Contact Information

About us

Disclosure form

Minimum Investments

Client Agreement

Articles of Interest

Links to the Web

Selected Essays of Robert Doggett:

Elvis Slept Here

Among The Hang Gliders

Mean Kids

The Headmaster

Writ In Water

Letters and Commentary:

Barron's Letter 7/26/2004

Fiction by Robert Doggett:



Elvis Slept Here

This essay appeared in slightly different form in The Seattle Weekly:

Elvis Slept Here

In early September I spent a few days down on the Kalama River fly-fishing for steelhead. I had worked hard in the two days I was there, hooking a couple of fish, but the fishing had been slow. The most interesting thing that happened to me didn't have anything to do with the river. I had been camping out for a couple of nights, and I felt grungy, so I
drove fifteen miles down the river road to town.

Where the Kalama joins the Columbia is really quite an amazing spot. The big river is still affected by the tides there, even though it's so wide as to be featureless, more like a lake than a river. On the other side--on an Oregon peninsula--is the enormous concrete hourglass cooling tower of Portland Gas and Electric's Trojan Nuclear Power Plant. What a shock to come down such a remote, beautiful valley and find that gigantic cement smokestack tossing off massive clouds of steam. Anyway, a quick left onto 1-5 south took me one mile into Kalama.

The only motel visible from the frontage road is the Columbia Inn. Vacancy. It's a nondescript two-story structure, all steel and concrete, an unbroken expanse of fifty identical rooms with doors facing straight out onto the parking lot and then the Interstate. When I walked into the office in front, I heard the sound of the TV back behind a beaded curtain,
and thought, "What you see is what you get. " Before me were a couple of sofas and a lamp and a small display rack with brochures advertising what seemed to be every boring little side trip you'd ever want to make in Southwest Washington. Case closed. A short, white-haired lady came out. She seemed surprised to see me at two in the afternoon. I said, "Do you have any rooms that don't face out onto the freeway?"

"No, not really."

"What's the least expensive room you've got? ',

"They're all around thirty dollars."

I had been sleeping in a tent, so wondered about lamps for reading. "Do you have a room with a good light?"

She gave me a patient, Man-from-Mars look before replying. "Most of the rooms are pretty much the same, but there wouldn't be anything keeping you from moving the desk lamp over to the table by the bed. I'll never tell." She smiled at that.

I must have had a really sour look on my face when 1 handed her my bankcard. We were almost done with the paperwork when I looked up on the wall and saw a picture of Elvis Presley. That wasn't all, though. There were several more pictures of other people standing around in the dark in the parking lot of the Columbia Inn, pictures that had that stark, film-noir flash bulb look that black and white pictures from twenty-five or more years ago.

"So, what's all this about?" I asked.

"Oh, he did stay here once. These pictures are there to prove it. It was in 1962. He was driving up in a caravan to the Seattle World's Fair. He told them he wanted to stay in some small, out-of-the-way place, and this was it. That's me standing there in front, waiting. My little girl is right there next to me. She was only thirteen then, and now she looks at
that picture and can't hardly believe it. "

Of course. Now her daughter would be older than the mother had been in the picture. From what I could tell, in the photos the mother didn't have a trace of gray. I looked closely at one of the other pictures. "Who are those fellows?"

"Oh, his bodyguards. Yeah, he had a big RV, but he wanted a room."

My mind raced. This was my chance.

"Say, I know this probably sounds stupid, but seeing as how it's early in the day, and you may not have rented it, do you think I could have that room?"

She smiled up at me and brightened considerably. "Oh, sure. It would be 219 or 220. They're a suite. I'll put you in 220." She smiled. 1 smiled back, and bit my tongue to keep from saying, "Did you know he's alive? His spirit has been talking to all kinds of people. There's a book for sale, and it comes with a cassette tape, too." Anyhow, I was glad to have kept my mouth shut. I didn't feel like the Man from Mars anymore. I guess I had just been feeling the way most people from the city feet when they're strangers in a small town.

And then? I was tired and ready for a shower and a short nap. Even through the closed door and heavy curtains of room 220, the trucks on 1-5 thundered loudly. The door separating the two rooms had been double-bolted. I went into the bathroom and opened the window to let out some of the stale air. A few cars drove slowly down the street behind the motel. The bathroom overlooked a yard filled with old buses and props from the Kalama School District. A small plywood stand had "Kalama Spirit Shop" painted across the front in huge letters. I toweled myself off and moved one of the lamps over to the table by the bed, but before reading ten pages I was asleep.

When I awoke at 5:30, the sun was low enough to shine along the edge of the world through some breaks in the clouds to the west. Diesel valves were still screaming out on the Interstate. I got up and thought, "Sleeping in the bed Elvis slept in?" Probably not. With my luck, this was the bed the four bodyguards had slept in. If it had been Elvis' bed, wouldn't the mattress have been cut into cubes years ago and shipped to Graceland to be sold in the souvenir shop?

I wouldn't let those doubts pull me down, though. I was going up into the fly-water to fish for steelhead. I got up, put on some clean clothes, went down to my car, and drove past the Columbia Inn Restaurant. A small sign next to the door read, "Famous People Who Have Eaten Here," or words to that effect. Below were carved two names, and there was room for plenty more. One was Elvis Presley, and the other was Jack Benny. I bet there's a story there.

  Copyright Polaris Asset Management 2000 -