Traveling Radicals Part 1: Random House
The first leg of two weeks of recruitment trips is over. Alan, Mary and I spent a few days in Corvallis, a town I wrote off before but actually has some merit in one little stretch of town. Really good organic/vegetarian place called Nearly Normal and a great coffee shop down the street. We were visiting Oregon State to recruit. It’s easily the most conservative college campus I’ve ever set foot on. Whenever we canvass there, we always do incredibly well. Still, its main colleges are business, engineering and agriculture. In all the canvassing I’ve done, the only time I’ve ever heard a flat-out bigoted, aggresive remark came at OSU. “Faggots don’t deserve rights,” or something to that effect. This is a school.
We didn’t have any place to stay in Corvallis, but a canvasser grew up there and recommended a place he called The Random House, “the heart of hippie and counter-culture in Corvallis, OR.” We had no names, no phone number. Just an address and a hand-drawn map, and a message, “Josh sent us.” I’ve never experienced a line like that to actually lead to success, but sure enough. At 9 p.m. with no notice, a hippie guy came to the door and invited us in. He opened the door and stared at us for a few and said, “Oh, you guys are all here.” But he had no idea who we were. “Josh sent us” worked though and after a brief discussion with another host, we were lent the craft room, one of maybe six bedrooms, that is common space in the house.
It’s a huge old red house with a basement reserved for music playing. Plants everywhere. Mobiles, bookshelves. Walls painted up with murals and Grateful Dead posters. A white board for house messages. “Alan Mary Tate are staying here for two nights,” in very small letters in the upper left corner. The answer to how many people live in the house was, “Five or six.” Inhabitants are called Randomites, and have lived there between a couple of days and 7 years. At one point I went downstairs and a girl was in the kitchen cooking. I thought for sure I would terrify her, but she didn’t even flinch. “Hi, I’m Tate,” I told her. “Oh hey.” Pause. “I’m staying upstairs for a couple of nights,” she had no idea who I was. “Right on.”
We stayed there for two nights, tucked in our little craft room. First night we spent passing around a pint of Palo Viejo that Camila had given Mary. I feel bad, because we rarely interacted with the Randomites, but we were also rarely at the place. We hired 23 people this trip. Not bad, not great.
This is the Random House. On the porch, you can’t see on the left about 15 hanging mobiles. Also lots of furniture meant for living rooms.
Living room. Hippies and subversive type love clutter. I’ve decided it’s because to a person who lives an artistic or alternative life, every object holds meaning beyond its physical purpose. Every old cassette player is a media project waiting to happen. Every book will certainly be needed in the future. Every rock is a piece of happiness, or a story that led to its being pocketed.
Passing around the devil rum. I’ve been on the road a lot lately for work. Sleeping on that air mattress. Another nest. When you don’t have a home, a nest is a gracious gift. When you do have a home, a nest is just uncomfortable. Alan and I shared the air mattress, which made my fortune at Chinese Buffet awkward: “Expect a night of romance.” Mary’s fortune was something like, “Tolerance of others is the key to your happiness.” Me: “That explains a lot.” Mary: “Fuck you Tate.”