Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Monday 29th June 2009 – Muscle Cars, Nationality, and Fear

At the Council Meeting at North Bend, the Mayor asked me if I could lead the pledge. At all formal gatherings, Americans pledge allegiance to the Flag, nation, etc.  I told him that was inappropriate (I didn't say it quite like that) since I was a foreigner.  "We're all foreigners in this country", he said, and he went round the room, asking everyone their nationality.

Now, except for me, they were all Americans.  But not one gave that answer.  The same thing happened, on Monday, later that evening, when I was saying farewell to Oregon.  They all use their immigrant-ancestor-nationality as though it was their own, however complicated that comes out. 

When I say 'complicated', none of them would be allowed entry at Cruft's.  But don't be misled: they are all fiercely patriotic Americans, although it may be where our special relationship comes from: they nearly all have some Brit in them, at least when I'm around (yes, yes, I made that joke as well – go to your room).


One of the topics at the farewell was what the 'Ducks' were.  The newspapers talk a lot about the Ducks in the sports section, assuming the reader knows what that means.  They said that's the University of Oregon (at Eugene): all their sports teams are called 'the Ducks'.  "But", they add, leering knowingly, (it's 'later that night'), "Oregon State University (at Corvallis) are called the 'Beavers', even (nudge, nudge; wink, wink) the girls' teams"!

         I am carted home from the farewell by my pool opponent.  He possesses a 1977 Pontiac Grand Prix SJ.  I fleeting contemplate the possibility that the 'Black Pope' is so named because he is covered in used engine oil, but it turns out that 'SJ' means it's a 'stick-shift automatic', whatever that is. 

My eyesight is somewhat impaired at that time of the evening, but I can barely see all the way to the end of the hood/bonnet.  What a car!  400 cubic inch engine, which is how Americans do it: that translates into about 6.5 litres (Americans insist on 'liters', although they never actually use the word, or know what it is).  I forgot to ask, but it must be a V-8.


Then I am left with my fears.  They have talked a lot about my impending visit to the Mohave Desert.  They think I'm mad (they could be right).  They think the temperature is bound to be a thermometer-breaking 110-plus (that's well-north of 43, in new money (((how's that for a mixed metaphor!)))). 


And I do have to say: I am afraid of this next bit.

Monday, 29 June 2009

Sunday 28th June 2009 – White Van Man

A quiet day sorting out the souvenir box, and organising things to pack Rozzie: I'm still figuring out how to pack myself in for on-the-road overnight stops.  It's one of those vehicles with lots of seat configurations.  As I was moving things about, I unexpectedly encountered a new position.  It was nearly quite painful.

This time next week, I shall be in California or beyond.


Later that same evening, while I was bidding farewell to my regular pool opponent, I had another encounter, this time with a serious senior moment.

You are probably all familiar enough with pool to know that one player tries to pot the balls with spots, and the other the balls with stripes, sometimes called 'little ones' and 'big ones'.  I had just finished a break, where I actually potted some balls, and was watching somebody playing some silly video game, when my opponent says "am I on big ones or little ones?" (I should point out that he had also potted some balls).  And, do you know, I couldn't remember: we couldn't neither of us figure out who was playing what.  At least being old allowed us to do the sensible thing and toss a coin to carry on.

While we were playing pool, it had been noticed that there was a white van outside, with the driver sitting in it getting drunker and drunker.  Of course, somebody called the police. 

In due course, a police officer arrived in the bar to report.  Turned out they were waiting to deliver something next door, and were probably going to sleep in the van.  As the officer was explaining that one of them was on a Quatamalan passport, "probably an illegal", I started to get interested.  After all, I might find myself in the same position if Homeland Security don't get their fingers out.  My ears were pricked up, straining to hear when someone says, right in my ear, "would you like to shoot pool?  Your other guy says it's OK."  And by the time I'd dealt with that, the cop was gone.

At least the newcomer was no good at pool, so I managed to win for a bit.  And he was quite young, so we didn't get confused about whose balls were which.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Saturday 27th June – Hollering and Hooting

They were having a 'Clamboree' over on the west coast of Coos City.  The place is known as 'Empire'.  It was one of the early settlements, and was called 'Empire City', which I think is a very odd name for Americans to use.  But I have quite enough on my plate trying to find out why Glasgow is called Glasgow.

My arrival caused great excitement among the ladies, with much swooning and falling off of piers.  The Coast Guard were kept quite busy.  


I pretended not to notice.

This point in the bay is called 'Hollering Point', because it's the narrowest bit and people used to shout for the ferry to come and pick them up.

They keep up the tradition with a hollering contest.  I expect it also allows the wise young man to test the hollering capacity of prospective brides.  (What he might expect to hear when she finds out at the reception that the beer has been better treated than she was.)  The ladies were all able to holler north of 100 dBs.  That's in the area where sustained exposure can cause permanent loss of hearing.  So that's why we don't always hear what you say, dear. 

Miss Coos County had been detailed to distract me, but I could see what was going on. [227]


Then it was on to the Coos Bay Speedway, for the Stock Car Racing.  This really is local participation in sport: battered cars on a dirt oval.  All indefatigable: they would get bits broken and go off to be fixed and come back again for more.  Some were 'four cylinder', looking like they might have been driven by you and I (admittedly some time ago).  Others were 'Late Models', looking like what Americans call 'muscle cars'.  It was great fun.  The high spot for me was the track marshals, who are probably volunteers.  They were out there on the track shovelling dirt onto oil spills while the cars were still running (under yellow flags, of course).  They even had a golf buggy (presumably souped-up) to push-start stalled cars.

You would have to have a powerful imagination to imagine anything further removed from Formula One: or more fun.  It is a curious paradox about sport that the less money is spent on it, the more fun it is.

Friday 26th June 2009 – An Unexpected Ceremony

I was looking at the Google map of Glasgow, Oregon, trying to relate it to the old 1890 plat.  Although the streets are now all curved, meandering, and closed off in places, it is possible to see the original shape.  As I focused in on it, I suddenly realised that the street names were based on the original.  The plat showed 'A' Street, 'B' Street, etc.  The present map has them all named after birds, but they're 'Blue Bird', 'Curlew', 'Dove', etc.  The original plat had a curious panhandle on it, which I guessed ran down to the shore line (I had even speculated that the original speculators would have wanted to be sure that the inhabitants only had access to the bay that way).  So now I could go and look.  And there, on a small road behind the Glasgow Store, I found the way down to the old ferry.  At low tide, I could see the stumps of the ferry jetty sticking out of the mud.


Later that night, I was privileged to witness an unusual ceremony.  A group of reasonably well-dressed you men came into the bar, rolling a sack trolley with a nice new dustbin on it.  The bin was lined with clean white plastic sheeting.  They vanished into the cooler (that's American for cellar), and emerged with a keg of beer.  The keg was carefully placed in the white sheeting, and surrounded by ice cubes.  They then carefully wrapped it up in the white sheeting and left in formation.

I asked what all that was about.  "Oh, he's getting married", they said.  Even the beer is virginal here.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Thursday 25th June 2009 – There is no Escape

I have a map of the USA with all the Glasgows marked on it in green ink.  When I'm in a group, I can usually bring the subject round to my tour.  Then I pull the map, which is now getting a bit tattered, out of my wallet and show everyone where I'm going. 

People are clearly flattered that I take so much trouble to inform them about my activities.  They are often too shy to ask for themselves.  I'm getting very smooth at the explanation: I can now talk for quite long periods about it.  People sometimes just slip silently away, so as not to interrupt my flow.

But I should have kept the information away from the grown-up ladies.  Last night, as I toured a number of the local establishments, testing the quality of their microbrews, I spotted a couple of ladies who were clearly following me.  I expect they were reporting back to some central control, but their radios were very well-concealed.

 I finally challenged them.  They said they only wanted to play pool with me.  But I know how these innocent games can end up: before I know where I am, we'll be back to the dreaded butt-darts.

I graciously let them beat me, then slipped unostentatiously away while they were basking in their glory.  I made it home without them picking up my scent again.


I now realise the map was a mistake.  They all know where I'm going.  I have discussed the matter with the local police chief.  He suggested I leave town as soon as possible.  He said he'd heard about my map, but he was very reluctant to look at it himself.  He thought it might be a good idea to avoid anywhere called 'Glasgow' for a while. 

I shall go south soon, avoiding the main roads.  I'll spend a few days planning my exit strategy.  In the meantime, I'll stay indoors with the curtains pulled, and only go out after dark.  I'd never have thought of the darkened room myself, but the police chief suggested it.  He's obviously got a lot of experience of grown-up ladies.  I'm glad he's on my side.  I shall keep him informed about my whereabouts, that will please him.


What worries me most of all is that my next stop is a railroad siding in the middle of the desert.  I had a dream last night which was like the opening scene from "Once Upon a Time in the West", with two grown-up ladies chasing flies round a rusty, creaking windmill.  I will call the sheriff and advise him on what to look out for.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Wednesday 24th June 2009 – Breathing a Bit of Life into History

" … said Glasgow is situated on lots two and three of section 2 and on the North-West quarter of the North-East quarter of Section 2, all being in Township 25, south of Range 13 west of the Willamette Meridian in the County of Coos, State of Oregon.  The Initial Point thereof is shown on said Plat.  Said Initial Point is the quarter-section corner between section two in said township 25 South of Range 13 West of the Willamette Meridian and section 35 of Township 24 South of Range 13 West of the Willamette Meridian." ('Township' in this context is a survey term referring to a six-mile square piece of land.  A Section is one square mile within it.  So a section is, as you all know, 640 acres.  It was often apportioned in quarters, and quarter-quarters.  A quarter-quarter is, of course, 40 acres, which is why the phrases 'lower 40' and 'back 40' are so common in American country songs and stories.)

Oh, and plat is just the Anglo-Saxon pronunciation of plot.  The plat is just a map identifying all the lots of land.


My historian friends had exhorted me to go to Coquille, the county seat, and ask at the county courthouse to see the original plats.  And I did.  And I have: I've actually held the original 1890s plat of Glasgow, which would have been held by the very people who called it Glasgow.  Johnathan Bourne, Jr., the President, and George F. Holman, the Secretary of the Glasgow Townsite Company, submitted the plat to the county surveyor, not only on the 11th June 1890, but at 10am on the 11th June 1890.  [Those of you preparing a PhD thesis on my trip will remember that Glasgow got a mention in the 11th June 1890 edition of the Coast Mail]

So, unfortunately, if you think about it, the name already existed at that point.  The Glasgow Townsite Company has already been incorporated, bought (presumably) the land and had it platted.  In, it would seem, Portland, referred to as Multnomah County.


Having had all that excitement, I went off to the coast, to a rather nice State Park called Shore Acres (used to be a posh house, with a formal garden, a posh house with a somewhat scandalous reputation locally; the posh house got burned down, so now it's just a garden) and sat on the beach and read my book for a couple of hours.

Driving back up the coast, I suddenly had a thought: do you think this might have been the seventh 'township' company these land speculators set up?  Is it possible it is called 'Glasgow' just because that begins with 'G'?  After all, the President and Secretary don't have particularly Scottish names, do they?

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Tuesday 23rd June 2009 – The Coast Mail and the Beauty Queen

I had been invited out to breakfast by a couple of local historians.  They were a fascinating mine of information.  We had a particularly interesting discussion about just how far and how fast people who wanted to could get about America in the second half of the nineteenth century.  Of course it was all to do with the railroads.  When it comes to looking into the history of Glasgows, railroads are a recurring theme. 

It was this couple who first emailed me a bit of a local history book describing Glasgow as a "sucker-bait" town.  In 1890, Glasgow was promoted as the mainland rail terminal of the transcontinental railroad, where "rail meets sail".  A few buildings and a jetty, and a map of lots for sail got the suckers in.  This was land speculation: I don't suppose it's changed very much to this day.

But what interests me is who got hold of the land in the first place, and why did they call it "Glasgow"? 

They pointed me at Coos Bay Public Library, where I might find microfilm of the Newspaper of the time, the Coast Mail.  They also said I would find details of who bought and sold land at the county courthouse in Coquille. 

Coquille is the county seat of Coos County.  It is the home of the infamous Sawdust Theatre, site of my recent humiliation.  I shall have to think hard before I go back there.


Reading microfilm records is very tiring.  Especially when it is microfilm made some time ago, of very old documents.  I spent a very tiring few hours struggling to find references to Glasgow.  And I found two.  There may be more, but with poor negatives of the "Coast Mail" dancing in front of my eyes, two were all that registered.

On May 22nd, 1890, a small headline declared that "Glasgow Turns Out to be Valuable Coal Field", with a story about some named experts finding the seam to be seven feet, best in the area.

On June 12th, a matter of only three weeks later, another small headline, with no story, declared "Glasgow Laying Itself Out for Great Improvement", whatever that might mean.

This historical research is tiring stuff.  I had to sit in Rozzie for quite a while before I felt my eyes were up to driving again.


I ended the day at the North Bend Council meeting.  (No, I ended the day at you know where, but before that.)  Although I had already presented my fraternal greetings to the Honorary Mayor of Glasgow itself, I felt it important to make a 'city' contact, and relate the home city to a formal incorporated body.  Mayor Wetherell was very generous, and promised to contact the Lord Provost, tell him I was doing my ambassadorial duty.  He even, in his generosity, referred to North Bend as a suburb of Glasgow.  And the Police Chief gave me a patch, and the Fire Chief a cap. 

And Miss Coos County gave me an unforgettable smile.  Of course, nowadays she is an ambassador for local voluntary service groups, and gave council a report on her upcoming activities.  But she was also very lovely.  And it was an unforgettable smile.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Monday 22nd June 2009 – Origami at the Laundromat

Television here has just gone digital.  I can watch about 80 channels: if only I knew what was on.  Either there isn't an electronic guide, or the remote control I've got can't access it.  Channel-hopping doesn't work very well, because at any point in time, at least half the channels are showing adverts.  And even if I'm lucky enough to find a half-interesting program, by the time I've hopped round the rest, I've forgotten which channel it was on, or it's finished. 

I guess that's where specialised channels came from: I've made a note of the news and sports channel numbers, and I hop through them early evening, and the movie channels when it's late. 

But it does make the pub a much more interesting place to be.  I watched a man the other evening making a tiny little pair of boots out of two dollar bills.  And a barmaid who fired an earing across the bar (we couldn't figure out how she did it, but we're all anxious to know if she can do it with her buttons).

Another barmaid explained her sticking plaster by telling us she had cut her finger while making meatballs.  There followed an erudite discussion on the culinary art of the meatball.  She failed to explain how a knife got to be involved, but since the subject involved balls and barmaidly fingers, there was much lewd double-entendre (the principle qualification of a barmaid just has to be tolerance, doesn't it?).


But North Bend has developed a unique (at least in my experience) contribution to Western Civilisation: North Bend has a Laundromat with a bar in it.  A full-range bar, with pool tables, sports TV, and curtained darkness.

It's a truly brilliant idea.  "No, no, dear, it's my turn to do the washing.  I insist.  It's no trouble at all.  It will give me an opportunity to discuss my meatball recipe.  And practice some new origami folds on the empty detergent box."


When I get back, I'm going to start a chain of laundrettes.  I shall call them the North Bend, in honour of their origins.  As I see it, there is only one problem to solve: it might attract bushwhackers.  You would only have to find someone of similar stature, with roughly similar sartorial taste, and you could steal a week's supply of freshly-laundered clothes.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Sunday 21st June 2009– It’s Fathers’ Day, Come and Meet my Mother

I've always had a beard.  Ever since I've needed to shave, I haven't, if you see what I mean.  When I started, when I was seventeen or so, and had been at it for about six or eight weeks, my father looked at me across the room and asked "are you growing a beard?"  I thought at the time he just hadn't been paying attention.  Of course, I now realise he was making the kind of joke I like to make.

Some years later, my mother gave me aftershave at Christmas.  I think she thought that the act of giving was what mattered: that the gift didn't have to have any utility at all; it was one of those nice things you gave men.  Mind you, it's possible she also liked to make the kind of jokes I like to make.

Apart from student Christmas jobs, I have never worked in retail.  And those student jobs were in the toy department.  If I had ever been put to the task of selling aftershave, sales would have plummeted immediately.  I would have refused any customer unable to justify such a frivolous purchase.

All of this is to make clear that I have no interest in the buying and selling of condiments for men.  And since this is the purpose of Father's Day, I have no interest in it, either.  By a stroke of good fortune, when it happened, I found myself 5000 miles away: far enough.

The Black Widow spider, to my way of thinking, has perfected the nature of fatherhood.  No nonsense there about shared responsibility, just a good set of teeth for the girls; and, of course, the ultimate Wagnerian liebestod for the boys.

But, hey, kids, I'll probably be back next year.  For a really useful gift, buy me a ticket to somewhere else.


I like to say that when you've discovered the paradox, you've discovered the truth.  I say it so often that maybe one day I'll believe it myself.  Anyway, on Fathers' Day, I got an invite to meet somebody's mother.  That was just too inappropriate to pass up. 

The somebody in question comes from a long line of Scottish seafarers, and is one of the men who pilots the big ships under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.  His mother, who I had met briefly up at the Glasgow presentation event, was brought up a few streets away from me in Penilee.  Although she's been here for fifty years, she still speaks with, to my ears, the same accent as me.

He's the first person I've met who can put on a Glasgow accent that would fool me.  And his teenage son can do a really good Sean Connery: with your back turned, you'd be fooled.  He got his father a bottle of the Glenlivet for Fathers' Day.  I told him that his father was just putting a brave face on it, but was really rather disappointed he didn't get some aftershave.  Let's hope he gets it right next year.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Saturday 20th June 2009 - Ritual Humiliation

The Grown-up Ladies Shuffleboard Team clearly has a long reach.  Their Oregon Chapter has abducted and humiliated me.  I should never have deserted them, but everything changes, a chap has to move on.

The Sawdust Theatre in Coquille (I think they say "Kaw-kwill") was just a set-up.  The breakfast ladies yesterday must have been in on it.  It looked like a genuine, well-kept theatre,


but within its walls, conspiracy was bubbling.  They were out to get me. 

I had gone down at lunchtime to be sure of a ticket, like a turkey voting for Christmas.  The only outlet for tickets was an up-market second-hand ladies clothes shop.  That should have given the game away: I know the kind of ladies who frequent these establishments.  But I went without my cowboy disguise.  The lady selling tickets pretended to be most interested in my story.  The word was out: my doom must have been the talk of the changing cubicles all afternoon.

When I arrived in the evening, I was set upon by a bevy of beauties.  They showed me their garters.  One of them even put her garter round my arm.  I was foolishly flattered.  Little did I realise I was being marked.

I was plied with alcohol by another lovely, who, with a quite convincing accent, pretended to hail from Port Glasgow (on the Clyde).  The son of yesterday's breakfast lady contributed to the plying (young men will do anything for ladies, won't they?).

Not knowing what was in store for me, I settled down with my free popcorn to enjoy the performance.  They call it 'melodrama', with 'olios', but I recognised it as something fairly close to pantomime, the main difference being that the inner play was not a traditional story, but one about their own neighbourhood.  No doubt it will become traditional in time.

The audience played their part, booing, hissing, oohhing and ahhing to order.  The players strutted their stuff, unfolding the play, and singing and dancing through the olios.  I now realise that the men were acting under duress, but they covered up perfectly.

Then, just when I was at my most relaxed, in totally deluded enjoyment, the lynch mob appeared,


and dragged me off to my ritual humiliation.



I only hope the Grown-up Ladies are satisfied with You-Tubing me (that's where the rather poor quality pictures came from).  Or will I have to keep looking over my shoulder for the rest of the trip?  Where might they strike next?  At the very least, I must try to keep out of second-hand ladies clothes shops, up-market or otherwise.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Friday 19th June 2009 – Sawdust and Sandcastles

At the breakfast counter, the ladies were all-a-flutter. "You're the man from Scotland, aren't you", they asked. One man asked if we were still killing each other for religious reasons. I had to confess that we were, but I did point out that that is not a Glasgow speciality: everybody, everywhere does that. But we seem to have got the reputation in his mind.

Two nice ladies, a mother and daughter, asked me if I was finding enough to do. I told them I was going to the theatre down at Coquille tomorrow night. So were they: they had tickets to prove it. It's a small world. They lived just a block away from the theatre, so that's the pre-performance drinks organised.

Coquille is twenty miles south of here. Why were they having breakfast in North Bend? Well, they were on their way to Reedsport, about twenty miles north. People think nothing of travelling long distances here.

Their father/ husband was taking part in a carving festival.


http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/bN-HMfc08bBny7OljHQYLA?authkey=Gv1sRgCLWC0a7XxvTfNw&feat=directlink .

As you might expect, in a state made of Pine trees, they do there carving here with chain saws. They invite me along. "We've got earplugs", they said. I wonder, idly, if the carvers have to stand on little platforms up in the air to do it.

It turns out to be competitive. I arrive just to late to see the speed carving, but everybody seems to be replete with extremities, although almost everybody is covered in a thin layer of sawdust. I can readily detect the actual carvers, since they are covered in a much thicker layer. I am introduced to father/ husband: I can hardly see him. On the odd occasion when I get some sawdust in my clothes, it irritates me for weeks till I find it all. He seems blithely unaware of the stuff.

The competitors have a main piece to finish before an auction at teatime. It is a delight to watch. Starting with a more-or-less standard piece of spruce [5996] http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/VvQ0duDMzYNaYgEFnKOADA?authkey=Gv1sRgCLWC0a7XxvTfNw&feat=directlink , the carvers rapidly buzz their way to quite astonishingly detailed pieces.

[6000] http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/fgyrPpfUQWPXk7A9i9q33g?authkey=Gv1sRgCLWC0a7XxvTfNw&feat=directlink

[5994] http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/Tp83bSmHnzMzSt5RZUiYrQ?authkey=Gv1sRgCLWC0a7XxvTfNw&feat=directlink

They're pretty good, aren't they?

There were competitors from many states, and many countries [5998]


There was even one from England [6003] http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/9YxmbEuHQVEQmcqUzlnOXA?authkey=Gv1sRgCLWC0a7XxvTfNw&feat=directlink

Having seen quite how refined logging has become, I began to wonder if the other half of Oregon, the beach, did likewise. Do the have seriously competitive Sandcastle-building contests? Are there hybrid derivatives? Are there Chainsaw Sandcastle contests?

Friday, 19 June 2009

Thursday 18th June 2009 – Another Arrogant Bastard

Fearing that my appearance on the local television airwaves might overstimulate the local ladies, I decided to hide indoors till darkness fell.  Just to be doubly safe, I donned my cowboy disguise before venturing out.  These precautions were clearly successful: not a single lady recognised me.  I managed to reach my chosen bar for the evening entirely unmolested. 

Perhaps, like a lot of young stars these days, I should accept the price of fame, and put out for my fans, but I have to say that I value my privacy.  If only today's young people could be similarly reserved, the world would be a better, or at least a quieter place.  I can but hope bosoms will be unheaved in a few days.


Meantime, my in-depth investigation into the American beer business continues unabated.  A nice young lady reporter had recommended the bar, which only sells 'micro' beers (that's short for micro-brewery, which, in turn, now refers to the type of product, rather than the size of the factory).  And quite a lot of them too: "What would you recommend", I asked the barman.  He sized me up and then said "Arrogant Bastard".  Well!  I mean to say!  "I can't help the effect I have on women", I said, "it's not arrogance, it's magnetism".

He looked at me for a minute, then he said "no, it's a beer – Arrogant Bastard – it's a beer.   You'll like it".  And I did.  I had several pints.  "You shouldn't", he said, "it's 7.2 percent".  Well, I knew that couldn't be true: draft beer at 7.2 percent?  Never.


I looked it up later.  It's true: it is 7.2 percent: and by volume, not by weight.  Which might explain the effect I had on the ladies on the way home.  Not in my fan club, they weren't, not by a long way.  Let's just hope it was dark enough, and the disguise worked.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Wednesday 17th June 2009 – It’s a Small World

When I was planning my trip, I made contact with Barb Dunham, the Manager of the North Bend Visitors Center. She pointed me at http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WM2YC4 , which became a bit of a symbol of the trip. In fact, I framed a copy of it and gave it to the Lord Provost of Glasgow Scotland before I left.

Yesterday, she arranged for me to meet the 'Mayor' of Glasgow, Oregon, the 'Jack Stevens' of that sign. He was as hospitable as it is possible to be. It was a special privilege to meet him.

Jack even ennobled me as the Honorary Cribbage Champion of Glasgow. I shall, for the present, assume that I am the only Glasgow Cribbage Champion on the planet, until I am challenged from elsewhere.

All this took place at the Glasgow Store, which Jack has run for the last forty years.

The local press remarked on it:

http://www.theworldlink.com/articles/2009/06/18/news/doc4a3a7961145d0757812947.txt , as did the local television: http://www.kcby.com/news/48562472.html?video=pop&t=a , who also carried it online: http://www.kcby.com/news/local/48562472.html .


This is Glasgow from the south shore of Coos Bay, in North Bend itself. If you look closely, you'll see the northern end of the bridge on the left. The houses on the side of the hill are pretty much the whole of Glasgow: a community of about a thousand people. It is a kind of semi-detached bit of North Bend. It used to be the ferry terminal before the bridge.

Jan Willis, the city manager of North Bend, and Howard Graham, the local councillor, were kind enough to come along and greet me too. There was much light-hearted banter about the relationship between North Bend and Glasgow.

The whole day was an insight into how small communities work, and how small the world truly is. I was, of course, very excited by the whole day, and couldn't keep track of all those things I should have been keeping track of, but I don't want you to think I'm just making this up. So I have made an unusual effort to reconstruct what happened.

As I understand it, Jan Willis told her friend Sarah about me being there. She has a Scottish heritage, and is a fan of Charles Rennie Macintosh. She came along and asked me to sign her book. This is the first time I have ever been asked for my autograph by a lovely woman. No, no, I'm trying to be accurate: this is the first time I've been asked for my autograph.

Anyway, Sarah told her friend May Livingstone, who lives further down the coast, and she came along too. Someone said mine was the only Scottish accent around, and an accent much like mine said oh, no it wasn't.

May also came from Glasgow, Scotland (a long time ago). When we started to talk, it turned out she had been brought up only a few hundred yards from where I had been brought up. Isn't that amazing?

So here, in a small community in Oregon, I've had a reminder of how small the world is.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Tuesday 16th June 2009 – Earthquakes, Tidal Waves, and Beautiful Bridges


Oregon is divided, roughly speaking, into two parts: the forest and the beach. Even more roughly speaking, the dividing line is US highway 101. An hour out of Portland, on 18, and I turned south onto 101.

I stopped just south of Lincoln City at a small cove. The coast is a series of coves, each with its own town or hotel. The one I stopped at looked public, and had one of those great signs telling the history of the place.

There was a great earthquake here in 1700, apparently. Those who survived did not expect to be wiped out by a tidal wave twenty minutes later, but they were. Having appraised us of this, the notice than turned distinctly threatening: earthquakes happen every 200-1000 years, it said. If there's an earthquake, get off the beach. Go inland and get uphill, it said. Always assuming, I thought, that during the earthquake inland had not come out, and uphill had not come down.

As I drove on, I got roadside notices telling me when I was going into or coming out of the tidal wave danger area. I just can't see how this improves local tourism. Well, they did code it a little bit: they referred throughout to tidal wave by its currently fashionable Japanese sobriquet, 'tsunami'.

Highway 101 was another of the 'New Deal' public works projects that FDR used to get people back to work. All the bridges in Oregon were designed by an engineer called Conde McCullough. His finest is the one across the Coos Bay at North Bend, at the southern tip of the Oregon Dunes. Nestling under its northern end is Glasgow, Oregon.

It's a very impressive structure to see from a distance. (It is currently undergoing extensive renovation.)


And, just as I got to the northern approaches, reassuringly, just where I was expecting it, was a signpost to Glasgow.


Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Monday 15th June 2009 – Rozzie Runs Me Out-of-Town

I stopped at a truck stop in Seattle.  I had intended to stop at the Walmart, but it turned out to be the discount-warehouse variant, 'Sam's Club', which closes in the evening, and I just wasn't happy with it.  So I drove down to the other end of Seattle, well, Tacoma, actually, and found a 'FlyingJ' truck stop.  Truck stops are kind-of overgrown filling stations, where the truckers can park-up for the night (or day, I suppose, if they want to).  This one ran to 'clubroom', laundry, showers, and $5-dollar-a-day WiFi. 

There was a gambling club across the road, with proper card tables, with dealers, mainly 'Texas Hold'em', the current favourite with the card-gambling fraternity.  It also ran to a number of draught beers.  The only other draught-drinker with the courage to drink the wheat beer, which is cloudy, turned out to be a fan of the Tavistock Institute in London.  He didn't sound like he had ever been a patient.  I told him he had to read "The Games People Play", a once-popular book based loosely on the techniques of said Institute.  He said he would, but I bet he doesn't.  He probably thought I was once a patient.


In the morning, I tried the truck stop restaurant for breakfast.  I ate as much as I could manage, and was quite satisfied.  The waitress wanted to know what was wrong, since she thought I'd hardly touched it.

Then I got Rozzie a bit better organised to sit in and work.  And settled down to organise my photos and notes, and get my emails up-to-date, using the truck stop WiFi.  I was halfway through this when the computer made urgent requests to close down, because the battery was almost flat.  I had connected it up to Rozzie via a voltage inverter which gave me enough AC voltage to run the computer as though of the mains.  But the power supply light was off.  Perhaps if I ran the engine for a while?  But poor Rozzie's battery was stone-dead.  Silly fool: the GPS was running, and so was the radio, and the fans, and some of the lights.

So I called out my Insurance company roadside assistance.  They said they would be thirty minutes, but they were, in fact, ninety.  They said the Insurance company gave them the wrong address, but I told the Insurance company the truck stop name, and they found the address.  Everyone was very solicitous, and, as is the American way, phoned me constantly with updates.  But they still took ninety minutes.


He jump-started me: "Run the engine for a while", he said.  So I did: all the way to Oregon; stopped just south of Portland.  Never saw Seattle at all; no Starbucks' at its home office; no space needle: I can take a hint.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Monday 15th June 2009 – A Bit of a Recap

With all this rushing about, I haven't managed to do much justice to the events of the last few days. So, since a picture speaks a thousand words, or so we're told, here's a bit of a rush through it.

There's a fine statue of the great JJ Hill at the station at Havre. I confess I stopped in Havre to have some breakfast, and, em, to buy some boots. Would you believe I got some spurs as well? Well, I might be needed at the next branding. OK?

Somewhere between Havre and Shelby, that damned elusive Empire Builder train whizzed past me again.

And I caught my first glimpse of the Rockies.

Then it was across the Idaho Panhandle to Washington. (States with a straight, flat, sticky-out bit are said to have a "panhandle". In the case of Idaho, you have to imagine the pan hanging up, rather than on the stove.)

[5959] And some scary dust twisters in Eastern Washington.

[5962] US Highway 2 down through Eastern Washington is a photographers dream. It's a bit twists and turns as well, so this was the best I could do.

[5963] Oh, and that damned train sneaked up on me again.

[5965] From the time, I think this must be Arizona.

[5967] Finally, the mountains of Western Washington, coming back in to land in Seattle.

[5972] And what Seattle looked like under the clouds. I'm told this is pretty typical.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Sunday 14th June 2009 – If It’s Sunday, This Must Be Minnesota

There hasn't been any free WiFi visible for the last few days (except in Arizona, and I didn't spot that till the plane was about to leave).  So it's been a matter of trying to be more disciplined with my notes, which I'm still not very good at.

I can't upload any photos either,'cos I forgot to bring a cable with me.  And I have to check out shortly, so I need to try and do this while I have mains electricity.


I've been on the road for five days.  I usually sleep in the van when I'm on the move, but tonight I'm in a hotel: in Minnesota, as it happens.  How did Minnesota get into it, I hear you cry.  That's practically back to square one.  Well, I got an invite to a party: a surprise party.  And the subject of the surprise might have read this.  So I had to move in the dark.

Across five states, I've been.  I've seen some extraordinary scenery, so it's a pity I can't put up any photos.  Maybe I'll take a timeout and redo this bit.

Anyway, I've spent a night in Kalispell, MT, just south of the Glacier National Park, where I drank in a terrific saloon (with proper swing doors), and slept in Walmart's car park.  Crossing the Continental Divide gave me some very impressive scenery.

And I've been driving for two days to get to Seattle.  I slept in the airport there, which is just as well, because the airline phoned me at four in the morning to tell me my carefully-chosen flight was seriously delayed.  The phone call gave me time to get to the check-in desk and get on the 5.15 flight to Phoenix (Apparently, if you're an American traveller, you can tell which airline someone has flown with by the intermediate stop: Phoenix means US Airways).

If you see Phoenix from the air (and I've only seen it from the air), it has a lot of little mountains sticking out of it.  I spent four hours in Phoenix.  But I got to Minneapolis more or less in time: for the party, that is.


Now I have to close, and get a plane back to Seattle.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Wednesday 10th June 2009 – This Old Man, He Said One, …

I said goodbye to the old timers in the bar.  One is writing a book, or was it a short story, about a local B52 crash.  He thought I was an inspiration, but failed to mention the magic 'angel' word.  Well, he's just a bloke: blokes don't do that, do they?  I will just have to assume he was thinking it.  He claims to be half-Assiniboine, half-Irish, so when he finally knuckles down to the writing, he will no doubt speak with a loquacious forked tongue.  He's eighty-eight, so he'd better do it quickly.  I hope my angelic touch has been enough.

Telling them I was off to Kalispel, south of Glacier National Park, on the other side of the Continental Divide, had one wistfully telling us that when he retired, he wanted to take his horses (he claimed to have three) there and go trekking in the Rockies.  I told him he ought to be able to do that in Scotland.  I was just guessing, but that's got to be true, hasn't it?

Another is a railroad engineer.  He operates out of Minot, ND.  He and I developed a wonderful theory about the nature of friendship, as the evening progressed.  We decided that Montana was more friendly than anywhere else, that Eastern Montana was more friendly than Montana, North-Eastern Montana was more friendly than Eastern Montana, Glasgow was more friendly than North-Eastern Montana, and that this bar was more friendly than Glasgow: a kid of inverse Ghostbusters, with friendship gushing out of her in glutinous gallons.  Which it kind of was by then.  So I toddled off to bed feeling as good as I've felt for a long time.


Perhaps I'll just stay another few days, milk this a bit more: a whole week of farewell appearances.  Then they'll probably run me out of town.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Wednesday 10th June 2009 – Time To Move On

I'm off west tomorrow, so today was all packing and preparing Rozzie for the trip.  I expect to be in Seattle on Friday night.  If I don't find any wifi, I will have to keep my notes on paper.

So round to my favourite bar for a moderate farewell.  I intend to leave at first light, and I don't want to be nursing any sore head.


I ought to write a summary of my impressions of Glasgow, Montana, but I think it will be some time, if ever, before I can do that.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Tuesday 9th June 2009 – “Oh Give Me a Home, …”

[ … Where the Buffalo used to roam]

We were just going up the road to see some kin ropin' and brandin'. We stopped for gas, and put a hundred gallons in the tank. Should I be writing to my next-of-kin ("I didn't mean what I said in the will, it was all a joke")?

We drove about 25 miles up US2, then turned off onto a gravel road. Because there are so many gravel roads (Valley County alone has 1500 miles of them, which they maintain by running a grader along them from time to time), windscreens are always cracked. I'm told the real rule about replacement is if two cracks meet.

We are going to run about twenty-five to thirty miles along this road before we get where we're going. But this is still very much Montana 'local'.

We spot a herd of sheep with its attendant dog. The dog is there to kill coyotes. It is left with a large quantity of dog food in a wind-steerable container. The steering keeps it dry, so it lasts. Contact is discouraged: this is not a pet.

There are derelict 'homesteads' dotted here and there. Homesteaders, in the late nineteenth century were allotted 160 acres (a quarter-mile square). It was not nearly enough.

The branding process involves separating out the calves, roping, branding and inoculating them; oh, and castrating the boys. There is a long preamble, while the calves are separated from their mothers.

Then some yearling heifers are separated out (I didn't quite follow why they were in in the first place). Finally, stray cows (other brands, which is why all this is going on) are separated out and reunited with their calves. This last bit is quite touching, and surprisingly easy to do. They also separate out the 'dry' cows, those with no calf ( apparently they are quite easy to spot). Failing to produce a calf is a sacking offence: "a trip to town" is how they put it.

Having separated out the calves, everybody stops for food, including me. There is a chuck wagon, which is a converted school bus.
After eating, the branding begins in earnest. It is almost totally traditional, with roping, wrestling to the ground and using hot irons. This is not for entertaining tourists (me!), but the most efficient way of doing it. I simply couldn't conceive of any kind of machinery which might do this without wreaking the most awful havoc. The only thing missing from the cowboy pictures of childhood is the guns, and this being Montana, they're in the truck, loaded.
The only concession to modern ways (apart from the inoculations, of course) is that they use a blowtorch instead of a fire to heat the irons. When they first told me this, I misunderstood: "We use a blowtorch nowadays". "Don't the animal-cruelty people object?"
The first half was not too strenuous, but the afternoon of branding, etc., was really hard work. This is their second day: they have another twenty-eight to go.

Despite all the hard work, everyone was unfailingly polite and friendly, and went out of their way to make sure I was enjoying the experience. It must be the vast, open spaces which make people here so well-mannered.

I have decided this is the life for me.

So I've got a horse …

A bit of useful experience

(next time I threaten to have someone's
balls off, they should be aware I know how to do it) …

And I've found a little place to stay

though it may need a bit of work.