It seemed like the sound of the highway, parts of it, when driving down that road matched the sound of the ocean's incessant roar. The roar of the road and the roar of the ocean washing over you. And everything so fresh. Even though it was cold you'd roll down the windows with those nifty electronic buttons and take in deep whiffs of the pine trees. Especially pungent when wet. And the smells of the ocean. Glad you didn't smoke anymore. And all the troubles of the past six decades of your life would evaporate. And your stomach would finally stop clenching. A stomach tightened by deadlines. An assholes. And bosses. And clients. And the demands of pushing paper around and around on time. If the paper push was delayed or late there was hell to pay from the top down. And more paper would have to be generated to detail why the paper push was delayed.
Over 22 years of facilitating the paper push ended abruptly that one day. One meeting ended it all. No thank yous. No cake. No watch. Just a swift polite kick to the rumpus. You do not fit into the future of our plans. One day you did, for many days you did, but now you don't. So now you were rolling down that highway just like Jack in About Schmidt. You thought about where you stood in life and what you had to do and you did it. You had to do the Oregon Coast before you died. So you did it. First you drove down to Portland in a rental car, not an RV like Jack, but a good enough transportation unit. A Pontiac Grand Prix. Fuck gas prices. Just GO. And you wandered around Portland like a lost child. And you bought a camera. And you got drunk on Grey Goose vodka. And cursed your hangovered ass for getting drunk when you knew you had a drive the next morning. And you got yourself a shack on the beach in Yachats. And you flopped. And the ocean lifted you up by the bootstraps and said to you "see you could have been a little sea bird ducking the waves and the cold and the wind". And you noticed how the roar of the sea down here sounded like a jet engine. You actually looked up into the winter blue sky as the sun set trying to spot the jet. But there was no jet.
And you noticed how everything ran to the sea. Everything eventually ends up in the sea. You imagined, briefly, being swept into the sea. Who would know? Who would care? ah to be that brave. These the thoughs of Harry Holcomb on his so called vacation. At 60 dumped onto the junk pile. Allowing himself to feel sorry for himself with a wry ironic smile. A whole set of worries gone. A whole new set ready for his attention. But not now. Not now perched by the sea. How they congregate he noticed at sunset. Stopping by the roadside abandoning vehicles of all shapes and sizes. To witness sunset. And the waves. The continual incessant never ceasing waves. Never at rest yet restful. Does the shore fight them? No, it lets the waves come to it, the shore, the rocks, and bath them, and their multiple wildlife. Can he live more like that? Allowing things to come to him rather than constantly persuing chasing wishing hoping?
Just then the power went out. He had not anticipated this inconvenience. Power outage on the stormy Oregon coast? Who would have thought. He had just got back from a very decent hand made cup of coffee at a snotty hippy dippy place. You know the type. Their menu is on burlap bags hanging on the walls to indicate they only sell the real bean here. Oh and they are also green. It's not easy being green except this is this the era of global warming, again. We knew it in the 70s. Those whole earth catalogue shots of Mother Earth. We forgot all about it in the go go 80s. We dismissed it altogether in the Bosnia war Monica Lewinski Clintonesque 90s even though we had the greenest Vice President in the history of the nation. Dieselling into the new century we all were green now and God help you, or Buddha help you if you were NOT green. The waitress had that attitude as she denied him clam chowder in a coastal town. Twice denied him soup of any kind saying we were all out as if he had been swept into this co-op world of Tibetan monk meetings and tea samplings at 4 p.m. Tuesdays unknowingly and most assuredly without his consent.
From there our hero traveled down the road a piece to Newport where Mo's World Famous Clam Chowder, now a chain, an institution along the coast, presented him with bacon enhanced clam chowder in a wonder dockside setting but with disappointingly chew uneatable bits of clam enhanced with uniform diced potatoes and bacon bits. Somehow the bacon bits, advertised on the menu, made it a signature of Mo's, a cantankerous woman from back in the day who's ancestory had twirled it into a franchise. Passable, acceptable but still leaving him in search of the ideal clam chowder. He had had a lot of mediocre and bad clam chowder on this trip. Everyday a new adventure. He would ask people so where is the best clam chowder. And they would say well most anywhere. No help in his search whatsoever. The best chowder so far was near the California border in a quaint down to earth coastal town Gold Beach where he suspected Joan Didion certainly must have visited once. There, at the largest bookstore on the Oregon Coast, kind of the Powell's of the coast, they had a cafe with coffee to die for and a clam chowder with, hold it, real potatoes, unpeeled. So far they were hands down the best Chowda House.
Returning from Newport, a place thinly disguised in a book of short stories by a local writer who called her book ....port, he returned to his cottage to cook up a smalls rib eye steak and watch the aftermath of the Obama win in South Carolina. Instead when he turned on the light switch, no power. Now he knew why the place next door, an RV park business, had a generator going. At first he suspected flooding from the torrential downpour. But also wondered how that could be as he was on the upper part of a slope. Now he realized it was for power. He considered his options. He still had two more nights paid for, the last night of a seven night stay free. He decided to hunker down with an extra blanket and crawl under the sheets with Joan Didion and her book Democracy. A relic from the gay old 80s. He had picked the book up in Florence a few days ago at a book nook in old town after rambling discussion with it's about to turn 80 proprietor, a former lawyer from Sacramento, who had owned and ran the store for 22 years. The sign in the window intrigue. Must sell, retiring. An ideal retirement plan indeed. The drop in lasted an hour with Chuck wanting to talk and Harry having a new found freedom to not be anywhere real quick. The opening lines of the book, terse and intriguing, made him pick up the book and purchase it along with a hard cover of a Pinsky going for a buck. A steal. "Oh those types of books never sell. I bought a bag of books for three bucks at the local lions auction a few weeks ago and that was in it." In between his readings of Creeley selected Didion had become the read of the trip. How appropriate he thought. Even though it was Oregon he felt he was in Didion country for some reason. The old gal looked kind of sexy back then in her photo on the back cover of the never cracked hardback. And her self referential attempt at writing a novel and what she was keeping and what she was discarding made him laugh. This was a fun book.
After managing to get a three hour nap in while listening to the Obama aftermath on the radio Harry realized he did have salad makings and a piece of cold chicken in the fridge. And a half mickey of vodka with all the makings for his favourite drink. And beer. A veritable feats. All one had to was getting up and quickly slip into more layers of clothing, something he had plenty of. Hank, the caretaker, had provided him with a battery powered lamp and a flashlight as well. Once he had slipped a couple of bloodys into him and eaten the salad and chicken he realized his lap top also had full battery power and wonderfully lit the tiny shack. He really enjoyed the ocean in the dark 75 yards from his front picture window. Even in the dark the ocean waves were white. And he thought he could see the lighthouse from down coast. Alright! Harry pulled out his Bose headphones, put on his gloves and began writing a letter to his ex-sweetheart. Thats when he heard the gunshot.
A car pulled up and quickly flashed a large spotlight then zoomed away. He connected the dots and thought someone had alerted the authorities to the shot and they were chasing someone. You think all kinds of things in the dark. It later turned out that the gunshot was actually part of a fireworks display. He had only heard the one last firework which had woke him. All was safe. Ironing a shirt before going down to breakfast at his new digs, the more upscale inn on the ocean, Harry felt the pull of the creased collar. He realized he was a defrocked business man now. He no longer had a reason to crease a collar or to wear a creased collar. He thought of the tightness of a creased collar, the corporate leash.