Adventures In Albion
by Flynn Washburne, October 11, 2017
On the list of non-pejorative words or phrases that could be useful in describing me, the ones besides things like irresponsible, felonious, untrustworthy, boneheaded, criminally negligent, morally deficient, unhinged, whatever — really, any random selection from a pool of detractory adjectives stands a decent chance at being applicable — words not necessarily negatively freighted, one that stands out as a defining feature is highly mobile. Like the Beach Boys said, I Get Around, and I will change area codes at the faintest suggestion of greener pastures.
Before I go any further, I should qualify the above list by saying that these and any other bad-mouths are no longer pertinent nor appropriate vis-a-vis this thoroughly reformed malefactor, who is now a prince among men and could be trusted with your children, car, and PIN. Not that you'd need to, necessarily, but I can envision a scenario where you're like dangling from a crag while your kids watch helplessly from your car and you need someone to drive it to the ATM and then to Bed Bath & Beyond for some large decorative pillows to cushion your landing. In such an event, I would be your man.
But no, I'm not one for putting down roots, and if you wanted to extend the botanical metaphor I could be likened to an epiphyte, latching on to more firmly rooted specimens, or maybe a spore floating on the wind hoping for a fertile spot on which to land.
My current 14-year tenure in California is anomalous in the extreme and only due to the restrictions of prison and parole, and the inertia of active addiction. When all available funds and energies must be directed to feeding the monkey, one finds oneself missing or ignoring valuable opportunities to get while the getting is good and maybe ending up in the unfortunate straits I currently endure.
One good indicator of trouble brewing is the police addressing you by your first name. That kind of familiarity does not bode well for your future as a free person, especially as they rarely extend you the same courtesy. Consider other examples of the casual/formal dichotomy: teacher/student, boss/employee, master/slave. Amplifying the power dynamic in this fashion means you're eventually going to end up in cuffs.
Angry mobs are another good sign that you've worn out your welcome, but it's crucial to become aware of them while they're still in the nascent, murmuring stages. Once the torches are lit and the pitchforks come out, you're pretty much done for. While my own mob in Albion was still electing officers and deciding on a color scheme, I was able to get wind of their intentions and hotfoot it out of there, but my mistake was only going as far as Fort Bragg. I should have put at least two time zones or twenty degrees of latitude between me and that gaggle of drunken daughters of Sappho, but I just presumed there was some kind of force-field present of the type that usually contains eldritch creatures, your vampires and werewolves and such, within a proscribed area. It just had that kind of vibe.
When I first alit in Albion I was thoroughly charmed and foolishly took it at face value. An Edenic refuge, I deemed it, untouched by urban hurly-burly and the perfect place to embark on an extended chill. No danger of adventure here. The few pitfalls I encountered early, like the possibility of confronting Sherry Glaser's free-swinging mammarial apparatus or an angry Gitchell wearing asskicking boots I considered random irregularities lending a touch of spice to this forested idyll.
Incidentally, I fully support Ms. Glaser's mission, whatever it is, just... Oh, never mind. You go, girl.
I have a sort of calculus I employ whenever I find myself in a new place in order to mathematically determine the possibility of adventure, the frequency and degree of danger of any potential adventure, chances of arrest, hospitalization, or death, and the concomitant advisable length of stay. Many factors are taken into consideration, including drinking establishments, hookers, gangs, street-comer narcotic sales, gun shops, and other catalysts.
No matter how I ran the numbers, Albion equaled zero possibility of adventure, injury, or incarceration. I'd show you the process, but it involves a lot of esoteric symbology for which there are no typewriter keys, and it would only confuse you besides. I'm not sure I even understand it.
There was no mistaking the results, though, which makes the fact that on a per-capita and square-mile basis Albion turned out to be the most dangerously adventuresome place I'd yet encountered particularly mystifying. I probably forgot to plug in an essential variable — me. Truth is, I can find trouble pretty much anywhere. Lock me in a bare room with a length of string and a peach pit and it won't be long before the shit hits the fan, despite there being no shit and no fan. It's a gift.
The tribe of Albion is a pretty settled bunch, and therefore became a touch resentful of my intrusion into their little enclave. I'm not sure why — it's not as if my escapades lack charm — they reacted so forcefully, but I'll let you, the reader, decide if they had a case or not. Following are a few of the highlights of my Albion Adventure, listed in no particular order.
The Battle Of Tanglewood
Between I believe F and G Roads there is, or was, an unmarked drive leading into a rat's nest of automotive, industrial and human garbage called, confusingly, Tanglewood, it being the literal and spiritual opposite of the extremely highbrow classical music festival in New England that shares the name. I naturally made their acquaintance but was ultimately repelled and disgusted by the conditions over there, and the people who would willingly suffer such an environment. Nevertheless, business is business, and in that spirit I established trade relations with them. Things rolled along mostly satisfactorily in that vein until the day I made a trade for a motorcycle which turned out to be stolen, so I did what any aggrieved consumer would do, after failing to gain recompense: I set it aflame and ghost-rode it full speed into the compound. (Get it? The bike was "hot."). This resulted in some retaliatory incursions on both sides and some unfortunate collateral damage, mostly in the form of broken windows and lost sleep. Nobody important was killed and we ultimately resolved the issue before things got seriously out of control.
Time To Make The Doughnuts
One of Albion's cooler features is The Doughnut Shop, which has nothing to do with baked goods and is not a shop at all, but a wide patch of dirt and gravel aside the Ridge Road which is perfect for spinning doughnuts. A decidedly adolescent activity, and I was in fact introduced to it by a group of local teenagers. But in my defense I am both very immature and easily amused.
One very early morning I was bombing up the ridge homeward and, having been woolgathering or perhaps napping, I snapped to to realize that I'd overshot H Road by a couple miles and was approaching the Doughnut Shop. I pulled over, fortified myself with a blast on the pipe, yelled, "Time to make the doughnuts!" and proceeded to tax the capabilities of my poor little Honda. She performed admirably, throwing up a respectable roostertail and maintaining the high Rs necessary to sustain a continuous spin. After 9 or 10 revolutions I felt sufficiently stoked to conclude my evening. For putting the finishing touches on a period of fairly intense activity before beginning a period of repose, you can't beat a good stoke. I pointed Betsy westward to H Road and some well-deserved rest. The End, right?
Along about cock-crow, or roughly 18 hours before I'd planned on rising, came a pounding on my door. On the stoop was a deputation of concerned citizens with angry faces and a large push-broom. They insisted I go clean up the road — apparently I'd been ratted out — and when I got up there I was both dismayed and proud at the sight. The Ridge Road was all over dirt and rocks for at least 20 feet, shoulder to shoulder. That, my friends, is how you make donuts.
Outside(r) Art With Paul Blake
This escapade was given a more thorough treatment earlier in this space but basically I was entrusted with babysitting Paul during a manic episode. I didn't so much fulfill my supervisory duties as I did egg him on and make provocative suggestions. But what else could I have done besides handing the keys to a gaily painted and eccentrically bedecked Volvo with a milk crate full of spray paint in the back to the stewardship of an aging bipolar sybaritic artist with a snootful of tequila? There are some opportunities one simply cannot squander, and this was one of them. Up and down the channels and byways we went, leaving masterpieces on the side of the Albion store, Rick Redfern's barn, the elementary school, and several road signs. People were fairly incensed about the whole deal but I'd wager those pieces would be worth a pretty penny now that Paul is in the past tense.
I have deliberately omitted or conveniently forgotten some of the real lulus, in deference to unexpired statutes of limitation and potentially still raw wounds and/or hurt feelings. The point is, underneath its calm, bucolic exterior Albion is a seething cauldron of excitement, danger, and adventure.
Or maybe it's just me.