Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Mr Terry Goes to Town Chapter Three

On a boat off Cape Chiniak chugging out to the Gulf of Alaska’s deep water:
I am among Four Fishermen baiting up to an Ipod’s amplified thump.
The squid is circling hypnotically into my tub. We bait like robots. Coil coil, hook-squid, coil coil, hook-squid, ever onward into infinity. Our skipper had team shirts made with a Mobius strip logo: the twisted circle with a single side rolling into itself forever. Just like my life. I chuckle to myself. My friends barely glance up; by now they assume I am quite insane.
My right foot is hooked under the baiting table and I am slouched slightly into my tub to account for the roll of the boat in the heavy swell. My two hands, Lefty and the Troublemaker, do all the work on autopilot, leaving me plenty of time to wander through the junkyard of my mind, picking up rusty pieces with moving parts, trying to remember how they once fit together. Fatigue and the Mobius hours of spinning repetition can unlock lost dreams and memories better than years of Manhattan psychotherapy. The conscious mind relaxes, and finally passes out. I see myself sitting on the street corner of a brick house neighborhood that I only visit in my dreams. I blink, and now I’m looking out the window of the Hilton Towers hotel in Washington DC.
This is a memory. My Kodiak City Council personality went to Washington in March. Though I don’t like cigarettes I’ve taken a room on the smoker’s floor (#7), knowing instinctively that it will be a haven for malcontents. Sure enough, it is midnight and my neighbor is having a drunken debate with his roommate on the state of the rate of inflation as it relates to segregation mutations…I’m not sure. An ambulance drowns them out. I’m sitting cross legged on the wide windowsill looking down on Connecticut Avenue. I have all my windows wide open as I always do, because there is something wrong with hotel air. Despite the smog I’d rather breathe air that’s been somewhere than the tired refiltered gas running through the hotel’s climate control system. Of course I’m also smoking a cigar.
Suddenly I feel hungry and I jump the elevator to the street and point my deck slippers downhill.
Gravity pulls me down Connecticut, past steak houses and Thai buffets, all closed. A preppy looking whiskey grill called “Timberlake’s” looks marginally open, with slumpers at the bar and an end-of-her shift waitress who gives me a hostile glance as I loiter outside. I move on. The sidewalk takes me downstreet to a white and black sign that says “Odeon CafĂ©”. I squint through the window. Despite the “closed” sign a number of couples are talking over half full glasses of red wine. An elderly man with a hat is eating mussels and spaghetti. A smell of good olive oil and hot bread is seeping under the door. I ignore the sign and pull at the door handle gently, like a safecracker. It makes that locked glass door sound of rejection: clatter, thunk: sorry buddy. I hesitate. The next moments are crucial. I give the interior one more look: nodding my head philosophically, I slowly turn, hungry, yes, but what choice do I have but to return to the cold hard foodless street…From the corner of my eye I see dark haired men point to me and shrug. One waves at me and unlocks the door.
“You are hungry?” he asks with remarkable simplicity.
He waves me to a small table and throws down a basket of fresh bread.
“Wine?” He opens a menu. I point to a likely red and on impulse order linguine with clams before he can get away. The noodles are wonderful. The flavor of sweet clams shines through without being dominated by garlic or green herbs. The platter is ringed with fresh steamers: chewy little bites of nirvana. I have accidentally ordered an entire bottle of wine, which I purposefully consume.
Afterward I strike up a conversation with one of the owners. He asks why I am in Washington and I tell him I’m here to shake the pillars of heaven: to petition our three Alaska fedreps for justice. I would find out the next day that our senior statesmen, Stevens and Young, were out of town at the one time of year Alaskans come to DC to talk to them.
“What do you have for them?” He pushes an Italian beer across the bar.
“Complaints, mostly”
“No no. In this town you must bring something. Can you provide money, or votes or newspaper stories?”
“Not money, that’s for sure.”
“Then offer the other. A good story is better than money.”
I thank him as he locks the door behind me. I walk slowly back to my room thinking about my story. Halfway back I stop in front of a converted brownstone with a sign that says “Russia House”. Irresistible. I go inside.
NEXT: I visit Senator Murkowski and infiltrate the Capitol.