Bar Curse

I came sliding down off the tattered remains of Mount Mazama through a strange forest of tall, very thin trees in a race to see who could reach the sun first. The winners had not emerged yet. The trees had branches only at their crowns. It seemed like a forest of toothpicks. I assume that the forest had been cleared by fire or logging a couple of decades ago and the new saplings all got started at the same time. It looked like Darwin was about ready to assert his harsh rule there, if man didn’t do the thinning first.

I went the long way round the mountain, then headed east and north. I could have gone past Bend but my eyes were tired, and I wanted to be able to take my time finding a cheap place to sleep near an interesting-looking bar. Bend is a pretty large town, but I had gone almost all the way through it before I found a hotel and a bar close together. The bar: Cheerleader Sports Grill and Pub. The hotel: Motel West.

Things started well enough. I scraped the bottom of the car pulling into the hotel parking lot, but not badly. The woman who was in charge was very friendly. A talker. She let me look at a couple of identical rooms and pick the one I preferred. someone had been smoking in 130; I chose 126. “Where’s a good place to have a burger and a beer?” I asked her while my credit card was processing.

She pointed behind her, in the direction of Cheerleader’s. “This place right here has the best burgers.” She called back into the back room. “Honey, what’s the name of the huge burger we always get over there?”
“8 ounce,” came the gruff reply.
“Eight ounces,” she said back to me. “Well, they seem big to me, anyway.” If we were using the metric system I would have figured out more quickly that that’s a pretty damn big burger.

I had a plan, then. Before going to the bar I went across the street to Safeway to get more sunscreen. (Don’t ask.) As I walked past the bar I noticed that it looked pretty dead. On the way back the owners were out front, heading home. They close early on Sundays. I talked to them briefly, just to make sure they weren’t going to open again later, but did I think to ask if there was another place nearby? Of course not. I think the answer would have been ‘no’ in any case. finally it was back to Safeway for a six-pack and an evening in the room. (How’s this for psychology? I had no interest in a twelve-pack, but there was a sale on six-packs that made two of them much cheaper than the twelver. I almost bought two, just for that reason.)

When I got back to the room, I turned on the TV. Those who know me can vouch that while TV makes most people moderately stupid, television makes me a slack-jawed idiot. In bars I can tune out the TV, since the sound is rarely on, but last night in my room the box sucked my brain out through my ears and digested it with flashing lights and suggested sex. Thus, there is no episode called ‘Bend’.

Today’s drive was a little different. I had a destination and a deadline. The goal was not as difficult as I thought it was going to be, so I needn’t have worried, but I did. I headed north on my good friend Highway 97 into some big sky country (with apologies to Montana). There were parts that could have been the high desert in northern New Mexico except the scrub trees were a different sort, but there were also wide valleys green and lush. The sharp lines between desert and lush spoke of irrigation.

I damn near ran out of gas. I passed through one town, not happy with the price, and with an easy 75 miles in the tank. Town after town I passed, and if they had gas stations, they didn’t put them on the main road. I was really starting to sweat. The needle had swept past ‘E’ like there was a hole in the tank. I checked the miles since last fill-up. 375. I wished I hadn’t looked. “I’m screwed,” I said to myself. Mile after mile went by. I approached a settlement with a small building with GAS spelled out in big white letters on its roof. Judging by the age of the weed-engulfed pumps, there had been no gas there since 1960. I knocked my speed down a little more.

I was sweating when I came into Grass Valley, pop 165. It was a pretty little town, no part prettier than the gas station. I pulled in but didn’t see anyone. Across from the gas station was a towing service. I had made it; I wouldn’t need to be rescued. I pulled up next to the pump and listened to the silence. There was a sign that said ‘open’, but there was no sign of any people. There was no credit card slot on the pump; in fact, in Oregon it is illegal to pump your own gas. I got out of the car, stretched, and looked around. No one. I went to the building and tried the door. Locked. Fuck.

I got back into the car and drove the short distance to the other end of town. I passed a diner that was packed with memorial day celebrants, and then I was out of town. I was not going to depend on the next town having gas. I decided to go back to the 24-hour tow place. They had been open, and I knew they would have cans of gas. I was willing to pay a premium. As I was parking in front of the tow place I looked over and saw someone pumping diesel at the gas station I had given up on. I swung around and pulled up to the pumps again. A guy came sauntering over from the distant diesel pump and said, “How’s it goin’?”

He was a really cool guy. We talked about selling houses and seeing the world. (He’s a landlord.) His face was weather-beaten, his shirt said Harley-Davidson and that was not for show. While my tank was filling, two girls pulled up in a canary-yellow Xterra. The driver wanted higher-grade fuel (he only had regular there). I started to explain how if their car was tuned to run on regular then any higher grade was a complete waste of money, but he just said, “This is good gas. I put it in my bike.” Beyond question was the idea that he would put anything less than the best in his bike.

11.1 gallons. Eleven point one. I had plenty of gas left. I’ve put in 11.5 before, and more. 399.9 miles. You have to give that to the back roads. When you move more slowly you go farther. As I got ready to leave, he looked me over one more time. “I’m jealous,” he said. “If you had a cold beer between your knees right now, I’d be throwing rocks at you.”

“I’m in enough trouble already,” I said and drove away.

I was driving for a destination today, but as I got closer to my goal I realized that there was a flaw in my plan. Tomorrow is the first work day since that hectic spate of builds I heaped upon them Saturday. There will be questions. There will be another build. I won’t be delivering that build over a modem. Quick change of plans (“plan”, in this case, is used in the loosest possible way) and I pull up short in Spokane, delivering a cruel tease to one of my best friends, and I’m checking into Quality Inn.

As I’m checking in, I ask, “What’s a good place around here for a burger and a beer?”

The check-in woman points across the street. “There’s Dribblers over there. It’s a nice bar, but I don’t know about their burgers.” “Burgers are secondary,” I assure her.

It’s an eery replay of the night before. I walk up through the empty parking lot to the door of the bar. There is a sign. “Open ’till 2a.m. every night” it proclaims in bold ink-jet letters. There is another sign, handwritten with black El-Marko. Three words, three lines. CLOSED! CLOSED! CLOSED!


I drifted up the street and that’s where you find me now, at a place called The Onion. It has a kind of glitzy-chainy feel, but the help is right friendly. Eavesdropping on their conversations has led me to believe that they actually enjoy working here. I like being in places like that.

29 thoughts on “Bar Curse

  1. You have so much I need to respond to, I don’t know where to begin …

    First, there’s the issue of refueling the car. Something weird that’s happened to me in Albuquerque, twice — the Cavalier has a 15-gallon gas tank, but the pump as the gas station has sold me 17 gallons of gas. The first time it happened, I thought it was a side-effect of the other problem the Cavalier had — in its past existence as a rental car, it had been used to transport drugs in the fuel tank, and the resulting fuel leaks could account for some of the problems. But I got those leaks repaired right away. Now, if the gas tank takes 17 gallons, I know the pump is dishonest.

  2. There’s a lot more else to worry about, such as whether Pat will obey his doctors’ orders and take it easy, or will he try to get things done and damage the one arm he has left. So far, he’s been tending toward the action and not the inaction. If anyone out there has a really cogent argument in favor of inaction, especially any tale about what happens when doctors’ orders are disobeyed, I’d like to pass the tale on.

  3. Carol Anne is talking a little off subject, which is good, because I want to do the same thing. I have new data on the suicide squirrel death cult, and I don’t want to bury it back under that ancient heading. I was riding in the passenger seat while my wife was pulling into the neighborhood. A squirrel dashed into the road from the shoulder, and ran, crazy mad with fright along side, paralleling us, trying to overtake us and get away!?! It just didn’t have the concept of stopping, and letting us drive away. We finally stopped and it crossed in front, escaping off the opposite side. If rats in a labrinth was the favorite “modern world is bad” icon of the 50s and 60s, maybe clueless, running, frightened squirrels can be the icon of the 2000s. Right now, Jerry is the squirrel who stopped.

  4. So whom does he need as VP? A squirrel who never ran, or Pat doing his Bob Dole impersonation? Both provide core swing state statistics that could really put Jer back into the race.

  5. I think you and I have both stopped at the same gas station. I don’t remember the town, but it was on 97 and I was down to the last drops of gas. I found an open station and it only had regular. Since I have an ’01 Miata (which requires premium, sort of) I was more or less screwed. I filled up and continued, but it basically the last station that was open until the outskirts of Bend.

  6. Oh, yes, the squirrels are at it, and they have allies. Despite all the problems with Pat’s arm, and all the painkillers he’s been taking, he insisted on going north to Rio Arriba County this past weekend. We were maybe two miles from our cabin, when a suicidal rabbit dashed in front of the car. I hit the brakes, and the resultant deceleration resulted in a huge howl of Pain from Pat. They’re after us, for sure.

  7. Jer,

    There is but one hotel in Crater Lake proper. It is way beyond your means and level of class. I did stop in there last summer for a drink just to revel in what it would be like to be a member of the privileged class.

    There is a campground at the southern end of the park “Mazama”. Stock up on beer first – they only sell singles at the campstore.

  8. ON the SSDC thread I said: If the squirrels are smart enought to sabatage cars, they mus know how said car worked. If they know how cars work it will only be a mater of time before they are driving. If they stat=rt driving, our worst fears will have come true.

    There was a previous entry about Jer finding out that a squirrel had sabatoged his car.To get to SSDC look under Jer’s Homeless tour. It’s at the bottom of the page in green letters.


  9. Yeah, I poked around the hotel up there. Pretty swanky. They hat just opened for the season three days prior. Campground I saw was closed.

  10. Looking at all the new comments – this crowd is getting too literary. Whats with all the impressive haiku? I’ll have to keep up in a more pedestrian way with a limerick:

    There once was a Jer in a Miata

    Who traveled top down through Nevada

    He liked to drive naked

    but his thing was half bak-ed

    by not putting sun screen where he oughta

  11. There once was a fellow named Jerry,

    Whose blog contained comments lit’rary.

    He sat on his sunscreen,

    His upholstery became unclean,

    And the albedo of his butt remained extraordinary.

  12. Oooh, Jesse, you sure know how to convey pain. For a bit of background, those in our family with blue eyes have extremely sun-sensitive skin — the joke is that our dad burns in a bright moonlight. pL and I, on the other hand, have brown eyes, so we can take a bit of solar radiation. Jer, alas, got the blue eyes.

  13. The haiku thing started a while back with a call for participants. You can see the progression in the poems everyone section of the blog. Nice move with the limerik, tho.

    I visited the site Gerald mentioned. I tried to get deep inside, under their “friendly” cover to see if I could confirm my suspicions. I will keep you posted on any SSDC findings.

  14. Thanks pL! I had no idea. Its good to have a community here, helping out. Also good one by John. Love the contraction of lit’rary. It must have been all his training days eating bac’n n’ swiss at the (?) restaurant in Santa Fe. Clever contractions shine in limericks.

    It takes a village

    to care for a blog

    what are those haiku rules, again?

    which reminds me of another poem I think our esteemed blogger wrote, years ago, but I could be wrong. Let me know if I misattributed it:

    roses are red

    violets are blue

    some poems rhyme

    this one doesn’t

  15. Man, I should vanish into the ether more often! Just to let you know what’s going on, I’m heading out from Bob’s today and heading up toward Banff. I’m on dialup here and the PC gets the connection so I can work, so I haven’t been able to update the blog itself.

    Yes, yes, I could bridge network connections and get the Mac on to, but unfortunately work and having fun wih Bob and family has preempted my bar time. (OK, I’m not sure how having too much fun qualifies as unfortunate, but there you go.) Not to worry, they’re kicking me out today and my ramble will resume.

  16. Legislator wants bounty for dead gray squirrels

    Thursday, May 27, 2004


    (05-27) 12:22 PDT LONDON (AP) —

    The British government should offer a bounty on the heads of gray squirrels, an imported pest that is threatening populations of its indigenous red cousins, a lawmaker said Thursday.

    “Not only do they drive out red squirrels but they destroy trees and rob birds’ nests and in one case there was a case of rabies as a result of a gray squirrel biting a human,” Lord Livsey of the small centrist Liberal Democrat party said in the House of Lords.

    “Will the government consider the setting up of a fund to save red squirrels and a pound ($1.80) … for every gray squirrel tail presented?” he asked.

    The environment minister, Lord Whitty, said such a plan had operated in the 1950s “and actually the gray squirrel population went up quite dramatically in that period, so it wasn’t very effective.”

    “Gray squirrels are frequently a pest. They are not a protected species and people can destroy them but the present focus must be on protecting those few remaining areas where we have a significant red squirrel population.”

    The red squirrel is protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act which prohibits any unauthorized killing, injuries, theft or sale of the creatures.

    The Wildlife Trust says there are only 161,000 red squirrels in Britain, compared with 2.5 million gray squirrels.

    Grays, native to North America, were introduced in Britain in 1876.

  17. See, the Grey squirrels in the SSDC have bought humans in high places internationally.

    How do they communicat over long distances?

  18. Thou must stop at Mt St. Helens. The immense power of the earth is revealed there. Spirit Lake is still half full (empty – if I were back in the old BinaryLabs days) of fallen logs – truly impressive (as well as the final resting place of the irrepressible Harry Truman, the lodge keeper, not the nuclear weapon dropper). You can even stand on the spot that the dedicated – yet insane geologist who gave his profession all that a man can, perished.

    When I went thru that area, the thing that struck me most was that from Mt Lassen to Mt Shasta to Mt Bachelor thence to Mt Adams (you’d see Mt St. Helens pre-1980) there unto Mt Hood (in my estimation the next to go high order) and to Mt Ranier, you can see each mountain in line from the previous.

    Did you happen to see the Meteor burst over W. Washington state the other night? Web cams showed the event as bright as the midday sun.

    Hell, where was I? Oh yes, a visit to Timberline Lodge (on the southern face of Mt Hood) built by the CCC is a sight again not to be missed. There is a snowfield there that is only skiiable (sic?) during the summer. All the ski and snowboard teams practice there during summer and the town of Goverment Camp and the bars are exquisitely sleazy.

    Between Mt Hood and the Columbia River (still on 97) there are more Hops Farms than I’ve ever seen. Of course, I’d never previously seen a hops field. A stop and prayer are required even for the most ardent atheist beer devotee.

    Anyway, very sodden (heinekenely so) due to a really bad encounter with a NASA beltway bandit of a client. I am very jealous of the tour and only wish that mine were still ongoing.

    Damn my choice of life as a rocket scientist!

    If and when you turn east, I can hook you up with the bad seed of my father’s loins if your looking for a stopitola in the Boise area. Scott is an icon in eastern Oregon (an icon to Baal yet an icon nevertheless).

    Let me know if you need a stopover introduction.

  19. Too bad I didn’t read that sooner. I’ve been to Mt. St. Hl. a few years ago and it was most impressive. Maybe I’ll check the onther stuff on the way back south, but I’m thinking Bozeman to Vegas to Mojave to San Diego for the next part of the trip.

    Any suggestions on that path?

    Congratulations on the heinekens.

  20. Here in NM we had a good meteor tonight. We’d been down to Elephant Butte, where we couldn’t participate in dinghy sailing because Pat’s new cast isn’t waterproof (there’s a lot of complicated stuff hidden inside, I’m told), although Gerald did get out for a sail with one of the participants.

    Following that, there was a cookout, and then we drove home. As we were approaching Socorro, about 11 p.m., we saw this brilliant blue-white flash in the west, and an impressive streak descending. One of the best meteors I’ve ever seen.

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