Flirts is the name of the hotel lounge at the Holiday Inn near the airport in Portland, OR. We were there for the PNBA conference. The bar had a disco ball, many mirrors, bright lighting, and, oh, I don’t know, the feel of the end of the line, the end of any road taken that wasn’t the right road to have taken in the first place.
And Willy Vlautin of the band Richmond Fontaine was there, charged with being on the stage in this place. I wish I had a photo – the only one I took was of the software-broken juke box, which seemed to fit in perfectly with the 30 years-ago run-down future the bar seemed to promise. When I walked in Willy was hunched over his guitar, and his guitar held open a copy of his own book, Northline, and he was singing the dialogue from it. I have to say – this still sounds like a bad idea, sounds like something that would turn out strained and faked. But it wasn’t – it was really great. Like Jeff Tweedy and Raymond Carver had merged into one. Afterwards we talked and he was a hell of a nice guy, and it turns out that Laura and he buy their chicken feed from the same store. So, you know, we’re practically related.