Flip Flop Flying

To Portland and back

with 2 comments

Wednesday was a funny day; one of those days where lots of tiny things accumulate to make life seem a little bit brighter, a bit more peculiar. After I bought a coffee, I got a dollar bill with “Track this bill at www.WheresGeorge.com” stamped on it in blue ink. An aside before we get started on the real meat of this topic: isn’t it weird when people capitalise the separate words in a website URL? I can appreciate why they do it, but it just looks a bit odd to me. Plus, in this case, it looks extra weird that they’ve capitalised the words but, of course, can’t use the apostrophe and question mark needed to make it look truly correct. I was once stood on a London Underground platform looking at a Destiny’s Child poster about ten years ago, and I can still remember distinctly thinking it was funny that they couldn’t have their name properly represented in a URL because of the apostrophe. I chuckled to myself. Then remembered my website was called Flip Flop Flyin’ and, well, I felt like quite the chump.

So anyway, when I got home, I typed in the required details at wheresgeorge.com and was rather disappointed to find that mine was only the second entry for this particular bill. The previous entry was, err, entered on 30 April 2008, and the location was a Dairy Queen in Woodinville, Washington. Maybe I’ll hang onto the bill and use it the next time I’m in, say, Belize or Panama or some other country where the US dollar is a valid currency.

On the bus, after getting on, walking up the steps behind a man with what looked like shit stains on the rear end of his trousers, I had a funny little personal moment where I did a bunch of my silly cat-like sneezes. Then a moment later, I did a couple of high-pitched coughs. Then another moment later, a big loud yawn. The bus was fairly empty at that point, but the big loud yawn came out without me being able to catch myself doing it. This is something that worries me a little, because I’m starting to notice that, if I’m wearing headphones, I seem to be of the opinion that other people can’t hear things that I might do either.

For example, and I’m not proud of this, I’ve found that a couple of times in the past, I’ve broken wind and not tried to dampen the sound down, the way you can do (you know what I mean), to make it slip out silently. But, to my eternal shame (well, eternal is probably overdoing it a bit…), there have been a couple of times where, somehow, the bit of my brain that works through the normal daily stuff without it ever being a conscious thought has lapsed and seemingly thought, “You can’t hear that trump, Craig, so neither can anybody else.” And, of course, on both of those occasions, I’ve realised immediately, and found myself wanting to be swallowed up by the ground. The last time I did it was at the bus station in Bellingham. Thankfully, it’s an outdoor bus station, but there were enough people around for me to just spin on my heels and leave. I walked away and bumbled around town for an hour so that I could get the next bus without having to see any of the people who must’ve heard me pass gas. Still, yawning loud isn’t too bad, though, is it?

A short while later, staring blankly out of the window, trying hard to enjoying the MGMT album (I’m not feeling it, hipsters of the world), and I saw a flash of white moving swiftly along a country road that was perpendicular to the bus’s trajectory. (Sorry for using “perpendicular” and “trajectory” in one sentence. I know: it makes me seem like a pompous ass.) It was a little, middle-aged, Hispanic guy (and he was little, and I speak as someone who’s not particularly tall). He didn’t look very athletic, but he was moving like the wind!, and when he got on the bus: totally breathing normally. Like he’d been waiting at the bus stop for ages. Further down the road, we passed a bar where two blokes where stood in the car park next to a pick-up truck, right up in each other’s grills, arguing about something.

Moving on, to get to Portland from Estacada, I have to change buses in the town of Milwaukie. As I crossed the road from where the bus dropped off the passengers, to the other bus stop, there was a guy (I’m guessing early forties) in a motor-powered wheelchair. Nothing funny about that, of course, but he was wearing a baseball cap with one of those little propellors on the top. Spinning away like a drawing in a comic. I smiled as he passed me, he smiled back, and I watched him go on his way, and saw that he had a t-shirt hanging off the back of the chair that shouted in big white letters, “WHOOP ASS.”

I didn’t really do a whole lot in Portland, essentially what I’ve been doing a whole heap of since I’ve been back in the States: bumming around. I bought some books, drank coffee, had a sandwich… I got accosted by one of those charity people; a young smiley woman, waving at me from about ten metres away. I was in a good mood, so I took my headphones off, and we had a little chat about the child that I already sponsor (Roy, lives in Manilla). Must be a bit annoying when you’re doing that job, and when you manage to get someone to stop and talk, they’re already involved in your cause. I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right: I am a saint, I do deserve a medal for my kindness/twenty dollars a month.

I saw a nice-looking couple waiting for a bus. Both of them were quite chubby, both of them were wearing white food industry-type clothes, and the lady was holding a tray of pastries. They were having a good old chuckle about something, and occasionally kissing. It was super cute. And maybe it was my good mood, breaking through the normal pissed-off look on my face (that’s how my face naturally falls when expressionless), but today was one of those days where I got a few “looks” from the ladies. I enjoyed that, cos it’s not happened for a while. The last time was 17 April 2008 in Buenos Aires when I got an approving look and a “grrr” sound from a couple of young ladies. Yes, that’s right, I made a note of the date. Frankly, it was one of the highlights of my trip life…

Back on the bus, heading back to Estacada, and a woman who was on the bus into town was also on the bus going back. I love it when that happens, it kinda validates the amount of time you spent at the destination, like, “Yes, Craig, three-and-a-half hours is the perfect amount of time to have spent in Portland doing nothing today.”

Anyway, the bus smelled of some sort of hot, meaty pasty. Either that or a hot, sweaty dude. I was sat next to a guy in a Boston Red Sox cap, so it was probably that.

Or, it could have been the fellow who was farther back on the bus that I was. I caught a glimpse of him as I got on, and studied him when he got off; only because of what happened in-between. He looked like your typical Hollywood roadhouse bar extra: shoulder length messy hair, goatee beard, leather jacket, denim shirt and trousers. He was talking really loud. I had music on, but I heard the liberal use of naughty rude words, so turned the volume down, like the good curtain-twitcher that the Queen of England demands I should be.

He had a drawling, growly, whiskey-soaked voice that sounded like there were marbles on phlegm jiggling around in his throat like the balls in a bingo machine. Apart from the “fuck”s and “fuckin'”s, it was tough to understand what he was saying to begin with. Without having to turn around, it was obvious he was talking to a woman sat opposite him. I have two ears, so, y’know, locating voices is a skill I’ve honed over the years.

She sounded like she didn’t know him, but wasn’t averse to a random conversation with a drunken stranger. They talked about music. He spoke of how he could never get on being in a band, and liked to just do stuff on his own; of how he loved pinball; that the first concert he went to was Pink Floyd, and that they were “successful on so many levels and
so relatable.” He then shouted to the driver “Where’s my bike at? HEY! WHERE’S MY BIKE AT!?” The driver shouted back that it was still on the front of the bus. They have those cool buses here with a bicycle rack on the front. If they weren’t before, most the passengers were listening to his conversation now, which made it amusing that the next thing he said to the lady was “I don’t really like talking.” (Around the time of the Pink Floyd comment, I’d taken my notebook out of my pocket and started taking notes, thus being able to tell you about it in detail.)

So now that most of the people on the bus were listening, he chose to ask the woman, “D’you got a boyfriend?” She told him that she didn’t; she has a girlfriend. Brave girl. His voice kicked up a volume notch and he said, in the sleaziest of sleazy ways, “You have naked lesbian sex? You into that stuff where you tie each other up and shit?” She told him she didn’t want to talk about it. He kept trying with other questions about the ways of lesbianism, each time she told him, “I don’t want to talk about it.” He kind of got the message and got back to random ramblings. Soon enough, but not before telling someone to “suck my dick,” he got off the bus, and I got back to listening to some Coldplay and looking at the pink clouds that seem to come fairly often before sundown in this part of the world.

Written by Craig

January 15th, 2009 at 9:20 am

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses to 'To Portland and back'

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  1. Great post Craig! Love your travelling stories.

    My grandfather always masked his farts by singing loudly. Which in a way was a signal for everyone to leave the room…


    15 Jan 09 at 20:50

  2. This is one of my favourite posts of yours I think.

    I remember farting audibly when I was in primary school, in the classroom. I was lucky, because just before I turned crimson with shame, I realised that my classmates were giggling and perhaps a little bit impressed. I expected mockery but got accolades. If only adult life was more like that…those people at the bus stop with you might have smiled and one of them might have commented “nice trump”. Everyone would have been happier.


    16 Jan 09 at 16:52

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