My Hometowns Are Better Than Yours, Part 2 (or, "Sweet Nuclear Sleep and Salmonella'ed Tacos in Wascopum")

It has been established that I have two hometowns. Therefore, it follows that I am one of the coolest people alive.

Usually you need at least two data points, "A" and "B," before you can say, "A and B, therefore C." But when your "A" is that you have two hometowns, the rest of the alphabet can suck it, you know? Because you rule everything. You're above logic. You're up there with Ted Cruz and Def Leppard.

Not from my hometown. But still. Fort Hall. 2014.
One of my hometowns is Portland, OR. The other one is The Dalles. If you ever played the computer game Oregon Trail, The Dalles is where your little brother Ichabod died of cholera. It used to be called Fort Dalles, but then in the 1850s somebody really stupid changed the name to "Wascopum." But then people were like, "Wait, our town is called Wascopum," so it became The Dalles. The Dalles is the site of the largest ever bioterror attack on American soil, in which followers of an Indian mystic poisoned the food at several local restaurants, including Skipper's and Taco Time. I was okay with them poisoning the food at Skipper's, because, ew, Skipper's, but targeting Taco Time was a step too far, and I rallied my Kindergarten class to oppose the Indian mystic. And by "rallied my Kindergarten class," I mean "I didn't know there was a bioterror attack six blocks from my house until I was in college."

I used to have a t-shirt that said, "I Survived the Largest Ever Bioterror Attack on American Soil," but I was five and didn't know what it meant so I think I put it in the Salvation Army box. Too bad. That thing would be a sweet muscle shirt now that I work out twice per month on a good month.

I was born in The Dalles. My dad lives there now in a little house by the ballpark where the high school plays its baseball and football games. My friend Danny's Grandma used to live on the hill above the football field so that you could sit on her deck and watch the game. She didn't really speak English very well, so she'd cheer in Spanish and we were like, "I'm culturally overwhelmed here," so we'd just go down to the field behind the bleachers and play Smear the Queer with all the other middle schoolers. I suppose they probably don't call it Smear the Queer anymore, because, obvious reasons, but I promise homophobia never entered our minds. The only thing we were thinking of was completely and totally murdering the kid with the ball, regardless of his sexual orientation.

Me and Dad took a bike ride along a nice paved path called Riverfront Trail. The trail is a nice idea. Except the riverfront area in The Dalles is also the industrial area. So you're riding along, past the shipyard with heavy, greasy machinery that they use to load and unload river barges, past the junkyard, past an abandoned restaurant, past the old aluminum plant, and the river there just past the edge of the trail is a weird nuclear green color, and you're thinking, "Is that my stomach rumbling because I'm hungry or are my pancreas cells mutating?"

The great thing about being from a small town is things don't change very much. After our bike ride, me and Dad were tired and radioactive, so Dad fell asleep while we watched a NASCAR race on TV. I decided to let Dad sleep it off, so I took a drive around town, just for old time's sake. And I noticed things basically haven't changed much since 1992.

There's a strip mall called Cascade Square that used to have an Alberton's where you could get a free cookie at the bakery if you were cute, which meant I was out of luck. But still. The building where Albertson's used to be is vacant now, but Maurice's is still there next door. Maurice's is where all the ladies in town went to get sweet action stylin' clothes that would make you look like you were in your late-40s, regardless of your actual age. My mom would go to Maurice's sometimes, and I'd be like, "Mom, no, don't do it, you're still young, don't give up." But the only other place to get clothes in town was Tony's Town & Country, which only really sold cowboy boots and plaid shirts and lassos, and Mom had arthiritus, which negatively affected her lassoing skills, so Maurice's it was.

One thing that changed in town in the last 20 years is that Dairy Queen moved to a new spot. Now it's across from Safeway. While Dad slept his sweet nuclear sleep, I bought a Peanut Buster Parfait and sat in the car in the parking lot, just watching people go by. It was pretty relaxing and pleasant. But then a crazy guy walked by with no shirt, sort of just shouting at things and stumbling a little bit. I locked my doors, because I'm pretty sure I could read his lips and he was saying, "I need me a Peanut Buster Parfait in my veins!! It's been four days!! I can't live like this!! Thanks Obama!!" And I thought, wow, I guess things really have gone downhill in my hometown. Used to be if a man needed a Peanut Buster Parfait, the government could get him a Peanut Buster Parfait. And by "the government" I mean "his mom." But now, man, it's a scary world out there, even in Wascopum.