"A Weekend In Bellingham"

From out of nowhere, Motley Crue’s “Home Sweet Home” filled the room. Suddenly, I was awake, and after a few seconds to gather my wits, I discovered it wasn’t, in fact, coming from nowhere, but rather from my pocket.
“Tonight, Toniiiiiiiiiight! I’m on my way-ay-ay!” Vince Neil was screaming at me by the time I fished the busted-ass Razr out of my pocket.
It was my dad, wanting to know if he could sell my Xbox to the little boy down the street. (A matter of great importance that certainly couldn’t have waited till noon.)

Looks like I’m up, now, I thought. I lied there for a moment, and I couldn’t here anything but the passing of a few cars on the near-by intersection. Far too quiet, I thought. This could only be bad. I eased myself up on to my feet. Not knowing what else to do, I went to the window and looked down, into the parking lot to see if our cars were there. I half expected to see one missing and another totaled, but they were all there and appeared to be just as we’d left them.

I strained to recall how the night had ended, but in the craziness of my assorted memories, it never seemed to stop. The last thing I remembered was crawling back into the house through Nathaniel’s window.

There seemed to be something particularly disgusting about the muted infomercial on the TV. Jack Hamm, “6-Time World Long-Drive Champion,” kept shoving the head of his fairway wood at me, pointing at it as if to say, “Look how fucking sweet it is!!! You Gotsta have it!!!”

I thought back to the previous day…

With nobody home at the guy’s house when Kelly and I returned from the park, I went over to her place. She went to take a shower, and I found myself watching TV, alone, with Sarah. Who is this girl? I thought. She represented every new friend that my old friends had made without me, and I thought I’d pick her brain if the opportunity arose, and find out if there was more to her than the archetype in my mind.

Before Kelly had left, she had popped in some DVD she’s bought “Because there’s cute boys on the cover.” It turned out to be “The History Boys.” Kelly had left in disappointment. She claimed the boys weren’t as cute as they’d seemed on the cover. “An unruly class of gifted and charming teenage boys pursue sex, sport, and higher education.” It looked like a promising flick, but Sarah looked at me and said, “I’m thinkin about giving this movie the, uh…” She turned her thumbs-up into a thumbs-down and made a fart sound.

“But we’re only like 5 minutes into it.” I protested. She smiled.

“If a movie isn’t good in the first 5 minutes it’s not worth watching!”

She sounded serious. I debated about this for some time. Could she actually have meant that? Maybe I was reading too much into it. She couldn’t have been completely serious…but nonetheless she’d completely given up on this particular movie, and before I knew it, we were watching CSI instead.

We didn’t pay much attention to the TV, and started talking. She seemed authentically interested in who I was, much in the same way I was curious about her. She claimed she’d heard a lot about me. I laughed.

“What kinda stuff have you heard?” I asked, inquisitively.

“Well,” she began, “I can’t really think of any specific stories, it’s always just like, ‘Riley!’ Like, if we’re going to a party, ‘Riley!’s gonna be there.” Her eyes widened whenever she said my name, as though I was only talked about in loud voices in this house. I clearly had earned some kind of loud reputation.

“I have no idea how I got that kind of rep,” I began, “To me, I just kinda…do what I do…” I was coming down from being high for 2 or 3 hours, and wasn’t articulating well. I understood where the rumors of my knowledge of music and love of banghi had come from….but the loudness – where did it come from? I wondered if perhaps my youthful energy had given me a reputation I couldn’t possibly live up to now that the weight of the world and impending doom of upward mobility had strained my spirit.

She asked me about Evergreen. I sat silently with my mouth hanging open for a moment. How to describe it? Finally, I began, “Well, I really love it…most of the time. But, ya know, sometimes it drives me crazy.” I assumed she had some idea of the legend of Evergreen, but her confused expression told me she hadn’t, and I could see I had some explaining to do.

“ – Wait – what do you mean? Why does it drive you crazy?”

“Well, it’s just…the people, I guess. They’re so…weird, and sometimes I just wish I was here instead.”

“What’s weird about them?” She cocked her head to one side and I was now in the grips of a full-on interview. She seemed genuinely curious.

“Well, they’re…hippies, I guess.” I felt bad about using the H-word, but what other label so succinctly paints an accurate picture?

“Oh, so you mean it’s like here?”

This poor girl.

“No no no,” I said, laughing, “I mean like…real hippies.”

“Oh,” She didn’t understand. She was from a place called Kent, the eight-largest city in Washington. She’d clearly never heard anything about Evergreen.

She had a puzzled look on her face. After a few seconds she began again, “It must not smell very good at your school…It’s hard to imagine any school being more hippie than this one.”

I held back the laughter. “Really?” I asked, anxious to hear how she was gonna back that one up.

“Yeah! Sometimes, um, people come to class with no shoes on!

This poor fucking girl.

I wanted very badly to whisk her away to Evergreen just for a few days. It probably wouldn’t open her eyes or expand her mind any, but just for the freak-out. She seemed like a really nice girl. In fact, I knew she had to be nice to have befriended so many island boys and girls. She smiled between phrases, and just conversing with her for a while gave me a good impression of her, but Christ, I was worried for the well-being of my generation. This is Bellingham, I thought. This is supposed to be an open-minded University town, and after all, we’re in a blue state.

I didn’t want to make her feel bad, or scare her off, but I felt I had to say something on behalf of the “real hippies.”

“I don’t really wear shoes to class very often.”

“Really?” she asked. She felt bad. “Well, I mean…the people here, some of them just do it to like…make a statement or something, and it bugs me - ”

I interrupted her. “That’s exactly what I mean when I say, “Real hippies” – they don’t do it to make a statement. They do it because they like being bare-foot…and plus, ya know… I have plenty of friends at Evergreen who smell pretty damn good.”

She laughed.

The next morning I was making the transition from tipsy to hung-over when Nathaniel walked into the room with a smile that said, “Hey, buddy. Crazy night.”

“I was soooooo drunk…In a gooood way!” sang Nathaniel, as though he was trying to convince himself. He grabbed the remote and drowned out the sound of “When The Music’s Over” by the Doors with an episode of Full House.

Everyone seemed to be trapped in a subway, with Uncle Jessie convincing a young man to go back to school. Bob Saget was sporting a ridiculous brown blazer. Kimmy Gibbler, much to my dismay, didn’t seem to be in this episode.

I didn’t see Sarah again for a while. When I finally did, she seemed really excited to see me, and she ran up and gave me a hug. I was glad I’d managed to navigate my way around such a strange and uncomfortable conversation without sullying my name. At least, it was uncomfortable for me. The poor girl was just trying to get to know me, but all I could think about was…the state of things, and what it means when a good-hearted girl grows up in an environment like this one, and worse yet, she stays in essentially the same environment for college. It’s conversations like the one I had with Sarah that make me praise Evergreen, through day after miserable day of rain, punctuated by the occasional B.O.-riddled elevator.

But unfortunately, Evergreen has taught me a lot, and the more you learn, the less you know. For instance, I have no idea how day after day of CSI and hung-over mornings of Full House marathons will prepare my generation for the intellectual struggle of adulthood. Fortunately for my island friends-turned-Western Washington Vikings, there are thousands of mindless office jobs waiting for them in the system.

Growing up around ignorant buzz-words like “hippie,” slapped to death with brutal, mostly undeserved stigma, has left my peers close-minded and ignorant. It’s being perpetuated by apathetic college students whose parents have the money to buy their children TVs, but not the time to explain to them the social sciences, and the intricacies of delicate issues, like, for instance, why there are places like Evergreen where smelling good doesn’t always come before feeling good, and education comes before appearance; places where young men and women spend free moments reading or discussing pressing issues that will only become more important as we are handed the keys to our cities and states. Ask a Greener how they like school. They will tell you about class, their professors, new schools of thought, and books that are changing their lives. Ask a Bellingham frat boy, and they will tell you there are lots of girls.

The stale mornings, God, the stale mornings. Festering youth, eroding in a sea of cheap wine…Good boys and girls – real sweethearts like Sarah; their lives are passing them by. Without the pursuit of knowledge, what more is upright mobility than this: A rerun and a hangover?


James said...

I really like this entry. You should post more stories from your everyday life.

Milesly Rose said...

mmmm Riley, come back to me. I need more of your stories and words.