It’s the Fourth of July. Cottage Grove, in the OR. Two hawks waken in the upper floor bunks in Stacey’s doll house shaped guest house in her green and veggie filled back yard. Below us Dave Zirbel, a late retirer and early riser, has already flown, off to Portland to play the Waterfront Blues Fest with Commander Cody. We descend the treacherous and cracking ladder that’s going to gravely injure some drunk traveling troubadour in the near or distant future and pack up the Yukon. Stacey’s mom, who owns the organic espresso bakery next to the Axe and Fiddle (this town has an astonishingly high ratio of cool things), has left us a big care package of fantastic scones, carrot muffins, and cookies. They are seriously big league baked goods. We give a limitless Hawks 10+ on the HFR scale. We hit a ubiquitous Oregon-only parking lot espresso hut generous enough to be open on our National Holiday, and order cappuccinos and smoothies. We are fueled. The Yukon is fueled. Shawn Nourse, trucker’s son, is at the wheel. We find Deep Tracks on Sirius XM radio. Homeward! It’s a good start south.
A Holiday Inn Express Complimentary Breakfast is not something you want to indulge in two days in a row. But it’s here, it’s free, and it ends at 9:30 a.m. So here we are. The less said the better. Yet this is our first spell of two nights sleeping in the same place. That alone is worth plenty when out on the road. We pack up and motor north back to Portland, and it is beautiful travel weather, a spattering of rain, brooding clouds, temperature just a few degrees cool of perfect. Which is perfect.
The brand new Alberta Rose Theater is in fact a tastefully done renovation of a 1920’s movie theater, with original naive deco lines highlighted in black and white in a cavelike interior. A romantic and heavy atmosphere that focuses your attention on the stage. We elect to do an acoustic show, sound check accordingly, and wander to twilight around the newly hip tree shaded neighborhood, which is in the terminal stages of gentrification/restoration itself, beautiful old homes on sidewalks stamped 1910, grassy alleys where we can peer into yards luxurious with studiously unkempt flowerage and vegetable plots. Lewey Longmire, an eccentric of indeterminate mix of parts calculation and cards dealt from the Deck of Life, belts out songs with strong and nicely orchestrated solo acoustic guitar. Cabinessence follows, laying down rich retro pop textures on bass, drums, B3 and telecaster with nice tremelo and enviable occasional fuzztone. Nice. Nice guys, too. We take the stage, proceed to do our acoustic thing. Man, vocals sound great in this big room.
Next morning Three Hawks returned to the hip Alberta Rose neighborhood for a surefire Portland enlightened breakfast, and we were not disappointed. Vita, across from the Theater, is good for breakfast; we can and will vouch for that. We rendezvous with Rob, who breakfasted with old friends newly embedded in Portland, pack up and exit the Inn des Holidays, with its trademark heavy chlorine cloud and green logo.
South to Eugene, where we do a live performance/interview on cool alternative KRVM, with equally cool alternative DJ Tim Little, with spectacular braided pony tail and a life history very similar to the narrative in our song Raised By Hippies, which we did indeed perform. Further south, narrow I-5 through replanted evergreen forests to the charming burg of Cottage Grove. Classic comedy fans with recognize Main Street as the location for the parade scene climax of “Animal House.”
It’s July 3, and all is quiet in these 19th century streets, two story brick buildings, a machine gun shop, one room museum with a pretty stunning life size plus carving of a gold panning prospector carved from a single piece of redwood, its polished curves a visual lesson in the various angles and patterns that can be cut into the growth rings of lumber. Look closely and you can see Jim Belushi dressed as a pirate swinging from the second floor balcony and riding off with the Jackie O dressed sorority queen. The River Road winding sleepy through town is the original pioneer trail running south to California. This town is a real throwback, not a lot of fences between homey old wood frame houses, couches in the side yard, peace and plenty, nestled in forested hills. A beautiful golden and green hill meadow overlooks the north end of town.
We load our gear into the Axe and Fiddle, yet another funky luddite pleasing wood bar that Oregon is blessed with. The charming barmaid is from Cornwall and Florida, claims that Brits think she has an American accent. The Axe and Fiddle serves a hearty and complex salmon chowder and patented Beans And Greens® salad, with some great local beers on tap. Life is good, and it’s only late afternoon. Or is it later than we think? The days linger long up here.
Our portal to the cosmos, Dave Zirbel, magician of pedal steel and Life Itself, pulls up after a long drive from Sonoma, looking fresh as a daisy. We crowd our expanded Hawks ensemble onto the small stage, Fred the cool modern hippie soundman dials us up, and we retire to a hotel room and a cottage in the back of our friend Stacey’s 1910 wood siding house. Paul L hikes up the gravel road at edge of hamlet to the aforementioned green and golden hill of tall grass waving in setting sun light. A yearning for a different kind of life. Days that could have been, as Jim Lauderdale and Hunter say. Ah, but life is very good. Couldn’t be better. We’ll be back with our loved ones in 48 or 64 hours, depending on how aggressively we attack the 5 South.
Nine fifteen p.m., on this the 3rd of July in the year of 2010, on Main Street in Cottage Grove, Oregon: we take the stage and kick into an hour and a half of country rock shimmer. It all jelled among the steel strings, the voices, the groove. We veered from the psychedelic peaks of Tele and ten string to the Bakersfield wood floor of Paul Marshall’s honky tonk classics, onto the Oregon Trail and through the thirsty dry grass of the Grapevine. It was just great. Our Oregon string of small but big crowds is intact. Good vibes, good late night hang with Axe and Fiddlers and new fans, and now good night. We climb the rickety staircase up into the loft in the cottage in the lush garden behind friend and booker Stacey’s lovely Cottage Grove castle and fall to sleep in the cool and clean summer air.
PS — Dear reader, questions came up in the post show conversation with our hosts at barside: Is Nitro IPA pressurized by nitrous oxide instead of CO2? Is NO2 a contributor to greenhouse gas? Does the nitrous oxide permeate the beer, giving it the same nitrous brief marijuana-style high? If you become good friends with your bartender, is it good form for him to offer you shots of nitrous from the tank?
PPS — And–is the phrase “same as it ever was” an actual folk saying, or a modern simulation concocted by David Byrne? Paul L claims the phrase never existed before Talking Heads. Rob, Shawn, and Paul M are certain it existed going way back. Help us.
Day dawned gray of course, but the sun prevailed and kind breezes stirred the old (new) growth woods around Michael O’Neill’s beautiful hilltop acres south of Seattle and somewhere in the vicinity of Bill Gates’ Dark Lair. In the just passed wee hours of dark night on the tour bus parked in big trees, the other Hawks own melancholy had swooped into the depths, pulling Paul L’s spirit from its penumbral proneness. Misery loves company, and needs it even more. So give of your time generously to the miserable. Or don’t. The chilly bus had warmed up around 4 a.m. and we all slept well. Morning. We can see clearly now. We checked out the O’Neill chicken coop and expansive vegetable garden. Michael cooked up eggs and taught us the subtleties of hillbilly golf on his lawn, then recorded us in his studio for a radio show. A generous man. Passage is complete.
South to Portland, which has late afternoon eco-traffic that looks a lot like L.A. anti-eco-traffic. We flirt with lateness but arrive with our patented mysterious unexpected promptness©® for our show at Music Millennium record store. The record store folks are nice, the crowd is appreciative. The band attempts to get collective haircuts but the $5 stylist next door is giving a perm that will likely take the rest of the afternoon. Katie W and Rob activate their scarily efficient cyber research team through iPhone interstate communication, and guide us to a very good Persian restaurant in Tigard, vaguely near and perhaps even adjacent to Portland. The reviews accurately warn of a strict and intimidating owner but we quickly win her over with our calculated politeness and country rock charm.
Where is Tigard? What spawned its existence? Lumber? Tin? Did it exist five years ago? Did it have a Barnes and Noble and Staples five years ago? Wherever we go, there are people. Lots of them. Lots of new stuff. If we were sensitive, we might feel a mild panicky claustrophobia. But we’re not sensitive. Are we sensitive?
We buy a bottle of Eagle Rare small distillery single cask sophisticated bourbon at the government liquor store ruled by a sour faced mom and pop clerk team. Rob picks up a proven bottle of screw top french red and a smoked Gouda at the recommend local Whole Foods-lite. We hit the road south in the long northern twilight and hit Eugene late, check in at newly constructed Holiday Inn Express at the freeway exit. Eugene is close to the 45th Parallel, this is as far north as the Hawks go. It’s our first night not in the company and kindness of hosts, and we intend to revert to our crude hotel lifestyle of bourbon, herb, bad TV, and public farting. But the flesh is weak, and this band is beat. Long drives, many gigs, too much social stimulation. A few sips of 51% corn based intoxicant in plastic Inn cups and we’re snoring while Harry Potter pouts and conjures on the flat screen TV.
We awake in an outer (inner) ring of Eugene, rife with ARCO (which by the way is a BP subsidiary, tip for you righteous boycotters) and Denny’s, far from hippie coffee grooviness. What the hell–it’s free, it’s here, and it ends at 9:30 a.m. We succumb to the Holiday Inn Express Complimentary Breakfast: omelettes of suspicious terroir, with even more suspicious provenance cheese-like filling, cinnamon buns warming in their plastic carton on the hot buffet cart, cereals pushing their preservatives to the edge of decency in big plexiglas dispensers. This is where Paul L gets a bit desperate. He knows we’re in a town bursting with hip homey boho breakfast joints. So near and yet so far. The guitarist threatens to revive his 24 hour losing streak with an act of self loathing on the level of a voluntary visit to Quizno’s–here’s a little recipe from a man who needs help: fill smallish paper bowl with generic raisin bran; slice bananas onto cereal; pour hot coffee with half and half and honey onto the cereal; take hot cinnamon bun, crumble and sprinkle over cereal; top off with quarter carton of soy milk. As delicious as it is wrong.
Half a day to explore Eugene. Rob at the wheel of the Yukon, GPS triangulating iPhone in right hand, threaded the kind small town Eugene inner grid to a modest and excellent coffeehouse, with expert young bearded baristas. Cappuccinos and strudel can provide great energy and mental acumen in a delightful package. Try it sometime. We drive westward out of Eugene outskirts and along a winding wooded narrow highway to a trail head in tall trees and trekked a series of trails, tunneled by glowing green vines and shaded above by redwoods, to the top of Spencer Butte. The view was spectacular in a soft and nurturing way, like a County Kerry vista. (Or Calvin Klein jeans.) The town of Eugene is not pretty from above, flat roofs in a grid extending west, but it’s a small annoyance in 360 degrees of rich riverbottom green fields, intriguing still wet (dry) farming plateaus and downslopes to tree lined streams, dense woods crisscrossing fields and covering upper slopes, hills of green turning to blue soft hazy mountains in the far distance, visibility enhanced by the cloud filtered light. This could be the best urban adjacent hike we’ve ever done.
A late afternoon nappy nap (bookie wook) and we’re off to Sam Bond’s Garage, which was indeed a car garage for Model T’s in Eugene’s Age of Robustness — when American men worked on their cars, not on their tans. (Coincidently, that was the never-used title or RW’s PHd dissertation in American Studies before he dropped out of the U of O). We meet an older gentlemen who did in fact know old Sam Bond. Sam Bond is real. The club is right up our alley, kinda honky tonk of the woods with sophisticated and well executed organic food, local beers of esoteric intent on tap. Our friends from Bend and good old friends Nick and Klara from the glory days of Cole’s walk in, to our grateful delight. Nick and Klara are architects, creatures of light in a darkening globe. Despite our long absence from Eugene,* we have an enthusiastic crowd. A good sound man, beer flowing like wine, new tunes, and life is good.
*And a local newspaper writeup that is faint praise epitomized, but does nicely confirm a pattern in our reviews history: when a writer says there are no hawks in L.A., they’re guaranteed to be flummoxed by our music.