Wednesday, August 5, 1981

Port Townsend


This town, once the biggest port outside of New York in the 1890s, is where the Chinese had carved tunnels under the streets, some tunnels are still standing. Dock Street is gone now, Water Street is the main drag.

They had to call it uptown because the uppity ladies wouldn't shop here. Water Street, where the red light is now, is for the ferry traffic.

Across from the Town Tavern, is a building the old guy inherited on the condition that he improve it, but he was caught tunneling under Water Street. Some say he was headed for the bank. No one really knows for sure. The city fathers were upset when one day Water Street caved in right in front of his building.

The year before last, he had boarded up all the windows, and before that, all the metal Victorian cornices were taken off. This year, he's unboarding a few of the windows and is painting the sashes blue. Like the sky.

This town, once a whore's town, is now a literary town. All the poets are well read. It's still a whore's town. There are red lights shining on the streets at night and, after dark, the literary whores flood the streets like migrant workers in a tent city.

Tourists and Winnebagos with California license plates cautiously drive through town to the ferry dock. They come into the Town Tavern looking for something harder than the soft liquor license allows. And we stare at their improbable attire, women wearings nylons with shorts, and men in perma-press suits. All the old hippies here are working as bartenders, and caretakers. it's all a juggling act.

I keep coming back to this town like a bad penny. A friend of mine, Sharon Doubiago, moved here to escape a broken heart. Little do I know, that this year, my heart will be in the same repair shop. Hearts are not made of porcelain, but of grist and sinew and blood.

There's that poignant moment of initiation. We all recognize the place where broken hearts either mend, or evolve into some other plane.

Whore hearts, we're all whores with hearts of gold, the wrong color for blood. Gold, the correct color for lizard blood. As we sniff out the color-coded hearts of those around us, our lizard eyes narrow, we taste the air with our forked tongues, and we retreat into reptilian silence.

Tourists pour into the Town Tavern. You can tell what time of day it is by the number of disembarked people at the bar. Like the ebb and flow of waves, the oak and glass double-doors swing to and fro, as the tourist surging in from the ferry, feel the need to slake their great thirst.

The man I am having an affair with is having trouble finding the bedroom where he last left his heart. He thinks his capacity for love is greatly influenced by his capacity for pain. I'm a transient blow-in. There's the bond that ties us all together, here in this town of whores. Down at the bar, we paint it red.

August, 1981

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