Thursday, July 26, 2012



On the way to John Day, we heard two different versions of the Miner’s Prayer – with it’s images of mines and fires the song is perfect for a town that essentially grew as fires forced migration from the nearby mining boomtown of Canyon City.   Like all of eastern Oregon there seems to be fire just behind the surface of things, as if the landscape were printed on paper that could suddenly darken, char, then ripple and split with flames.   And it’s fire oddly enough that keeps the town here.  Firefighting is the predominate occupation here.  On  Saturday The Grub Steak Saloon is full of men drinking, playing poker, and talking about the coming fire season the way farmers talk the growing season of crops. The place, from its beginning has existed in a precarious balance between the dollar and elemental danger. It makes sense that the queen of a town built on taking risks (and often loosing) should be Nan, enthroned  at the poker table. Red lips, red nails, a sharp eye and a sharper tooth behind a wide and genuine smile. The slap of her cards and the occasional slap of  hand away from her ass punctuate the slurred talk and the muddy juke box. Her eyes are bright and friendly but her eye make-up has a  broken glamour, as if the perfect, dark lines she applied earlier can’t quite contain the  amount of stories  she sees unfold in an evening. Around her table beer and whiskey irrigate the tinderbox night.

Saturday, July 14, 2012


JULY 4th
My earliest memory is of holding up a sparkler
High up to the darkest sky
Some 4th of July spectacular
I shook it with an urgency
I'll never ever be able to repeat
                                              Vic Chestnut Panic Pure


Riding into the high forest for a crawdad hunt.  The ladies have wind blown pony-tails, expert eye make-up, and more than a bit of stubble on their chins.  Alex and I are curled in the backseat, sleepy from sunlight pulsing through trees and the steady rhythm of gossip.

“She had to be 6 ft 7 I’ll bet.”
“She had peacock feather tattoos and everybody used to make weird bird screams when she entered a bar.”
“She went to prison for those DWI’s right?”
“Yeah her cellmate was a murderer – it was kinda intense ‘cause he kinda fell in love with her””

“I wish  we’d shaved before we left the city.”
“It’s ok – if they give us trouble we just get them high enough not to notice and offer to let them rape us.”
“That’d work- we’re thinner than any of the girlfriends I’ve seen yet – and we have all our teeth.”
“We’ve also got Sarah behind us if we get into trouble – In her guy days she was a special unit Marine.  She’s got mad sniper skills.”

The day shimmers – shaking leaves; slow burning cigarettes and splifs; hot dust: the cold river, blue chilled hands pulling and grabbing under the water: an armoured crawdad struggling to escape soft fingers –it’s red, shellacked shell tapped by a hard, perfectly manicured fingernail.