Boondoggle by Akira Ohiso


We landed at 12:10am at Newark International Airport. There were no six passenger Ubers available so we took an airport taxi from Newark to Riverdale.

Several minutes passed before the concierge could find a driver who would take six passengers. There seemed to be a hubbub among taxi drivers, which did not make a former New Yorker feel comfortable. They were winging it to make an extra buck.

We were told the cost would be $80 plus tolls and “a little extra for six.” The concierge added, “It’s a liability thing.” The driver, a heavy-set man, said, “No extra charge, just give me a nice tip.”

The trip went smoothly until we reached the George Washington Bridge. Because of roadwork, we sat in 30 minutes of traffic at 1am on a weeknight.

With tolls, the total fare was $131 not including a “nice tip.” Welcome to fucking New York.


Our oldest son’s friend is along on this trip and they both want to visit the Freedom Tower. We tell them our stories of 9/11 and they are shocked and fascinated like I was when my parents talked about the Kennedy assassination.

I notice my heart rate increase when I remember that day 18 years ago. I was a temp in the HR department at Black Rock, the CBS building, on 52nd Street. When the planes hit, people wandered on to 6th Avenue to watch the dark unctuous plumes of smoke rising into the late summer sky.

Phones worked for a bit, until the antenna was destroyed with the collapse of the North Tower. I walked to Ellie’s apartment on East 79th Street. Masses of dazed people walked uptown unable to use phones and subways.

That night F-16 fighter jets roared up and down Manhattan Island ready to fire missiles passed bedroom windows.

Several large parks are situated along the Henry Hudson Parkway; Inwood Hill Park, Fort Tryon Park, Fort Washington Park, Riverbank State Park and Riverside Park.

The parkway is lush and verdant with views of the Hudson River and Palisades looking west. I’ve always noticed a white columnated viewing area, but have never stopped in all my years of living in New York. We take our localism for granted and often don’t explore the history right outside our door.

After passing under the George Washington Bridge, the green disappears and the urban takes over. Graffiti narrates fences and stone retaining walls, train tracks run parallel to the highway and large billboards vie for you peripheral attention.

Near Hamilton Heights, a neighborhood where Alexander Hamilton once lived, old stone retaining walls with balustrades and labyrinthine stairways separate residential buildings from the historic industrial zones close to the Hudson. Efflorescence oozes from mortar.

In Harlem, the river view has changed as Columbia University expands north of Morningside Heights. Fairway supermarket, an institution for westsiders, looks antiquated next to the glass and steel.

Riverside Drive apartment buildings with ornate stone facades still dominate the real estate and the views. A neoclassic mausoleum of stone columns and a rotunda preserves the body and memory of President Ulysses S. Grant as yuppies walk dogs and sip lattes.

Presidents will never again be be memorialized with such grandiosity.

We drive down the West Side Highway passing a cluster of Trump buildings with “Trump” removed from the entrances. Tenants demanded his names be removed. In death, Trump will make sure he is buried with dictatorial pomp, but it will become a place of desecration and idol worship.

The Donald J. Trump National Library…think about that for awhile. It will hold first editions of Dennis Rodman’s Bad As I Wanna Be, the Kremlin-authorized hagiography of Vladimir Putin and Goose Steppin’ by Kim Jong Un.

We visit the 9/11 Memorial and then walk across the street to the Oculus, a $4 billion white-boned cathedral of consumerism. You ponder the events of 9/11 then shop just like George W. Bush once told people to do.


The Oculus is empty like lots of malls across the country. In essence, it’s a glorified mall to tell terrorists “we won.” The New York Times called the Oculus a “boondoggle.”

There is a dearth of shoppers. Retail clerks stare out from their opulent window displays or fuss with merchandise. Armed guards walk the periphery. Police dogs sniff visitors. It feels sterile and dystopian. I expect Galactic Stormtroopers to walk by.

We decide to leave the area and have lunch at Lombardi’s on Spring Street. It was established in 1905 and is touted as “the first pizzeria in America.” The Original Margherita is a purist’s dream.

The brown tenement buildings, crowded sidewalks and dingy cafes of Little Italy are refreshingly rundown.

A Chinese man carries two hefty bags tied to a stick across his back. Young people jump out of Ubers. Old people sit in a corner park. Men with aprons smoke in kitchen doorways. Bicycles, scooters jaywalkers, sweaty tourists and New Yorkers crisscross…

I think of Jane Jacobs.


Libertarian Quirk by Akira Ohiso


I walk along Market Street between 14th Ave NW and 8th Ave NW. An older man sits alone in a window seat at Kentucky Fried Chicken watching cars pass. According to recent studies, isolation has the same health as smoking. In older people, isolation and loneliness increase the chances of mortality.

I often wonder how these fast food restaurants of the 20th century will fare in the next century. Will more enlightened models of business create more enlightened chicken? Perhaps add flan with a Cuban touch to the menu as one KFC did in Florida.

Across the street, McDonald’s does steady business. Firestone Tires is rumored to be turned into senior living. But senior living is big business these days, catering to privileged boomers, so pricing is often unaffordable for many living on fixed incomes. Next door, Koi, a boutique apartment building, is unaffordable for people with unfixed incomes.

Craftsman’s with curb appeal line Market Street, an occasional house sold and torn down for a multi-family housing. NO HALA UPZONES placards on lawns. A dilapidated house with a layer of thick green moss on the roof was a drug den before police stormed it with assault weapons.

At the corner of 8th Ave NE, I turn left and head north. Laundromat, Chinese food, gas station, yoga, new and old houses. 8th is a mix of residential and commercial zoning, but changing towards the latter.


I pass a blue fire hydrant on a side street where overgrown vegetation flows down mossy retaining walls and onto cracked uneven sidewalks.


I’ve seen fire hydrants painted in different colors and patterns. I wondered if it’s illegal or a libertarian quirk.

According to Westside Seattle, it is legal to paint fire hydrants as long the water is supplied by Seattle Public Utilities and you don’t paint the caps, which are color coded to indicate water pressure.

Goonies Jail by Akira Ohiso


On the drive back to Seattle, the kids request a stop at the Clatsop County Jail in Astoria. It is the jail used in the opening scene of The Goonies.

The jail was in use from 1914 to 1973. Today, it is the Oregon Film Museum highlighting the film industry in Oregon.

Parked out front is the black Jeep Cherokee used by the Fratelli gang when they escaped and were chased by keystone cops through Astoria. If you look closely, there are 3 bullet holes in the back that Mouth notices later at the lighthouse.

Heading east on 30 we spot the Goonies House nestled at the top of a hill. The noticeable wrap-around porch makes it fairly easy to identify.

The owner purchased the house in 1990 and has lived there to date. When it eventually goes on the market I’m sure there will be a long line of buyers bidding on the pop culture landmark.

On the Washington side of the Lewis and Clark Bridge, we drive through Longview, another coastal town built around lumber. Urban sprawl, strip malls, fast food and small mid-century homes share space along major arteries, an architectural timeline of growth and decline. Some houses are sold and turned into massage parlors, nail salons and psychic storefronts.

It reminds me of my childhood on Long Island. I grew up going to malls built in working class neighborhoods near post-World War 2 expressways. Where else could developers buy up large land parcels?

I took the bus to Roosevelt Field, Walt Whitman Mall and the Broadway Mall loitering in skylit Art Deco and neon mausoleums. I gorged on fried foods, arcades and record stores. Sometimes I idled with friends around indoor fountains, grottos and fake palm trees. I was filled with teen angst never imagining the obsolescence of these consumer leviathans.

We called our parents on pay phones to let them know when we would be home; houses that baby boomers would make a killing on decades later at the expense of Generation X. I only rent these days.

Most of America as we know it is dying. It’s been dying for certain people for a long time. My myopic privilege is just figuring this out now.

Over the last few days, I’ve driven through unvarnished coastal towns that pander to the 20th century, while vacation homes are rented to the privileged with the best views.

I know more and more younger people are moving to metropolitan area for economic and environmental reasons. Will infrastructure in rural areas take priority? Will roads, water systems and bridges decline in less populated areas? Will more people find themselves even more desperate with no work and no skills? Will the human divide continue to widen between the wealthiest and everyone else numbed by anomic consumerism?

My 12-year old son is furious about the planet older generations are leaving to him. I can offer him protective platitudes about standing up to these anthropogenic forces, but I just don’t believe that helps anymore. Honesty is the only guide.

Destination: Tillamook Creamery by Akira Ohiso


Our destination today is the Tillamook Creamery just north of Tillamook, Oregon. We head south on 101 and take in wide swathes of open coastal scenery.

Around the mouth of the Nehalem River we pass through Wheeler and Brighton with a view of Nehalem State Park, a peninsula dividing the river from the North Pacific. We drive in and out of tsunami hazards zones as we elevate and dip close to the coast. Vacation rentals and local homes dot 101 with an occasional eatery, pub or chipped-paint establishment flapping solicitous banners: PIZZA, OYSTERS, ANTIQUES.

Around Manhattan Beach and Rockaway Beach, the touristy atmosphere picks up. Boat rentals, resorts, ticky tacky gift shops, clams, oysters, crab, this is the season for seasonal income. On the east side, we pass Crescent Lake and Lake Lytle where cabins and homes connect to piers with tethered recreational equipment sitting placidly in weekday waters.

The seemingly defunct railroad tracks that have been running parallel to us are suddenly in use by the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad, transporting visitors from Rockaway Beach to Garibaldi. At one point, we see the steam engine pulling passengers in an open car as an animated tour guide in denim overalls, matching cap and red hanky points towards the Pacific.

Between the Barview Jetty and Garibaldi, we pass The Three Graces, sandstone formations that were once submerged below sea level. On the way to the cheese factory, I think they look like a pile of sea porpoises, on the way back cheese curds.

In Garibaldi, we pass a giant smokestack and a white G in the side of a hill. The smokestack was built by A.B. Hammond in 1927, owner the Hammond Lumber Company. The stack took noxious smoke away from the residents of Garibaldi. Today, the smokestack is an ambiguous marker-dereliction or attraction- that has been preserved with fiberglass to stop further deterioration.

The big G seems to have originated in the 1930s when the junior high school wanted to foster town pride. Wood was supplied by Hammond Lumber.

The Port of Garibaldi shows rusty hints of its maritime past. The lumber and fishing industry had both a seafaring port and a railroad to transport their products across the country. Like many small American towns, industry dries up with time leaving those without modern technological skills below the poverty line.

On the east coast, my family used to travel up and down the seaboard, but I never experienced the open natural views of Oregon. I wonder if older cities with larger population centers monetized the coastal real estate before a leisurely class had developed to enjoy the views. Those colonial east coast cities were part of the soot gray industrial revolution. It’s hard to change what has always been.

Garibaldi continues to support fishing and the United States Coast Guard, but there is a sense that this place had a heyday. Neon motels, seafood, restaurants, small gift shops, and a maritime museum continue to remember and share their historical past with summer vacationers, but I would be more interested in the future of Garibaldi. What’s next for these clapboard towns?

The Tillamook Creamery suddenly appears by the side of 101 and we notice its new scripted logo on a large sign. The solid logo pops and carries weight. It is classic, modern and presents a confident Morning Star ship pushing towards the future. The old logo now seems antiquated like a lacy doily.


A farm exhibit educates visitors about Holstein and Jersey dairy cows. The takeaway: Happy cows produce delicious milk. The viewing deck demonstrates Tillamook’s process for making cheddar cheese.


Next, we are directed to a tasting area where we sample a selection of cheeses. I am introduced to their habanero jack. A hip gift shop sells their cheeses and other products as well as trendy apparel and gifts.

We stayed for lunch and ice cream in their rustic dining area that reminds me of a gastropub you might find in Portland or Seattle.

I highly recommend the deep fried cheese curds with a local IPA.

Beachcombers by Akira Ohiso


For the last few days, we have wandered the beach near our rental. The beach culture in the PNW is not the hedonistic sunbathing that you find at other summer vacations spots; vacationers wear sun hats and windbreakers, poke the smooth sand with walking sticks and relax in tents to cut the brisk winds.

Older folks enjoy retirement with their dogs and take long walks down the beach. Younger couples run, children follow the ebb and flow of the tide, screaming with delight when the foamy line almost touches their feet.

The surf is far out during low tide so you can walk for about a quarter of a mile before you reach water. First you traverse grassy dunes, then warm soft sand and finally wet smooth sand that shines from the uneven scalloped shapes of the tide.


The kids find beached moon jellyfish, sand dollars and crabs. They try to save them with shovels,running them thoughtfully back to the surf. They use a metal detector, hoping to find buried treasures, but come up empty on a beach that doesn’t attract the Coppertone masses.

After a few days on the beach, we decide to leave the tsunami hazard zone and drive 13 miles north on 101 to Cannon Beach. Our hope is to get close to Haystack Rock.


We are pleasantly surprised to pull up in a residential beach community, park the car on the side of the road and walk down a stairway directly to the beach. The unimpeded view of Haystack Rock is monolithic and austere.

It’s low tide so people are able to congregate around Haystack Rock and the surrounding tide pools that foster a fragile ecosystem of sea life. Signs inform visitors to protect the tide pools. I wonder about human fragility and our ability to protect ourselves.

Trauma is the uninhabitable parts of ourselves, the conceded land that we refuse to explore, yet preserve and protect against other humans. Bessel Van Der Kolk said, “Trauma constantly confronts us with our fragility and with man’s inhumanity to man but also with our extraordinary resilience.”


I notice small white dots on the top of the largest rock, a white rim lining the mossy greens and gray brown basalt. These dots are mature Western Gulls, the most visible of bird life on Haystack Rock. I don’t see the Tufted Puffin, which is famous for mating on the formations away from predators. I learn that mating season is coming to an end.


Gull keows pierce the clamor of visitors below. People on rental low-rider beach bikes zigzag through leaving bathetic tracks in the sand. Throngs face the formation compelled to moments of extended silence. I stand in solitary spots simply seeing what’s before me. To be in the presence of these natural formations is fleeting and timeless.


We exit at the Tsunami Evacuation Route stairway and have a hearty lunch at Pelican Brewing Company just up the road. It’s still in the tsunami hazard zone, but I take my chances. I am starting to understand how locals think; you memorize where hazard zones end and safe zones begin.

Several Oregon schools have begun the process of relocating out of hazard zones. Many of the homes along the coast are not built to withstand a tsunami, but architects and engineers are starting to design tsunami-proof homes.

Still, conceding land to nature and moving to higher ground seems like the most logical choice. But, humans are often prone to illogical choices that lead to mortal outcomes.


Manzanita Bound by Akira Ohiso


Traffic slows in Seaside. A cluster of chain stores, intersections and traffic lights accommodate convenience and the traveler’s need for commercial relief and the amenities of civilization from time to time. For example, Ellie’s temporary crown fell out and she needed emergency Polygrip.

Since crossing the Lewis and Clark Bridge two hours ago, it’s been a one-lane highway of yellow line literacy and brief two lane sections so restless drivers can pass slow drivers.

We miss most of Seaside because the tourist attractions and hotels are closer to the coast where the Necanicum River splits Seaside in two. We never stray from 101.

A scruffy man on a bicycle passes us. He looks like a traveler of sorts, colorful bungee cords cleverly crisscrossing to hold a Jenga of patchwork belongings in place. His pace is steady and deliberate; it’s not the demeanor of leisure, but necessity.

Cars park along 101 and people walk down to the Necanicum River kayaks, water gear and coolers in hand. It’s a Sunday so northbound traffic is slow as people head home from weekend vacations, vehicles packed carelessly like the Exodus with pool floats and mountain bikes.

There are intermittent openings in the West-facing evergreens and we get glimpses of the Oregon coast. Near Cannon Beach, we see the top of Haystack Rock, but the trees never clear again.

The kids are antsy to get to our rental in Manzanita, so we keep moving along roads that snake, peak and valley. The driving is focused and laborious.

In Oswald State Park, we drive along a vertiginous section with low cement guard rails where the views are an exercise in acrophobic desensitization. I hug the double yellow line, both hands clutching the wheel tightly and trying desperately to avoid the view. I think of an X-Wing Fighter trying to blow up the Death Star. “Stay on target, stay on target.”

The family enjoys the splendid views, while I sweat out the slow descent into Neahkanie Beach.

We arrive in Manzanita in late afternoon. The kids don their bathing suits and run straight to the beach.

The Pacific is blue and endless, except for wisps of gossamer clouds and whitecaps.

The Goonies House by Akira Ohiso


“RIP Uncle Jimmy” on a gray rotting barn east of Astoria, Oregon. We cross the Columbia River on the svelte Lewis and Clark Bridge to Route 30, which leads into Astoria where we will stop for lunch.

Most of America looks the same outside of cities. Rural Oregon is no different. There is economic hardship here; shabby homes in disrepair, leaning barns and gas stations line Route 30. RVs and sports cars pass through for pee breaks and embolism prevention.

In Astoria, you know you have entered a tourist trap for coastal summer travelers; corpulent sunburned couples, surfboards on vans, gift shops, microbreweries, antiques, ice cream, souvenirs emblazoned with ASTORIA.

Locals live in the Victorians nestled in the hills overlooking a once busy trading port for fur, fishing and lumber. In the 20th Century Bumble Bee Tuna had a canning facility that closed in 1980. The theme song still rings in my head. “Yum yum Bumble Bee, Bumble Bee Tuna…”

Coming of age in the 80s, I am obsessed that this seaside town was the film location for The Goonies. Yes, Astoria is named after New York fur magnate John Jacob Astor, but I am only interested in finding the house where Mikey and Brand lived.

As a former New Yorker, I remember the Astor family name engraved in stone all over New York City like so many obscenely wealthy people undergirding the foundations of white supremacy in America.

Today, the owner of the “Goonies House” does not allow visitors. The street is marked “Private” like an Instagram account. During film anniversary events, over a thousand visitors a day were crowding around the house for pictures and vacation antics. Unfortunately, many visitors were disrespectful leaving empty beer cans and the detritus of human volume.

Still, The Goonies continues to provide a local narrative just as significant as any history of Astoria. I bought my son a t-shirt with Mikey, Data, Mouth and Chunk, but he doesn’t connect to the film like an aging Gen Xer. I try to explain that without The Goonies there would be no Stranger Things.

A local waiter at Astoria Brewing Company said, “It’s still a big deal in town.”

After lunch, we head down Route 101 along the coast looking for Haystack Rock, another Goonies’ location where One-Eye’d Willie’s pirate ship, The Inferno, emerged from the misty coastal rocks.

Robot Holocaust by Akira Ohiso


LIZARD BRIE in Krylon below the roof line. Taggers hang over the edge and write upside down. This building waits for demo along with Bento Sushi and Goofy’s, a Packer bar that might be finishing out its lease so the developers can begin.

I stand across the street at the bus stop and envision a boxy apartment building, the light rail running down the middle of 15th Ave. NW, the designated upzone away from the swanky Craftsmans in Phinney Ridge and Queen Anne. Ellie texts, “Did you feel the earthquake last night?”

I felt a subtle sway, but thought it was the rumble of a bus or truck. The epicenter of the 4.8 quake was about 40 miles outside of Seattle. Talk returns to “the big one.”

In Seattle, “the big one” is this looming existential threat that we have no control over. There are ways to be prepared, but we can never be prepared for the apocalyptic scenarios that the media often projects. Maybe we gravitate to end-of-the-world scenarios because America as we know is suspect; our historic narrative, the freedoms we profess, the “land of opportunity” sound byte. The patriarchal racist systems that our country was founded on are being challenged by the wisdom of time.

To those that have held and hold most of the power in this country, the threat of shared power is creating dictatorial impulses. Equity to the privileged feels like oppression.

I walk with Ellie and Cy to Starbucks. Cy saw a YouTuber talking about a tie dye frap and wanted to try one. Market Street is busy as people in scant summer attire walk to the Seafood Festival. In the distance is the hazy clamor of food trucks and people.

Bars and cafes spill out onto the sidewalks. Dude squads take up space and talk loud. Families walk in slow moving caravans; strollers, dogs, balloons, ice cream management, blocking bottle-neck walkways, men akimbo, women contrapposto multitasking.

I notice more people of color. If only this was everyday. I notice the diversity and non-binary boundaries of young people. The world moves forward whether America does or not.

I purchase a collection of Basho’s haikus. In the forward, author John White discusses synaesthesia, a perceptual process where one cognitive or perceptual pathways leads to involuntary activity in another cognitive pathway. He says, “It comes in many forms; each sound may actually be seen, not merely thought of, as a color, every color has a smell, each fragrance has a sound, the call of a distant deer be seen as being only one inch high.”

It has been hypothesized that Basho and some of contemporaries experienced synaesthesia because their haikus moved poetically through different cognitive realms. Perhaps, the connections were uncomfortable for Western ideals; oriental, exotic. It must then be abnormal. White states that their Buddhist beliefs, centered around unity and oneness, may have allowed for this liberation from normative cognitive connections.

I channel surf and wipe out when I come to a movie called Robot Holocaust. It’s juxtaposition with today is synthaesthetic.

shut for a while
behind the falls, I will start
the summer retreat
— Basho
Seafood Festival
Tevas, beer, neon tank tops
the mustache is strange
— Akira