His hair was still dark, as was his moustache, but his hands had that knotty, bony look that comes with age. He was small and wiry, limber, and exuded a confidence that drew my eye. He boarded the bus in Montesano, and again a few days later in Hoquaim, dressed simply in jeans and sweatshirt.
The day I saw him in Hoquaim, we were on our way back from Ocean Shores, an elongated and not very successful holiday resort on the Pacific coast. It had rained on and off (mostly on) for most of the day, and we stayed in sight of the long, windswept beach just long enough to take a few photos, before retreating to a Taffy shop for coffee. Anyway, this fellow boarded the bus in Hoquaim, and apparently the driver took a slightly different route back to Aberdeen than what he expected, and he entered into a conversation with the driver about this ‘stop’that he thought had been overlooked.I couldn’t really hear what the driver had to say, but got the impression that there was no oversight as far as he was concerned. The traveller, however, was unconvinced, and repeated that he thought there was a mistake, ending with the words “Just sayin’.” I’d never heard the expression before, but I have since. And every time I do, I remember the man on the bus in Aberdeen, who knew more about the route than the driver.
Montesano, Aberdeen and Hoquaim are in an area of great natural beauty, with an unfortunate reputation for perpetual rain. We only passed briefly through Montesano, just long enough to note the grocery store where Buzz Osborne, of the Melvins, once worked, and where, allegedly, Kurt Cobain was introduced to Punk Rock. Hoquaim and Aberdeen were once thriving, and still boast wonderful old buildings, including the 7th Street Theatre in Hoquaim, and the Driftwood Playhouse in Aberdeen. Like the Gold rush towns of central Victoria, the glory days were brief and spectacular, and followed by population decline, as workers moved on. The timber boom was driven, oddly enough, by the San Francisco earthquake, and subsequent fires, which created an enormous demand for timber as that city was rebuilt. It was demand that ran out, not supply.
Aberdeen has frequently been portrayed by ‘the media’ (in the context of discussing the life of Kurt Cobain), as “depressed” and generally down-at-heel. Some locals also feel that it is over-run with beggars and drug users, but from what I saw, it is no worse than any other small town. Maybe unemployment levels are a little higher, which is more to do with mechanisation of the timber industry than spotted owls. Besides which, America’s social security system is hardly world’s best practice – not that Australia’s is anything to boast about either. Just sayin’…