In the early days of the Überhaus site I liked to experiment with format. I came across a post I did sometime in 1998 that was constructed of framesets that randomly linked to one another. For those who don’t remember, a frameset was an HTML hack that allowed multiple web pages to display on the same page. We still have a limited version of that in the form of <iframe>, but for the most part frames have gone the way of the blacksmith. Good thing, too, since they caused more problems than they solved (like booze).
The result was a meandering story in no particular order. What it says or means is anyone’s guess. It used different typefaces and colors, so the result was a strange-looking mess.
Since I can’t replicate the frames without breaking WordPress, I’ll just paste the various bits and pieces in random order. It seems to be comprised mostly of ruminations on the Taft Hotel, a state-funded old folks home located above the Portland bar where I worked. It’s grim, but that’s how that place was.
Here you go:
-You see, the race is so obsessed by youth that they sequester the old to die alone.
-It would seem to me that the things which are so sadly lacking in their “culture” are found…
-Yes, yes. It’s very obvious, of course. The best we can seem to inspire is pity.
-Pity. So ironic. If only they knew.
The Taft Hotel was built as the Franklin in 1905. It was designed by Edgar Lazarus, the famous Portland architect who designed the Vista House at Crown Point overlooking the Colombia Gorge. Architectural details include exaggerated lintels, Chicago-style windows, rusticated brickwork and classical colonial revival ornamentation. It was constructed following the Lewis and Clark Exposition, a boom period for the region.
The old people would be there one day and gone the next. Some you’d see for years, long since you’d think they’d died and gone on. I guess they feed them during the day, but that doesn’t keep them from grinding on you for change every time they’d see you. It was a pretty pathetic spectacle most of the time, some cancerous old bag standing out on the street corner in all weathers dressed in a nightgown and filthy flannel robe, holding out a string of pink plastic pearls in her withered hand and barking out at passersby, “CHANGE?”
I’d say “I’m trying, lady. I’m trying.”
Shakes would come in sometimes in the afternoon when it was slow. He was a painfully thin man with crazy bright blue eyes and shaky hands. Sometimes he’d shake so bad when he was trying to get out a cigarette that the whole pack would jerk out of his hand onto the floor. Rather than watch the pathetic spectacle of his uncontrollably tremulous fingers try to pick up his runaway smokes, I came out from behind the bar and picked them up. I gave them to him. He was so grateful. His Parkinson’s was getting real bad and cigarettes were like gold at the Taft.
He held up a dollar bill, told me they were coming to get him. He pointed to the picture of George Washington, tapped it with a yellow nail. “See there?” he said, eyes burning like some demented bird. “My name. Right there. HUDLER.”
He nodded. certain. He asked me for matches. I gave him matches every day. I gave him matches now. As he left I saw somebody had taped a paper sign to his back.
PLEASE DON’T GIVE ME MATCHES. I AM A PYRO.
Mary was coughing up a lung in the dining room. It was bad for business, and the lunches were slow enough, thank you. I mean, it felt like I was kicking her when I asked her to go, but she was a liability. A woman that fat, that old, it’s bad enough, but with that phlegmy cough it was just disgusting. She didn’t even cover her mouth, for Christ’s sake.
Wednesday they wheeled out the old lady. She was strapped down to the gurney, screaming bloody murder. Word was she started screaming as soon as she saw the men on the scaffold. They were repointing the brick on the old hotel, but she didn’t know that. She had looked out the same window every day for sixteen years, the same patch of bald sky. She never got out of bed, doing all her business in and out via tubes that led from an IV stand through her body, out her holes into big jars on the floor.
She saw men outside her window.
They had come. Ever since the days in the barn when she’d lie in the hayrake listening for the heavy booted footsteps clumping up the ladder she’d known it was only a matter of time. She’d hear it and know that there was no hiding; sometimes he’d even stab at the pile with a pitchfork, not caring if it went into her chest, doing it so hard that the tines would clang into the boards of the barn floor, splintering the coarse wood. She’d rise up then, dripping hay from her back and hair like a sea-monster. She’d smile shyly into his cold dark eyes and quiver.
When she saw the scaffold she knew. She started screaming. As far as anyone knew she was screaming still.
Chuck, you got your diamond horseshoe ring stolen. By god, that ring musta cost you a hunner dollars. What, somebody jerk it off your finger?
I was at that fantasy video. I set it on the sink. She took it, the woman.
At the fantasy video?
I was wiping out the sink. She took it. I was wiping it out, the sink.
She took it?
They said I shouldn’ta taken it off. I was wiping it out. Looked like a macdonalds icecream, there in the sink. I was wiping it out.