It's Alright, Just Drive
I leave San Diego and drive to San Marcos. The trip begins by selling a canvas to Conrad. I then make my way to Pleasant Hill to see Kuya Al and Heather Day's art in San Francisco. For two days I eat with Kuya Al, gather some marks, paint a little, northern California catches fire and I escape by driving up the coast on the 1 and make my way farther up north where the breeze is blowing south.
I have a magical encounter in Fort Bragg where I find myself bawling in a wicker chair at the back of a crystal store with a lady who's energy is quite literally out of this world. I have a moment of recognition by an energy I can't describe, where some thing communicates to me that the path I'm on is the path I'm meant to be on.
I stop and sleep in my car in beautiful, breathtaking, lonely and introspective Gualala. I have a moment in the backseat of my rental looking out the back window and up at the tree's silhouettes as dusk descends, and it's such a lovely lovely moment I want to cry. But instead I fall asleep and when I awake, the table and fire pit where I had smoked my second joint of the evening the night before, now lit by the morning's first golden rays and it's the most beautiful way to wake up in a place like Gualala.
I continue north and I stop in Mendocino to honor the illustrator and graphic designer who worked on Robbie Pickard's book and fell in love with him, which is sadistic considering the number of edits and changes that were necessary to make this moment in Mendocino possible —this moment where an illustration of mine is exists in the world outside of my own room, hanging out with a lazy cat in a bookstore facing the beautiful Pacific ocean.
When I drive through the redwoods I roll down my windows, wrap myself in a large scarf and play the Avett Brothers. I pull over to the side of the road after a couple of hours and decide to eat some leftovers on the hood of the car, facing the trees on steep cliffs and ravines. It worries me that only less than a handful of cars are driving by so I finish eating and continue driving.
I decide to drive all the way to Crescent City to an Airbnb (because I was so, so cold in Gualala). I arrive late at night and I'm freaked out at how desolate the area is but somehow comforted by how beautiful and bright the stars are so late at night. It's a weird feeling, finding myself here again but this time alone at the northern most tip of California, the last city before Oregon. The guy managing the Airbnb that night lets me in, shows me the house, is super friendly and not at all creepy. I remember the last time I was in this city with my family, the year my dad passed away, we had arrived in Crescent City in a similar fashion —travel-weary, hungry and disheveled. The locals were probably more frightened of us than we were of arriving late at night in an unfamiliar place.
I leave California behind and stop at an art store in Eugene. I buy paper but also decide that the next time an animal chooses me as it's human I would call it "Eugene." I continue my drive through Oregon and arrive in Troutdale at McMenamins Edgefield. I had decided in Crescent City on the phone with my mom, and then later with the George, that I would stay at a hostel once I got to Oregon.
I arrive on a Friday night and the energy is giving me full frat boy fantasy, henney, and I'm the hippie artist with crystals dangling from my neck, reeking of pot and hands stained with paint. There are a lot people wandering the grounds, some dressed for a night out, some in bath robes. I order some food, wait awkwardly near a spot where I inconvenience servers for roughly fifteen minutes and decide to bring my food back to my room. I eat my burger at a table by the window facing the water tower. I lay down on my bottom bunk, doze off and wake up to commotion over one of the guys having peed on the floor near his bed. Somebody from the lobby and maintenance had to come in. They are apologetic and assure us that this usually doesn't happen as they make their way out.
When I awake in the morning it's as though the entire place has transformed. There's a soft glow that permeates the hallways, and at either end of the hall on each floor there is a balcony with cushioned wooden benches big enough for ten people, overlooking the grounds and, in the distance, the woods of Troutdale. The party-goers eager to shake off their work week are now gone, at home, and those of us staying at McMenamins Edgefield are now wandering the halls in search for coffee, all the while marveling at the artwork all over the walls, doors, windows, pipes, stairways and ceilings on each floor. It is absolutely badass. I walk to my car and take a swig of water from my jug in the trunk and smoke a joint as I head back to the lobby to check out.
I'm so enamored with the place that I decide to stay for a little while longer, really look at all the art, explore the grounds some more, and take a few notes in the garden and then on the balcony.
I get into Seattle the same afternoon, a Saturday, and find the parking garage listed on The Green Tortoise's website. I park the rental and find myself giddy at the fact that my hostel is right across the street from Pike Place Market. I check in. I smell weed. I go upstairs to the second floor and find my bed near a window, slightly ajar, and the most delicious Pacific Northwest breeze blowing into the room. I lay down with a sense of relief, my belongings scattered on the floor. I decide to head out for lunch, Japanese, somewhere nearby. I feel the relief of ending a long journey and also a little emotional, nostalgic, so I order sake.
I wander downtown for a little bit before looking up Herban Legends on Weedmaps. I wander some more, a little lost. I stop a really good-looking guy who I assume is a local and ask him where the weed shop is. He smiles, tells me it's nearby and sort of walks me to the corner where the side of the building is visible. I thank him and make my way toward the shop. Sidenote: the ease with which a medical marijuana patient is able to access cannabis along the west coast is really amazing, like what a time to be alive. This particular rec shop is the cherry on top. Visually the place is stunning, the list of products, overwhelming, and the staff working there, super knowledgable, friendly and welcoming. Next door is a shop run by an artist that's got all of his products —prints, apparel, model toys, etc. I leave the place with a nice collection of various pre-rolls, mostly sativa. I smoke one on my walk back to Pike Place Market, take photos of people taking photos of the sunset. I have thoughts of art projects that involve constellations, bodies of water, all because I keep thinking about Puget Sound.
When I get back I discover the smoke room and learn why The Green Tortoise is thusly named. I I meet a bunch of people, a friendly girl named Abigail being one of them, and then proceed to have the most fascinating conversation with a firefighter named Alex from Milwaukee. He tells me his story of having really fond memories of smoking with his brothers when he was younger, so every now and then he comes to Seattle and stays The Green Tortoise after visiting Herban Legends. I decide then and there to adopt the same tradition and come here every fall looking not just for Alex but for yet another conversation where the discoveries run deep and where lines intersect at the smoke room in the The Green Tortoise.
We talk for a long time, smoke a looooooooot of weed, share too many joints and neither of us really want to stop talking so I go back to my room and grab the rest of the pre-rolls and we smoke those, too. We both agree that the Universe is mysterious in its ways of balancing out energy, and that somehow, this particular encounter and conversation is very that. The next thing I know I wake up outside in the common area, twice —once at a table with my head resting on my arms and again in a leather love seat near the bike rack. I get up, go to my room and fall asleep noticing that my roommates are now finally here, also fast asleep or at least close to it.
I wake up and get ready with my roommates from the bunk opposite mine. They're from Japan and have just come from Los Angeles. I go downstairs for communal breakfast where we're encouraged to cook our own eggs in the kitchen. After eating I decide to stay another day. I chat with Abigail in the smoke room, ask her if Alex was real or if I'd hallucinated the entire thing. She assures me he's real. We smoke together and talk some more. I show her my artwork and I her reactions flatter me. I spend the rest of the afternoon painting, smoking, wondering how much of this I'll remember in the future and whether I should eat ramen for dinner, again.
When I drive back I do a straight shot from Seattle all the way to Pleasant Hill, this time Portland being my stop in Oregon. I pick up some donuts from Blue Star for Kuya Al since I'm staying with him again for a few days before finally heading back to Southern California. When I arrive in Pleasant Hill I pull into the driveway, leave all my things in the car and head upstairs straight into bed. I wake up in the afternoon and meet up with Kuya Al for dinner and drinks. We catch up. We head home, we smoke on his patio on a warm evening. I leave him some joints. In the morning I leave for Orange County to spend a few days with the moms and the brother.
I go to Los Angeles to apply for a travel visa for Japan and while I wait for them to process everything I spend time with Emily and her nephew, Tyler. I fall in love with him, and think maybe, maybe one day I can have a kid and he can be this amazing and make other people fall in love with him and with the idea of possibly having a kid someday with someone and watching them grow up to be a decent human being like he's grown up to be. Is this the remnant of something from my trip? I hold his hand as he, his aunt and I cross streets in Los Angeles and wait in line for vendors selling freshly cut pineapple. It's a strange feeling coupled with the fact that even though I'm spending this time with Emily, I'm still missing her all the same.
I leave Buena Park in the evening and when I arrive in San Diego I feel energized, inspired and I start painting on the paper I bought back in Eugene. I start making lines, paths, thinking about the journey I was just on and the people I was blessed enough to have encountered and I realize how important this time alone really is, and how really it isn't time "alone" at all, but more of a commitment to get to know myself better. The INFJ Scorpio in me has such a strong pull toward solitude especially during the fall, I'm not really sure I can explain it. But I knew this time around I had to transmute that energy somehow and it manifested in the form of this trip, and, as is evidenced by tonight's few marks and splatters of paint, will eventually manifest into the pieces to come.