Friday, August 17, 2012

31 May 1997 - Salem, Oregon

I’m at Burt Lee’s Tahiti Restaurant & Lounge, a classic, if still pretty incredibly weird, place. It’s very old, and worn to the point of point of bordering on dive-y, but incredibly expensive in menu—like the most expensive place I’ve been to in Oregon. It is, however, more or less perfect, from the old carpeting (at least 30 years old), and muffled ukulele ballads, to the thatched ceiling—making a we’re-in-a-hut appearance. But the major exception being overhead TV screens at the bar, which are lottery games, Keno, I think. Also, at each table, along with sugar and salt, is a plastic rack of lottery game shit—some kind of computer-like card—I guess you fill out info, put it in the machine, and pay money, then watch the screen. I’m just guessing, but I don’t care—because it’s so fucked up and ugly, anyway, I don’t want anything to do with it. It’s definitely a crisis—but let’s just say it’s not a social, human, political, economic crisis—we can argue—but one thing I know for sure is that it’s an aesthetic crisis—no arguing about that. But here I am complaining already on the first page of  my new life (well, at least new notebook).

It’s been the incredibly weirdest day ever, really, and I’m almost in a panic, though starting to recover. Starting with a thunderstorm a 5:30 AM (it never thunders and lightings in Portland). Then I drove to Salem in the rain, and it took forever and I was flipping out (too much coffee?)—and I stopped at 2 (two) McDonalds to pee before I got to the hotel—a Best Western by the airport. Overpriced, but nice, and at least a place that looks a little lively—unlike other places on the interstate. There’s 108 rooms and a pool, a spa pool, and two private saunas that you can use, as long as no one else is. So no one was at the pool or spa or saunas, so I went in the sauna, on and off for about an hour, and it was a real nice one, temperature up to 220 degrees (it says) and clean and new (probably unused for the most part) with a shower, too. Pretty unusual facility, I think.

Well, then I watched TV a little, and the first thing I turn on is a movie taking place at a McDonalds. It’s amazing. But I’ve been in McDonalds (two today, in fact) and this is like an idealized, cleaned up version, with human beings as managers, and an old guy being trained by a young guy. Three divorced men are eating Mickey D’s cuisine, talking that movie talk, and it’s that _____________, (horrible TV guy), and Randy Quaid, and… can it be? Mathew Modine. The movie was dated 1995 (called Bye Bye Love) and it’s HORRIBLE and MM is horrible and I think about these actors shooting this horrible stuff, what they must think, must have shot this a couple of years after we shot American Job, and MM was at that American Job screening, he didn’t talk to me, I wonder if it ran through his mind that I might say to him, flat, sarcastic, “I loved Bye Bye Love. Oh my god, this movie…

I’m still at the Tahiti and feeling totally comfortable in spite of flipping out earlier in downtown Salem—which may be the weirdest town I’ve ever been in (or is it just me, today?). I got the feeling I came into the first all space alien settlement—and it may be the case. Anyway, I’m glad I’m in the very muted ukulele mellow dark Burt Lee’s Tahiti—maybe the closest place I’ve seen to the Chinese restaurant in The Apartment—which I’ve wanted to look for in Portland (I mean a place that looks like it) but haven’t found yet. I picked my spot/booth with skill—dark, facing down the length of the bar, but obscuring the Keno monitors. The profile of the bartender, who might be ______________, is amazing, the best thing in Salem yet.  A woman sits at the bar. (Did I hear her say, “I’m forgetting tonight.”?) Totally dressed up, and a giant fishbowl red drink in front of her—with the umbrella, of course. Behind me is a couple, the woman sounds just like the woman who runs the parking garage where I work. She talks all the time. The man, who might be Mexican, doesn’t, but he does ask questions. Finally they leave, and it’s the first time I see them. They look exactly like they sound. My waitress is really nice. The other waitress is extremely weird. Every word that comes out of her mouth sounds badly scripted, like a person with English as a second language, writing from a textbook.

It crosses my mind that at least half of the population (anywhere) is alcoholic—perhaps much more—maybe 90 percent—under the spell of alcoholism in some way. Not drinking is like being an atheist or communist in the All-American, Christian era of Past (which never was, but you know—that mythic time and place). I’ve got to find out some way to live, and not feel like I’m being hunted down at every minute. Now the woman at the bar has a tall orange drink. People at booths disappear from time to time (including George the bartender). Where do they go? To lottery games. Help, we don’t help. TV and parking lots, that was my day so far. May I take a nice swim and watch more TV (something inspiring). Read Faulkner.