Nothing says “It’s Saturday in Portland, Oregon” louder than the Portland Saturday Market. This is our big open air bazaar under the Burnside Bridge, and it’s where Northern Oregonian’s shop for holiday gifts, practice their photography, and bring their kids or out of town guests, and just hang out.
The usual characters were there at the market: the guy with dreadlocks giving massages; the Old Danish fellow with the jam samples; and Miss Hannah and her gourmet popcorn. That particular day there were rows of fresh-cut tulips, and a guy who painted children’s faces to look like characters from Planet of the Apes.
And then, in front of the Skidmore fountain, I saw the guy playing the spoons to Johnny Cash’s “I’ve Been Everywhere” on his boom box.
“Alright!” I exclaimed.
My blind date that day apparently felt the need to say something condescending, and asking me if I was a redneck was the best he could come up with. I just smiled proudly. Yes, deep down I probably was, but his grasp of who I was would be meager at best. I was tempted to play hambone to accompany the spooner, but hold myself back. This was definitely my kind of scene!
My favorite Hee Haw episode was when David Holt played the paper bag with Roy Acuff. I was a performing fool, but knew that this would be one performance wasted on this particular date. He would forever be telling the story of “that weirdo” he bought ice cream for at the Saturday Market.
He pulled me away; the ice cream was calling him. And because this was a sunny day, the line was sure to be long. We rounded the corner and made our way to the vendor, the line was indeed twenty deep. He didn’t care; all thoughts were about his calorie-laden, frozen bliss.
We stood for a minute, and then I excused myself. I wandered back to the spoon player and tossed a few bills into his case while he played along to Bob Wills’s “Steel Guitar Rag.” I phoned my wonderful carnival worker pal, Mytehawk, on my cell to inform him of my good hillbilly fortune. Big Frosty could just wait in his own damn line!
The captivating Mytehawk is a Portland legend. He is a former President of the Northwestern Showmen’s Club, and is a long-time gentleman concessionaire. When living up in Bellingham, I spent one full day working his “joint” (midway concession stand) at the Marysville Strawberry Festival. He taught me about the “lot lice” (locals who arrive early to gawk and stay late to browse, but don’t spend anything), and to watch out for the “wrangy” (drunk) people who get off the “chump-twister” (carousel), or come from the “mitt camp” (fortune telling booth), and trip over the “dead man” (extra anchor stake for a banner line, buried in especially soft earth).
The pleasure was clearly mine!