If You’re Going to San Francisco, Prepare for Domination! Day 10

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Dave Brockie of the Almight GWAR rocking A Band of Orcs’ shirt before the show in SF. 

As always, here’s your humble journalist, delivering the 4-1-1 straight from the shit itself. We’re currently barreling down the 45 North outside of Houston, TX, on our way to a Guitar Center for supplies and to burn some time before the show tonight at the Warehouse Live. I have an expensive-ass cup of diner coffee sitting next to me and my belly is full with a croissant & scrambled egg sandwich topped with hot sauce and a side of grits. Real country grub is good for the soul, even if you’re traveling with a death metal band and you have to question whether or not you even have the damned thing.

Where did I leave off? Sacramento, right? Well, that was a few days ago, so I’ll do as much catching up as possible and dive right into the last few days.

After Sactown we drove through the night, trying to get as close to home as possible. Somewhere along the line we dropped Jesse off in Oakland so he could be with his lady, Lexi, who lives in the area.

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The city, she burns for me. . .she needs penicillin 

I woke up in the parking lot of a Best Buy in Emeryville, had my morning cigarette, hacked up the day’s lung butter and walked with Oog to Panera Bread for some coffee and the toilet, not in that order. After everyone had their eats and morning ritual, we were hit up by some self-proclaimed, “totally normal” crackheads who were looking for “only $11 so I can buy my medicine,” and I knew we were back in the Bay.

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San Francisco. Ooooohhhh San Francisco. You’re a helluva city, you know that, right? The air had a bite to it like no other. A real San Franciscan October night; fresh with the adventures of the sea, and as old as the ghosts that haunt it.

The tour was hitting the Regency Ballroom, an old dancehall built in 1909 and is a “fine example of Scottish Rite architecture” according to their website. The massive stage, hardwood floors and 22, turn-of-the-century teardrop chandeliers are clearly too nice for modern times, and one can imagine the Regency being a really swinging jazz hall at one time. But tonight, it was home for metal, blood, Orcs, and space aliens. Just another night in SF.

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Hellbillies Representin’ at the Regency

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Matt customizing a Gwar drumhead to be sold. 

From the moment we arrived, it was a hustle to unload, organize, set-up the merch/instruments and the dreaded search for parking in a city built for horse-drawn carriages. Luckily, there was a spot directly across from the Regency, on the other side of Van Ness Blvd. With a little luck and a lot of time playing Frogger as a kid, I was able to maneuver everything into the venue just in time to eat.

By nightfall our friends began pouring in and it was a regular party inside the Regency. Friends, girlfriends, wives, family members and coworkers all showed up to support A Band of Orcs and be splattered in blood. Unfortunately as with every show so far, the ticket times and the actual doors were different and several of our friends missed the Orcs. C’est la vie.

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Inside the Regency

Because the merch room is separate from the main hall, I spent the evening behind the booth, talking with Carlee (Iron Reagan’s merch girl for those of you just joining us) and Wyatt (Whitechapel merch guy), and hanging out with my Santa Cruz friends, Brian, Caroline, Rob & Chris. I was excited to be at the Regency from the crew side. Three years ago I had the chance to interview GWAR at the Regency for Rabid magazine, and while I can’t deny a backstage press pass, it was good to get the crew’s perspective. Truly immerse myself in the chaos, real gonzo journalism.

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Outside the Regency

However, that’s not to say I didn’t see my fair share of entertainment because Will was there; the baldheaded, pill dealer who “swear to God knowns Oderus. Just ask him!”. Jesse and I got our first taste of Will In Sacto, when he walked up to our RV exclaiming, “I’m gonna draw on your vehicle.”

“Theeeeen, I’m gonna call the cops,” replied Jesse.

Will’s face turned as white as his goatee and his eyes grew huge partly out of exaggeration, partly out of real fear and the rest because of the drugs he was permanently on.

“Aaaaawwww, naawww, come on man. You wouldn’t do that, WOULD you??? Not the cops, I got pills and I know GWAR!”

He spent the next ten minutes explaining to us about all of the bands he’s worked with and how he’s more “one of [us]” than we realize. My first thought was, “Ye gods, I hope not.” The rest of the night in Sacramento was spent with Will running around in a drunken ball of chaos with his promises to show up the next day in San Francisco, even though I was a dick to him with every interaction.

He might be annoying as hell, but I guess he’s honest about his promises, “especially when there’s a free show and beer involved,” he later told me at some point in the Regency. I don’t remember if it was before or after he started running around the merch room, chasing after an equally drunk, looked like she was prone to a pill or six, middle-aged woman. She was yelling at him for something and as an apology, Will was throwing himself on  the ground, proposing and begging for her forgiveness. She saw her opportunity and started shouting, “Well, as long as your down there,” spreading eagle about his shiny bald head and missing teeth smile. This went on for several minutes, with her running around the room in a circle, and Will throwing himself down every few feet with a pleading, “Naw, I’m sorry baby! Come on, let’s get a beer! You love beer! Naw, come on.” After 5 laps around the room, she exited and he followed, crawling on his knees with his hands in the air. I don’t normally say this, but sometimes drugs can be dangerous kids. Don’t be like Will.

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Caroline has been Gwarified

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Rob & Chris return bloody from battle

When the show was over and our friends were sufficiently drenched, I tried to pack up as quickly as possible so I could hang out, but was delayed first by the stage manager for merch pay out, and a second time after loading-in when I discovered my tour laminate had ripped off my key chain. After some frantic searching, I discovered it on Van Ness, but by then it was late and everyone was departing. Brian had agreed to take me back to  Santa Cruz for the night and A Band of Orcs all agreed to meet at the RV rental place the next day in Newark at 11am. After a couple hours there, they’d go to SC, do laundry, empty things in the trailer we don’t need, pick me up, and hit the road in the early afternoon. Ho ho.

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A Crabtree stands alone

Hollyweird Tales: The House of Blues, Battling Cabbies on Sunset Blvd, A Blunt the Size of Your Finger And Feeding Porn Stars into the Meat Grinder.

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Cretos, Gogog and I walked up and down the Sunset Strip, catching stares from the patrons at the chic restaurants.  Their casual lunch faces twisted into looks of disgust as they saw a bunch of tattooed, haggard rockers in black strolling by their boutique dining experience. Muffled voices were followed by slight points and turning heads. I lit a cigarette and we stared twice as hard back, arguing over who had the right clothes for the “cool kids club”. Afterall, they were a bunch of Los Angeles yuppies with overpriced haircuts and $200 ripped jeans, sporting designer sunglasses and complaining about their agents getting a cut of the money (*true story). Welcome to Hollyweird.

We bummed around a few Halloween stores, ending up in one that used to be the infamous Sunset Tower Records during the 20th Century. Now the building remains vacant until seasonal stores need the space, and then move on once they’re done. Very Southern California.

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Cretos wearing a fallen Orc’s face

We decided to keep roaming and I took the guys around to the Viper Room, were their morbid curiosity peaked, trying to find the spot where River Phoenix died. That might sound horrible to some people, but I was more than eager to show them as, well, I’m one of those morbid types.

“What’s up the street?” Cretos asked in a gargled voice, pointing with a newly acquired, zombie lawn gnome from the last store.

“You’ve got the Whiskey, the Roxy and the Rainbow Room, along with Hustler Hollywood,” I replied, already thinking about the XXX espresso shake at Hustler. Whenever someone from L.A. mentions the Rainbow, we immediately mention the obligatory, “Lemmy lives above the Rainbow and you can meet him there for drinks if you play it right.”

“What? No shit?” Cretos almost screamed.

Clearly I had his attention.

The three of us stood on the sidewalk, discussing whether or not we should walk the couple of blocks up to see if Lemmy was there, or just turn around and go back to the RV. After a few minutes of going back and forth, we decided it was already getting late and we needed to be by the gear for load-in.

“Besides,” we all agreed. “Lemmy’s been sick anyway, he’s probably resting or maybe not even in L.A. at all.”

Ho. Ho.

Growing up in Southern California, you have no idea just how different it is not only from the rest of the country, but even from the rest of the state as well. At least my friends and I didn’t, or if we did, we were too busy getting into trouble and trying to numb our brains to think about it. We grew up going to Hollywood on a weekly basis, driving past the prostitutes lit under the neon of the clubs and billboards. A town that promises anything you want with no repercussions, your dreams in your hand, as long as you sign on the dotted line and sell that soul. Don’t worry baby, you’re in good hands with us. We’ll take you up that rollercoaster of life and it will be all downhill, smooth sailing from here until you’re all used up and we can’t make that golden green off you. Shit, they’ll even suck the money out of your corpse, just look at Tupac.

So if you finally move away from the Mecca of SoCal and live life with a different view, you can infiltrate the city in a new way. You know how to maneuver your way around a conversation better than a regular outsider, because you understand the other person’s mindset, sometimes better. It’s a skill that came in handy when we needed to move the trailer and find someplace the park the behemoth on the Strip on a Friday night.

For those who didn’t grow up in LaLa land or have never been to the House of Blues on Sunset, it’s an amazing venue to see a show. The sound is impeccable, the food is great and if you don’t mind rubbing some elbows, the view is excellent. Plus, it’s Hollywood, so EVERYONE plays there. Playing there, however, is another story entirely.

The club is on the edge of Sunset, right on the side of a massively steep hill and the side street ends for 2-way traffic abruptly after the club. We had pulled in early since we were carrying the GWAR guys and parked downhill from the venue. Thirty minutes later, we were told the cub didn’t have any available parking for us and we were on our own. They advised us to ask the hotel next door if we could use their free space.

The first one was a bust, but I straightened my hair, ditched my vest with Hitler committing suicide on the back, and walked into the next one. I haggled my way with the valet boss into letting us park in the taxi zone on Sunset, for $30 less than they normally charge as long as we were gone by 1:30am. Insert your best Jew joke, here.

Another problem with the venue is their insurance won’t allow their load crew to take anything if it’s outside the property line for liability reasons. The next 20 minutes were spent by the band, Jesse and I stacking cases and riding them up the street and slowly down the hill, all hands on deck. With only a few minor falls and multiple strings of cursing, we got the equipment to the main hall where I departed from the band so they could set up the stage and I could set up the merchandise next to Iron Reagan.

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This is Carle, Iron Reagan’s merch girl, she’s rad and can probably kick your ass.

A few minutes into my merch routine, Missy Knowlton, my good friend, fellow artist and life enthusiast came walking down with her usual warm smile, carrying an iced coffee for each of us. This is why she’s also known as, Momma Bear. We caught up over the coffee and laughs while I finished my duties before I dragged her with me through the labyrinth of backstage to where dinner was waiting.

Since she didn’t have a badge, or even her guest list pass yet, I grabbed a plate with two forks and piled it high with mashed potatoes, salad and grilled veggies. Nicole, GWAR’s merch woman & married to Brent . . .saw what was going on, smiled and gave me the pass. I escorted Missy to the front patio where we inhaled the fresh food and talked with some of the GWAR and Iron Reagan guys. We left the patio through the front and ran into another group of wild and familiar faces that we’ve (“we” being Hulg, Missy and myself) known for over a decade. Spirits were high and you could feel the energy in the air, or maybe it was all the electricity from the Strip.
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Missy & Joe the most loyal kooks you’ll ever meet.

The Orcs’ set went off without a hitch and the House of Blues’ sound was crispin’ like Glover. For my money, it’s been the best sound on tour so far.

And holy Jebus, was it packed.

As soon as their set started a decent size pit opened up and didn’t quit. As it goes in tinsel town, people show up fashionably late, and hour by hour hordes of drunk and crazed fans piled in, screaming, “Ggggwwwwaaarrrrr!!!” at the top of their lungs.

And of course, the Industry was in full force. Reps from Nuclear Blast and Brian Slagel, founder of Metal Blade Records, showed up and word began spreading about a “buzz” around the Orcs. Gwar is the perfect band for the Orcs to open for. Not only do they share elaborate stage shows, but the styles of metal are similar as well with heavy death and classic influences. Ever night more and more people approach the merch booth, telling me they had never heard of the band before that night and can they please have a cd or t-shirt.

Of course the music industry isn’t the only one in LaLa land and soon enough a group of Vivid Entertainment girls, all primped and looking as “LA hot” as possible. And in this town and in this town, there’s a lot of competition. Even Jessie Lee, the seductive siren from Burning Angel entertainment and star of such classic, punk porn cinema as “Cum on my Tattoo 4” and “Friends Don’t Let Friends Fuck Alone,” was rocking out and later fed into GWAR’s Meat Grinder like a champ along with several of the other girls.

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See? Would I lie to you? And yes, that is a shit-eating grin I’m wearing. Ok, maybe not the best saying when posing with a porn star.

Never one’s to let good publicity go bad, GWAR premiered their new cartoon before their set, then blasted into the full set, spraying copious amounts of blood and alien “jizmogoblin” (I’ll let you figure that one out) at the crowd. I’ll upload my crappy video of the cartoon soon.

It was a whirlwind of a night complete with fights, 4 fire engines out front (nobody knew why), pissed off cab drivers yelling at our RV for taking their spot (apparently one of them kept yelling “Fuck you, weirdo!” at Gogog which has now become the new insult on tour) and more familiar faces packing into the crowd.

After the show, our friend Joe Riot (who will forever be Stoner Joe in my book even if he stopped smoking 3 years ago) interviewed the Orcs for his radio show and we said our goodbyes to Echo, Lisa and the rest of our friends who had shown up. With the trailer packed, we passed under the neon lights of Hollyweird, slowing creeping through the Friday night traffic, on our way back up to Sacramento.

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It was when we were unwinding in the back of the RV that I heard Cretos yell, “Fuck!!” at the top of his lungs. I jerked out of my sleepless daze and asked what happened, thinking there would be blood.

“Look at this!” he said passing me the laptop.

It took my eyes a few seconds to realize what I was staring at. Lemmy had posted a picture in front of the Rainbow Room, right at the time we decided not to go check it out. That night there was a free listening party of the new Motorhead album for anyone who wanted to check it out, complete with the man himself. The metal gods had given us the opportunity and we wasted it like the mortals we are. Moral of the story: now or never.

Hail, Hail Portlandia!

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Nestled at the confluence of the Columbia and Willamette rivers, lays the 162-year-old city of Portland, Oregon. Originally inhabited by the Multnomah Indians, the environment provided plenty of fishing, edible plants and berries, and even hunting in the nearby Tualatin Plains, for the local population.

As it usually happens, the natives were driven away by the onset of white pioneers from the Midwest. By 1843, a Tennessean named William Overton had arrived in the area and saw great business potential for the land. White people always seem to look at nature and see “potential” instead of the importance it already possesses. Go figure.

So Overton buys the land for with a business partner, then sells his shares in 1845 for $50 to one Francis W. Pettygrove of Portland, Maine, who had recently moved to Oregon to open a general store. Overton then skips out of state for various parts of his life, ending up in Texas to take care of his sick mother, where he we was rumored to have been hanged.

Pettygrove and Overton’s business associate, Asa Lovejoy, couldn’t agree on what to name the new territory, each wanting to pay homage to their hometowns. As with all brilliant moments in history, the decision was settled by a coin toss. Three years later Pettygrove was one of the richest men in the Oregon Territory.

I don’t think either man ever could have imagined Portland turning into the environmentally friendly, progressive, hipster and delinquent haven it is in 2013. But! I already talked about that in my last post, so onward and upward we go.

The Orcs’ usual load-in time has be 2:30, so we rested for a few hours, eating the catered breakfast provided by the Roseland Theater and Voodoo Donuts. Which, by the way, are as amazing as everyone says. Between the Froot Loop topped donuts, the caramel and Oreo cookie ones and the cock ‘n balls donut (give you a wild guess what it’s shaped like), there’s a cream-filled treat for everyone in the family. Oh yeah, I went there. Rumor has it Voodoo also supplied the cream-filled, chocolate, weed cupcakes at the end of the night, but that is neither here nor there and I’ll get into that later. There was also a cake.

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The Roseland Theater itself is a premiere venue for years with a capacity of 1410. Much like the Filmore, its walls are adorned with pictures of a smorgasbord of artists who have played the stage from Frank Zappa to Prince and, of course, GWAR. They have a built-in restaurant where they fed us menu courses like bacon mac ‘n cheese, burgers and mile-high sandwiches. The cheese tortellini with mushroom cream sauce was definitely the best food I’ve had on tour so far. It was even better scarfing it down at the merch table 10 minutes before doors opened.

With a presale of 950 tickets and an eventual 1243 total, the Portland audience was ready for a legendary concert and the bands did not disappoint.

A Band of Orcs shuffled out and blew through their set with an energy that riled up the newly arrived crowd. Immediately when they began the set, a circle pit opened up and kids began thrashing about with an intensity that didn’t break until the Orcs were done.

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There are three times when the merch booth is busy, the beginning of the night, after the band plays, and the end of the show. Once the Orcs were finished I was swarmed by Portlandians asking about the band, all holding crumpled bills ready for whatever merchandise they could afford. Here’s a typical conversation:

Customer: So where are they from?

Me: Herntoadia.

Customer: Ha ha, no, really?

Me: Really. Looks like you could use a shirt.

Customer: Naw, I’m just thinking about a sticker. Well, how long does it take them to put all that stuff on?

Me: What stuff? Dude, a shirt last so much longer and you can’t wear a sticker.

Customer: You know, the masks and stuff?

Me: What masks? You sure you don’t want a shirt?

Customer: Ha, uh. . .*realizes he has been defeated* yeah, give me a large.

Eazy peezy fresh ‘n squeezy.

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After Iron Reagan and Whitechapel brought the crowd to a whole new level of chaos, it was almost time for GWAR. I was sitting behind the merch table when Jesse walked up to me with a professional-looking, chocolate cupcake in each hand.

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“Here,” he said with a suspicious grin, “It’s a special cupcake from Oderus (GWAR lead singer).” Not thinking twice, I unpealed the foil from the stump and bit in.

“Oh shit, they really are special.” I replied tasting that familiar spice of THC. And special they were, within the hour Jesse, Oog, Gogog and myself were watching the spectacular show of lights, blood, crass humor and ridiculously offensive alien costumes on stage; laughing our asses off at the blood-soaked crowd slipping on the floor and making fun of/with the fans in a good-humored way.

Portland is an old GWAR town, and I had a dozen or so people tell me it was their 13th, 16th, or even 20th show. By the third song bodies, legs and shoes were flying through the air, surfing on whatever hands they could find, trying to find the best way in front of the blood cannon on stage.

GWAR held no punches. I know I’ve only been on the road for less than a week but it was easily the most blood I’ve seen them spray on an audience yet. Pools filled the floor afterward and there wasn’t a single white spot of clothing in the building. The band played an extra-long set, bringing out every character they had on the road, giving Portland what it deserved.

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It was a helluva night that ended with the usual quick load-out back to the RV. When we hit the road the cupcake had been working for several hours and it was time to pay homage to the Land of Nod as we coasted down the blacktop back towards our native California.

Spokan, the Beginning of America, and Portland. Orctober 13-14.

Severe lack of sleep for days straight have brought me behind on the updates. After all, what good use is a writer who abides by his own deadlines? If that were to happen, all hell would break loose and the gods would rain hellfire and damnation upon us poor minions, and then where would we be?

So instead I’m starting from where we’re at and rolling with the road. Bringing you right into the middle of this goddamned thing straight from my cell phone. Welcome to the 21st century, where we do the important things with our thumbs. Tough shit non-primates, get with the evolution.

I’m writing this from the front seat of the rv, a band of orcs– looking as haggard as they sound and smelling twice as putrid–relax in the back after a long night of pillaging the Canadian countryside.

We’re parked somewhere outside of downtown Portland, Or., underneath an intersection of freeway overpasses, with the kooks and drunks, the wretched and the addicted, gather for a peace of mind and a sip of the hard stuff. Whether their taste is for the bourbon or the black.

Portland is an amazingly depraved city selling itself as a progressive paradise. Strip clubs stretch up and down the city streets and scattered in-between are nothing but bars, arcades, coffee shops, and record stores. It’s a fetishist’s heaven and has already stolen a nice chunk of money for my precious vinyl. Not that I’m complaining.

Two nights ago we were in Spokane, Wa. where the Orcs opened for a crowd of roughly 1100 drunk, crazed rednecks and mud worshippers. We had arrived early and spent the day idling around the venue, swapping the night’s road stories with the other crew and band members, breaking to go eat the Knitting Factory’s catering of the continental breakfast and taco bar.

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However, by the time the doors opened and the first wave of pre-game hammered fans walked in, we knew it was going to be one helluva night.

The merch tables were set off to the side in a separate room, so I missed the stage show but caught the real action instead.

From the moment Gogog stepped onto the stage and started yelling at the crowd, blackout drunk individuals were kicked out of the crowd in a constant stream every 10 to 20 minutes. Between the booze and the pit the night exploded in a sacrifice of concert goers to the metal gods. Blood, real and fake, drenched the faces and clothes of the horde as they cheered for more. Watching a spectacle such as an alien demon walking around with a massive alien dick, chopping off celebrity and other alien heads so that an actual fountain of blood can baptize the fans makes one realize just how perfect GWAR really is for the Super Bowl. The NFL commission clearly has no fucking clue why people watch their sport.

But that’s not to badmouth Spokane. The sober people were good folk and the lighting guy sold us some weed for California prices. What really struck me was how incredibly clean it was. A major US city with no dirt or grime on the buildings, no graffiti on the walls, and not even a candy wrapper on the ground. When there’s an island of trash floating in the Pacific Ocean, you can’t help but wonder if something fishy is going down in Spokane.

When GWAR was finished and we were packed, the Orc caravan set off into the night towards Canada, where they were going to play Vancouver and I was going to in a trucker motel in Blaine, Wa. on the border because of my missing passport.

Blaine. . .well, Blaine exists. The city has a banner stretched across one street which reads, “Welcome to Blaine, where America begins!” Yeah, and Canada’s dream dies. It’s amazing the kids aren’t all drug dealers. Shit, maybe they are, I didn’t ask. But I did ask what people do for fun and the girl behind the pizza counter casually replied, “sometimes we go over to the island across the bay.” I left her a $5 tip just because how the hell do you reply to that?

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That’s Blaine in a nutshell. A boarded up city along a dead train route as a ghostly reminder.

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But they do have killer whales in their parks.

Which brings me to Portland.

After Vancouver, the band picked me up around 3 am and we hauled it the 4 hours south in the early morning mist. I’m back on a no sleep schedule, staying awake with whoever is driving. But things have been improving. In the past 48 hours I”ve actually slept for almost 6 hours. Just have to keep this up for 6 more weeks.
Continue reading “Spokan, the Beginning of America, and Portland. Orctober 13-14.”