The Volvo rolled over the majestic McCullough Bridge into North Bend, into Coos Bay, past the Steve Prefontaine mural with his immortal words, “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.”
Daisy hadn’t ever bothered to read Pre’s words. She read them now. Everybody should.
She saw the entrance to the hospital parking lot and the familiar neon sign slicked in mold and crusted in gull guano. She thought about what might unfold on her shift. She thought about the doctor who would give her a wink and pinch on the bottom. She imagined scavenging a pill to put the fuzz for breakfast.
There the entrance was,,,,and there is wasn’t. Daisy drove right by it. She never once slowed down. In fact, sped up. She removed the lanyard ID from around her neck and slid it out the gap in the window. She lit another cigarette and kept going south,south, south, right out of town, past a logging yard, past a junkyard, past a sex shop, past four pot shops, past the sign for the Coos Bay Speedway.
Daisy texted her supervisor: not coming in today, family emergency—the trusty old dodge no one in authority ever questioned. Daisy thought about her family. She didn’t really have one. What is a family anyway? Merely blood relations? Something on paper? Or is there something else to the definition?
A loaded log truck slowed traffic on Highway 101. Daisy didn’t know where she going or where she might stop. She turned on the radio and tuned to a station broadcasting out of Coquille. An ancient voice, a craggy voice, a real person, a real DJ in a studio in Coquille (!) was analyzing the nuances of obscure psychedelic tracks he’d just played and the tracks he was about to play—a Christmas show, a curated ultra-depressing Christmas show chosen by a stoned rock and roller working the knobs, not an algorithm computed in a cloud.
Daisy largely hated Christmas music but she suddenly got giddy about the prospect of a show that featured depressing holiday music. Oh joy!
“Brothers and sisters,” the DJ intoned, “wherever you are listening to this station, just know, you can’t be depressed as the people in these upcoming tracks, so be well.”
The first song: “Please Daddy Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas” by John Denver.
Oh hell yeah screamed Daisy. She’d never heard it before!
Then came, “Christmas in Prison,” by John Prine.
Daisy listened to, It was Christmas in prison and the food was real good / We has turkey and pistols carved out of wood, and laughed aloud.
Next was, Merle Haggard’s “If We Make it Through December.”
Not we thought Daisy. I.
Bandon. Langlois. Sixes. Port Orford. In Port Orford Daisy stopped for gas, cigarettes and a maple bar. She kept driving south. Ophir. Gold Beach. She lost the Coquille station near Humbug Mountain but found some commie station broadcasting jazz from Humboldt County and another real DJ playing Christmas bebop instrumentals from Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk and Dave Brubeck. Daisy didn’t know who any of the musicians were, but liked the music. It was sort of formless, improvisational, but touched something deep and muted inside Daisy that shellacked crooning by Bing Crosby or Doris Day could never hope to reach.
Rain kept falling and traffic dwindled the farther south she drove. She was driving into what seemed like a Secret Coast, a place the rich Portlandians and Californians hadn’t ruined yet. Daisy passed the mysterious, meandering Pistol River and noticed a dozen or so seals hauled out next to a dozen driftwood forts erected near the river’s mouth. She passed a half dozen transients on bicycles or on foot, or pulling wagons, some with dogs or ferrets, carrying everything they owned. Where were they going? Where would they sleep this rainy night? How had they ended up like this on Highway 101?
Daisy lit another cigarette, puffed away, and tapped out drum solos on the steering wheel with her fingers. Everything around her was gray and getting grayer. It was like she had entered a country where the official color was gray and its citizens loved living in the gray areas of life, because black and white is so boring, and utterly dangerous.
As Daisy edged around a graveled turn where the road had washed out the previous spring, she saw a large wooden sign nailed to slanting shore pine with a groovy rainbow logo right out a Fillmore East concert poster. Daisy nearly came to a halt and read: Rainbow Rock RV Park, 20 miles. We Welcome RVers, hikers, bicyclists, tent campers. Laundry Room. Store. Lending Library. Hot Showers. Fire Pit. Horseshoes. Tetherball. Pets welcome. Beach access. Quiet. Calm. Daily, weekly or monthly rates.
Tetherball! thought Daisy. She hadn’t played since she was a kid. She loved the game and always kicked ass because she was the tallest girl in school. Oh to kick ass one of the doctors at a hosipital picnic at a lakeside campground with a tetherball pole! She’d fist the ball right into his flaccid face and his wife would see the whole thing.
Rainbow Rock…it sounded almost exotic to Daisy and she loved rainbows. She loved their science but knew nothing of their folklore, not even the leprechaun and pot of gold hokum.
Daisy had never stayed in an RV Park. Indeed, she’d never stepped inside one. What the hell went on there? She had a sleeping bag, most of her clothes and toiletries stashed in the Volvo. She could sleep in the rig and figure it out later, whatever there was to figure out. The store was sure to have wine and a can of spaghetti and meatballs. She’d open it with her Leatherman and eat it cold.
Rainbow Rock RV Park it was. She floored it.