Halloween, to this day, is regretfully not a banking holiday despite being one of the most spiritually impactful commemorations (secular or otherwise) in the United States. Halloween, going back to its earliest roots, is a celebration of death & rebirth, which is not unlike Portland, Oregon, a city once described by a friend of Uncharted Dives as, “the perfect place to reinvent yourself when all you got is mixed-nuts and dead-ends.” In Southeast Portland, the now defunct Morrison Hotel was once a dive bar where the reincarnation of souls took place nightly. This story is an Uncharted Dives Oral History about one particular Halloween at the Morrison Hotel. It is a story no different from any other Halloween, except this is the night Wara met Vic and Vic met the MoHo, all while Isy embraced his mortality behind Big Buck Hunter. Welcome to Halloween on Morrison Street.
The Where of it All: Morrison Hotel
Wara (General Manager of Whiffle-Ball Team, “the Gnarly Narwhals”): I started drinking here mostly because you could smoke indoors. Still remember the first time I drove past thinking I had to at least have my picture taken in front of it; it had the likeness to the album cover to one of rock’s greatest bands, and one of their best albums; “the Morrison Hotel.” Thrilled to check it out that first time, when the owner, Joe Christmas, turned out to be my doppelganger, he was from back east as well. My experience upgraded from excited to cozy…which is a combination that usually leads into a memorable night. The memorable nights came so often that they somehow blur into non-memory. This place became our living room, we, the unpaid staff who’d help close down after hours so we could party-on curtains-drawn. It didn’t hurt that our corner apartment was a short stumble home.
Izy Badger (full time bureaucrat & part time ornithologist): It had good signage, I’ll give it that. Was never a big Doors guy and hated the Red Sox, so the two motifs the MoHo hung its hat on were two things I shrugged at. Too be honest, I was still a bit sour from when I’d lived in Boston with Wara previously. We were out on the town six nights a week and every night, at exactly 7:05pm, right as the $1 pints kicked-in and the conversational wave we were surfing reached its fizzy zenith…….. “THIS IS NESN AND ITS ANOTHER NIGHT OF RED SOX BASEBALL!” came BLARING through every speaker in the city. Talking learjet decibel levels here. Those ball games would DB Cooper the rest of the night and the slow-pitch commentary would drown out our table’s sentences. I never forgave Redsox nation for this audio abuse. And I wasn’t about to now.
That is, until I walked into the MoHo.
Cousin Dingus (sous chef and bouncer at the Morrison Hotel): No Shit I showed up on a flight from back east to powtlahnd on Wara’s doorstep with no invite and a gAabage bag of clothes. Nuthn else needed kid. His connections at the MoHo saved my ass. Stawted workn’ theyah and was the best job I eva’ had. Once I could get through shift and be on the right side of the Bah[r] that is.
Vic Neverman (Paranormal Investigator): The city of Portland is in the top 5 for bars per capita in this country (#1 in strip-clubs!!) and the density of watering holes becomes more saturated the closer you get to the Willamette River. There is so much competition when it comes to bars, I likely passed this place a dozen times without ever going inside. But on this particular Halloween, I was drawn towards a rumor about a seance for Jim Morrison. How could I resist such potential sacrilege? Stepping inside the Morrison Hotel, I immediately found this frenetic energy… fucking electric, like pissing on the 3rd rail, right? You enter and, within those walls, the hairs on the back of your neck immediately stand-up. Something is going on here; cosmic vortex shit. It’s unquantifiable; one of those places greater than the sum of its parts.
Going into the night, what were the expectations for Halloween?
IZY: Once the MoHo got in my blood it became the only show in town. There was never a question where our nights would end up. As for how the night would start? That was the wildcard. “If you build it, they will come”, may as well have been our motto. Not that we built shit, we mostly broke it – but we generated an atmosphere – and our apartment had an open door policy that fostered it. Or window, I should say. Once it got dark, everyone climbed through the living room window instead of ringing the apartment’s intercom. The complex’s “nearest” public entrance had been deemed “not near enough” for us, and since our windows were street level, they became the preferred method of ingress. Pushing the blinds aside and stepping down onto the orange sectional sofa was like stepping into a narnia of narcotics and neanderthals. People arrived and left as they pleased. We had no borders. It tasted like clouds, and smelt like well-whiskey.
And come to think of it, cheap liquor was where the holiday in question went off the rails for me. Tequila, for specifics.
WARA: It snuck up on us, like it always did. Halloween was here and there were a handful of us with no costumes. We knew we were gathering, and going out, with a loose “fuck it” attitude towards dressing up this year. We became jealous of those in flapper getup and biker leathers. A few drinks into the pregame party at our apartment and that attitude turned frenzied to cobble something together before making our grand entrance at the MoHo. Izy and I had already done the adult man wearing a kid’s spandex capeshit costume last minute, but this year there was no time to go to the store.
(Boy those undersized costumes were a hit, the pants of my Batman were more like capris, and Izy’s Spidey onesie was so far up his own ass it seemed to lift him off the ground. The secret to tights gentleman: adult sized jock straps.)
At the apartment, we had friends pouring-in through the window looking for costumes, using duct-tape, tin-foil, fly-swatters, hodge-podging whatever they could find. Luckily, I am a devout believer in always having a well stocked costume trunk. We made the best of it.
Fonesca d’Avorro (fka Vanessa Adams, elementary school teacher): Having cast aside the enchantment spell disguising me as a human, on this All Hallow’s, I intended to step forward as my true self: the elven princess Fonesca d’Avorro. Allied with the sorceress Myyranda the Opaque, we set upon an adventure to subdue monsters within and test the mettle of the realm’s finest knights.
We were in search of the Lizard King, a scaly warlock who had in his possession grams of the Enchanted Dust of Bolivaro. We were told to cross the River of Wailing Widows east to an inn at the King’s Way Crossroads, this Morrison Hotel. Myyranda the Opaque cast spells of protection, but nothing could prepare us for the drunken orgy of orcs and men of menace within. Had I not in-hand the Dagger of Dawn and between my legs the Diaphragm of Lunapetra the Goddess of Second Moons, concern would have weighed as heavily upon my head as the Doomed Crown of Becky the Unblessed.
Vic Neverman: My plan for Halloween? It had been to meet with like-minded individuals at Lone Fir Cemetery where we were going to hold a vigil through the night to keep pagans, satanists, antifascists, bored housewives from desecrating ancient pioneer grave sites. That was the plan. Then my roommate told me about this bar named after a Doors album. Allegedly, there was some asshole with a Ouija board and a sample of Jim Morrison’s foreskin who was going to conduct a seance. As a professional researcher into the supernatural, I cannot condone such activities, but I certainly did not want to miss out. This is when I decided to disguise myself as Sasquatch and attend the festivities.
Early Funk… What’s Happening?
Wara: Izy was in a particularly festive mood. He was on the poor man’s cocaine, I noticed, as he tallied “one for the shot glass” and “one for baby Izy”, as he lovingly called himself before taking a pull off a tequila bottle he found behind the sofa. Izz was dressed as some type of graduate…at least, he was wearing a graduation gown, pretty sure he had only suspenders underneath. I was convinced he’s going as a flasher or maybe a streaker. Someone had makeup out and we were all getting done-up. The Twin Brothers’ focus was headgear….one taping an antelope pelvis as a mask, the other sporting a tin foil hat. “Careful you may never get that off ya blarney stone!” hollered Cousin Dingus. He was following Izz around like a dog would a drunk cook dropping food.
Izy: I’d procrastinated too long and couldn’t find squat for a costume again. I was better dressed than Wara though. From what I could tell, he appeared to be wearing nothing but bunny ears. Not that he cared. His girlfriend was in a sexy Sarah Palin getup and would take him home regardless. I think Ol’ Dick Penney was warbling around that night wearing some kind of Santa shit. Dick lived on a small boat that he relocated weekly to different slips to avoid rent. Dude was always asking for parenting advice. Despite talking about his kid constantly, no one believed he actually had one. He just loved the attention.
Mantown was a blur that night, but a good blur. Not the bad kind of blur. That would come later.
Fonesca d’Avorro: I recognized him immediately, the Prince who was Prophesied, Iszarius the Badger. He wasn’t as handsome as he was in the songs of lore, but there was a definite nobility to his stature. Myyranda the Opaque immediately claimed the right of second dibs, an archaic practice of blood sacrifice as insisted upon by her ancestral mages. Lo! I almost passed on my right of first dibs when mine eyes encountered the journeyman thief, Wara the Unannounced, a mixed-breed scalawag, whose half-man indecencies outweighed his elven qualities. I shouldn’t have wanted; but want I did. I wished to suckle at his feathery mustache to become drunk upon the nectar of his musk. I daren’t go near for fear of his companion. No, not his girlfriend, Tina Fey. It was the ogre I was reluctant to approach. It was the hairiest beast mine eyes have ever seen. The ogre smelled of mead and burnt pop-tarts. It was an abomination, a regretful creation of dead elder gods.
Vic Neverman: It was your standard Halloween crowd: zombies, vampires, the Jesus from Big Lebowski, etcetera. I spent a lot of time talking to this military chick who said she was looking for a few good men. There was a girl who dressed-up like Tina Fey dressed-up like Sarah Palin. The scariest fucker was this scarecrow guy who wore a cow pelvis over his face. Freaked me the fuck out. And there was this chick who was dressed like a Tolkien pixie-chick. She kept sniffing me and saying I smelt like burnt pop-tarts. She smelt like cough syrup. I asked if I could call her sometime. Using a feather pen, she took off my Bigfoot glove to write her number on the palm of my hand before spitting on my hand, pressing her thumb into the spit to smear the ink. What the fuck is her deal? I am immediately smitten. Looking at the ink blot on my hand, I asked how I could find her. Follow the second moon to Uranus, she told me as she stumbled away. Okay, I nodded. I hollered after her, is that off Burnside?
When Did Izy Disappear?
Fonseca d’Avorro: Myyranda the Opaque and the Prince who was Prophesied left for the back chambers of the inn to meet the Lizard King, he who holds the enchanted Dust of Bolivaro. Nine and forty minutes passed before I became concerned. I knocked on the door of the back chambers and it opened to reveal Jesus the Bowler, who had just flushed the toilet. Iszarius and Myyranda were nowhere to be seen. Had Jesus the Bowler vanquished them down the plumbing? I sought clues within the chamber, finding only misguiding graffiti and a condom machine dispenser.
Dick Penney the Spoonbender (town councilman, bicyclist-rights activist): When Izy arrived, he asked me if I had change for a twenty. I gave him three fives and three ones, it was all I had. He took my money without giving me the twenty, saying he had to go find it. Which fucking sucks cos they do not extend me credit at the MoHo. I have to pay as I go. And I was late on child support. And Izy disappeared with my last $18. What am I supposed to say to my kid now? Fucking Izy, silly goose.
Vic Neverman: Oh, I didn’t know Isy Badger to know he was missing. I do recall that bone-face scarecrow saying to me, “hey monkey-man, where’s Izzy?” Where is he-who, I asked, confused. “Izzy.” bone-face clarified. Is he what?, I asked. “Never mind”, he said and left. No, I shook my Bigfoot head, pointing at myself, Neverman.
Wara: Saddling up to that wooden bar just feels so right. Leaning into it, bathed by the dull electric lights softly filtered through brown, green and beer colored bottles. These were all the usual suspects, except we were all exaggerated. Paulie Cornuts grabbed a pint glass and slapped the pils tap forward, looking at me, giving a wink and a nod. As he slid over the beer he leant over, yelling, “Wheres Izy? He hasn’t been up here since you guys got here.” Before I can retort, neighboring hottie at my elbow excitedly asks, “Izzerdees is here?” I thought he was, but I’ll be damned if I remember the last time I saw him. Morgana was all over it, “I’ll check outside; what’s he dressed as?” A newspaper, I lied to her, enjoying the wrinkled reaction on her face.
But really, what’s that guy up too? I headed towards the dartboard in the back. Perhaps Izzy has wrangled up some competition or was busy in the john.
Where was Izzy?
Dick Penney the Spoonbender: My girlfriend Vanessa, well, she’s not really my girlfriend, but, I’ve got this kid who is my son, at least according to his mom, though I have to watch his birthday party from my parked car, but my son, this kid, is taught by Vanessa, so we have this connection and she comes to me asking about Lord Iszaereus. She offers me a pint of fine ale if I bring him to her. I tell her only if she sits on Santa’s lap and says the magic word. She says she’s got some ecstasy and wants to party, but first I got to find Izzy. I was too drunk to text mein herr, Izz, so I went looking for him.
Wara: At the end of the bar sits old cousin dingbat. “Yo, you seen Izy Fries around?” I ask in his ear. His mini cape is in danger of leaching back sweat onto the chair..
Cousin Dingus says, “Dude sorry about your chum, but I’m chatting up this chick right now…Uuugh!, bro, she’s a suicide girl like you know I like. Listen, you Jack of Clubs, I been chasing women for thirty-five years and nothing’s grabbed my balls and won the slam-dunk competition; I’m talking windmill 360 degrees front-flip slam-dunk.”
I pat Cousin Dingus on the back and told him to drink some water. He’s of no help, but I tell him to keep an eye out for the little vagrant just the same.
DIzy: Something under the Big Buck Hunter game caught my eye. The functioning one.
I squinted at it. Oh Jesus. It’s on the move. It’s slowly absorbing everything around it …… under the game and now seeping out. The vile bile. I’d thrown a rag at it from the yellow mop bucket earlier. There was too much of it now. Well fuck, I self-soothed. Joe Christmas couldn’t be any more pissed than he already would be, could he? I lifted my head off the floor to glance into the mop bucket I was spooning and choked back the water that formed around my tongue. The smell from the bucket gurgled my stomach. Yep, puked in there too.
Only hours earlier you were having the time of your life. It was Peak Mantown. Which means Peak Halloween, Peak Christmas, Peak everything. If Norman Rockwell painted indie rock he’d have painted that scene. Now look at you. Soaking up spew in a second-hand graduation gown.
What’s This About Dancing Monkeys?
Wara: The drink was good, almost too good if that could be possible. I felt myself slipping into Halloween of yore, into Hunter S. and for a moment mumbled to myself audibly about my attorney Issy. Poor bastard, I thought, lost to the festivities. Then looking up from my hunched saunter through the now crowded bar, it hit me that this place was in fact hopping. Tables normally empty on any given Tuesday, were tonight occupied by groups of hot co-eds. Dortheys, Devils, Divas, Poison Ivy’s, Snow Whites, need I go on? I suddenly realized I was in the dancing mood. The juke box was in full-swing playing golden era music of Feel Good Inc. and Ratatat and Gnarles Barkley. Gotta act while I’m in the pocket I think. Straightening-up to form, I walked through the opening swing into the main room. There is a full-bodied Sasquatch someone has left alone at the switch-back nursing a Scrimshaw. Good taste in beer I think. Instinctively, I grab his hairy forearm and he is walking with me now. “You wanna dance with some of these girls?” I ask him. I look back to him nodding his head yes and stretching his arms in a groove walk. “Oh yeah, I think…we’re gonna be unstoppable” as we dance our way to the first table and make ourselves known.
Vic Neverman: Ginger Hustle and I were laughing about some nonsense when this jazzy demon from Jesus Christ Superstar saunters up in his codpiece and spiderweb cape. It’s Wara, but I don’t know this fool. Not yet. Hustle does know the guy and quickly ducks out. Wara says to me, what do you say we put those monkey paws to good use? The fuck, I asked him. Can you dance, monkey, he asked, saying, because there are a lot of lovely ladies who’d really like to see a dancing monkey right about now. I told him, I am not a monkey. I am an ape. Wara said, then dance like it, dammit!
DIzy: Despite most executive and motor functioning being lost, the ears still worked. I could hear the laughing. The hollering. The Improvising. Even heard my name on occasion.
Something in the distance caught my good eye. Some kind of mottled wood-ape appearing to hop from table to table accompanied by a naked energizer bunny. There was a crowd of girls surrounding them pulling at the few garments the bunny had left. He was unsuccessfully trying to deter them with a fly swatter but kept missing due to his darkly tinted ski-goggles.
Fonseca d’Avorro: Myyranda the Opaque deserted the divine quest, grabbing a cab with some bridge-troll named Carter, leaving me with her open tab, fucking bitch. Rather than deal with a realm of pukey despair and handsy bridge trolls, I decided to toss myself into the Well of Hellfire, extinguishing my immortality because of all these fuck-wads. I hope you’re fucking happy. Assholes.
Vic Neverman: The lady general never did find a few good men, but she found a dude in a fetal position behind an arcade game. Oh shit!, I said, not realizing the MoHo had the deer hunter game. This is how I was first introduced to Isy Badger, Wara saying, “monkey meet badger. Badger, this is dancing monkey.”
Cousin Dingus: And so it goes… ya chuckleheads.