Sunday, September 21, 2014

A People's Climate March

On this, the last day but one of the hottest summer on record, Portland hit 90 degrees Fahrenheit for the twenty-first time this calendar year. A fitting day for the event I reluctantly attended this afternoon: the People's Climate March.

Sticking to the shade
Reluctantly, you ask? Well, yes, I'm afraid so. For reasons that I'll relate forthwith. But first, let me describe what I found when I hopped the old Bus #14 (with a stop just outside my front door) and rode down to Waterfront Park.

Temperatures were near 90F
The event was billed as a demonstration to call attention to the wishes of the people for progress on limiting carbon emissions, on reversing the economic trends that threaten to fundamentally change the weather patterns and climate of our planet. A noble and worthwhile goal.

My hopes for turnout were buoyed by the number of demonstrators that boarded the bus as we neared downtown. In fact, all seats were occupied, and many folks had to stand. Senior citizens, families with children, hippies, hipsters, church folks, labor unions --all had a contingency.

I conversed with a woman a few years younger than me, named Angela. She was on her way to the demonstration with her tween-aged daughter.

"Looks like we might have a good turnout," Angela said, glancing around the bus at the people with their placards and their noise-makers.

"Yeah," I said. "I hope so. But I've got to tell you, I don't know if these demonstrations do much good. I remember when we had the massive demonstrations against the Bush administration and the illegal Iraq invasion. We came out in our millions and it didn't do any good."

She nodded glumly. But then she brightened. "These events are good for community building though."

"True," I admitted. "And it is heartening to gather with other like-minded people just to mitigate the feeling of isolation."

On this we agreed.

The crowd at Waterfront was sizable, but it was such a hot day and the sun so merciless that people clustered in the shade patches afforded by the trees along the walkway and the stretched shadows of the high-rise hotels across the street. The crowd on the swathes of sun-beaten grass closer to the river  was spottier.

I was disappointed. Reports had it that, on the other side of the country, in Manhattan, the climate march attracted 300,000-plus. Portland, of course, can't expect to match the crowds in the Big Apple, but we are still the feisty Rose City, whom Bush the Elder named the "Beirut of North America." I felt we could have done better.

Governor Kitzhaber addresses the crowd
But then again, maybe there are other Portlanders who share my resignation, my sense of futility.

Which gets to the reason I was reluctant to attend.

Clever play on words, madam
You see, I lost something after Iraq. Or rather, I lost something when the American people failed to punish Bush for Iraq. In spite of our massive demonstrations, Bush and his coterie were able to pull off the invasion and avoid any accountability. The American people even voted to keep him in office after the fact.

I learned a valuable and bitter lesson from that travesty. It's something that I first encountered when I read Tolstoy's War and Peace in my college days, and which my experiences since have only served to confirm: Human events, history, social evolution, progress --whatever you choose to call it --operates outside human wishes or desires. War, technology, economic development are phenomena that have lives of their own quite apart from the petty wishes of individuals or even societies.

And that, I suspect is what will determine the fate of humanity as regards climate change. Carbon emissions will rise or fall according to laws that are quite beyond what anyone might want or hope --whether it's the Earth-loving hippie or the greedy short-sighted Texas oilman.

I would've liked to see a better turnout
"Well, Dade," one might ask, "if you feel that way, why go to the demonstration?"

Because of this: In some far-flung future, if and when there is some entity or society that looks upon our race and wonders about us --whether we were aware of our doom, whether we were concerned, whether we cared at all --I want to be part of that contingent that registers our capacity for compassion and hope and concern for the people of the future.

That's why I went today. That's why I'll go next time. I'll always go, if I can.

And I'll try to keep smiling. Even while the house burns down.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

River (Pt. XVIII)

Sweat has washed away most of the makeup. Muddy runnels stripe Jonah's face. But the story is moving on its own now:

The trail climbed higher yet, switching back and forth across the face of the rise until it let out onto a shelf of land --a level place about the area of a barnyard. Here the ground was barren of foliage and the bare dirt packed firm by the traffic of many feet. Scattered about were clusters of tents --the salvaged canvas of lost ships. A large stone-ringed fire pit, several paces across, marked the center of the clearing. Within the ring, low-burning flames glowed orange-yellow, like iridescent jewels. The boles of fallen trees were arranged around the fire pit. For sitting, Eligius reckoned.

A hunch-backed crone tended the fire. Hat-less and balding, she wore a drab, moth-eaten shawl. A crooked hand protruded from her mantle, turning a spit that impaled a fleshy mass over the flames. Eligius experienced a long moment of horror before he realized that the corpse was a butchered pig.

El Cocodrilo, at the boy's side, spoke. "Welcome," he said. He swept off his hat and bowed before the boy. The tip of his plume brushed at the dirt. "Forgive the lack of comfort, but such economies are necessary when one is away from home. Perhaps one day I will take you aboard La Sirena. I assure you the accommodations there are more agreeable."

The vagabond crew came forward and swept past them, saying nothing --neither to each other nor to their captain --moving with haste and purpose. El Cocodrilo spoke urgently as they passed, "Quickly, now, compañeros. Our guests are not far behind."

Eligius saw that, though many of the pirates were undoubtedly mad --the slavering, rat-faced marinero with eyes that weren't right, the hulking, shirtless black man with the scarred face --there was yet method in their actions. Some rummaged among the tents, producing a hodgepodge of weapons --cutlasses, belaying pins, lances, here and there a musket. Others brought forth scarecrow figures fashioned from brush and animal hides, which they placed at various points around the camp.

Cocodrilo stood, feet apart, hands on his hips, overseeing the activity. 

"What are you going to do with me?" Eligius asked.

Cocodrilo shook his head. "Do?, he said. "Nothing! You will choose your own fate. "

Eligius remembered the glint of the sun reflected on brass as he stood on the overlook with Cocodrilo's spyglass. He imagined Maximo at the head of a troop of soldiers and hidalgos, hastening toward them.

El Cocodrilo spoke again. "Today is a fateful day. Word of my presence reached the governor several days ago, you see. He learned that I have encamped here on the highlands and, believing an opportunity had arisen, has spent the last several days mustering the hidalgos and preparing his soldiers. Even now, they approach, hoping to take us unaware. Your father--" El Cocodrilo placed an emphasis on the word that Eligius found puzzling "--is among them, of course."

"But how did you know to find me?" Eligius asked.

El Cocodrilo shook his head. "It was no scheme of mine that brought us together. But fortune sometimes smiles on the wicked as well as the righteous."

Eligius cursed himself for his foolhardiness. In his zeal to prove himself to Maximo, he had walked into the hands of the scourge of all good Spaniards.

El Cocodrilo seemed to read his thoughts. "You should consider yourself fortunate, lad. You've been placed at a fulcrum, a fork in the great river. Together, you, I, and the man you call your father shall bear witness to the birthing of a future that will endure forever. But enough for now. My guests will be here soon. I must prepare a proper greeting for them." Cocodrilo smiled, turned away, and strode toward the back of the shelf, leaving Eligius standing, forlorn, among the bustle.

The corsairs continued their preparations. Those with muskets filled powder-horns from a barrel near the back of the camp. Some concealed themselves in the woods along the trail. Others positioned themselves at points around the camp. 

Cocodrilo ducked into a tent and then emerged carrying a heavy musket. He made his way to the back of the camp, where was a small rise before the mouth of a narrow ravine that led further up into the high wooded areas above the shelf. The camp dogs, suddenly unified in purpose, trotted behind him.

When Cocodrilo reached the top of the rise, he mounted the musket on a stand and sighted down the barrel. The dogs were sat at his feet, ears cocked and peering toward where he pointed the musket. Eligius understood that from that vantage Cocodrilo could see the place where the trail emerged on the plateau. Anyone coming up from the lowlands must pass within the sites of the weapon.

Underneath all the commotion, Eligius became aware of a persistent scratching sound, like wasp feet scratching on paper. He took his eyes away from Cocodrilo to see if he could find its source. 

The old crone stood near him, turning the spit. Her eyes were pale and watery. Her mouth trembled and moved and Eligius realized she laughing. She leered at him, making clawing motions with her free hand. "Ven aquí, chico," she said.

With no other earthly idea of what he should do, Eligius approached and sat on a crate near the fire. The old woman gazed at him, her soft mouth forming a ghastly, toothless smile. "Mira, el Cocodrilo," she rasped. Eligius turned his gaze to where Cocodrilo peered down the barrel of his gun. "He can become as a stone," she said. "I have seen him stand thus, in blazing heat, waiting for a wild pig to wander into his sights. The sun was high in the sky when he first took aim. It rested on the treetops when finally he pulled the trigger." She looked at Eligius, gauging his comprehension. "His shot dropped the pig, stone cold dead." She continued: "He is not like other men. He has powers. He sees what will come better than what has been. He is aware of others before they are aware of him. Do you doubt? ¡Verdad! Those who know him best, know this is true. If you turn your eyes to him, you will find that already he is watching you."

Eligius shook his head. He cast a covert glance toward where the Crocodile stood atop the rise. He had not moved; his head was lowered to the barrel of his weapon. But Eligius saw a glint of light from the shadow beneath the broad brim of the hat. Cocodrilo was indeed watching him.

The crone cackled. "Whatever is to happen here today, I tell you now that I wish you no harm. Far from it." Eligius turned his eyes to her and she nodded. "Time is short, but there is much you can learn from me that you may find helpful in the moments to come." Fat dripped into the flames; the fire hissed.

"To you, I am a stranger," the old woman said. "But it is not so. These knobby hands that you see now turning this spit were the first to hold you when you entered this world. I pulled you from your mother's womb and held you to me as you bawled." 

Eligius said nothing, but the doubt and fear in his heart swelled. The crone eyed him closely. "That woman --Maximo's wife at the hacienda --she has never told you the story of how she found you? She has never told you the truth about your origins? It may be that she does not know the truth. But, if that is so, it is only because she has not sought for it. It lays heavily about her and about you, thick as the mud on the banks of the stream where first she found you."

Eligius's heart was in his throat, but he did his best to summon the commanding tone he had heard Maximo use with the slaves. "What is this nonsense you speak, woman?" he asked.

"On your breast, there is a mark, shaped like a woman with the tail of a fish," the old woman said.

Eligius's hand rose to his breast. How could this old woman possibly know of his birthmark?

The crone coughed a laugh, like the bark of an old dog.   "I saw that marking when I wrapped you in swaddling clothes and handed you to your mother."

"My mother?" 

She nodded. "Your mother. The woman whom you know as Dolores. The servant woman who has cared for you all these years. I delivered you from her womb these fifteen years ago."

"Dolores?" Eligius said. "Dolores is my mother?"

"Your mother and my daughter," the woman cackled.

"What do you say?" Eligius asked, incredulous. "But --that would make you my--"

"--grandmother," the woman said. "Tu abuela."

Eligius's head swam. "But what about Lupe and Maximo?" he asked.

"No son tus padres. But you knew that already."

Eligius looked around. The camp was full of motion. A hulking leather-faced man hurried past Eligius, a crossbow in his hands. Across the clearing, another man, one side of his face a slab of scar tissue, arranged a scarecrow figure behind a barrel. 

Eligius cast his eye up to the top of the rise. El Cocodrilo was no longer sighting down the barrel of the musket, but looking directly at the boy, an amused smile on his face. It seemed clear to Eligius that the Spaniards who followed them would walk into an ambush. He could imagine them laboring up the trail, Maximo urging them on. It seemed unlikely that any of them could survive.

The crone spoke, seeming to answer his thoughts. "Maximo is driven by a great force. His very being pushes him toward us. It is the force of blood. It is true, as I say, that Maximo is not your father. But still you carry his blood. 

"Maximo came here, to this land, as a young man of incredible strength. His days he spent clearing land, building fences, digging irrigation channels. But the daylight hours were not enough to expend his strength. In the night time, he was still full alive with purpose. In the years before his bride arrived from Spain, he knew women. One of those was a young beauty from a village that lay not far from here."

Eligius looked at the old woman. Her face was craggy and lined. Her hair thin and white. Her mouth was soft and her lips wagged. It was hard to imagine that she had ever been beautiful. But his heart perceived the truth of her words.

"We dallied for a long, carefree summer. Our nights were spent together in a shelter in the clearing where is now his grand hacienda. It was there, under canvas and mosquito netting where we conceived our daughter. 

"When I discovered that I was with child I told Maximo of my condition. I brought the news to him knowing that things would be different. Maximo was a man who believed he might create his own destiny. His fate could not be hampered by a young Indian woman and a bastard child. On the night I told him, I vowed I would never again return to the little clearing where our love had lived. It is a vow I have kept." The old woman sighed.

"You should know, hijo, that this is the way. There is a great current that moves all things. There is no resisting. We only float along. That is what the tides that took Maximo away have taught me."

Eligius saw Cocodrilo making his way back toward them. The pirate grinned broadly. His own musket rested near the stand at the top of the rise, waiting for his return. In his hands he held the Maximo's musket --the musket that Eligius had taken from the hacienda in the faraway morning.

But Eligius had another question for the crone. "Who, then, is my father?"

She cast him a sour glance and Eligius felt foolish.

"Do you see how it will be?" asked Cocodrilo. He stood before the boy, grinning, grasping the musket with both hands.

The scene unfolded in Eligius's mind. He had an image of Maximo clutching his breast, confusion and pain on his face, a red stain spreading across his shirt.

Cocodrilo set Maximo's musket against a cask and hung the powder horn over the barrel. "When the time comes, you will know what to do... hijo." He peered intently at the boy. 

"Will you spare Maximo?" Eligius asked. 

Cocodrilo laughed. "Would he spare me?"

A silent moment hung between them. Then he spoke again. "When the hidalgos and the soldiers come up the trail, they will see the camp. When they assault the camp, they must leave the trail there." He pointed to the place where the trail emerged onto the plateau. "The fourth man to emerge will be my target. Not the first, nor the second, nor the third. The fourth man. So, you see, Maximo's fate is entirely his own to choose.

Eligius was silent.

"When I fire, the men will set upon them from both sides and I will loose the dogs. The battle will be over before it is properly joined."

Eligius felt weak. He gasped. "Father..."

Cocodrilo frowned and he peered closely into the boy's face. The he stiffened and his face grew hard. He nodded once, turned, and made his way back up the rise. Maximo's musket still leaned on the cask.

The crone's laugh was a rustling breeze. "Mira," she said, nodding toward the musket. "He gives you a choice."

"A choice?"

"Come, help me," the old woman said. She wrapped her hands in the folds of her shawl, indicating that Eligius should likewise protect his hands. "Let us take this to the table," she said. Together they lifted the spit from the fire, the old woman at one end, the boy at the other, and carried it to a block table where were carving knives and cleavers. "I must prepare this feast for the victors."

"For Cocodrilo and his men?" asked Eligius.

"For them or for the hidalgos. One side will be victorious, the other will be vanquished. It makes no difference. I cook. I care not who eats."

Eligius glanced at Maximo's flint-lock musket, the powder horn hanging off the barrel. Then he looked up to the top of the rise where el Cocodrilo sat, watching him. "You mentioned a choice..." he said.

A cloud of flies gathered above the steaming meat. The crone waved at them ineffectually.  "El Cocodrilo told you his plan for the battle. He stands in plain sight, aiming his weapon where Maximo must pass. He returns your weapon to you. Are you blind?"

Eligius stared at the woman, his grandmother, uncomprehending.

"Already I told you," she said. "He is not like other men." She turned away from him and took up a carving knife. "I have work to do," she said.

Eligius stood dumbfounded. The possibilities before him began to take shape. The Spaniards could not be far away. Each moment brought them closer to the jaws of the trap.

Read Part I here.
Read Part II here
Read Part III here
Read Part IV here.
Read Part V here
Read Part VI here
Read Part VII here
Read Part VIII here
Read Part IX here.  
Read Part X here
Read Part XI here
Read Part XII here.  
Read Part XIII here
Read Part XIV here
Read Part XV here.  
Read Part XVI here
Read Part XVII here.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Movie review: Boyhood

I first learned of this movie through my friend Shawna Haase who told me of an epic film that related a boy's life journey over the course of 12 years, from early childhood to adulthood. The film is unique in that it was filmed over more than a decade (2002 to 2013), and the cast remained constant throughout. Viewers literally see the characters age as the movie progresses --a sort of time-lapse photography of human beings.

It's a sui generis endeavor, at least to my knowledge. And hats off to director Richard Linklater --firstly for conceiving it, and secondly for having the faith and wherewithal to see the project through. Reportedly, he told Ethan Hawke (who plays Mason Evans, Senior --the boy's father) that if Linklater died before the film was complete, Hawke would have to finish it.

The story recounts the life of Mason Evans, Junior, (played by Ellar Coltrane), a broken-home boy in Texas who lives with his mother, Olivia (Patricia Arquette) and older sister Samanatha (Lorelei Linklater). Olivia is a single mother and a student, struggling to earn her degree in psychology. The children's father, Mason, Senior, is a musician and song-writer and a concerned and loving father. Young Mason's tale is related through a series of scenes depicting significant moments in the boy's life: the family's move to Houston, a camping trip with his father, an abusive incident with his step-father, a painful breakup with a girlfriend, a graduation celebration, and so on. As the film unfolds, a varied cast of characters enter and leave Mason's life and viewers witness how this boy is shaped into a fine, good-hearted young man.

I found the film to be poignant and moving. It heart-breakingly depicts the stoicism and fair-mindedness inherent in children, and I found it impossible not to recall incidents in my own life as I watched. I have to imagine everyone in the audience felt the same. The dialog and acting are more than believable --this is how people talk; this is how people behave.

The film is longish, at 164 minutes, but I enjoyed every minute of it. When the credits rolled, I felt sad to say goodbye to Mason Evans and I wished him well.

It's a fine film, indeed, that can make you feel that way.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Book review: Down in the River

Ryan Blacketter, author of Down in the River, used to teach a class at PCC, entitled "High-Risk Fiction." I had the good fortune to experience the class back in 2011, in which Blacketter led us in examinations of great works of fiction (mostly short stories), examining them line by line and explaining how everything in these works --every change of perspective, every phrase, every sentence, every long vowel --is significant. 

After reading Down in the River, Blacketter's first novel, it's apparent that he puts his conviction into practice.

Down in the River is the story of Lyle Rettew, a troubled youth struggling to find his place in the world after the suicide death of his twin sister. Lyle, his unstable mother and authoritarian older brother (the family patriarch) find themselves in the alien world of Eugene, Oregon. His sister's death, caused the family to be uprooted from their Idaho home, ostracized by their religious community. Lyle has a history of psychological instability made all the more pronounced by his peculiar family life and his adolescent struggle to find acceptance among peers from his new school. In his attempt to find acceptance and to come to terms with his sister's death (a subject which is strictly avoided among his family) Lyle chooses a dark and perplexing course of action.

As I stated, in class, Blacketter emphasized how in great works of fiction, nothing is insignificant. Down in the River is a clear demonstration of that precept.

First of all, there are the characters. Besides Lyle, there is Rosa, Lyle's girlfriend, and her sister, Shanta, who come from a troubled hispanic (and very Catholic) family. And there is the bitter albino, Martin, who is the first among the Eugene social set to befriend Lyle (albeit for morbid and vengeful reasons). These characters are significant, of course.  But beyond them, even the minor characters --the cardigan-wearing Catholic priest, the mannish Sergeant Krune who heads-up the juvenile detention facility --project special significance on the canvass of the larger story.

The novel is composed of a series of events that also hint at something larger that is occurring beneath the surface. A pipe bomb blows the lock to a mausoleum. A distressed wild goose crash lands on a bridge that spans a river. A pair of delinquent youths are mistaken for respectable Canadian tourists.

There is a lot to think about in this novel. However, I have to admit that, overall, I found the book to be obscure. I recognized that the aforementioned events and characters were significant, but I wasn't always able to make the connection. Also, I generally found the dialog to be colorless.

Which is not to say that Blacketter lacks eloquence. Scattered throughout the work are lines that stand out, McCarthy-like, approaching poetry:
"Martin slipped his BB pistol into the back of his pants and opened the front door, gesturing grandly for Lyle to go first, as though introducing him to the night."
"The land gathered into desert promontories above the Columbia. When the dusty hills swung away, a valley fell before them. The road was a thin line that would take them into its distance."
One last nit-picky observation: I'm not sure I'd call Down in the River a novel. It is perhaps too long to qualify as a short story, but on the other hand, there is only the single plot line and the single main character. I'd argue, rather, that this book is a novella. (But, then again, I might be a little too persnickety.)

All in all, Down in the River is a success. Blacketter succeeds in winning sympathy for his characters. And if, in the end, readers are unsettled by the novel's conclusions, isn't that one of art's primary functions?

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Urban lifestyle double-down

Living room
If anyone (including we) had any doubts, our recent change of residence ought to about kill them off: Maty and I are city folk.

Our new residence, an ultramodern, wired-in, and energy-efficient condominium situated on SE 50th Avenue between Division and Powell, is even more urban than was our old vintage house in the Hawthorne district. It's a brand new construction; we and our neighbors in the other eleven units that together comprise the Richmond Heights condominims, are the first residents.

It feels great to live in a place where everything is modern and works correctly.

Kitchen. The doorway on the right leads to a half-bath.
We're not fully setup yet. We still lack blinds. So there's a certain fishbowl quality to our current state of existence. We're still awaiting the weeks-out delivery of some of our furniture. The AC unit has not yet been installed (quite a burden in these dog days of summer) and the garage situation is a long term project. But the kitchen is fully functional, the new "smart" teevees are on the wifi, and our new gas grill is assembled and functioning from its place on the balcony.

Master bedroom
We've condensed from about 2300 square feet in the old house to 1450 square feet in our new unit. In making the transition, we had to shed a lot of stuff. Books, lamps, old furniture, and various other household items found their way to the Good Will, the recycling center, or as a last resort, the landfill. And what a pleasant catharsis to rid ourselves of so much! 

But despite the smaller size, we have three bedrooms and three-and-a-half bathrooms. It's a townhouse layout, with garage, bedroom and bathroom on the bottom floor, kitchen/living area/balcony on the main floor, and two bedrooms, two bathrooms, walk-in closets and laundry facility on the top floor.

Master bathroom. Note the stand-up shower, jacuzzi bath, and dual sinks!
Downstairs bedroom

Downstairs bathroom


Office bathroom
To add to the good news: our financial situation is moderately better as a result of the move. And since we're living in a brand new place rather than a 103-year-old house, less of our income will be spent maintaining our residence, freeing up resources for travel and other interests.

All the stress and anxiety we suffered over the past several months seems to have paid off.

Our new place already feels like home. And we both love it.

Blessings to all!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Book review: Maribou Stork Nightmares

Sometimes, in order to hook into a novel or some other work of art, you need to broaden your perspective. That's a big advantage to participating in a book group. In the last four years or so, the lads and I have read 36 books together. And more than once, after discussing a particular book at our semi-regular meetings, I've come away with a changed impression of the work. Indeed, books that I hadn't thought I'd liked all that much gain a new appreciation as a result of the widened perspective.

So it is with Irvine Welsh's Marabou Stork Nightmares. When first I finished the book, which is a sordid story of gritty, nasty Scotland (with a bit of apartheid South Africa thrown in), I was pretty much disgusted.

Welsh's claim to fame is his authorship of the novel Trainspotting which was adapted into a smash hit flick by Danny Boyle. And while I enjoyed Trainspotting, the film, I felt at first that Marabou Stork Nightmares transcended the bounds of good taste with its ugly descriptions of life in the Scottish tenements, with the casual brutality of its principle characters, and with its excessive use of profanity. (Picking 3 pages at random I count 9 uses of the words "fuck," "shit," and "cunt.")

Further, Welsh's prose alternates between "regular" English and a Scottish-phonetic invention of his own that, at first, was interesting, but quickly became annoying. Example: "They were scruffy cunts glad to be let intae some cunt's hoose even if it wis the Strangs." Or: "He'd just come back tae the scheme n aw; tae stey wi his auld man eftir being in Moredun wi his auntie." Imagine wading through pages of that!

The novel, by the by, is the story of the Strang family, a working class and highly dysfunctional gang of neer-do-well Scots rising like scum to the top of the slop bucket that is blue-collar Scotland --at least as Welsh describes it. The story is told from the perspective of Roy Strang, a computer programmer and street ruffian who, at the time of the story, exists in a coma-induced dream state, from which he recounts the events of his life that led him to his current situation.

Mary Poppins, it ain't. Nonetheless, as my book-reading pals pointed out, there is a larger theme at work in this rough-cut novel. Redemption, regardless of how it is attained, is still an admirable achievement. Cruelty and barbarous acts are generally the downstream symptoms of some evil that has gone before. I doubt I would have noticed these lessons if I'd read the book by myself, without the benefit of the perspectives of Mssrs. Kemmerer, Johnson, Insera, and Kidwell.

All in all, I wouldn't say Maribou Stork Nightmares is a must-read. Not by any means. But it's not a waste of time, either.

Like I said, it's good to be in a book group.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Goodbye, old house

So long, old house.
Typing this while Maty nestles down for the evening. She's been packing all day and she's exhausted. I'll join her shortly. The electric fan is droning away against the humidity, but it is much better than last night. Our new place will have central air.

It's our last night in the house on Southeast 36th. Tomorrow, we change residence. This old house is a great old house. But just like old people, old houses need more and more help to keep going. It's time for us to part ways.

Allow me a little nostalgia, will you? I've been nearly 15 years at this address. No other home has come close.
More blueberries than ever before
The blueberry shrubs I planted about 10 years ago have not been very productive. At least until this year. Our biggest shrub produced several pints of big, fat berries. And there are more coming. The new folks, the folks who bought our home will get to enjoy them, I hope. 

The canebrake of raspberries continues to thrive. A bumper crop came in mid-June, and then disappeared quickly. It was a short season, but a heavy one. To think that the entire bramble came from just two stocks that a coworker gave me in 2000. Fifteen years later, they've spread to the neighbor's yard. I view them as my endowment to the neighborhood.

Family gathering, 2013
Between Maty and me and the ten roommates who've come through, we've filled this house up with many good memories. It's sad to leave them.

And it's really sad to say goodbye to our good neighbors. Fifteen years of three to five minute conversations add up. You come to like the easy feeling you get from knowing everyone around you.

Maty's new kitchen, 2012
This afternoon, I made a last quick trip to Freddie's to get Maty some mango juice. I walked past the waffle window, where folks were lined up for waffles. The tables outside the Baghdad were full of young people enjoying the aftermath of the brief thunderstorm earlier in the day. I ruminated on the thought that I'd made that walk maybe 5000 times over the years. And this was the last.

As recently as 4 months ago, I'd imagined that I might stay at this house through my someday retirement. Funny how things can change so fast.

But I've got a lot of memories that I'll be sorting through well past my retirement. Memories about this house on 36th Avenue in southeast Portland. And about the young man who came there in 1999, hopeful and fresh from a vision-quest tour of Europe, firm in his convictions and his optimism. And about how he changed over the years. And about how he found the woman that would save him.

So long, old house. So long, old neighborhood. So long, old life.


Monthly family dinner, 2010

Jabañero peppers grown in pots on the back deck in that summer to beat all summers, 2009
Neighborhood block party, 2010

Maty comes to the house, 2006
Mahatma Candy, hanging out in the stairwell, 2001
Hannah (front) and Roxanne (rest in peace, girls), hangin' in the office chair, 2003

Gathering friends to join the great war protest of March 15, 2003