Monday, August 30, 2010


The ride over from Bend to the Eugene area was really scenic... large-scale vistas off the mountain roads, out across the valleys. I'm in love with these Oregon roads here; they're almost all beautifully-paved and whoever designed them made sure they all have very constant-radii corners. When you lean it over at 80 mph you can rest assured that there will be no mid-corner surprises... just roll it on and put the bike on it's ear with confidence. Beautiful. Nary a copper to be seen, neither.

Arrived at Ken and Eileen's Babbs’ place mid-afternoon, which worked out well. I could potentially have slugged it out and done the entire length of the state in one shot... but this was much easier all around. I rolled into their "farm" and got a warm welcome as I sputtered to a stop.

Babbs is well-known as one of the original Merry Pranksters, for those of you don’t know, a loosely-knit band of cutting-edge thinkers, author Ken Kesey (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, etc.) among them; who were renowned in the mid Sixties for experimentation with ideas... new forms of art... consciousness... living. They drove a wildly-painted 1939 bus, wired to the gills with electronics and experimental lab drugs, across the country in 1964, Beat-era wheel-man-extraordinaire Neal Cassady at the wheel. They later put on the (in-)famous Acid Tests... where many new horizons were to be hatched, (including a little-known garage band who, in the midst of the Acid Tests, re-named themselves Grateful Dead).
I'd been chatting with Ken online for a while from China over the years, and he kindly offered me a bunk a couple of times on the way past, out in an old-but-clean school bus by the creek. These foks have been super-deluxe in making me feel welcome; Ken's wife Eileen is a sweet lady, originally from Staten Island. Her Mom actually knows a family back in New City, whose kid I was friends with in grade school. Nice folks... but careful! Fast and spontaneous, these folks are true-blue but highly intolerant of shallow thinking or egocentric-games. I found myself working hard to be open and direct with Ken, while still maintaining some sort of Guest Ettiquette that Momma taught me. I did, unfortunately, walk a flapjack of Jack the Dog’s crap into the kitchen on my shoe-sole. I was typing at my computer and thought I smelled dogshit; looked down and was mortified to find a grassy mud-pie sticking to the rubber. I’d just walked across the kitchen floor to get some coffee, too.
Babbs took it in Country Stride, fortunately.

Just about as soon as I got there we turned around early the next day and headed back over to Bend. Bob Dylan was to play there that night. I hopped into the back of Babbs’ Sebring convertible and we took the three-hour ride back east. I froze in the windy back seat, but all was fine, and we played music off my Mp3 player on the stereo. I feel pretty happy to be in company with these ...pretty special people... and perked up immediately whenever I heard anecdotes about the Kesey/Bus days… driving around with Jerry Garcia, etc.
The Dylan show was a treat; I wasn’t expecting to make it to any concerts on this little hejiera, but I’m a big Dylan fan, so naturally this was an unexpected pleasure. Especially noting the company I was keeping. Between the cost of the Cascades Motel (again) and the price of the concert ticket, my “daily budget” went pretty much out the window… ahh, but well worth the expense.

The Les Schwab Amphitheatre in Bend is a gorgeous, new, outdoor venue, covered with soft lush grass. There were about 4000 people in attendance; all sort of homogenous-looking (they drink a lot of milk out here) people who were, like the other Or-Gunian people I’m meeting, highly kind to one another… but strangely enough, very placid in response to the music, almost catatonic at times, compared to a fired-up East Coast crowd. Not many dancers… they seemed to be observing, for the most part.

Dylan was typically… Dylan.. Started the show sounding like a box of gravel rattling in a phone booth…but eventually smoothed out into a more mellifluous vocal groove. His back-up band was great, with a strong rhythm section laying down a fat groove. As always, you can’t really be sure of what song he’s playing until you hear a clear string of lyrics. We made our way up to the front of the General Admission/Lawn area… Eventually we moved back as Ken thought it was overly loud and distorted. A standout for me was Dylan’s Lovesick, which, once again, had a thick rhythm line driving through.

After the show the three of us headed off into downtown Bend to a small bar of sorts where we met one of their good friends for a drink and a plate of extra-gooey nachos. Ken and I were slightly lit from the concert and had a hearty, quip-laden exchange, with him insisting that I look for “the proper mountaintop” along my travel and use it to commune a Spirit-Quest experience. Hmmm…

Spent a night back in the luxurious Cascades Motel; woke in the morning to cold, gray skies. No swimming-pool splash as I’d hoped, but okay. Ken & Eileen arrived with the convertible, (now pleasantly buttoned-up), and we tripped back over into the Eugene area, listening to Beethoven’s 6th, played loudly while Ken riffed on the German army’s push onwards to Moscow or something. Spontaneity was Key to the Moment, and Babb’s is fast on the edge of erupting thought. I offered occasional flashes of my own, but generally let him make way. The skies cleared increasingly as we got over the mountains and back down to Dexter.

Next night I took the bike down into Eugene, to a weekend-long street festival that was going on. Pretty nice situation; the whole middle of town was blocked-off and there were vendors lined up all up and down. Bands were playing at the ends of the blocked-off streets in many places, and in one open field a large, professional stage had been set up. Numerous bars were open, (one place ran it’s happy-hour well into the night; Vodka Grapefruits at $3 each), while beer and wine vendors were within easy reach. I wandered around, looking at the highly-interesting faces; lots of college students from U Oregon down the street…a smattering of long-hair Granola’s…a few bearded mountain men. I frequently saw some very tall women in attendance; one gorgeous dame in a miniskirt had to have been six-foot-three… and built astoundingly well.

Eventually I made my way over to the concert field, as it were, where the Kesey “magic bus” was parked, and an all-girl, AC/DC cover-band was firing up. After chatting with Kesey’s son, Zane, for a few minutes, I waded through the dense crowd to watch the band. Excellent. I think the name was, Hell’s Belles, out of Austin. What a pisser. The lead guitarist seems to be channeling Angus, and she was simply on fire. The crowd, once again, was surprisingly mellow for this sort of act, although clearly involved and focused. I stayed around till the end, then filtered my way back out of town to my cozy bus by the creek, where I ate a cheapo roast-beef sandwich that I had bought along the way and dozed off to the sounds of the Oregon brook bubbling nearby.

No comments:

Post a Comment