The Bad Seed

“Good morning, Princess,” the Storm Trooper says. He calls all women Princess, yet it never gets old. His sidekick, Darth Vader, is a glorified hand truck.

Stormy and hand truck“Morning, Stormy,” I say, and fist-bump his glove.

It’s unfortunate that one of my arts is dread. I am a master of a useless craft. As a well-intentioned but truly crazy lady I once worked for used to say, “Ooooh, that’s up in my Wheelhouse!” Dread is up in my Wheelhouse.

ladder, sideways tree

 

“Family is the most awesome thing ever!” Facebook is always telling me. “Share if you agree!” But the truth is closer to what my coworker Man once told me on a bad day.

“Be courageous, Erika. Only God knows.”

Indeed, I find current circumstances so bewildering that I’ve been asking myself, “What Would Grimm’s Fairy Tales Do?”

I like to imagine I’m at a banquet where karma is about to be served.

Dad birthday portraitThere once lived (LIVES!) a King who was both handsome and very wise. His passion was writing books about history, so the people of the future could know what transpired before them. The King was beloved by all, for he had a gentle, gracious manner, and was that rare combination of great talent and no pretense. If he had any weakness, it was that he was sensitive and felt things, and thus was dismayed by the shortcomings of the world.

Dad at partyThe Queen took excellent care of the King. So that he might enjoy a life of the mind, she tackled more practical pursuits like running the household, while also working as a lobbyist to help families in need. But the Queen fell ill and died. She was thirteen years younger than he, and this was not what he thought would happen. In fact, he is still pretty pissed about it.

Mom and Dad 11-11Though the King’s joy was diminished by her passing, he made every effort to adjust to the new reality, cooking for himself and all the rest. But the King is getting up in years, or “long in the tooth,” as he likes to say.

Dad w-watchThe King and Queen had two children. The eldest, a daughter, grew up near a beautiful forest and was always reading Grimm’s Fairy Tales, each experience fostering an appreciation of the other.

EL silhouette

When she grew up, she moved to where some of the most enchanted and ancient trees can be found. Unfortunately, it is on the opposite side of the country from the King.

forest ripplesThe youngest, a son, was an obstinate type. He had an arrogant and selfish manner, imagining that the world owed him something, while never creating anything more substantial than an excuse. He had trouble holding jobs and was always broke.

DL silhouetteThe daughter had an idea! What if the son moved into the family’s nearby 3-bedroom rental house, where he could get on his feet while being close at hand to keep an eye on the well-being of the aging King!

blurry tracksAnd it came to pass. But within a few months, it became evident that there was a Broken Agreement. The son’s one assignment was to check on the King daily, to provide aid and conversation and help in case of emergency. You know, drive 10 minutes to check on the nice guy paying all your bills. But the son could not be bothered, as he had no conscience.

spooky forestThen, quite by accident, one day, the King went to the bank which contains the money of the dead Queen. To the King’s great surprise, he learned that the son had made up an ATM card in the King’s name, so that he might conveniently steal her money through the Machine.

spooky path end treesThe King, ever genteel, wrote his son a letter, criticizing this turn of events. But since the son  will not abide any criticism, now or ever, he simply stopped taking the King’s calls.

motor vehicles sign and raindropsIn Grimm’s Fairy Tales, loyalty and integrity are a big deal. Actions have direct consequences. Those ducks you won’t let a hunter shoot? They’ll show up to retrieve the ring of the Princess when she  tosses it in the lake for you to find.

fake ducksThat ant colony you won’t let the horses stomp? They’ll gather every last pearl of the necklace the Princess scattered throughout the forest for you, arranging them into a tidy pile while you sleep.

cinderblocks

And the hive of honeybees, for whom you chased off a bear because you “will not suffer them to be harmed?”

When you have to determine which of the three identical Princesses has had honey for dessert, the Queen will come and land on her sleeping mouth. (“The Queen Bee”).

honeycomb and spoon

All those years I fed the crows at the beach. Saving Baggies of all my crappy uneaten Seattle Center French fries for them, plus the occasional chicken neck. It is about time they threw down a cloak of invisibility for me, the quintessential spying tool.

crow silhouette group

 Or what about the always-beautifully dressed older woman who sits on the ground in Seattle Center, constantly rocking back and forth?

crow and mexican hat“Help me out,” she says. I give her my last three dollars, hoping to change my luck. She carefully tucks it into an elegant pocketbook.

crow in alder“Go to the Machine,” she says. “It’s my birthday. I want a hot chocolate.”

The Machine is a nearby ATM which dispenses twenties. I wasn’t having it. It’s been her “birthday” since before Christmas.

purple crabBut now I see my short-sightedness. If I had only followed instructions, she might’ve given me more instructions.

seattle center crows“Hark ye. I will make you a present because of your good heart. Go on your way and you will come to a tree on which nine birds are sitting. They will have a cloak in their claws, over which they are fighting. Take aim with your gun and shoot into the middle of them. They will drop the cloak and one of the birds will fall down dead. Take the cloak with you. It is a wishing cloak. When you throw it round your shoulders, you only have to wish yourself at a place to be there at once. Take the heart out of the dead bird and swallow it whole. Then you will find a gold coin under your pillow every single morning when you wake.” (“The Salad”).

dead birdAs the real artists will tell you, sometimes you have to go through some nasty process to get to a lasting reward.

periwinkle footstepsBut what is the fate of those without a good heart, who would neglect AND take advantage of the old King, who provides everything? Steal money from the dead Queen? Hmm, let’s see here.

toppling giantIn all likelihood, you’ll have to “forfeit your life.” That’s pretty standard operating procedure. But there are worse outcomes.

bruno's 1-16“Now hear your sentence. You shall be turned into a black poodle with a gold chain round your neck, and you shall be made to eat live coals, so that flames of fire will come out of your mouth.” (“The Pink”).

dog calligraphy“The old King put a riddle to the waiting-woman. ‘What does a person deserve who deceives his master?’

magic dusk smudge

“The false bride answered, ‘No better than this: he must be put stark naked in a barrel stuck with nails, and dragged along by two white horses from street to street till he is dead.’

bruno's outlets“‘That is your own doom!’ said the King. ‘And the judgment shall be carried out.'” (“The Goose Girl”).

surf unsafeI go to the beach, yet I cannot escape my mind. I am exhausted by the dread of worrying. What, and when, will something happen? I cannot bear the thought of anything happening to the King, or the sheer jackassery of neglecting him.

mossy clump and branches

Yet here at Washaway, there is an unrelenting message of impermanence. Probably I should be taking trips to L.A., instead.

sideways tree

Alas, dear Rock Hound, there thou hangest!

sideways rockhound“Alas, Queen’s daughter, there thou gangest. If thy mother knew thy fate, her heart would break with grief so great.” (“The Goose Girl”).

spooky rockhound front view

Rock Hound, you wrote me some years back. You said you’d never return to Washaway, and so I should find and avail myself of your pile of special rocks. But I went to the wrong trailer.

rockhound interior 2Last summer, local legend Les Strange tripped and fell onto the overgrown, tarped pile of geodes. He gave me two 5-gallon buckets’ worth. Some are in my garden, but my favorites are in my kitchen.  No houseplant can live in my cave, so I heaped the best rocks on the scorched earth of a dead plant.

fossil rockThe very best rock is on top of the pile. While it it is not colorful, it is bejeweled with tiny fossils, the exoskeletons of ancient sea creatures.

No one can tell me there is no magic.

hugo and alder reflections

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Milestones

I’ve spent the last few weeks in a state of heart-pounding retroactive dread. It’s not especially practical, as there’s nothing left to lose. This is supposed to be freedom, right?

wintry treesIt was this time last year that my place washed away. Now the erosion does not impact me. But the wind howls, and the rain flies sideways, and it all still seems fresh. I remember being at work last year, spending the day pruning some  shrubs I hate, Pittosporums, while the wind roared and I knew for certain that my next-door neighbor Craig’s house was falling into the ocean. I still hate the Pittosporums for that day.

October churn

The dread, the waiting for the shoe to drop, knowing but not knowing when, was paralyzing. So I was worried about my friend Ken. He was recently on the news for their traditional “Storms Equal Doom at Washaway Beach!” story.

“Just riding out the storm, waiting for the erosion to take the house,” Ken told the reporter. “Mother Nature’s gonna take it. Just have to live with it. Hey, but look at the view!”

toppled trees

So I went to see Ken and I was pleased to see that he was actually Next To Next, with the abandoned trailer of the rock hound, who left a pile of geodes behind, still ahead of him, doom-wise.

moon over rockhound trailerKen’s immediate problems were coming from wind damage: roof leaks and such. We went for a photo safari walk in the enchanted forest, and he spoke of hoping to go to the southwest somewhere, Arizona or Utah maybe, where it would be not raining and great for pictures.

Ken Watanabe

Ken Watanabe

Strange as it sounds, going to Washaway helped soothe my dread. For one thing, things were about the same. Bruno’s place was still waterfront. Belly-Acres By The Sea was still its same sad crumble of elaborate masonry.

Bruno's, November 2015

Bruno’s, November 2015

Belly-Acres

Belly-Acres

My poor Vagabond, I suspect, must be taking a turn for the worse, with the tarp blown sideways, and the hole in the roof where the stovepipe was open to the elements. I will not let myself look closely.

Twilight Vagabond rear viewlow light Vagabond, 11-15I walked on my old street, Blue Pacific Drive, at dusk with Marcy and Bob and two big dogs. The old neighborhood I find quite creepy, what with all the tweakers and ghosts, the zombie apocalypse. So I was glad to have a posse, though we didn’t see anyone.

I am determined to still find comfort here at Washaway, even though I should know better now.

pine needle raindrops

Spanish moss-2Tracks, September

sun through treesOctober sun break

P.S. to local types, check out my story and photographs about my adventures falling into the ocean last year in the winter issue of Washington Coast magazine.

Erika Langley:Washington Coast cover

 

Posted in Tides-A-Com'n | 7 Comments

Dreamtime

The tweakers have been fighting over my sneakers.

Adidas

As well they might. They are a sweet old pair of vintage Adidas that I used to wear to cut the grass. When my property fell into the ocean, there was no more lawn to mow, hence I would no longer need my mowing shoes, was my thinking. See what the mind does in a time of grief?

You will recall my solemn oath never to return to the Vagabond, but I’ve been twice since. On this particular day, the rusted-shut door was pried wide open, so I decided to pop in.

Vagabond 7-11-15

I had barely begun to trespass when a young woman named Shawna totally busted me, asking what I was doing.

bullet hole in Vagabond

She is staying in the trailer next to the Vagabond, formerly owned by Stanley and Resha and then occupied by Tweaker Leah. Now that Shawna’s here, neighborhood watch is back. “This is mine, or used to be, until I fell into the ocean,” I explained.

Shawna said that the Vagabond’s broken window had incited a lot of curiosity. She broke out the broken glass and cleaned it all up, because she didn’t want any passing-by dogs cutting up their feet. The window’s absence left my remaining belongings clearly visible.

“There has been a lot of interest in the shoes,” she told me.

There were several different tweakers who were jockeying for my Adidas.“I feel spirits, though I haven’t felt yours,” Shawna told me. Just the same, she had rounded up my remaining stuff and bagged it. She handed me the bag. There were a couple old bedsheets, my orange project towel, chunky with concrete, my rusty Fred Meyer chaise lounge chair, circa 1997, and, of course, the sneakers. “Blessings upon you!” I shouted and hugged her, shocking myself with this surge of unscheduled woo-woo.

But she had other concerns. Staying in Stanley and Resha’s trailer, she had come across some “Hindu stuff.” (I am guessing more likely Buddhist). She did not know how to dispose of it, not wanting to piss off any Hindu gods. I told her Stanley and Resha were talking about moving to New Mexico, Land of Enchantment, where there would be plenty of spirits already, and using her best judgment would probably be fine.

Blue Pacific Dr. signs 7-11-15

Shawna said she was hoping to stay for awhile, in that trailer on the edge, despite having no power or water. She is keeping warm with a nice cat named Spooky that likes to walk on the beach and layers of clothing, trying to get by with less in uncertain times.

Seattle in rain

Things in Seattle are uncertain too. I’ve lived here for 23 years and things have always changed, but this particular change seems to be happening really fast: cranes everywhere building high-rises; horror stories of “skyrocketing” rents, cool old buildings and legendary restaurants and affordable housing disappearing in a pile of rubble.

Seattle from Erik's-2

 I rent a tiny house where I’ve built a big garden. With my beach property gone, this sanctuary is especially dear to me. But my place recently sold, and it is a large property in an urban location. The future is uncertain. All I could do is make the very best garden ever this year. Every day, I nurture it, savor it. I am paying extra attention now.

raised bedclematistomatoesmy house

In a recent Gawker article entitled “How Amazon Swallowed Seattle,” the author blames the incoming legions of “brogrammers” and their lavish incomes on driving out the funky, the artists, the Wild-West character of the city.

“It was too nice here,” he mourns. “It couldn’t last.”

And it is very nice. In the beating heart of Seattle, I am lucky to have a great gardening job at Chihuly Garden and Glass, where magnificent plants and monumental glass sculptures coexist.

pacific sun and space needlereeds and pacific sun

We have the best in-ground irrigation systems for the plants, but it has never been this hot and dry for this long here, and it’s been scary to try to keep everything watered. As I imagine they used to say in the Dust Bowl, “Drought Sucks.” The sturdy old war horses of the Northwest landscape, Rhododendrons and Hydrangeas, brown and burn. Elsewhere, the state is on fire. This, and the lack of A/C that was never needed before, has lent this summer a feeling of suffocating ominousness. I’m pretty sick of doom. It seems everywhere is Washaway now.

Hummingbird and space needle

And then, in the midst of all this, are wonders more fragile than glass. There was a hummingbird nest in a highly exposed location at work. It was such a moving thing to witness at close range: to fear for the vulnerability of them, to feel the urge to protect them and worry about them, to not be able to help them, and see them still make it just fine and fly away.

mama hummingbird 4-14-15

Beautiful nest 5-24-15hummingbird eggs 4-14-15hatchlings 5-12-15hatchlings 5-14-152 hummies 5-19-15last baby to leave 5-21-15 11-07 amempty nest 5-21-15 11-42 amSeeing that last bird getting ready to leave the nest, stretching and flexing and practice-flapping, is something I hope I never forget. The bravery and hopefulness of it. There is no choice but to jump.

The native people of Australia, the Aborigines, believe in Dreamtime. This is a place where ancestral beings, who resembled animals and plants, created the world, then turned themselves back into rocks and trees to sleep. The natural world has to be respected, for you never know who you might be waking up. This “Time out of time” or “Everywhen” is an active place, where the past and present coexist.

The food in my Dreamtime will be unparallelled, with all the Italian women. My Grammy will be serving chicken and polenta; my great-aunt Alvera will have spent all day making her signature Gnocchi; my Mom will have single-handedly come up with a Thanksgiving  dinner, a pot roast, and a Buche de Noel all at the same time. In case you think I’ll be kicking back, eating and slacking, note that I’ll be grilling salmon in my fire pit, smoked with leaves from my Alder trees, with some sweet white summer corn. For dessert, I’ll grill some peak-season peaches with chocolate, also on my fire, because my fire pit will still be accessible, not in the  Pacific.

fire pitYou would think some piece of its substantial masonry would still exist on the beach somewhere. But what remains of my legacy are flip-flops. They are definitely mine. They have drill holes in them. Marcy and Bob have been attaching them outside the Airstream.

lost soles and fiddlehead ferns

lost sole, pinklost soles on airstreamMuch of my Dreamtime will look just like here, now.

forest frogsun dappled mossy trees

boys boogie boarding 2seaweed clumpfort 8-15

chair and seagulls 2young seagull drillssingle pelican

When I go about wishing, and I do, pretty often, really, I don’t wish for more or different stuff. I just want things to stay like this. If, as they say, the Dreamtime is what’s real, and the rest is a dream, then this won’t be too good to last. It’ll last.

Posted in Beach Access, Tides-A-Com'n | 5 Comments

Passages

I’ve gone to the beach on my birthday every year since 1994. Falling into the ocean is no reason to go breaking traditions. Although everything is changed, some things remain the same.

Beach barefoot b-day vert

There are the lumpy, shapely islands forming that I call the Turtles, the hallmark of summer.

June turtlesturtle patternbeach toesAnd my property’s still not totally gone. I mean, I have, what, six or seven trees left?

last of 3rd estateBut Blue Pacific Drive is certainly a shadow of its former self.

Blue Pacific Drive, 5-15

Now the neighbors on the other side of the street are waterfront, getting looted and trashed. This is the case with the property across from mine, where every blue moon they’d show up with an RV so immense that my friend Steve once shouted, “Riverdance is here!”

I have referred to them as Riverdance ever since. Poor Riverdance.

Riverdance debris 2

Riverdance debrisAt the end of the street, or what’s left of it, my neighbor Bruno’s place, so secluded in the woods it became popular with squatters, then tweakers, is now exposed.

Bruno's from afarBruno's close upBruno's broken window

They were rarely there. I couldn’t figure out why, a big 2-story house and all. Upon closer inspection, it was incredibly rugged, with a breakneck ladder to the second floor and no discernible toilet. Now it is a stew of curious binders and letters in German, with million-dollar views.

Bruno's censusBruno's German letter

Bruno's view 1

Bruno's view 3While there’s a part of me that’s still curious, there’s definitely the memory of recently being the one whose stuff was on display for the world to loot. And it’s heartbreaking to see, over and over, the demise of  places that were cute, that were loved. It’s personal.

flat house and debris

Like the Myles’s trailer.

Myles, fallen

 

Or this place.

Trailer on edge

curtain and shell wallpaperTire swing 2fallen husky art

Or this place, which makes me think of some Wild West movie set. Cowboys and villains should be  entering and exiting through the pink door to the saloon that I imagine was there.

wild west house 2 wild west set

Or my own sweet Vagabond, now moved up the street and rusted shut. At first glance it looked fine. Anyone can see there’s nothing to take in there. It’s empty, a sacred burial ground.

Vagabond, 5-15But no, someone smashed the window, for no good reason but the sound of it, I suppose.

Vagabond, broken 1

Vagabond, broken 3

Honestly, it was more than I could bear. I sat in my car and cried. Sometimes nice memories aren’t enough. Marcy asked me why I continue to visit my old place. I have no good answer. It never gets any better. It’s time to stop, for real.

For my birthday, I set out to create new, better memories of a different beach.

b-day selfie

I’ve told you already about the path through the enchanted forest, but it never stops being remarkable.

lily pad forestmoss forestmossy tree view 2mossy tree viewAnd then there are my excellent companions, the White Sock Wearers.

Guys with white socks Todd, crab potHugo yawning at Knutsen's

Birthday dinner.

Birthday dinner.

cakeAs always, the big lesson of Washaway is to savor precious, fleeting moments in  uncertain times.

My friend Susie asked if I’m “fracking” this story now, strip-mining it after all the essential nutrients are gone. Maybe. But if stories happen to those who tell them, I guess I’ll just keep talking.

 

Posted in Beach Access | 8 Comments

Nomads

“I did my time in that rodeo. Been so long, and I’ve got nothing to show. Don’t you know, I’m plain loco. Fool that I am, I’d do it all over again.”

-Little Feat, “Mercenary Territory”.

last of 3rd estate

cookhouse april 2014

My friend Tony from Virginia is always good about reminding me about Little Feat, especially “Waiting For Columbus”, one of our high school soundtracks. People out West do not know their Little Feat. One could Bogart their joints and they’d never even notice.

Pictures are nice, but I can conjure up my place myself, surely as a phantom limb.

vagabond sedumsvagabond dusk jan 2014vagabond interior april 2014Vagabond and foxglove verthorse and mannequins april 2014

The Siesta, April 2014. Les sold it for $100 to someone in Westport.

The Siesta, April 2014. Les sold it for $100 to someone in Westport.

Well, as I told the TV people, we’re guests, always were. Did you get to watch it? The link was sent late in the game, then removed quickly, which I thought was unsportsmanlike, what with all my efforts. As an artist friend pointed out, one hand washes the other. At any rate, enjoy some bad bootleg sound:

Now there is almost nothing. You could try to pitch a tent on the Third Estate, except someone dumped a broken windshield there. The twin trees of my driveway, always the first thing I’d see upon arriving, are now the last recognizable thing remaining I see here.

driveway fallen twin trees 3A

Well, that and the Vagabond, moved up the street. There wasn’t much left to steal in there, but someone cut the lock and took the crappy curtains I got from the Clothing-By-The-Pound Goodwill, estimated value, 30 cents. Now it is rusted shut, lockless. A stone has been rolled in front of the tomb. Please, please leave me alone now. Except for the ocean, who never listens to me.

vag 2-27

At least the terrible dreams have mostly stopped. Tsunamis, the ocean swallowing everything. And I’m forced to evacuate and Hugo is still in the Vagabond and I’m in some shelter in a high school and they won’t let me go get him. Or, I’m just endlessly trying to move broken, rusted trailers that won’t move, away from the ocean, away from here, somewhere else. It has been so exhausting, let me tell you.

blue pacific ruin

rusty vag

I asked my former neighbor Resha how she was faring. She said her husband, Stanley, was having terrible PTSD dreams too.

“It may be that these dreams are things to be looked at, loved, and let go,” Resha noted. “Hero’s work, really.”

phone sunset 2012You might think that there would be some substantial remains, what with all the masonry and concrete, the outhouse’s stained glass of wine bottles, the brick and concrete fire pit.

outhouse stained glass

outhouse april 2014I just don’t understand. The Palace of Lost Soles, along with the outhouse, the Palace of Crossed Swords, were the first to fall in, that week of December 8. Yet what endures, under the strange laws of flotsam, are flip flops. They are definitely mine. They have nail holes in them. I picked up a choice striped one, salvaging my own stuff, for what, I don’t know.

lost soles and fiddlehead ferns

blue lost sole

pink lost sole

I got a comment on my blog from a woman that everyone tells me was fabulous, named Karen Ferry. “With tears in my eyes after reading your newest post I just want to wish you well. You and Resha have documented the Washaway losses so amazingly, the sad, the happy, the angry, the pictures we (not Washawayers) would not have known otherwise, for that I am ever grateful to you both. I am sorry for your loss but am glad to know that you have wonderful friends who care and a safe return. If you need anything I’m not much help physically, but we always have extra “stuff” (and plenty of plants to replace the one stolen.) It’s going to be a lovely sunrise this morning and hope it, and our best wishes, will help, a little, with your loss.”

I’m ashamed to say that I never replied. I guess I was “busy”. Then, later, I read in the South Beach Bulletin that she recently died of cancer. A stranger, dying of cancer, asked if she could help me, and I couldn’t manage to say thank you before it was too late. I am not proud of myself.

She wrote her own obituary, very sassy. May this smart, funny and generous stranger rest in peace. Now it’s me with tears in my eyes.

Nomads_0008She had a good point, of course, about my having wonderful friends who care. It is fantastic and restorative to stay in my Airstream at Marcy and Bob’s. Here, in a mere 24 feet, is the last of my stuff and all I need, palacial as the Taj Mahal.

april airstream 2april airstream 3And then, there are amazing strangers. On January 13, I received one of the best emails ever.

“I have enjoyed reading every one of your stories and love your photos of Washaway Beach. My family and I bought a cabin there about 6 years ago. We only visit about 8 or 10 times a year. I just hate for it to sit all alone when people could be enjoying it. If you might be interested in keeping the old girl company on some of her lonely weeks, let me know. This isn’t a sales pitch. From reading your blog I know how much you love Washaway, and we would love for you to observe and report from a little bit safer vantage point.”

As my friend Karl likes to say (full volume): “WELL, THAT IS A VERY GOOD OFFER!”

rainbow on 105

hugo repose knut

This not only lifted flagging sprits, but validated the very essence of my being. Strangers, reading my work, felt like they could tell what kind of person I am, and trusted me.

welcome to the beachIt was with great excitement that Hugo and I went to check it out. We were not disappointed. In fact, we kept wandering among the three bedrooms in amazement, like Goldilocks. It features luxuries previously not experienced at the beach, like running water (!!!!!!) and deluxe features unavailable at my home in Seattle, like laundry. In short, we are now living large.

hugo clothesline

NomadsWe had only been there a few hours when the sunshine turned into a dramatic hailstorm. Its percussive music on their metal roof reminded me of many a storm in the Vagabond, and the feeling of privacy, safety and openness on the land, looking at big, beautiful trees, watching the weather, is something, I realize, I mourn and miss terribly. Please listen:

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wce-y89VZjo

One of my boyfriend’s names for me is Wood Nymph. I grew up in Virginia in a time before XBox and kept myself amused with heady doses of Grimm’s Fairy Tales and time spent in the forest, imagining fairies and trolls and witches. Still do.

In the back yard of this cabin is the origin of the aforementioned magical path, marked with the red Hansel-and-Gretel arrows, that I used to be able to enter from Ray’s yard, when Ray’s was still there. Up here there are elaborate bridges built over the black lagoons and handrails built from mossy logs. This is the natural habitat of the Wood Nymph, the sylvan path.

path bridge 1

path bridge 2So I should stop feeling sorry for myself. You should hear the songs of these frogs in the swamps in the springtime, and smell these trees that I still get to smell. I get to have new experiences, the new hope of spring promises. It’s only when the path heads by where Ray’s was, and where the tweakers have now occupied the home of my rarely-seen neighbor Bruno, that the smell changes to the burnt-plastic of crystal meth, and I remember how everything went down.

Where Ray's was.

Where Ray’s was.

But I tried to smudge it away with the first fire of spring.

first fire

In other good news, I got to stay in the beautiful cottage of a friend in Westport with my favorite pals. I have never spent much time in Westport. Napping ensued.

Napsters 2cute feetWestport has nice, clean beaches with beautiful houses and condos that are not going to fall into the ocean. There are dunes, like Washaway used to have up until 2010.

westport 2westport 3westport 4The beaches have pristine sand dollars and tumbled pebbles and no broken houses or piles of garbage or mean unattended dogs or tweakers. I realized that my carrying pepper spray in Westport was downright silly. If I wrote a blog about Westport, you would be bored. So I guess I can only semi-retire from doom.

hand sand dollarsand dollar 2

westport 1pretty pebbles

boots and tumbled gravelI should know by now that grief is sneaky, and to provide access for its uncomfortable, terrible feelings. Is losing a place the same as anything else that you’ve loved? I say yes. A tricky stew has ensued of anger, fear and sorrow. I don’t know how you prepare for loss, and here I always knew it would happen. I always knew to savor it.

Fool that I am, I’d do it all over again. Upward and onward, as my Mom used to say.

dancing trees w- moss

Posted in Beach Access | 6 Comments

Media

AlJazeera crew2Nice people from Al Jazeera America came to visit me at the ruins of my property last weekend. Check it out.

I have some other stories to tell you, but they’ll have to wait. Stay tuned!

 

Posted in News | 4 Comments

Afterlife

It’s my hurricane party and I’ll cry if I want to, and take all the pictures I want.

my watchersThe End! I know, right? Yet my place hung in there, on the edge, for a long, long time. I appreciated the clamor for updates, but I simply could not deal. I needed a break from doom.

my power pole

Pacific County Treasurer sent me a property tax bill. My three lots that cost $15,000 twelve years ago, were now valued at $17.90. Guess they didn’t get the memo.

“Tell them to get in touch with King Neptune,” my Dad suggested. “He’s the new owner.”

-my sunset doom

And that business of people throwing my cabinets over the bank, and kicking a hole in the wall of the cookhouse? Well, I did not like that business one bit. This is one of the things I really hate about Washaway, the compulsion to beat the ocean by destroying things first. Indeed, I was  certain that if /when people decided to break in and trash the Vagabond, I would not be able to bear the sight of it, that I would have what was back in the day called a “nervous breakdown.” So I stayed away for three weeks, preferring to remember the good times.

fire pit

celestial Hugo

MLK day by Jenna Steffenson

Vagabond signvagabond w:pink jacketvagabond window

pink curtainsvagabond, springvagabond, duskFinally I had Marcy check. She said the padlock was still on it. So I decided to go see my place.

People had set up a scenic viewing station on the cliff with my grey plastic chair and a stuffed armchair that was not mine.

viewing station 3

 beach chairs viewIn the cookhouse, nearly everything that was mine was gone now, and people had brought in the rest of the crappy, burnt-sienna upholstered living room set. Also a couple bags of garbage. It may have been tweakers, but it kind of seemed like the work of teenagers.

cookhouse as living room At any rate, people were still enjoying the cookhouse. Maybe there had been some Peer Review, for no more destruction had occurred. I liked to think of them, whoever they were, catching whatever buzz, and checking out the wallpaper project made from years of beach firework wrappers, literally years and years of work, and being like, “Whoa. Dude.”

black cat wolf pack

A document, really.

A document, really.

I let myself into the locked Vagabond. By this point, it was so rusty that opening the door was difficult. I did a last pass, going through the cabinets. I’d open cabinet doors and they wouldn’t close again. It seemed that the Vagabond waited to see me one last time.

In the drawers I found some irreplaceable treasures: mixed tapes from my friend Chuck from 1994, Christmas lights shaped like fish, and a clay coin my dearly departed friend Regnor made for New Years of 2008, depicting the head of his dog Mingus, wearing a hat, over whom is floating what appears to be either a very small baguette or a joint. Now that the Captain  has crossed the River Styx, reunited with Mingus, all we can do is speculate.

While I was in the Vagabond, I looked at the gorgeous, golden wood door to what was once its bathroom, if there was water, with its beveled glass mirror. I realized this was something I could actually take with me, a piece of the Vagabond. So I took the door off with a screwdriver and loaded it in my car. It really helped that it was not raining and no one was around. I was on a covert mission, ripping myself off. The Vagabond’s outside metal door was very, very  difficult to close behind me, like this was the end. I put its lock back on, mindfully, with love and a prayer.

Meanwhile, life goes on in my “new” pad, the Airstream trailer that I moved to Marcy and Bob’s place two years ago. They built a pathway for me out of broken Washaway road.

airstream patio

I always stayed in the Vagabond, the Airstream was the fancy guest cottage. Now Hugo and I get to enjoy its finery, like guests.

-Hugo airstream 1-30-15

airstream and mannequin 2airstream interior 2

The whole beach experience is different now, approaching from Warrenton Cannery road. This is where cars can get on the beach, so it’s much busier. Also, there’s no doom up here. I’m pretty tired of doom. Get this: I walked down to the beach at sunset and let the ocean make me feel better.

Warrenton Cannery Road

Warrenton Cannery Road

sunset 1-16-15

The next week I got a call from the power company, Gray’s Harbor PUD, on a Sunday, the linemen letting me know that what remained of my estate was facing imminent, impending doom, and was everything all squared away with my account? Now, that’s customer service. Even then, despite gale force winds, I stuck around for a few more days.

On January 24th at 12:40 pm, Marcy and Bob happened to walk by and the cookhouse looked like this (photos by Marcy Merrill):

Photo © Marcy Merrill

Photo © Marcy Merrill

Then about fifteen minutes later, on the way back, they came upon this:

Photo © Marcy Merrill

Photo © Marcy Merrill

Let me get this straight. So instead of “succumbing to Mother Nature’s fury,” slipping off the cliff into a roiling, churning sea, the cracking and splintering of the cookhouse all but muffled by the angry ocean’s roar, I fell flat on my face on the beach, at low tide,  in broad daylight?

I once saw a really drunk lady do this. She was walking on the beach, we exchanged a few words about her Golden Retriever, then FLOP! She didn’t even try to break her fall. My friend Kelsey and I helped her to her feet. Her face was all encrusted with sand. I had a crazy impulse to clean off her face, like a stylist, but I didn’t, as she seemed crazy.

“I’m just really tired,” Drunk Beach Lady said. But she made an impression on Kelsey, who months later was inspired:

“Beach Face-Plant Lady = Halloween Costume Idea!”

I figured I’d better go get a picture of my sideways demise. As I turned the corner onto Blue Pacific Drive, the first thing I noticed was that THE VAGABOND HAD BEEN MOVED UP THE STREET.

Vagabond moved 1-30-15

blue pacific drive 1-30

Well, that would have to be Les, who loves the Vagabond and also fancies that it is wildly valuable, like $30,000. And perhaps it is, though it pretty much needs to be poached in Ospho, the rust-reducer of the Bering Sea, at this point. Moving it must have been quite an ordeal, what with the two rusted, broken trailer hitches lying along its path. I am now thinking the only way it could’ve even be possible was he must’ve subcontracted the services of a well-known Tweaker with a backhoe.

doomed trailer hitch #2

Now the Vagabond had been relocated to Stanley and Resha’s other property, which houses several derelict trailers already. Did they bequeath the property to Les, or was it Manifest Destiny? Some questions are better unasked. But this is not the longest-term solution. Its new home abuts the Myles, so the Vagabond is once again Next To Next.

Myles-next to next

But it made my heart sing, to see the Vagabond living another day with its trailer brothers instead of lying sideways on the beach like a dead cockroach, or like the dead cookhouse, for that matter. Naturally I wanted to hear the story. It occurred to me that the perfect trumpet serenade to summon Les now would be Roger Miller’s “King of the Road”:

Trailers for sale or rent.

yep, that's me

Rooms to let: fifty cents.

cookhouse sideways wide

No phone, no pool, no pets.

cookhouse floor 2

I ain’t got no cigarettes.

Black cat sideways 2

Ah, but two hours of pushin’ broom buys an eight-by-twelve four-bit room.

cookhouse sideways sunset

I’m a man of means by no means.

-cookhouse sunset sideways

King of the Road.

e selfie sideways cookhouse

Third boxcar, midnight train

Ray's place. My problems are far from unique.

Ray’s place. My problems are far from unique.

Destination: Bangor, Maine.

Belly-Acres

Belly-Acres

Old worn out suit and shoes

Like the smartest of the Three Little Pigs, someone at Belly-Acres was crazy for masonry.

Like the smartest of the Three Little Pigs, someone at Belly-Acres was crazy for masonry.

I don’t pay no Union dues.

doom 3-dutch cuteness

I smoke old stogies I have found.

doom 4

Short, but not too big around.

doom 5

I’m a man of means by no means.

Belly-Acres

King of the Road.

Someone put a stuffed animal in one of my last trees.

Someone put a stuffed animal in one of my last trees.

Soon it will be impossible to find, but for now there is still an enchanted path through the elfin-grove fairy forest behind where Ray’s place was, marked with Hansel-and-Gretel-style red arrows.

path arrow enchanted 2

path arrow enchanted

Where there are not arrows, I marked with the Sign of the Sneaker.

path sneakerI went over to Les’s to get the scoop. Katie came out barking after just a couple bars of “King of the Road,” sparing me from trying to hit those “man of means” high notes. For the first time in eight years, Les invited me onto his property, a museum of rust with a million-dollar view.

Les and estateLes's sunsetLes and Katie sunset waterfrontkatie ear and Les footAt one point Katie scrambled off the bank and couldn’t waddle back up, so Les had to perform a daring rescue.

Les Katie rescue

“You saved the Vagabond,” I said. “HOW DID YOU DO IT?” Les demurred, saying only that it was very difficult, and that the Gray’s Harbor PUD electrical linemen were duly impressed. But there were politics.

Les sciatica pose

“Leah stole the Vagabond mirror, that tweaker,” Les fumed.

“I took it,” I confessed, defending Tweaker Leah for no good reason.

Les said he had some of my stuff, and mentioned a green stained glass candleholder that hangs from a chain. I knew the one, I got it at Goodwill. I always liked it, and I said so. Les said something about stuff was hanging on it. I said I wanted it, and that is how I got invited inside Les’s trailer.

I had a little flash of Is This A Good Idea? Going into the lair of Les Strange and all. But then I was embarrassed for thinking that way, and curious, too.

Inside, I was amazed to see that I was Les Strange’s interior designer. I knew he’d helped himself to my stuff, but, come to find out, I had given him his whole new sense of style. My cute but uncomfortable rattan couch, really only good for putting your backpack on, was his couch. My Ikea rugs were on his floor. He had a cozy fire blazing in my Trolla wood stove. And, hanging over the dining table, like a grand chandelier for a guy without electricity, if not without power, was my square green glass candleholder, with various Les bling hanging off its four corners: a tiny noose, a metal fish, a little skull, some feathers.

“Ah, never mind, you keep that,” I said.

Les wanted me to carve my name into his table. When I suggested that would take too long, he had me write it in Sharpie marker for him to carve later.

I told Les that, other than the epic theft and destruction by Mother Nature’s Fury of the only property I’ve ever owned, and missing my hideaway, and the feeling of both privacy and openness, and my trees, really missing my beautiful trees, I was reasonably pleased with how most everything had turned out: the rescue of the Vagabond, and him enjoying all my cast-offs and such. And there’s a pleasure in downsizing the belongings. In fact, the worst part of falling into the ocean, for me, was that people went and ripped me off before I was ready to free everything. just the bad juju of that.

Crow trees, harvested

Crow trees, harvested

Les shrugged and said he’d been ripped off so many times that he was basically used to it. “I take everything with me that I can’t replace,” Les told me. “That’s Katie and my word. The rest is junk. They make more of it every day.”

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