I don’t know how I met Mike. He was a fraternity guy, but I did and somehow BJ and I ended up driving around with Mike and his wife, Pam, through the great Northwest. I had never been there before and Mike lived up there in Oregon, and BJ was going to go to college up there in Portland. So that seemed the logical place to go.
We drove around for three weeks maybe. Going from one camp ground to another and to Mike’s parent’s house and to a place by the Puget Sound. I don’t know where I got the money to do such a thing but we ate mostly hot dogs and chips and the campgrounds weren’t that expensive back then. One night we camped near Mount Rainier. This is one impressive mother-fucking mountain, sticking up out of the middle of nowhere. And it rained that night on us—which you might expect camping next to a mountain with the word Rain in it—and we woke up all sodden in our sleeping bags because we had been sleeping in the open.
I woke up in a puddle and being a hypochondriac was sure I was going to catch my death of a cold. But near by, were these sort of houses. Well they were four poles sticking up about eight feet each, with a roof like a house on top, so you could get out of the rain, but no walls. And at the back of each of these strange abodes was a huge fire place. We collected wood from all over the place and lit a rip roaring fire and just sat there all day long in front of it getting stoned and watching the flames and the coals as they cooled and crumbled. Basking in the heat of those flames on one side of your body, while cool air blew through the house with no walls, and the rain poured down—well, it was sort of a mystic experience.
I thought the Northwest was pretty Great. But this was back in 1968; I got no idea what it’s like now. I expect there are a lot more people. We stayed at a house of some friends of Mike’s wife, like a summer home I suppose you would call it, and it was on a flat bit of land and two steps out of the house, your feet were in the sand and you were looking across the Puget Sound towards an island way the fuck off over there somewhere like in Canada with wind and fog and rain and shit blowing through.
The people who owned the house had grown corn and tomatoes and they would go out along the beach and come back with clams and oysters. And one day, we trek up into the backwoods, and down a canyon and came to this crystal clear stream and caught trout and saw deer. And I got to thinking that maybe this is what the first settlers in America had seen: a fucking land of milk and honey. You could live off the damn land or near to it. Bison used to roam the woods and deer.
Of course, all this good stuff to eat seems to have over stimulated us because back in the days when passenger pigeons darkened the sky for days on end, we Americans would load up cannons with buck shot, point them towards the sky to produce a veritable deluge of dead and dying pigeons. They couldn’t eat all those, any more than that mother fucker Davy Crockett could when—he bragged to his biographer—he shot six buck in one afternoon.
Too much of a good thing seems like too much of nothing. We started out as a nation of goddamn wastrels and we continue in that tradition with a fucking vengeance.