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Part Two: BUTTE TO PORTLAND
After leaving Butte, we headed west again into the mountains. The driving was beginning to take its toll. We'd spent the previous two nights sleeping in the car, and, well, everybody who ever complained to you about driving through North Dakota/Eastern Montana... they have a point. Noah and I kept our sanity by jamming along to Ol' Dirty Bastard and Patrick Porter records. We were determined to make it to Portland that evening, and to (hopefully) sleep horizontally at last.
Noah and Rainbow Trout; Truck Stop, St. Regis, MT.
After driving through Montana for what seemed like FOREVER (how big IS that state, anyhow???) we cut through the panhandle of Idaho, stopping only to get gas, but completing my checklist of visiting all 48 contiguous states. (The only three I had left were ND, MT, and ID, so I nailed them all here in one trip!)
From Idaho the highway drops sharply into Eastern Washington, and Spokane. We stopped in town to check out the local comics shops, and I picked up a Marvel Monsters hardcover I'd had my eye on for awhile, as well as a paperback collection of old Marvel romance comics, including a bunch of work by My Hero™ Jack Kirby. Both used; not bad. I kind of liked Spokane, the little I saw of it. Reminded me of a smaller, quieter Denver. Anyhow, we had some driving to do... driving through the most god-forsaken batch of land I have ever seen in America. And I've seen Nevada.
Welcome to Eastern Washington/Oregon.
"The fields have turned brown..."
Endless stretches of DIRT, punctuated only by occasional (and slightly scary) dust devils.
Noah passes the time with the new Ku(š): (amazing Latvian comix anthology in English!)
"Ever feel as if your mind had started to erode?"
(Note scalloped tongue due to Spleen Qi deficiency/exhaustion)
After what seemed like forever, we dropped down into Oregon and the Columbia River Valley. Which was scenic... for the first 1000 miles.
God help us.
We stopped in this little town along the river for gas, where I was harassed by a bunch of partygirls from California in an RV. I was starving but was convinced better food would be available up ahead somewhere. WRONG.
Welcome to Mordor.
"Gimme the mike so I can take it away..."
I was so hungry I didn't even stop to look at Multnomah Falls (which I instantly regretted) (I saw it briefly by glancing over my shoulder), but ultimately we arrived safely in Portland. We found a Whole Foods, where I paid $13.00 for a cardboard container of tasteless salad, and called Dylan Williams, who we strong-armed into letting us stay at his house. At last we were horizontal!
The next morning we traveled around town, visiting comic shops, including the excellent Cosmic Monkey, where the owner Adam asked us to do some drawings for their wall... it was great! Everywhere you turned in this town there was another awesome comics shop.
Noah's cosmic monkey.
Friday night was free-day at the Portland Art Museum, which just happened to be showing the complete pages and ephemera from R. Crumb's Genesis masterpiece. Noah and I were freaking out. We spent three hours in there absorbing every line of the master. Simply amazing. What was really impressive to me was the totality of depth and observation with which Crumb imbues each of his drawings. Simple landscapes, made up of a few scraggly lines and crosshatching, look absolutely REAL coming from his hand. I guess that's what a lifetime of drawing gets you.
"It's not about a salary, it's all about reality."
The next day was the first day of the famed Portland Zine Symposium. This was, strangely, my first time ever in Portland, and it was great. It's easy to see why everybody loves it there.
Me and Chris Cilla. I swear we didn't plan this. Hi Zak!
At one point two random people were standing at my table, when one said "This is kind of weird, but I wanted to show you my tattoo." When he did this the gal next to him's eyes popped out, and she said "Now, this is gonna be really weird, but..." They both happened to have King-Cat tattoos.
Dave's tattoo, from Perfect Example.
Reba's, from Map of My Heart.
Afterwards some good-natured fool (the wonderful T. Edward Bak) accosted me and Noah in the parking garage and took us out for the most awesome Middle Eastern food I've ever had.
We went back to Dylan's and spent the evening talking about comics and the comics business. The next day we got up early and headed north to Seattle, where I had a reading and workshop that afternoon.
NEXT TIME: SEATTLE, VANCOUVER, AND SAN FRANCISCO