Saturday, June 11, 2005

Giant Erections

Ever since I can remember, for reasons that I have not been able to grasp, giant erections have frightened me. Generally, it’s some huge industial erection, like a dam, rather than say, a skyscraper, with it’s friendly architecture and windows to the top. No, it has to be austere, cold, unpopulated, like the massive grain storage unit I spied in Moro, Oregon, when we stopped there, in May, 2005, to visit the popular, renowned Sherman County Museum, which houses the amazing stories, artifacts and history of Oregon’s “dry land farming” community. After our visit, we stepped into the Airstream to make lunch, and as I walked outside, to the rear of the coach, I saw rising, in the four or five football field sized parking lot we were in, the grain structure, many, many many stories high, as tall as a skyscraper, round, grey, and giant. Dust clouds swirled by in the dry sun, and there was not a soul in sight. I am getting pretty good at this, since it has been bugging me forever, but a sight like this, if I am caught unawares, can actually send shivers down my spine.

When I was very young, and had not yet put a face on this phobia, I once found myself picnicking at Bonneville Dam, in the Columbia River Gorge, with my family and others. I suppose we were seated as close as one can get to the dam’s “falls,” because I can still put myself right there, and see the view I saw that day. It wasn’t terrifying, just sorta scary, the hugeness of it, something, the sound, the size. Let’s just say, that moment in the movie “Vegas Vacation”, where Chevy Chase is lost inside Hoover Dam, and then opens a door and rushes through it, only to realize that he is somewhere in the middle of the backside of the dam, dangling for his life, flailing about on a sea of brick, they coulda left that part out.

Have you ever seen a movie or TV show where, at some point, there is an actor in a small boat , a dingy, and suddenly, out of nowhere, comes a huge ship, which nearly capsizes the actor’s boat, and maybe it makes that huge Beeeeeeeeee-Ohhhhhhhhhhhh horn sound as it goes by? Ack! Fishing as much as I have, and being in smallish fishing boats in the ocean, I have occasionally seen some huge cargo ship pass, and though I have always been several hundred yards away, it’s creepy. Even being that far away, it’s easy to see how fucking huge they are.

There is an amazing “blimp hangar” in Tillamook, Oregon. As one who was raised in Oregon, and has lived here for most of my life, I have been to Tillamook many times. After all, that’s where the Tillamook Cheese Factory is located. When I was in the band, we played there several times. Later, I stalked the mighty salmon on the Trask and Wilson Rivers, which flow through Tillamook, on their way to the sea.

Two huge blimp hangars were built in Tillamook, in 1942, by the U.S. Navy, to house many blimps, which were used for military purposes. In 1992, one of the hangars burned to the ground. The remaining hangar is now a privately owned aerospace museum, with a significant number of planes and artifacts, a restaurant and a gift shop. The last time I went there, maybe fifteen years ago, the museum had been conceived, but wasn’t yet up and running. The hangar was, however, being used at that time to house a specially rigged small industrial blimp, which was being tested as a new method for removing big timber and logs from Oregon’s coastal forests. I had a small chat with the manager, who then showed my travelling companions and I a short film about the project. After the film, I wandered off into the hangar. Holy shit. First, I must say, it is a remarkable structure, all wood, in the shape of one massive quonset hut, open beamed. Secondly, I admit to getting a bit queasy, standing there, absolutely dwarfed by the thing, it’s height, length, and width. I learned later that six regulation football games can be played in there at once. It is 1072 feet long, and 15 stories high.Marie tells me she’s never been there, so I have to take her to see it, maybe pull the Airstream and get a place to stay at Cape Lookout, one of the great state parks in the area. But after we go, I hope she will agree to calm me down with a nice hunk of sharp cheddar.
See the Tillamook Blimp Hangar Museum here

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