Somehow I flew into Portland and arrived at a gas station. I wanted to go to a shop on _______ Street, but I had no idea how to get there, and the map drawn in blue Bic on a torn-up piece of loose-leaf didn't extend but a block or two past _______ Street. I took it out and looked at it again, just in case one of the streets I could see from the gas station parking lot happened to be one of the 3-4 streets on this little map.
"_______ Street?" asked a high-pitched voice from behind me. I turned to see a boy of maybe ten years lounging confidently near one of the gas pumps. He had a little red bubble goose on and a toothpick in his mouth. "You don't want to go there."
"Oh, is it bad?" I asked.
"Yep. You'll get jacked," the boy replied.
"Well," I said, smiling, "Keep in mind that I'm from Baltimore-- is _______ Street really all that bad?"
The boy laughed and introduced himself, then told me he had something we wanted to give me. We walked to one of the cars that was getting fueled-- an SUV. He popped the back and I saw a short stack of large canvases individually wrapped in big billowy plastic bags. He pulled a canvas from the middle of the stack and handed it to me-- it was a portrait of the little boy.
"You paint?" I asked. It was a pretty good portrait.. for a ten year-old painter. Just then, a woman approached. She looked like the young mother of a precocious prodigy-- stylish glasses and styled hair, but with a certain 6-8-year lag in the clothing department. I introduced myself to her and she asked me a lot of friendly questions, then offered to drive me to their house instead of the shop on the sketchy street that I was trying to get to. I took them up on it and got in the car.
So we get to the kid's house and I meet his dad, who reminds me a lot of Cosby-- not only in his build and his mannerisms, but because when we get there he's comically trying to wrestle a snake that's wrapped itself around his two best friends, a diminutive Korean doctor or scientist and a lanky off-duty policeman. We laugh and I find out that my Uncle Bear is coincidentally visiting this place, too.
Uncle Bear takes me to a Weird Al show in a small tent, where Weird Al is DJing hard-ass drum and bass tracks with his posse (which includes the same Korean doctor or scientist in a different outfit) and doing a pretty bang-up job of it. Every once in a while he cuts the volume to half and picks up a mic to introduce somebody who's won a contest. This time, it's a Weird Al impersonator who, at first glance, looks exactly like "classic" Weird Al, but upon closer inspection appears to be actually a quite-different looking man with a really good costume on. The real Al passes the mic to the looky-likey who begins to tell jokes. It's easy to tell that audience didn't think they were going to be any good, and so the hearty laughs that follow his first joke have a satisfyingly genuine sound: "What do you say to a Spangeless? Save it, Spange-Less."