in Albany, a more working class town near the freeway.
Albany is a place much different than Corvallis. There is no university, and so there is no stream of young students. There are manufacturing jobs and mill jobs, and there is very little interest in higher education. It is a place that is not international, and not concerned about being more than what it is.
I cut left on Independence highway and over the rolling fields to the town. My brain was scattered. The bar that I knew of was closed, the bar where I had come to see bluegrass music and young people drinking quality beer. A dude on the street pointed me down the blocks to another bar, the "Linger Longer", that was, supposedly, open later, but it was closed too. The 7-11 was open, and I bought a bottle of wine and parked the car, and started drinking, watching the activity around me, knowing that I was being watched. House lights, the motion-sensitive kind, would flick on and off here and there, even though I could not detect any movement. People were coming in and out of a large house in my field of vision, climbing up and down the stairs.
I was beginning to feel drunk when I noticed a strange thin man walking up the street toward me. I got out of the car, thinking that he was someone to talk to and said, "who are you?"
He said, "I do laundry" and that seemed interesting to me. I found out his name was Tracy and he worked at a cleaners, and he had many children. Something fascinated me about working at making white things whiter. There seemed to be something fundamental, and perhaps heavy about that activity. I offered to buy him a coffee and we wandered over to the convenience store, and for lack of anything more to do, we drove over and met his sister. I remember her standing there, heavy, large, radiating an intense vibration. She said nothing, and we went to another house. This new house was filled with stacks of all sorts of thing, and a man named "River John" appeared to live there. A small kitten played on a pile of intricately patterned clothes. It was dark. They were smoking weed, and the atmosphere seemed otherworldly and surreal. I might have gotten a hit, but it was hard to say. It didn't appear to further damage my mental state.
Tracy appeared to want to take off. I let him drive. We drove in circles, it seemed, here and there, and it was cold out, and very late at night. We stopped somewhere, near a house where he knew people. He got out to see if they were up, came back, and we both got out and walked down a pathway, through a door, and into a trashed room with a torn up couch, the windows covered with plywood, on which was sitting a girl in her thirties, pregnant, and not all that remarkable. Her name was Sheila, and as we talked she created an impression that there was some kind of determination there beyond what I could expect. I told her that I thought she really was a remarkable person, and she thanked me. She was complaining because she could not pay the bill on her ultrasound and the collectors were going to start coming after her....
I think I was there the whole night, sitting on the couch, staring at the walls, watching people of mysterious origins and intentions come in and out, through the main room to the other rooms. I may have drifted off at some point. Her "sister", Lisa lived in the back room with her boyfriend. Lisa would come out occasionally and start yelling, sometimes at her dog. Sheila was doing laundry in the kitchen, and the machine was vibrating, or maybe it was the nervous look in her eyes that appeared to be a vibration.
a wave of wind
the grass outside
washing machine is humming
Sheila shoving clothes
into the washer
She can't think about anything else
dishes are piled on the counter
a pit bull exits
the rear room
somebody yells something
Another woman in the far room would come out at various point and appeared to be gripped by demons. She was contorting herself in some kind of dance, and I could have no clue for why this was possibly going on, or what could be wrong with her.
I left and came back at some point, and Sheila was "at her mom's"..Upstairs, prostitutes were servicing one of the less palatable residents of the house, an idiot. Lisa, Sheila's "sister" was heating a crack or some other drug pipe on the stove. She was completely silent, or there was some kind of silent consciousness there that I had not seem before.
Sheila’s mom came over. She sat in a chair, heavily lined and wiry old woman, lacking most teeth. She just stared at me, and got up and left.
Some point in the evening, large numbers of strange people started coming over to the house, and the situation deteriorated into hard core drug use, not that I really perceived that at the time. I was sitting on the couch, in some sort of a trance, and a short guy comes in in wrecked clothing, parks his bike, and starts scraping the floor with some sort of scraping instrument. It is as if he has no clue I was in the room, or perhaps he was used to having unknown people sitting on the couch in that room. I found out later he ran the house, as much as anyone ran that house. Later I recall seeing him sitting in a sort of zen position, unmoving for what seemed like hours. He must have been on heroin or some other drug of course. I don't know what other likely explanation there would be for that kind of behavior. I didn't really realize at all what a hard core drug house that was, and why there was really no real reason to be there. Everyone has good characteristics though, or at least almost everyone does.
There was a guy there who was explaining camera stuff to me, and he showed me his yellow tinted glasses. They were the same prescription as me, and he said "stuff is brighter,right? But that yellow is still yellow and white is still white, right?" He said he had been a marine, in Vietnam, and broken over fifty bones over the years in accidents. What was unanswered was the question of what he was doing there.
At some point that evening I felt paniced, and jumped up and said, 'what the hell can I do, what's wrong?" because I really didn't know, and the camera guy said something about my car, which had been stolen, and I said "fuck my fucking car" and walked out, at four in the morning. I walked up over the tracks and came to the railroad crossing sign. It looked and felt satanic in the predawn cold, and I felt an evil sort of energy. Down the street, past some trailer parks of the wrecked variety, and the "King Kone", weird-ass fast food shack, I came upon an old and twisted white church. A cat was sitting in front of it, as if waiting for me. I stopped, and them passed by. The street felt more and more threatening, and a strange looking fat guy came out of a wrecked trailer. There was evil looking detritus strewn out all over the front of that trailer. He said "I can't see who it is!", maybe at me, or maybe at someone else. Trucks were rushing by, all the same make and model all in perfect condition, all zooming their engines. I started thinking I was going to get shot there, but there was a girl my age looking at me. We talked, and she gave me a brownie and some chocolate milk, and blew her whistle at the trucks, called them weak, and said she was just waiting to go to church with her aunt. She said we are all sons and daughters of hippies, and she was getting nervous. I was too. There was a white truck just down the way, revving its engine. I thought I was trapped at that point by some demonic force that was completely foreign to me. We sat down next to a building, and a long-haired type guy came by on a strange long bicycle that looked as if it was custom made and then covered in dirt and grime. He sat down. He said he was going to get propane.
long beard waving in the wind
strange long and silent bicycle
down the dark streets
going across town
looking for some propane.
I walked back to the house. They were all awake. I got tired and went back to Corvallis.
Suspicions known and suspicions thought, finding the right part and the right fit, through the temperaments and angles, suspicions and senses of sense, to understand, what it is that matters in the few days of this vain life through which we pass like a shadow? Macaroni with margarine, a dog who reacts to music, rolling of cigarettes, and who's to say, who of us has been here at the start of things, and who of us knows what we should be doing, in the few days, as the rains fall, and the drops of dew settle on the trailers, the frost on the grass? Is this a worse world, or maybe just the place where the few perceptive know, that this is life lived at the essential matter, to see, that who of us can lay out the skies? And who can number the drops of dew?
I went back to that house a few weeks later. Sheila was gone and Lisa was in the back room with her man, Curtis. The entire house was freezing except their room, that had a space heater. Lisa complained about the freeloaders. She would occasionally open the door and scream at them. She was continually smoking cigarettes and drinking lite beer, and taking her cute pit bull on walks. I found out that Curtis was from Colorado, the son of a preacher. He had previously worked laying cement, and had had a previous girlfriend who had died of brain cancer.
The TV was always on in their room, and daytime TV, the worst. Lisa was watching a show about some kind of fashion accessories, and how they were doing a "makeover" to some poor person. I asked her if she didn't find it degrading. And she said, "No, I think it is nice that they would give anything to us poor people." Lisa was going to the local store to get their left over corn dogs and other crap before they threw them out, because she had no food. I asked her if she didn't apply for food stamps, but she said she coulnd't because she had no i.d., no social security card, or birth certificate. She was barely able to read, and learning disabled in some way. A really strange and unusual person.
Curtis was helping me out, fixing my door. We went down to a junkyard and with much cursing got the right part. We drove home and he was freezing his hands trying to get the door apart and the thing fixed. Lisa went and made a bunch of beans, and all the non rent paying people went and got a bunch of beans like they were entitled to it. She makes them food even though she is yelling at them to leave the other half of the time.
Lisa was watching some daytime tv, about Tyra Banks giving some low-class family housewife a "makeover" and I asked her "doesn't this depress you, seeing all this wealth?" and Lisa said "no, it's nice, they are giving something to us less fortunate" so Lisa thinks of herself as in the underclass, and that's all she's ever known. She said she dropped out of school to raise her brothers, and although i think she can read some, she obviously doesn't read much. I told her she could get food stamps, and she said she had no id, and couldn't get a birth certificate. She could do all this stuff if she tried, and it would be worth it, but she said there is a huge water bill, and if it doesn't get paid they'll turn off the water, and all this shit. She was making food for everybody, but all the freeloaders living there, sleeping on the couches in the living room, ate the food, and she was complaining about that, so she was going out picking up bottles and cans to turn them in. She was going to get food at the convenience store, because they gave away all their crappy hotdogs and such after nine, but we went down there and they had already all sold at half price. It was depressing, and I was explaining that it didn't have to be this way.....but it's like she didn't want to leave her little neighborhoo or something. She said her parents lived a few blocks down in the "felony flats", an even worse looking area that is trashed looking trailers. At least Lisa is living in a wood house. Still, there is something positive about her, in that she is trying to help the people around her, and her dog is very well behaved,
There's like three other guys that just sit around and sleep on chairs and stare at the tv. One guy was fixing a vacuum cleaner. Apparently the only safe place to stow stuff is in Lisa and Curtis's room, because one guy keeps his stuff in there and sleeps on the couch in the living room. So I really hope I don't see any heavy drug use there, because then I will have to leave.
reason for that to happen. Lisa and Curtis stick to lite beer.
Sheila's parents are on disability and her dad "got shot in the face" and is a jerk, so that doesn't sound too good. They live in a wrecked tiny home a half block over from Lisa's. I slept in and was depressed about the whole situation, wondering and questioning at what my motives where for hanging out with this crowd, so I decided I would just go over to her parent's and knock on the door and ask for Sheila. I parked my car a ways away and walked through the neighborhood, which is quite interesting in a lot of ways: train tracks, some orderly house, some wrecked houses with shit piled everywhere. Sheila's parent's house is one of the moss covered decaying type of houses. There was one functional trunk up front, and four decaying ancient vehicles behind that. The house was tiny and rotting. I knocked on the door and a dog started barking. I was a bit nervous as you can imagine. Sheila's mom put her head out the door, and basically said "Sheila's not here. She's with a friend. She'll get hold of you when and if she wants to." which is reasonable.
the outer doors were a backyard and the shovels lined up in even rows
houses down the alley, shopping cart by the railroad
four old cars rusting and shining and moss-covered
and the barking of a dog
and the outer truck in working order
tiny house in gravel walls and barking
across the street a trailer
dudes working on a wrecked car
stars in the skies
the river close by
the trains running by in different tracks
and the heavy feels
and the animals and the grass
littering sideways on the road
even in the hand of the mind
the deep ditch running through the mind
and when she opens the door
pained and lined and suspicious
not far from the felony flats
near a few old trucks.