Monday, September 23, 2013

1012 Days of Portland, Oregon: The conclusion-The Lovecraft

Sometime, in the recesses of my personal history, I found it pleasant, if not a little unnerving, to relish the macabre. This may have stemmed from attic readings of Greek tragedies. This may have stemmed from the very nature of the world I grew up in as a kid. Who knows? But I think the darkness and the macabre way of seeing the world really came shortly before, certainly during, and mostly after my stint in the middle east.

The shortly before would be the teenage nightclubs and the music I was listening to in the late 1980s. The certainly during, would be the few tapes I brought to Desert Storm and the nights listening to Love and Rockets, The Cure and Front 242 whilst watching the missiles flight and feeling the bombs drop. And the mostly after would be the teenage nightclubs throughout southern Germany and the music we were listening to in the very early 1990s.

But war and dark pop music does not make one macabre. I know this. I think war and dark pop music can accentuate a dark and macabre person. I do not claim to be so dark and macabre anymore, but I know this is where I came from. I am certainly not known for my sunny disposition now, but I keep the darkness at bay with romantic hopefulness and furious social thought. Be that as it may, this is not about me.

This is about H.P. Lovecraft. This is about the weird fiction he was writing. This is about The Sisters of Mercy, The Cult, The Cure, Bauhaus, Love and Rockets, Souixie and the Banshees. This is about The Lovecraft bar, a dark oasis in an otherwise strange place in industrial inner Southeast Portland. This is about the friends we make, the connections we enjoy. This is about Soizic and John and Sean.

I loved the novelette, “The Shunned House.” I feel like every time I read anything by H.P. Lovecraft I am delighted by the style more than the themes. Is this a weird thing to say about weird fiction? Lovecraft wrote in such an elegant voice, educated, elevated that for me, stories of corpses climbing from their graves or haunted mold returned from the ether to claim lives is secondary. In a way, I know why Lovecraft had such a small following in his day. Writing in the 1920s, his contemporaries were so much more widespread: Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Faulkner. And even in the 1930s, Steinbeck joined the ranks for the writers of the lost generation. This is all my speculation. After all, the 1930s is considered the dawn of golden age for science fiction. Here we meet some of the greats like Issac Asimov. Pulp magazines were affordable, accessible. We remember John Campbell from this time, and editors like him were making fiction, science, weird, noir and otherwise very popular. This was H.P. Lovercraft's time. He died in 1937, relatively obscure. As with so many writers and artists and musicians, his popularity has grown since his death. Let's face it, Cthulhu is very-very cool. And Lovecraft's writing is educated, well constructed and a joy to read.

But weren't we talking about the teenage nightclubs of the Cold War? These places were dark and smokey and cool. Dancing in banana scented mist of smoke machines with lasers keeping the beat, you met Joy Division and Christian Death and Skinny Puppy. The Ministry made you want to fuck the system. We thought we were so cool. We were cool. The world needed to be a better place. We talked about things. We talked about work and travel. We lingered on after the nightclubs closed in groups of twos and threes and fours. We populated the all night diners. Coffee and cigarettes. We smelled like sweat and leather and mall-purchased perfume and old tobacco. It was youth, and it was an exciting time.

This sounds like the romantic ramblings of an old man. Anytime you say, “those were the days,” you're full of shit. These are the days. We live, we grow, we have great experiences. Nightclubs, dark pop music, great stories and great old books, these are fun. It's what colors us. And as time goes on we pick up new people, family members and loved ones.

The first time I went to The Lovecraft bar in Southeast Portland I was with Sean Barry. We'd walked over there with another friend, Trevor, after work one night. Sean Barry is a very cool dude. He got it. He got The Lovecraft. Trevor, did not. Trevor was born after the cold war had ended. Trevor had never heard the stylings of Nitzer Ebb or going farther back, Bauhaus. Post-punk, gothic rock, dark wave, industrial, whatever, all before Trevor's time. But the three of us had fun, the three of us drank gin and the three of us danced as Morrissey might say, “my legs down to the knees.” This was the beginning of my love affair with The Lovecraft.

Sean and I went back a number of times. Sean and I took our dear friend Smashley with us too. We took John Adamson along with us. John and I went to The Lovecraft a few times, usually on our late night photography walks. The Lovecraft became a destination for me. It became a destination because the place is really very cool. I had met a few of the staff members because I had served them when I worked at Portland City Grill. The reason why I fell in love with The Lovecraft is because I like old horror flicks, I like H.P. Lovecraft, I like dark art that's reminiscent of album art, I love the décor and furthermore, I love the music because it transports me to old times, times that may or may not have been great.

The 1012 days of Portland, Oregon was not about reliving old days. It was about making new memories. Making new connections. The day we rolled into Oregon, November 5, 2010 we were very different people than we were on August 14, 2013, the day we rolled out.

What we leave in the way of experience is something, I believe, develops only in retrospect. It's something that happens in perspective. And my perspective of things, the 1012 days of Portland, Oregon will probably take years.

But this is still what's fresh in my memory. My dear friends, Soizic and Smashley and John and Sean. I spent a great deal of time with these folks. I learned a great deal from them too. And the case of Soizic, she is a friend of a lifetime. People like her just don't come around very often. I love her a great deal. Smashley and John and Sean? Jeez, I love them too.

The last great Portland adventure? Well, Soizic, John and Sean. Add gin. Setting? The Lovecraft. We danced and danced and danced. And perhaps now, when I hear those great songs from the old days, perhaps now when I read H.P. Lovecraft, perhaps now when I see those old B-flicks, it will be the images of Soizic and John and Sean dancing in the weird banana scented smoke machine mist that stands out in my mind.   

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