On my initial visit, I spent one week at Nesika Beach RV and Campground and made it my base to explore every beach, trail, museum, port, bridge and dive tavern and bar from Port Orford to Brookings.
It was the peak of summer but there was hardly any tourists around. The extreme South Oregon Coast was hipster and traffic-free. It reminded me of the North Oregon Coast when I first moved there in 1997.
Bruce and I struck up a friendship and he gave me the lowdown on the park and his history of ownership. He ran a tight and quiet ship and I liked that. During the mornings I reconnoitered, walked dogless for miles on beaches and stashed my books in bars, shops and laundromats. In the afternoons I cooked supper and conversed with the park’s long-term residents. In the evenings, I was reposed in the back of the truck reading whatever books I found in the lending library or thrift shops. Mario Puzo’s The Godfather was one of them and I underlined a few passages, particularly the ones about the importance of family. My family was constantly on my mind and I felt despair that I had dragged them into my mortification.
The long-term residents fascinated me. All were white. Most were older and retired, but a few commuted to work in Gold Beach. Some of them seemed to have shipwrecked at the park and I wondered how their rigs ever arrived there. All of them had cable television wired in or a dish connected to satellite. Often, a resident wouldn’t emerge from his RV for days. Many of them had rescue dogs. One man suggested I join him for Sunday service; another man was running out of Adderall and couldn’t afford a refill unless he went to Mexico; another was a former jazz saxophonist from the Bay Area who was a pioneer in medical marijuana; one flew a drone for fun; a younger man had fallen off a roof on the job and was waiting for disability claim to go through. Most of the long-term residents never went to the beach but they all knew it was there and that was enough.
I talked to as many residents as I could and some revealed their American diaspora stories. There was a very checked-out quality to many of them. They came across as a mixture of fixed-income Grapes of Wrath, Raymond Carver short stories (if his characters had 300 television channels at their disposal instead of three), and On The Road if Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty were in their Medicare years and had driven a 22-foot rig for kicks but never left a parking lot.
There is a great American novel of a dying demographic in the park, but I won’t write it. I have another book to write.
No one asked me about my diaspora story. I was still working on it. I still am. I do know I don’t want to check out of American society. I still feel like I have a lot to offer.
At one point,I gave Bruce a copy of my Sometimes a Great Movie book for the lending library and he was excited. He showed it around to some of the residents and I was a mini-celebrity for a day or two, the book writer camping out and eating cold vegetarian chili from a can.
I don’t think anyone bothered to Google me. These people do not belong to Google. They prefer the face-to-face gathering of information and then take it from there. I think that’s a good way to live.
Or maybe they had Googled me and read the reports. If they had, no one said a thing.
On a lark one afternoon, the day before I was set to depart, I checked out the park’s web site and mentioned doing so to Bruce. He commented that it wasn’t very good and had done it himself.
That instantly inspired a bartering scheme. I wrote it up later in the day, emailed it to Bruce in the early morning, and then hit the road back to Astoria. I didn’t want to leave Gold Beach.
Bruce emailed me that afternoon and loved the idea. I would redo his web site in exchange for a month’s free stay at the park later that fall in one of the RVs he owned. He had one in mind, too, a 40-year-old Winnebago. One of the park’s residents had recently died and the rig had come into Bruce’s possession because the resident had no relatives to claim it. Bruce assured me the resident had not died in the RV.
That would have hardly mattered to me. In fact, I would have preferred it. The dead guy and I had a lot of dead in common.