Monday, July 11, 2011

The Devil's Armpit

So the plan was to go to Biggs Junction on the Oregon border.

Sue and I drove down from Vancouver to Seattle to meet Jane's sister-in-law in this little red hot thing, all along the Chuckanut Drive along the coast.

There was, of course, another border crossing involved, only this time, with the green paper slip in my passport, they were totally not interested in me. It was kind of a let-down, after I was all geared up with another run-in with Chinese border guy. Oh well. the drive to Seattle was pretty and pretty uneventful, except for Sue going into shopping-mode at the outlet stores and NEARLY pulling me in. It did not work though. I only got involved two dresses deep. That's not much, is it? I know I saved about a  thousand bucks buying them, and shut up about saving even more if I had not bought them at all.

We had breakfast here.

There was a whole lovely yard hidden away in the back, and they served a great breakfast indeed! The Bloody Mary rocked.  They were not too stingy on the booze.

From Seattle, up into the desert we went, east east east of the coast and up the mountains into the dry and hot interior of Washington State to Jane's little house on the prairie in Ellensburg. We were there just in time for champagne, ribs and potato salad, and the 4th of July fireworks. And even in Ellensburg WA they play Neil Diamond's "America" for that.

Ellensburg knows how to do style! And Jane knows how to do a 4th of July dinner! Just look at these ribs!

Out on the porch, looking out towards the hills... until the mosquitos come out and chew the flesh off your ankles. There's always wind in Ellensburg. It's a hot, dry wind, and it comes howling down from the mountains.

Jane makes the most amazing ribbon artwork. She has the tiniest hands in the world and crafts the tiniest flowers with them, sitting at her large dining table while the wind stirs the curtains and her dogs lie sleeping on the dark hardwood floor or her old house. That house is a wonder all onto itself, filled with lovely antique things and art.

Now Biggs Junction. If you want to know why I wanted to go there so badly, read this. The COMMENTS are the funny part. Don't they just make you die to see that place? I had to talk my friends into going, and I bribed them by finding a really neat restaurant for lunch. More about that later.

First, Biggs Junction.

That's it, down there.

I like to call it the Devil's Armpit. There is nothing there. I mean, really nothing. A McDonalds, a Pilot, a gas station, I think a Burger King, and a motel that has seen better days. It a truck stop in the middle of nowhere, stuck on the Columbia River, right on the border between Washington State and Oregon. Being down there was like being in a kettle corn copper kettle. Hot, sticky, dingy, and nothing but a dirty old pot without the corn popping in it. Seen from the other side of the river, high up in the park of the Maryhill Museum, it is totally different.

The others parked me on a bench right on the edge of the gorge while they strolled around and looked at the art, and I was all alone up there with the Monarch butterflies and the bees. The bench stood in the shade of some trees so I was not too warm, bees danced among the sagebrush at my feet. It was a very quiet moment.


From down below by the river came the constant drone of the highway running along it, and the other one crossing it to go up into the hills of Oregon on the other side. Heat made the air over the water and the arid land waver. It almost seemed as if the gorge was filled with a vicious, roiling, translucent gas that would sear your throat with every breath. And that place, Biggs, called to me. I swear, it called. Spitefully, in a mean little voice, it said, "Come on, jump. Jump into the river and make an end. Quit fighting it, you're welcome to join the other desperate, lost souls. I dare you, jump." It felt just like that, as if, out of pure envy at everyone who could walk away and leave it behind, it tried to lure me into staying. Oh well. I told it we were going to get the hell out of there and not returning, ever, and we drove away without looking back.

Oh, one more thing? I had a lovely chat with the general manager of the Pilot in Biggs. She said living there felt like being in a life penitentiary. The sweet lady, someone should rescue here. She was so nice.

One of my pre-launch booklets is now in Biggs Junction too, signed and all. I hope she will like it.

We drove to Goldendale for lunch. Trust me. If you EVER are in that region, this is where you want to eat. The Glass Onion. A gourmet restaurant lost in the middle of nowhere. A place of style, grace and excellent cuisine, very cool jazz music and great atmosphere – in GOLDENDALE? That place is so small, there can't be more than twenty people living there, and they have a restaurant like that?

Now I'm in Washington DC.

Last night my friend Leslie took me on a drive to see all the illuminated monuments. The White House, even seen only from the distance, is still something to see, and it looks a lot larger in real life than it does on TV. I've also had the first green collards of my life, and I liked them! I would gladly have passed on the fried chicken to get another serving of that!

Tomorrow we will go to the Chesapeake Bay for crab cakes.


  1. The world's best crab cakes are in Maryland. Sorry all you other states, but MD still holds my heart. We used to go crabbing in the Chesapeake Bay when we lived there. Every Sat and Sun during crab season we were out there with scap nets and floaters (you have to be a crabber to know what those are). We'd chase those Jimmy crabs then take the legal ones home. We'd steam and pick crab all weekend and then make them into crab cakes that we'd load in our freezer. We managed to catch enough to have crab cakes every Sat night all year. Good eating!
    Now, since we no longer live there-we reside in NJ now where the crabs are too toxic to eat-you will have to settle for some from Phillip's. We thought they were the best, after our own of course!

  2. Thank you, Mariam, for sharing your adventure with us. It is obvious you are having a marvellous time, with great people, and no doubt gleaning ideas for your next novel. Fantastic! :)

  3. [...] The Devil's Armpit | Meet The Mimosa Club var sharemacro_cbid = "block34"; var sharemacro_preset = "ui-tooltip-light [...]

  4. Agree completely on the crab cakes; the best are in Maryland (although I did have some pretty tasty crab cakes in Williamsburg, VA once). And Mariam, that's collard greens, not green collards. :-)

  5. What an adventure, and you tell it so well I was actually hypnotized. Seriously.