…..on the road, with Bruce Benderson….

While Bruce was being interviewed by the local press about "The Romanian," I walked around downtown Portland a bit, as I had never spent any time there.  Let’s just say that it felt very grey and very white, with a "village" sensibility about it. On the same day, you might bump into the guy that robbed your house at the espresso bar, the thrift store and waiting on line at the post office. 

This woman is definitely one of the hightlights of my journey.  I was a bit nervous asking to take a picture of her, but glad that I mustered the courage. Like a seasoned Hollywood actress, she replied, "Oh, all right, but as long as it doesn’t take too long.  My legs hurt."


I’m still looking for the bottle of beer this public sculpture could open.


The Roxy, one of the few all-night diners in downtown Portland, feeding a hodgepodge of youth subcultures. 


The Roxy’s jukebox.  W.W.J.P.?  (What Would Jesus Play?) 

Nothing is worse than being nailed to a cross when your toes can’t stretch out just a little bit further to hit number "3502" — "Vacation" by The Go-Go’s.


Tragedy in front of the fountain…

All the best Portland private schools couldn’t save Mr. Whiskers from his internal demons.

Later on that night, I went to pick up Broothey-Brooth from his hotel room to head out for some dinner. (I insisted that we have separate rooms, as after doing some internet research, I learned that he is an aggressive bed hog.)  While marching around his room trying to figure out which Nice Collective shirt made him look…err… skinnier (and less "busty"), he told me that he had just been on the phone, laughing with a friend about this largely negative review of "The Romanian" that had just come out in a small, free press called The Willamette Weekly.  Seems that the reviewer was more intent on judging Broothy-Brooth as a person and his behavoirs rather than the book itself.  (http://www.wweek.com/editorial/3216/7274/)  There’s a reason that I even mention this…

We meet up with Bruce’s longtime friend, Walt Curtis, at a trendy hotel / restaurant / bar / performance space called "The Jupiter / Doug Fir" on Portland’s Eastside.  Think of a sanitized Disney version of a sprawling log cabin complex, dubbed "One of the 116 best new hotels in the world" by Conde Nast Traveler Magazine.  The food is good but I wonder how long this Dwell Magazine / theme park outcropping will last.  Walt is probably most known for authoring the book "Mala Noche" and for 35 years, has co-hosted a poetry radio show in Portland called "The Talking Earth."  (http://www.kboo.fm/programs/25.php) As I had written earlier, Gus Van Sant had adapted "Mala Noche" for his directorial debut and although the film is difficult to find, it’s worth tracking down for the striking, contrasty black and white photography alone.  There is a fairly recent French translation of "Mala Noche" (Hachette Litteratures / Le Livre de Poche) available, with a cover image by Miguel Rio Branco. 

Walt loves his poetry and he loves his Merlot.  He’s feisty and warm and loud and sweet. And he seems to keep things pretty simple.  When Bruce chides him for not having email to that they can stay in closer contact, Walt replies, "Ahh, Bruce…you know…. with email….you get all these emails and then …well, then you have to write back!"


Bruce dips outside to smoke with a young friend of Walt’s, an up-and-coming writer who plays violin in the band performing at The Jupiter that night.  Walt and I talk shit about the whole JT Leroy / bad literature hoax.  A few minutes later, Bruce returns to the restaurant, eyes like saucers.  "Do you know what just happened out there?" Walt and I both chime, "No, what?"  Bruce continues, "I went out to smoke and this young woman walks up looking like a mess.  Her hair is all in her eyes, she’s drunk and she’s whining about this guy leaving her.  She seems to know your friend, Walt (referring to the violin player), and she asks if I’m from Portland.  I say that ‘No, I’m just traveling and that I’m a writer on a book tour, blah blah blah.’ So she says, ‘Oh, what book?’  And I tell her and she says, ‘Wait, I reviewed that book for the Willamette Weekly!  I looked her in the eye and told her, ‘That was a horribly written review.’ Well, she then says, ‘But I really liked the book!…wait…I don’t believe you. You’re not Bruce Benderson….’ Because you know, she added nearly a decade to my age in her review which shows you how good her research is.  Then I just walked away."  Check, please!

So, ya see?  If you don’t bump into your house burgler at the espresso bar, you WILL bump into your 20-something book reviewer bemoaning getting dumped by some guy at the trendy log cabin restarant.

Walt invited us back to his place, a basement apartment directly under a nearby restaurant / bar where an afro-brazilian / house club happens 3 nights a week.  That night was one of those nights. "Yeah, it’s loud," Walt explained, yelling at us while the walls and ceiling reverberated, "but it’s cheap."  While Bruce and Walt talked about old times, I wandered around, discovering that Walt and I both have the vinyl copy of "Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House."  I played the "Chinese Water Torture" track and Walt and I cracked up. 


Bruce only asked, "What the hell is this?"

I instantly loved Walt’s place, mostly in that it speaks of someone who has sacrificed a lot for what he’s passionate about.  And for three nights a week, you get a free vibrating bed.




Walt and Bruce cruising the pages of the Abercrombie and Fitch "magalogue."  They’re unanimous in deeming it "horrible."






Just as I’m about to crawl into bed in the hotel, my phone rings.  It’s Broothy-Brooth wanting to know if I had seen the No Smoking signs in the elevators, detailing the minimum $ 200 fine if a guest was caught smoking in the rooms, among other penalties.  "Yeah, I saw it, why?"  He whispered, "Well, you know I bought that can of spray that masks the scent of cigarette smoke?" "Yeah, you told me," I replied, looking at the clock that now said 3:47. "Well, do you think I could smoke in that little middle room between the bathroom and the bedroom and just spray the whole can in there?  It’s raining on the roof." I pictured Bruce getting shoved into the back of a Portland police car, cigarette in mouth while wearing only a pair of leopard print bikini briefs and too much Comme des Garcons #2, so much that it made the policeman sneeze uncontrollably.  Under no means was MY road trip going to end short…. I warned him of a possible smoke detector in that little room and recommended that he stand in front of the kitchette’s stove, exhaling very carefully into the overhead oven vent while also frying up a small pan of onions in butter.