Taking a job at Gringo’s Tavern one summer got me away from the library. Palouse use to boast the best hotel this side of the state before the turn of the century. A town that had five cat-houses: lumber.
The tavern was right next to what use to be its barbershop. They used it to store the pop; the old elevator was boarded up in back.
I lived in what was the lumber baron’s house, floorboards two inches thick. The cesspool was backing up, and the foundation was sinking. Most of the windows were gone from the upper floors. Still, it was on top of a hill where you could watch the town and the wheat grow.
Palouse doesn’t have cat-houses any more, just a lot of churches. All the trees are over in Idaho now.
Somebody once told me about the triad: Steptoe, Kamiak, Moscow Mountain . . . the high campground of the Nez Perce . . . an old Indian woman in a bar. Looking out of what was left of my windows, I found the house was in the middle of that triangle. When the wind blew, the floor crawled.
As I swept out the stuff which previous people had left in those rooms; I found an empty box from the Marseille deck. That summer did have a certain charm.
first published in Living With a Stranger: self portrait, 1993.