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  • J.B. Kish

PDX Writing Adventure: Cthulhu and Cocktails

As a general rule of thumb, I try to write an hour every day. And because I, like many writers, have a nine to five job, it means I’m producing two types of work each week: early-morning-hurry-up-and-finish-your-sentence-then-sprint-to-the-bus type writing. And weekend writing.

Weekend writing is inherently better.

And for obvious reasons. There’s just more everything—more time. More coffee. More focus. More coffee again. And while those early morning sprints may have helped me achieve word count, nothing beats the kind of writing I produce on the weekend. At the end of the day, weekend writing is just more inspired. And that’s by design.

I think of it like this: whenever I have a day off, it’s not just an opportunity to sit down and write. It’s a chance to break from my routine and root out inspiration in my city. The world is a pretty peculiar place, and nothing gets me more excited to write than curating small adventures to stoke my creativity and passion for storytelling.

This marks the first of a new series of blog posts in which I hope to help writers plan easy weekend adventures that inspire. Some of the places and activities described herein will be local to my city, Portland, OR, but they can easily be genericized. Whether you’re trying to shake writer’s block, or chapter three of your manuscript is flatlining, these weekend adventures could be just the thing to bring some excitement back to your work. 

PDX Writing Adventure: Cthulhu and Cocktails

Where to go: Hale Pele

There’s something about tiki bars that is so fascinating. Far from culturally accurate, what they do offer is a kind of playground for the mind (depending on how dedicated the owners are). And there’s no better place to be transported in all of Oregon than Hale Pele. From the outside, Hale Pele’s nondescript exterior doesn’t give you much to go on. But inside, every inch of space has been transformed. From the moment you step inside, your senses are pummeled by countless small details: bamboo-lined walls, dark ambers, purples, and green lighting, tiki statues, fish netting, wooden masks—I’m exhausted just scrolling through my own notes.

The thing I love about this place is that it’s a spectacle without being particularly cheesy. Sure, they have a drink called the volcano, and sure, when someone orders it, the lights flash, thunder cracks, a fog machine kicks on, and the restaurant is overcome by rhythmic drumming. But somehow it does all this while maintaining a level of intrigue. You’re not nearly as interested in the volcano as you are the person who ordered it. And while you’re scanning the restaurant for the brave soul with the big wallet, your eye catches the chandeliers. Well, not really chandeliers, but big, haunting blowfish. And they are illuminated internally (a thought that still makes me cringe).

At Hale Pele, there is an endless number of things to look at. An endless number of drinks to try (sometimes they’re on fire). And every time I’m there, I can’t help but think of H.P. Lovecraft. Throughout his career, his stories make casual reference to Oceanic and Polynesian culture. R’lyeh, the sunken city in The Call of Cthulhu, is located somewhere in the South Pacific. The Shadow over Innsmouth makes constant reference to South Sea islanders who worship old gods. While I’m sitting there, sipping my rum-infused drink, I can’t help but slip into the memory of a frightening Lovecraft tale. I don’t know if it’s the alcohol or the Cthulhu mythos, but I’m instantly inspired.

What to Play: Stephen King’s The Mist Interactive Fiction Game

Of course, you can’t mention someone like Lovecraft without bringing up his successor, the modern man of cosmic horror, Stephen King. Now, I’ve only ever been mildly interested in interactive fiction, but when I learned a team of software developers had turned my favorite Stephen King novella into an actual game, I had to track it down.

Luckily, it’s 2018, so I didn’t have to go digging around my parent’s attic for an old Macintosh to play this game (which was released in 1985). has an emulator that will allow you to play for free in a web browser. I actually wrote an in-depth piece on the game here, which I recommend you check out. The only catch is that you cannot save, which is somehow fitting for a Stephen King game. Permadeath means you do not pass go, do not collect $200. When you die in The Mist, you have to go all the way back to the start. And with 20 levels to explore, biting it on the 17th could make even the best of us go the way of Jack Torrance. 

For maximum inspiration, I recommend playing this game after dark. Lights off. 

What to Read / Listen: Call of Cthulhu, The Shadow over Innsmouth

Finally, what weekend adventure would be complete without a little light reading? And since we’re perusing the horror greats, it’s only fitting we revisit some of their work. Since I’ve recommended the tiki bar, I’m also recommending the two stories that come to mind most while throwing back my third rum and fire drink: Call of Cthulhu and Shadow over Innsmouth. In this case, I suggest the audiobooks over the written text. For one, you can listen to them on the go (always a plus if you’re knocking out a few weekend chores), and two, the audiobooks are just so damn creepy. Maybe it’s the music, or the British narration—whatever it is, it really highlights the tension better than my mind ever could.

And if you’re on a budget, no problem. Both of these audiobooks are available at your local library (be sure to check their streaming services, like Hoopla), as well as on Spotify. 

So there you have it! This month, take a weekend off from your typical routine and spend it somewhere warm, like a local tiki bar (ask for the fire drink). Just be sure to watch out for mysterious Cthulhu worshippers. And if you’re up late at night playing The Mist in the dark, don’t open your door to investigate any suspicious sounds. You never know what could be out there slithering in the fog. Enjoy!

Cover Image Source: Hale Pele Image Source:

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