Third Wheels

February 23, 2015 at 4:20 am (On the road again...)

Was it an excellent way to spend the day, road-tripping to the beach for dinner? Or, was it a horrible case of captivity torture akin to a Greyhound bus ride to Salem? It depends on who is telling the story.

Meg called the other day. Her old boyfriend from North Dakota was visiting, and wanted to rent a car to drive to the beach. For some reason neither of their credit cards were okay with the rental company, so would I like to go to the beach? Think about it…

Sun of the Beach

Sun of the Beach

I ran into Angel shortly after. She said, “Hey, I need an excuse to get out of work Friday. Whatcha got?”

“Want to go to the beach with me? Or would your new sweetheart bristle at the thought of you running off in a hot car with a strange dude?”

“I was thinking more like a flu symptom, actually.” She smiled weakly.

“Undercooked chicken. And you really should have put it in the fridge after dinner.”

“What does that do?”

“Nasty diarrhea that no one wants to hear about. My bro-in-law used it all the time. Don’t use it too often, or they’ll tell you to learn how to cook a fucking chicken…”

“I’mma blow up my booty with that tonight. Thank you, sir!” She waltzed off to work.

I watched her go. And decided a trip to the beach sounded like a lot of fun…

By the time I arrived at Meg’s for lunch, she had talked Aidan into paying for everything. “I’ll pay for the car, fuel, buy dinner.” Sheee-it, it’ll be like a day at the beach!

I knew better than to book immediately. Meg and Aidan both like to hit the sauce, and sometimes one has regrets the next morning. So I called as soon as I awoke.

“You guys still wanna go, and is he still paying?”

“Yes, of course.” Meg sounded confident, and I could hear Aidan in the background. This wasn’t Rain pulling a money scam. I need to relax.

I got online and booked a car in about five minutes. (My credit card worked just fine. Take that, prettyboy!) I would pick it up deep in the heart of skid row/cracktown. Awesome… I took the train to 5th & NW Couch and walked from there.

Soon I was tooling around downtown in a black Chevy Malibu. It had leather seats and battery-operated everything. Lots of leg room. Did it have a CD player? The rental gal gave me a ‘Oh, how quaint’ smile. Yes, grandpa, you can listen to those shiny-disc thingies.

Meg and Aidan were packed and ready to go. We piled everything into the trunk, including the bar. They mixed a rum and root beer and we were off.

Malibu Baby

Malibu Baby

“Where we going? Any requests, suggestions?”

Nope.

“I was thinking we take Highway 30 to Astoria and loop down to Seaside or so, then head back that way?” No one else had the vaguest notion of where they wanted to go, other than to the beach. It’s settled, then.

I pulled out CDs and started with Puscifer’s V is for Vagina. (What?) It’s peppy, groovin’ and got a nice beat.

After four songs, “I fuckin’ hate poetry! People talking to hear their own voices! Can we listen to something else?” Meg used to like Puscifer.

I put in Pat Travers. Women of a certain age like to hear music from their own era. I bumped it ahead to ‘Snortin’ Whisky and Drinkin’ Cocaine’ which elicited screams from the back seat. “THIS MUSIC IS HORRIBLE! PLAY SOMETHING ELSE!”

I ejected the CD and tossed it over my shoulder at her. “There’s a bagful there. You pick something.” Aidan requested Pink Floyd before she could crack wise. I focused on the road.

She chose a live album that started with One of these Days (I’m going to cut you into little pieces). Perfect! We drove on.

I love the road to Astoria, and didn’t realize how deeply it’s been seared into my subconscious. I dream-travel that road all the time, though I’ve driven it maybe ten times in my life. I recognize the landmarks, tell stories. Meg and Adian have a few more drinks. Life is good. We decide to have lunch after stopping for a liquor refill in Astoria. I know places in Seaside, so we mix drinks and roll on.

I know the streets of Seaside the best of all coastal towns, so we cruise for a while. I pull up near the Ocean Front Motel, our default love shack of the ’80s & ’90s. Aidan and I walked out to the edge of the surf. (Meg took one look at the ocean, said “It’s the fuckin’ ocean,” and went back to the car.) I smoked a bowl while Aidan snapped pictures. I found half a crab leg buried partially in the sand. I too it back to Meg. “Here, fresh crab leg at Seaside!”

“I fuckin’ hate Seaside.”

We rolled on.

We took Highway 101 down to Tillamook. I gazed longingly at the Tillamook Country Smoker outlet store, craving jerky treats. But we were looking for a nice ocean seafood experience. WITH A BAR. In Tillamook, we saw the Rodeo Steakhouse. The pickups in the parking lot said this wasn’t a hippie crowd on a Friday night. I’d figured we’d just head back to Seaside when Meg blurted out, “I have to eat something NOW! Stop at a 7-Eleven, anything!” I pulled into a gas station. By the time I got inside she was eating a bag of Doritos in the checkout line.

I asked the goobery-looking gas jockey where a nice seafood place would be?

“Pacific Oyster Company in Bay City. You can eat right at the edge of the bay.”

Awesome! I can feed the bear, and it sounded delicious.

We drove back, again passing the jerky store. The Pacific Oyster Company in Bay City was not a cushy restaurant, but a seafood processing plant with a small cafe in front. It didn’t look cheap, but it looked good.

“I think we want something more like a lounge.” Vetoed, we headed back to the car. I popped the trunk, polished off the last of my special vitamin water, and set the course for home. We can just as easily reject restaurant ideas along the way.

But not before I cookied into the jerky store parking lot. Aidan bought $40 of smoked salmon, and I bought a two-foot-long teryaki stick and gave half to Meg. Between that and her Doritos she wasn’t snarling anymore. I pointed the Malibu Baby into the Tillamook Burn and headed for Portland.

I decided along the way to drop by ex-wife Annie’s place. I might see a grandkid, and we could have a smoke in peace. (Maybe then they could agree on dinner.) I got off Highway 6 onto Highway 8, and looked for the left turn. Is that it? I think so. It looks right. We followed it for a few miles.

“Does the road seem to be losing its, um, sense of maintenance?” I asked Aidan.

“I hear chainsaws.” He pulled out his GPS. We were not on a registered road. We were in a vineyard in unincorporated Washington County. Probably with infra-red-scoped rifles pointed at us. They mixed a drink, the boys watered the yard, and we went back the way we came. Carefully. I only almost went into a ditch once.

Forest Grove yielded no ex-wife or grandkid sightings. I suggested The Grand Lodge McMenamin’s, but Meg said, “I fuckin’ hate McMenamin’s. They have those everywhere!” As we passed possible spots, “Nope, sorry. McMenamin’s.” I told Aidan of all the cool McMenamin’s bars, which kept Meg’s teeth grinding.

We decided on Hawthorne Fish House. We got out of the car, and Meg says, “It smells like grease! We could have got fried fish anywhere.”

Of course, the tables were full. Would we like to wait ten to thirty minutes?

As I braced for Meg’s explosion, Aidan asked, “Can we just sit at the corner of the bar there?”

“Sure! Right this way…”

Meg and I took the corner, with Aidan on her right. To my left was a couple, a woman I didn’t know and a man I recognized. He came into my work on occasion to buy lottery tickets, and I once told him to be nice to Dr T, until I found out they were playing. (Only I get to talk shit to Dr T unless I know it’s cool.) He left as I nursed my glass of water, stopping to shake my hand. “No work tonight, eh?”

“Yeah, they let me out of the cage.”

“Well enjoy your night, sir.” He smiled and left.

About five minutes later, our waiter returned. “Did you know that black gentleman that just left, that was sitting over there?”

“Yeah, he comes into where I work. Why?” Uh oh.

“He just paid for your dinner.”

“No kidding?” Wow.

“I asked him about the other two,” he nodded at Meg and Aidan, “and he said, ‘Naw, fuck them, just the redhead.'”

How cool was that? “I’ve got people offering to feed me right and left.” Meg had offered, in an attempt to make peace. Now both she and Aidan were off the hook.

I went to the bathroom to wash my hands, then snuck into the poker room. I turned $2 into $5, and got that “Where you been?” look from Meg when I returned. I could have grossed her out. Instead I confessed. As we walked to the car I said, “I should just randomly wander into restaurants on Hawthorne and see who is buying, huh?”

By now Meg was talking to herself in the back seat, so we took her directly home, leaving her there while we gassed up the rental. Aidan put the gas on his credit card, and asked me if a $100 bill would be enough to pay for everything? I broke it and gave him $20 back. I’d bought a beer to break the $100 bill, and I stuffed money into the bag. “Give this to Meg? I’ve about had my fill of her today.”

“Yeah, she doesn’t do as well on road trips as she used to. In fact, I thought the trip was doomed when you threw that CD into the back seat.”

“I was tempted to say, ‘Don’t make me turn this car around and take you home!’ but she would have taken me up on it.”

“She used to enjoy long rides. We’d bring a cooler and she could go forever.”

“I think maybe it’s because she’s out of her daily pattern. I hated doing things out of the ordinary when I drank. It disrupts your sense of maintenance. And the thing I love most about car rides and long journeys is how you get lost inside your head. Well, according to Meg it can be a pretty scary place inside her head sometimes. I often tell her that I have to keep reminding myself I’m dealing with a crazy woman.”

“I already know,” said Aidan.

I dropped Aidan off at Meg’s building. It was 10:30 on a Friday night.

And I had the car until 11:30 AM the next day.

I cruised past the shelter where Rain is staying. Cruised past the Square a couple times. Cruised past work a couple times. I was getting a case of iron-ass from twelve hours of driving, so I headed home for a bong hit. That led to a craving for Dutch apple pie, so I was off to Winco. I scored three days groceries for $12, and a cop followed me half the way home. He gave up just past Powell. I ain’t lost my touch.

I was fifteen minutes late getting the car back, but they didn’t charge me. I dumped my raincoat out of its plastic carrying bag, stuffed the bag into the pocket and we were back to life on the bus. Let someone else do the driving. I walked up Broadway in the morning sunshine, loving my life.

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1 Comment

  1. ArtEast said,

    Wow, great story! Very entertaining indeed, glad you made the best of it mate.

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