Monthly Archives: April 2014

Small Town Good Time

Commonly asked of people who move to the country by people who live in the city: What do you do there for fun?

It’s a reasonable question from someone with an untrained eye. There is no movie theater, no professional theater company. Most shops close at 6. Joseph used to have a bowling alley, but it was recently converted into a hardware store. A hardware store with really nice maple floors.

The answer is: You make your own fun. That might mean board games. That might mean softball. A hike. Fishing. A front-porch hootenanny. Taffy-pulls are not out the question. When I lived in the Columbia River Gorge, I heard tell of a swingers’ club. Don’t think there’s anything like that out here!

One thing we don’t do is stand in line to get into a bar. Nor do we pay $10 for a cocktail. Nor do we wait ten minutes to get said cocktail. However, if you’re looking for something more complicated than a rum-and-Coke, you’re probably out of luck. I stick with whiskey on the rocks. Foolproof.

Anyone who has young children spends Friday night the same way, no matter where they are: At their home, or the home of a friend with similarly aged children, or a school- or church-related activity. There are other kid-friendly events, mostly fundraisers and festivals, but those are usually during the day. On the other hand, many nighttime activities that might not welcome children in the city (events at the art center, square dances) do in the country.

Most of the traditional Friday-night revelry (i.e., beer-drinking) takes place in Enterprise or Joseph, at the Range Rider or the Hydrant, respectively.

Last night, I met a bunch of friends at the Hydrant for karaoke. I think I can count the number of times I’ve done karaoke on two hands, and I can’t remember the last time I sang, so it seemed overdue.

Karaoke night at the Hydrant: No cover and no lines

Karaoke night at the Hydrant: No cover and no lines

Even for Wallowa County in April, this was a thin crowd. One reason was there was some sort of dance party at the Stubborn Mule, a couple blocks away, from which a few people defected around 11 because it was too boom-boom-boom with the techno music.

I had a great time, singing “9 to 5” with one friend and “Suspicious Minds” with another. The bartender poured my whiskey just right. I’ve been too busy with school to worry about how to spend my Friday nights, but karaoke is an option I may revisit. I’m still hoping for bowling—the Fraternal Order of Eagles in Enterprise bought the equipment.

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Water Event II

It looks like we survived our first winter in Wallowa County—the valley is green, frogs are getting it on in the swale, and the robins and swallows have returned. The moon and sun’s arc across the sky has shifted significantly since we first got here. Instead of turning the Seven Devils pink when the sun sets, the light hits the Zumwalt Prairie instead. I’m pleased to be unable report on the condition of things at three in the morning, as the puppies are old enough to sleep through the night. Though I miss hearing the great horned owls.

Things were quite manageable until February. The climate here is so dry that the snow hardly accumulates. A push broom was usually more effective than the snow shovel to clear our deck. Shoveling the driveway was unnecessary since there was never more than a Subaru could handle.

Okay, sometimes it got a little nasty ...

Okay, sometimes it got a little nasty …

But, as I mentioned in a previous post, the snowstorm in the beginning of February was more than we bargained for. Biggest snow in fifteen years, some of the locals say. We shoveled the driveway until we ran out of places to put the snow. Its meltwater inundated our rental’s foundation and created flooding that lasted a week. But once it dried up and the soaked carpet pad was replaced, we thought we were done. Wrong.

About a month later, I was in the basement to collect materials for the workshop I wrote about earlier this month. I pulled out a small suitcase Mike used for Pancake Breakfast merchandise and noticed that the edge that has been against the floor had about six different colors of mold on it. Weird. I pulled out another suitcase, which I bought at a yard sale in fourth grade for my doll clothes and, more recently, have used in my ithaka display at Wordstock. Its little brass feet had left four rust circles in the carpet. Oh, crap. While there was flooding along the east wall that we noticed, the north wall had quietly been seeping as well.

Behind the suitcases was a cardboard apple box in which I stored all my reference materials for Get Your Pitchfork On!—horse magazines, county welcome guides, other moving-to-the-country books, and all my notes from screeners of the original draft. Everything up about three inches from the bottom of the box was ruined.

The paperboard backs to my new shelves were warped; thankfully the shelves themselves are metal. Then I looked to my left and winced. Mike’s banjo was in its soft case, leaned up against the wall. I pulled it out and it, too, had taken on a bunch of different kinds of mold. It absorbed so much water that the strings rusted and broke. The case for the bass guitar (which thankfully, was elsewhere) was also moldy.

Sad banjo

Sad banjo

Since this was water from outside (as opposed to faulty plumbing), our insurance company wouldn’t touch it. We considered asking the owner of our house to reimburse us but realized he was in the same boat. No one on a hill buys flood insurance! And he had a bunch of repairs to pay for.

As I mention in GYPO, it’s hard to find handypersons for small jobs; they all want to work on the big jobs with steady pay. The owner got someone to pull back the carpet, cut about eight inches of drywall away from the floor and put a fan on it. But he couldn’t get anyone to come back to clean the mold or replace the drywall! After a couple weeks of not being able to use the basement nor access the things that are packed, Mike has graciously offered to fill in. I know I said this last time, but now I’m really hoping we can put Water Event 2014 behind us.

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Diane Sward Rapaport’s Home Sweet Jerome

One of the Classic American Stories is that of “cool” people—artists, anti-establishment politicos, and other bohemians—finding ignored or abandoned places and revitalizing them, until they become so popular that the cool people can no longer afford and/or abide them.

Jerome, Arizona, is one of those places. I’ve never been there but, during my two-month residency in Harney County in 2010, I became friends with two refugees, Diane and Walt. They had moved to Jerome in the 1980s as refugees of another fantastic-turned-overwrought scene, 1960-70s San Francisco, where both were in the music business.

Diane was a generous host when I knew only a handful of people in Harney County, and we stayed in touch. She provided comments on parts of Get Your Pitchfork On! and I consulted on a few bits of her new book, Home Sweet Jerome, about the mining town-turned-hippie town-turned tourist destination that she and Walt still hold very dear. Diane donated a piece about grasshoppers to the GYPO blog, which continues to be one of my most popular internet-searched posts! Even if you don’t have a personal connection with the town itself, Diane’s story captures a generation perched between the Old West and the Modern Age, with lots of pot-smoking and under-the-cover-of-night shenanigans. Check it out!

Diane Sward Rapaport;  photo by ML Lincoln

Diane Sward Rapaport;
photo by ML Lincoln

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Devil’s Gulch Plein Air Adventure

On Friday I got to blend a whole bunch of my favorite things: Making collage art, hiking, writing, checking out a new place, and hanging out with kids! Fishtrap, one of Oregon’s literary organizations, and Wallowa Resources, a natural-resource-management nonprofit, invited me to lead a day-long workshop with their WREN program, a sort of day camp for kids to make up for the school districts not convening on Fridays.

The plan was to hike into the canyonlands and do some plein-air writing. Some of you may recall that I was a writer-in-residence in Harney County in 2010, during which time I worked with children and adults to explore the craft of writing in the out-of-doors using all of one’s senses. (This residency also allowed me to write the bulk of Get Your Pitchfork On!.) I dusted off my old plein air workshop notes, found sewing instructions from a book-making workshop I took at Pacific Northwest College of Art and Design, and packed up a box of books and magazines to sacrifice to the greater good. Program coordinator Amy Busch gathered awls, needles and other materials.

But before we could write, we needed notebooks. I showed them how to create collage designs on sheets of cover stock and then sew blank paper into the spine.

One of the students sewing a book

One of the students sewing her book

Students and their notebooks!

Good-looking notebooks!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a good thing Amy procured waterproof paper for our notebooks. It drizzled on our hike up Devil’s Gulch, and as soon as everyone found a private, quiet spot to write, the rain picked up. Even so, the kids were quiet for a good twenty minutes. Then, we crowded into an old herder’s cabin, keeping a distance from the pack rat nest that occupied most of the bunk, and shared our work. One girl read a particularly astute description of the canyon, including past and present, and noting how life and death coexist there.

One of my favorite parts about working with teenagers (or, these days, pretty much any child older than ten) is that they never let on that they’re enjoying what you’re doing while you’re doing it. But then they surprise you at the end with their work.

I recently received a fellowship for my plein air writing, and will read some work—including my new Wallowa County piece—as a featured writer at Fishtrap’s Fireside program on Friday, April 11.

Photos courtesy of Fishtrap

Photos courtesy of Fishtrap

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