Sunday, June 14, 2009

We are rolling into Lincoln City in our spacious, luxury bus, where we will spend a few days. This is the number one visited town on the coast. We stop at a statue of a young Abraham Lincoln on a horse. The first thing you will notice is that his head and hands are HUGE. I’m not taking about big, farmer hands I’m talking huge, elephantiasis hands, his elongated, pumpkin-head seems to teeter on his small body. You may also notice that the artist signed the work by etching her name on the horse’s penis. I don’t know if this is a standard place to sign a statue but it seems to suggest some deep-seated issues. I’m not judging, I’m just saying. For long time readers of this blog, you may remember my moment of too much information when I discussed the boyhood crush I had on Lincoln’s mother. -so I have my own crap to deal with

While ruminating on the psychology of all of this, a larger question might present itself. Why did they name this place Lincoln City? Sure emotions were probably high after he was assassinated but Lincoln City didn’t get its name until 1965. You can certainly understand the overuse of Lincoln’s name in Illinois; you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting something named for him, but why in Oregon? Especially, when you consider the fact that in 1849 President Zachary Taylor tried to appoint Abraham Lincoln as the Secretary of the Oregon Territory with the possibility of becoming governor and Abe turned him down. I believe his exact words were. “I don’t think that’s gonna happen Zack, baby”. Maybe I live on a deeper level of resentment but I sure as hell wouldn’t name the city after him unless it was to name it Lincolnsucks City or Boothtown. I admire the higher road they’ve taken- for me that’s a road less traveled.

The name came about in 1965 when, the 5 towns that make up the city, incorporated. Instead of fighting over whose name would be the new name they held a contest among school children and, inexplicably, the name Lincoln City won. As for the statue, the sculptress, Anna Hyatt Huntington in 1965, donated it. She actually had some trouble giving the statue away because of the $25,000 shipping costs (keep in mind that back in 1965, $25,000 would have bought New Zealand and a pack of smokes). The State of Oregon turned down the offer because of the shipping costs, as did the City of Eugene. Lincoln City, with its new name, jumped at the offer and paid the $25,000. Mrs. Huntington donated it to them with 4 conditions.

1. The statue must face west. (it faces east)
2. The statue must be accessible to children. (it sits in a small lot surrounded by busy traffic)
3. The statue must not be used as a tourist destination (it was our first stop)
4. Lincoln City must never change its name.

Like the man said, “3 out of 4 aint bad.”

So what have we also learned here today?
1. Never let school children or a resentful blogger choose the name of your city.
2. If you give something to Lincoln City, get the terms in writing.
3. Don’t fall in love with a dead president’s mother- it will only lead to heartache.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Our first stop was Drift Creek Covered Bridge, where we met the remainder of our group. I don’t get the fascination with covered bridges- aren’t they just like regular bridges but…I don’t know…covered? I soured on covered bridges when I tried to read “Bridges of Madison County” . The book is about 6 pages and I could not get past the first 2 but people loved that book. I remember running into a woman I worked with in Chicago, she was finishing up the last few pages of that book and tears were streaming down her face.

“It’s so romantic.” She explained
“But isn’t the woman in the book married and having an affair with some random guy?”
“It’s a love you can’t understand,” she said angrily, as she wiped the tears from her face.
“I can’t help but think that if it was some guy having an affair because he was bored you might find it more piggish than romantic.”

In a fit of anger, she lunged at me with a knife that she had concealed in her sleeve. Thank goodness I am well versed in the art of self-defense and I quickly subdued her 4’ 6” frame, took possession of the knife and held her until the police could be summonsed. Today, she sits in an 8 x 10 cell, another victim of passion and bad reading habits. Anyway, the point is every time I think of covered bridged I’m reminded of adultery, tear stained cheeks, jail-time and a really crappy book. Imagine my surprise, when I found myself fascinated by Drift Creek Covered Bridge and the story of its survival.

The Drift Creek Covered Bridge was built in 1914; the wet condition and lack of attention began to rot it away. The bridge was condemned in 1997 and scheduled for demolition. Kerry and Laura Sweitze felt drawn to the bridge. They lived 8 miles away and the thought of a piece of Oregon history being treated so shabbily left them uneasy. Apparently the repair and maintenance of a bridge is expensive so they decided to just let the bridge rot and fall in on itself, much like the wedding vows of the couple in “Bridges of Madison County”. It was then that the coincidences began. The Sweitzes had a concrete bridge that spanned 66’10” across a creek that went to their house- the Drift Creek Covered Bridge spanned 66’10”. I wouldn’t have been moved to do anything because of this coincidence but I also wouldn’t have built an Ark just because I heard voices. (Not listening to the voices has also kept me from stalking Megan Fox and buying a convertible sports car). Still unsure about their role in the fate of the bridge, the Sweitzes prayed about it. The following day a calendar, with a picture of the bridge, arrived in the mail. That settled it- they gathered volunteers, donations and moved the bridge 8 miles to their house and rebuilt it. The tenor of the trip was set. This is a journey about passion, not mine of course, but other people’s passion. The Sweitzes had a passion and they did something about it.

Kerry and Laura donated the bridge and the land to Oregon. It’s a worthwhile visit- even if you don’t “get” the covered bridges you have to respect the passion.

To get there travel east of Lincoln City on Highway 18, about 3.5 miles. Turn south on North Bear Creek Road .The bridge is 1 mile on the left.
It took Lewis and Clark almost 2 years to get to Oregon from Illinois. In that 2-year period there were brutal winters, starvation and murder. There was a constant, nagging feeling that they would perish.

I arrived in Oregon 4 hours after I departed. I guarantee that I bitched more than Lewis and Clark. Between getting up 5 AM, paying a taxi, switching planes in Seattle and not smoking I was in a state of agitation. The truth is that I would have lasted 5 minutes on the frontier and they would have been 5 minutes of intense griping, name-calling and finger pointing. I am cut from a different cloth than those folks- a more delicate and fragile cloth- perhaps lace. This isn’t a realization that I wanted to discover so early in the trip but it makes sense. I’m traveling with professional and successful writers and there is a “less than” feeling. Thank god I am well versed in the art of denial.

I was picked up at the airport by a deluxe bus that was well stocked with cold drinks and appetizers. Several of the travel writers were already on board and we began our trip from Portland to the coast. There were a few unscheduled stops for wine tasting, so we were already behind schedule and perhaps a little tipsy. I, an abstainer of most things fun such as alcohol, arrived clear headed and delighting the other writers with my constant complaining and insightful observations about how my feet had swollen from the flight and all the free pretzels I had consumed. I would have delighted them even more but they all seemed very intent on taking notes about the trip thus far- I figured I had better put on my travel writing cap (resembles a wizards hat but without all the queer stars) and take some notes too. They will find out I’m a fraud soon enough, no sense in blowing my cover so soon into the trip.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

I received a call a couple of months ago from COCO, Central Oregon Coast Association. They invited me to tour the central coast of Oregon as a travel writer. Apparently someone with COCA followed my Paris exploits and suggested it might be good to have a blogger mixed in with the “real writers”.

COCA: You’ll be joining a group of professional writers and photographers on a 9-day, expense paid trip along the central Oregon coast.

Misplaced: You’ve read my blog?

COCA: We’ll be touring lighthouses, exploring the beaches, walking through a world-renowned aquarium, ATVing over the dunes in Reedsport, and sand surfing in Florence. You will, of course, be staying in the finest hotels and B&B’s that the coast has to offer. A chef will prepare each meal and winemakers will explain the art of their craft. We will be picking up all the costs and, in turn, we want you to blog about it.

Misplaced: You HAVE read my blog, haven’t you?

I researched COCA to make sure I wasn’t joining a cult or selling myself into white slavery or worse, some time-share sales pitch. Turns out they are legit and even if I did have to shave my head or serve espresso wearing nothing but tubes sock and a smile I figured what the hell. Clearly, I was in over my head but the greed of wanting to visit the central coast of Oregon easily out-weighed the ethical responsibility of saying “You are making a horrible mistake- hire a real writer!!”

Monday, June 01, 2009

I need to get back involved with the blog. It turns out that unless I write every day I wont write at all. To get you up to speed: I moved back to my little corner of the Midwest in October after living in Paris for the past year and a half. I still haven’t received my deposit back for the apartment in Marais and the landlord moved to Argentina- it looks promising.

The economy has taken a nose-dive and everyone here is scrambling to get their financial affairs in order. Not to brag, but I irresponsibly blew through all my money in Paris before the coked-out, 20-something investment bankers could lose it for me. My friends complain about the state of their 401k plans I shake my head in commiseration while silently belching up a little pain aux raisin. “Excusez- moi suckas”

My life has gone through a few major shake-ups since returning from Paris. No point in going through that here but it seems that getting back to writing might be a good mental health activity. Long story short, I’m rolling with the punches and taking some time off in Oregon.
You: “Time off from what?”
Me: “Shut up