The column that got away | The Weekly Source
Jhe Bend that I remember from the late 90s and early 2000s was a place at constant war with itself. In some ways it’s fun, the battles over roundabout art, for example. And in some serious ways – the Stiles election campaign comes to mind. The sneaky implosion of the Vieux Moulin to make way for a shopping experience. It was a city becoming a city and it was often a wild ride.
This also happened at the Source, sometimes behind the scenes. It was, of course, a time when dailies still counted and “Le Bulletin” took himself very seriously. There was no lack of enmity, professional and personal, between the folks at “The Bully,” as I liked to call it, and those of us in the rambling alternate weekly game. Many of the reporters I met at The Bully tended to be serious journalism school graduates trying to launch their careers toward “The Oregonian” or “Sacramento Bee.” And they almost always bothered to tell me that they weren’t like their editorial supervisors — mostly stuffy Chamber of Commerce spokespeople who viewed our side of the street with open contempt. I can’t say it didn’t sink
in both ways.
But we all had to drink beer somewhere, even though Bend at that time had only two breweries – Deschutes and Bend Brewing – until McMenamins Old St. Francis reopened. It was there, during a grand opening ceremony, that I met a young columnist whom I will call Chris. Basically, we were counterparts on opposite sides of an impassioned City Council campaign that was shaping up to be an epic battle to replace the old guard of Oran Teater and other conservatives with a serious progressive slate, years in the making. manufacturing. This Chris was, to put it mildly, a beer jerk and in the company of the only Bulletin reporter I really cared about. I will call
If I remember correctly, David had introduced us by email. Something about high lords wanting to mingle with the scruffy mob. And in that email correspondence, we had agreed to a friendly bet on the election. I had bet so and so would receive more votes than the others. I was right, and I wanted the free beer I was owed.
I hated this person immediately when we met face to face. If he wasn’t wearing a bow tie, I’d make another bet that he owned at least a few. He had the smirk of a preschooler who used to pontificate about things. He explained to me that he believed that our bet was void because a third candidate had obtained more votes than our two rivals.
“Let me clear things up,” I could have said, “you’re going to escape a bet with someone who doesn’t mind putting this in writing, say, tomorrow?”
If you know Aaron Switzer, the Source editor, you can imagine the joy with which he received my story. What a fabulous chance to ruin the career of a smart young Bully. We immediately laid plans for a glorious column on the drunken and disreputable nighttime habits of serious fuck-asses up on the hill. Just when I was really about to start, I received an email: Chris was so sorry for what he had done. Very sorry and alcohol was to blame.
I can’t tell you how disappointed I was. It would have been the glorious pinnacle of my equally intelligent career as a political journalist and columnist. But I just couldn’t kick a dog when it was crawling. It still pisses me off that he deprived me of that column.
And then a Doogie pub crawl
It was all Lee Perry’s fault. When you see someone extraordinarily decent whispering conspiratorially in the corner of a dark fern bar, it’s hard to imagine they’re not doing anything good. Especially if they’re the designated driver and your table is full of writers making their way through a company-funded night of bar reviews. A reasonable explanation might have been that Lee was ordering extra bread so no one would get too hammered.
So I didn’t think of it when the waitress turned to me with a rather wide expression on her face. Like someone who saw a ghost. Or a celebrity. But I did when she picked up a menu a few minutes later and kindly approached me with it. “Excuse me, but do you think I could have your autograph?” »
I turned my head to Lee, who had slipped into the cabin next to me and whispered, “Who am I supposed to be?”
“Neill Patrick Harris.”
A dark image of the actor who had played Doogie Howser, MD came to mind. In fact, I had been tentatively taken for him once or twice. like, “You kinda look like that actor who played Doogie Howser if he’d spent too much time in the sun and cut his hair.” This was before Harris’ fame rose and he came out as gay. The comparisons stopped there – no one would confuse my general wardrobe of dirty Carhartt and holey Western shirts with Harris’ dapper tailored suits.
“Does Neil have an A or and I?” I whispered to Lee.
“I do not know.”
I took a guess, probably wrong, and wrote a dedication to the waitress on the back of the menu. Something about her being the best waitress in Bend. She stepped back holding it tight like a precious object and we continued drinking at the fern bar.
When it came time to write our bar reviews I’m sure it was Aaron Switzer and not my idea that I was writing a satirical column pretending to be a miffed Neil Patrick Harris. I accepted it only because elsewhere in the article it mentioned the mistaken identity story. The gist of the column was that Harris was a secretive – and clearly rather alcoholic – resident of Bend who had had enough of his cover being blown. He just wanted to drink in peace.
Like most of my satirical columns, they at least amused Switzer and myself. The public reaction was always a roll of the dice. But a few days later we received a letter in the post (yes, real snail mail as it was then) with a return address near the top of Awbrey Butte. I believe the stationery was monogrammed, but that could be my imagination.
I pull it from memory, but it went something like this:
“Dear Mr. Harris,
I had the opportunity to socialize with many rich and famous people like you. And I’ve never found any of them so rude and unappreciative of the love of their public fans. You should be ashamed of yourself.
If you would like to do something positive for the community, instead of just complaining, I would be happy to teach you how to host a celebrity cocktail party.
Sincerely, Awbrey Butte Guy
Absolutely not for editing. No permission given to post.
Just a pro tip, but letters to a newspaper are publishable. I am proud to say that I argued against the publication of the letter over the objections of my laughing office colleagues. And I never learned how to throw a celebrity cocktail party.