Note: Rachel Roellke Coddington and Jolby will present their book at Powell's Books at Cedar Hills Crossing on Wednesday, May 15, at 7:00 p.m.
Greetings, adventurers! As you travel the evergreen roadways of the Pacific Northwest, you may find yourself in contact with many intriguing monsters. Let our book, Monsters under Bridges, be a guide as you explore the bridges of the region in your travels (or in your mind!). From Vancouver, Washington, to the beaches of Oregon, these monsters deserve your attention — and love. Why? Let's find out.
5. Monsters aren't all... you know, monsters.
We've been trained to identify monsters as a negative part of the world. They are typically a beast or creature causing significant discomfort to humans. The word "monster" itself brings into the mind images of gnashing teeth, rippling muscle-bound fur, and Charlize Theron with no makeup. Some more modern tales — Shrek, Sesame Street, and, of course, Monsters, Inc. — shed a more accurate light onto the world of monsters and what they do for humans. Your first task as a monster lover is to shake off those chains of generational prejudice and start to understand what a real monster is.
Most monsters are quite similar to animals you've grown up with. They have preferences, diets, friends, and life cycles. Some live in colonies, while others are lone survivors of lost species. An important thing to remember is this: monsters will leave you alone if you do the same. They can be playful, tricky, grumpy, annoying, and sometimes quite lovely if you see them in the right light. Some are bigger than whales; others you can hold in your hand and watch as their tiny wings unfold. Bottom line: get to know a monster before you judge him.
4. They have the ability to adapt.
The monsters documented in our book, Monsters under Bridges, have all found a way to be at peace with their surroundings. For example, Irving the Noble Vegetarian has grateful woodland friends who help him gather his food. You see, Irving helped destroy the fur trade by smashing the guilty ships that passed his bridge (the Astoria-Megler). Though Irving loves his home, his beautiful brown fur reacts poorly to the fog in Astoria, which causes him to constantly primp and preen to keep in order.
Some monsters have done as humans would — they've chosen their environment consciously and carefully. The Flixies, a colony of fantastically helpful monsters, have done just this. Knowing that the Fremont Bridge was the only bridge in Portland to have public input on design, the adorable, round Flixies burrowed neatly into the open cubbyholes in the steel of the bridge. Collecting snippets from artistic magazines and newspapers in Portland, the Flixies create collages inside their homes.
No matter how they've done it, monsters find a way to smoothly and quietly fit into their homes. So much so, in fact, that humans rarely see them. Most often, monsters are mistaken for woodland creatures, reflections from the river, or flashbacks from the '60s.
3. They're usually pretty weird.
It's no coincidence that our book takes place in the Pacific Northwest, home to artists, hippies, trustafarians, Zoobombers, and a donut shop where you can get married. Monsters are quite eclectic, and the monsters chosen for our book are no exception. Even Margot, the timid Maripolo from Vancouver, BC, has her quirks — she's too scared to take her virgin flight and lives quaking in the bushes near the Capilano Suspension Bridge.
Sherman, a bulb-headed Canadian monster who lives beneath the North Arm Bridge, has an idiosyncrasy of his own. Convinced he's from the Planet Splark, he spends a great deal of time constructing a spaceship and helmet from materials he finds.
2. They instill in us a sense of childlike wonder, excitement, and — sometimes — disgust.
It's easy for us to get wrapped up in everyday sights. We're so used to the brick buildings we pass on our way to work, the food carts and raincoats and buskers. Sometimes, it's inevitable that we'll fall into a pattern and forget to look closely! Monsters, in all their weird, unique glory, give us a chance to look at our surroundings differently. When you turn the pages of the book, take note of places you've been, things you've seen, and look at them with a new pair of eyes. Or a couple pairs (see the Weaslo).
Monsters live by a different set of hygiene and appearance rules. As we know, Irving spends a great deal of time keeping his luscious mane looking fresh — but some monsters are drenched in snot, slime, and dirt. Sometimes it's nice to see something that naturally looks and smells much worse than you do.
1. They live under bridges.
Bridges mean something different to Pacific Northwesters. They aren't just a way to cross over a freeway or a canal. They define our landscape, our neighborhoods, our businesses, and our beers. We look at bridges as symbols of movement, change, and progress.
And monsters, they live beneath these bridges. Not only do bridges provide much-needed cover from the Pacific Northwestern elements but they give our beasts a sense of belonging and community without having to be seen regularly — something we could all use once in a while. The goofy legends of trolls beneath bridges are a mere shadow of how monsters really interact with bridges.
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In Monsters under Bridges, we set out to pay much-needed homage to these creatures — living beneath our bridges, just out of sight, enjoying the same world but in their own monstrous way. We took the time to get to know their quirks, their history, and how to respect them. Love those monsters. They deserve it.
Illustrations by Jolby.