On these trips we really do spend most of our waking hours working. That’s why when people wish us well on our “vacation” I bristle a bit. Not that we’d have it any other way; this is what we like to do. Every now and again we do get out. At least daily we take a walk, up and down the neighborhood hills for the exercise it brings, or down to Main Street for whatever we might encounter among the shops. We were out on one of those ventures just now, Anne needing to put birthday cards in the mail at the post office.
The Holy Toledo, one of a number of bars helping to keep Main Street going.
Main Street has a certain intrigue. Come to think of it, I don’t know when we’ve seen another pedestrian. Half the store fronts are empty. Many of the buildings are quite handsome, remnants of a prouder time. There’s a large paper mill in view just down the river, great stacks of smoke and steam (which?) with all night industrial sounds and gasps as the night shift keeps things humming. A railroad line runs by and through town with it’s own short whistle blasts as it forwards and backs at the mill. There’s even a railroad “museum,” outdoors, with a relic of a steam engine and passenger cars and flat cars with massive chains that once hauled giant cuts of giant trees from the hinterland down to the coast and the mill.
But I was going to stay on Main Street for the moment, and our little walk. As I said, we didn’t see any other walkers, but we did have a number of friendly encounters with various proprietors looking for business or just another human being to greet. Passing by a breakfast and lunch place that was just closing, the owner, though talking on the phone at the time (a land line with a long cord) called out to us, “Do you want a doughnut?” We didn’t particularly, but to decline would be
Where the friendly gentleman offered us doughnuts. I love the curtain on the upper floor.
unfriendly so we said we would and he put his call on hold while he went behind the counter and fetched two homemades and another morsel with a French name (beignet?) and handed them to us in a little paper hand-held. We thanked him and went on our way, tasting the beignet, tiny and rumpled, and sharing the first of the two doughnuts. I didn’t want to feel ungrateful for such a selfless gesture but I should have asked for the grease in a separate bag. We didn’t eat the second one.
Up the street we ran into a man we’d seen yesterday, one who’d remembered (when reminded) of two earlier visits here. He runs a most expansive antique and “art materials” store, now closing and with everything “half price.” I never saw the art supplies, but he said it’s mostly “found objects” that people use to make other stuff. We wondered if some of what we were looking at was of his making.
The “antique store,” a business the proprietor told us there’s no longer a future for.
We’d bought a couple of treasures from him before and thought this might be our chance to really score, what with the prices. We just couldn’t find anything that would make any sense even with our widely eclectic tastes. We did get from him a litany of opinions about the town and the neighbors which I won’t record but was pretty interesting to listen to–for insights about the town and about him.
A view inside. At first everything appeals, but on closer look, very little. Still, such a fun place.
When we saw him today he was going into the Methodist Thrift Store, “shopping for himself” he said. Following that guidance, we went in too. I remember in the past I found a number of books in their outside dollar shelf, all on subjects Methodists would have relished but apparently no longer. I think I’ve read them all since to some profit. Today I looked for more such, but found none.
On the way out we saw a rug in the window, a runner of pleasant design and color. It seemed of some quality and after discussing how we could use it, went back in to get the price, but it wasn’t for sale. Isn’t that how it is?
One more thing about the thrift store and all the used and cheap items was the girl behind the counter. I couldn’t look straight at her so my impression may be off, but it seemed she had tiny rings in a couple places in her lips and nose, as well as little “earring jewels” pierced around her mouth and a couple places high on her cheeks. She was otherwise not unattractive. I was tempted to say, “I’m sorry about your accident,” but figured she’d not take it as pity, even if that was my ultimate sensation.
Walking further along a man came out of a store front and called after us, “I do photography . . . and music.” Ahh, okay. He’d just been setting out postcard racks of his photos in small print form. “And I do big oversize prints, too.” We went in, more for his sake than any real interest of ours. He did have pictures on the wall, done back in the 80’s he said, with a Pentax Sureshot, of homeless types in Portland. They were interesting enough photos, black and white, not particularly artistic like a real photographer might aspire to. “Those were the wino days,” he said, adding that he was just getting sober himself then and knew half of those he photographed. Said he’d take their picture in trade for a bottle of something.
He went on about how he misses those days, and downtown Portland. “It’s not like that now,” he said. “They’ve cleaned it up?” I asked. “No, it’s much worse. It’s drugs now, and younger. I’d get killed going around with a camera up there now.”
With that, and a little about his own life (“a very long story”) and how he’d be playing music tomorrow (didn’t catch which instrument) invited us to come back. Right.
The prosperous looking but always closed boutique furniture and “art” store.
Crossing the street we came to the store we’ve never seen open the five years we’ve been coming here. It’s a big expansive place crowded with interesting furniture and whatnot, the kind that invites browsing, but we never could because it was never open. One year we saw a parrot in a cage and I think a cat so we figured somebody must be feeding pets anyway.
One time when were were here over a Labor Day weekend (having been invited as visiting artist for their yearly event) we did encounter some other people on the street. As we looked in through the windows once again at this spacious store a man who seemed to know the place greeted us. When we told him of our dismay of never finding it open, first he said “They’re open on Labor Day weekend.” Of course it was Labor Day weekend, or a day after. Had we missed it for another year? Then he offered, “Well, they’re old,” and then gave an age the same as mine, less a year. As he must have seen my general exasperation he offered to call them on his cell phone which he immediately did. “They just live upstairs,” he said. He got an answer and explained our situation to the person at the other end and then, cupping his hand over the phone he turned to us and said, “She wants to know if you’re going to buy anything.”
How were we to know? So that was the end of that.
Today it was our good fortune to find a human being, a not-that-elderly lady in the french door, top half opened, but the bottom still blocked with all manner of decorative obstacles. We chatted in a friendly way, told how we’ve often been by and always curious to look in. “We’re open on first weekends,” she said. So we missed it again. “All this furniture is for our apartments and houses that we rent out in town. We’re really an art gallery.”
Actually I don’t remember seeing art in the store. Now it’s harder anyway to see anything as they’ve put something of a frost over most of the glass. I offered that we art artists, in town temporarily, staying at Michael Gibbons’ place. I thought this might help, and she did say nice things about Michael Gibbons, but never took the hint that we might like to just peek inside.
This is all the stranger as it is the only large and prosperous looking store front on the street, directly across from the Toledo Hotel (closed) and the Shiloh Thrift Store (closed) and the El Roca Mexican restaurant (closed) and a number of other store fronts with no names, also closed and empty.
The only places open, it seemed, are a tax office, a couple of cafes, a jewelry store (sometimes open), an county office for the elderly and disabled, a pool room, a tee shirt store, a gallery of local “art,” a couple of bars, and, newly opened since our last visit, a medical marijuana front.
The vintage Indian, but the real business is behind that door.
Actually I didn’t know what it was at first. I saw the signs plastered all over the front warning against those under 21, in English and Spanish. Inside was just an empty room, though with some wonderful relics of motorcycles, a 1920’s era Indian, some Harley-Davidsons, and a few others of early vintage. That will always pull me in, but so far I still didn’t know where I was. There was an elderly couple (younger than me, but older than one might have expected) at a sort of bank window at the back of the room, the attendant being hidden from view. Then I noticed the door to the back room and, when it opened, a bar with a few younger types inside. That’s when it all came together for me, though I smelled not a thing. Exhaust fans? I smelled nothing on the street either.
A clinic indeed. So helpful for humanity.
Back outside I saw the signs I’d missed going in, “Green Dragon Herbal Clinic, Edibles, Flower-bud, Clones, Concentrates and Extracts, Local Blown Glass, Local Art.” Local art again, something I didn’t see any of. And there was nothing to satisfy my curiously about the motorcycles. I did see two young girls (over 21 of course) come out and get in their pickup truck and drive away. Made me glad I was walking.
So, it’s a clinic! Even had a big green cross in neon in the window, front and back, and a big white flag with the same green cross. How healthy. At least I’ll say this: It’s a store front that’s open; maybe it will help keep Main Street from dying altogether. Or maybe it’ll follow in the steps of our photographer friend’s downtown Portland.
There’s more to this town, and much that’s good, delightful and pretty. My few remarks about Main Street are probably not fair for those who live here and love it. Maybe I’ll tell more later.
For now, I notice that second doughnut is still looking at me. Just because it looks nice and was freely given, do I risk it?
PS I know this is mega-longer than usual.
I just couldn’t resist.
Let me know what you think.