I.  Sitting in His Apartment.  

I have my old things, my talismen, my curios and artifacts, croutons of life dropped along the way, telling my story.  Roy does, too.  I can spot them, uncoached, in this two-bedroom place of his and Joyce’s in Portland, a.k.a. Fog City, Raintown, CoffeeShopLand.  Cronos the dog is eight.  He is mellow and sweet, curled up on his pillow, waiting for the others to rise. I was there on Shenandoah in St. Louis the first weekend Roy had gotten him.  I’ve always thought Cronos remembered that, held an affinity for me because of it.  Or maybe he’s just a sweet happy dog who can love everyone without condition or reason.  

Roy’s got a few of our paintings.  A blind portrait I did of him in November 2005 (I just checked to see if the date was on the back, otherwise I wouldn’t’ve known it).  Then there’s the collaboration he and I did in his Allen apartment, a painting we dubbed “C.E. Gogh,” consisting first of a sketch he did of me, with us then painting in the room scene all around it.  In that painting is a table and one of a set of four orange chairs that Roy has had forever, and which are here, having meaning to me but appearing to be underemphasized.    

Me and Cronos

II. Shopping List.  

Tea—black, green, Calm Coffee—Sumptown? Hatchet Pole Trimmer? Steel-cut oats—bulk Playing cards Magnets Wine Candles     III.  Portland Trip Bird List.   Snow Goose Canada Goose Mallard Osprey Bald Eagle American Kestrel American Coot Downy Woodpecker Western Scrub-jay American Crow Violet-green Swallow Chestnut-backed Chickadee Varied Thrush Song Sparrow Dark-eyed Junco Red-winged Blackbird Brown-headed Cowbird American Robin Marsh Wren (??) Rock Dove

IV.  Plane-ride Home.

I put the iPod on, to shuffle—imagine if it had little feet and little arms and it could shuffle—and the song is Jimmy Smith, “Funk’s Oats.”  Tap those keys, Jimmy.  Let all the air out of that organ.  Like a semi truck using its air brake out on the highway.  Imagine if there were signs in neighborhoods aspiring to quiet—No air braking, and no organ playing either, Ordinance 33A-7(f)(b).

The song has me starting the recall process.  No, not Grey Davis or Stephen Kraft or even “Mayor Shelley Welsch.”  The trip.  It’s over now.  Kaput, defunkt, erstwhile.  I wrote just one page while I was in Portland.  No time, it wouldn’t have worked.

Joyce made oatmeal is what I’ve been trying to say.  With just the regular oats.  She was out of steel-cut oats, of which I can’t say I’ve ever had the pleasure.  The difference has to do with what is or what is not still part of the oat.

Courtroom scene.  Lawyer:  “Are you or are you not a steel cut oat?”  The oat is sitting there quivering.  Lawyer: “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury….”

Still, it was good oatmeal.  Hot and with blueberries, walnuts, and fresh strawberries.  Later Roy and I went to the New Seasons grocery and from the bulk section walked away with a bag of steel-cut oats.  I imagine the oats being conveyed along a belt moving through a factory, happy and innocent until—wham!—down comes the sharp, steel cutting implement, slicing away everything that cannot remain in a steel-cut oat.

That was Friday morning.  Oatmeal in belly, Joyce drove us out to Saddle Mountain for a challenging four-and-a-half mile hike, elevation gain: 1600 feet.  Those specs put it in line with Angel’s Landing, a hike in Zion I have merely heard about.  I was moving slowly up the final, steep stretch.  Sweating but not too winded.  My legs were tight and thick and felt to me like trunks I was continually re-positioning higher and higher along the mountainside.  We could see the ocean just barely at the summit, thin lines of wave crests, seeming not to move to the shore: an ocean on pause.  North of there the town of Astoria, the bridge spanning its bay our best indication that what we were seeing was, in fact, the seaside town of Astoria, OR.  Where the Columbia loses itself finally, with some relief, into a body of water so much larger than itself that it would have been impossible to imagine until ultimately encountered.  Some fish get to the ocean and change their minds, attempt to turn around, become anadromous.  They still had work to do in the river, had friends left there, liked one of the villages dappled along it.  The Pacific too large, too salty, too diverse for them.  And I can understand.  The ocean is not for everyone.

Joyce took some pictures of me and Roy, and then of me and Roy and Cronos posing with Astoria and the confluence way, way in the background.  My belly looked fat and round, my cheeks rouged.  Roy looked about the same as he does in other photos from over the years, just a little older.  We watched a couple of olde crows fly around, then a pair of violet-green swallows.  Farther down there were a couple of raptors I couldn’t identify but which had tan tails.

Joyce drove back, too.  Roy dozed, I looked out the window.  I was trying to get some snaps for my continuing Instagram endeavor to capture photos that Pat hashtags #lonesomecrowdedwest.  It is my genre, my oeuvre, my pathos.  We went for sushi when we got back, buying it out of a beached Airstream trailer.  These immobilized food carts stand out as a distinctive feature of the Sellwood neighborhood they live in.  The sushi was fine.  On Saturday Roy and I visited another food cart, this one part of a “pod” of like trailers set in a  group, each offering its own type of food.  The one we hit was called PaPa Lee’s, the menu eclectic.  Roy had a “double-smoked” bratwurst (they smoked that shit and then they smoked it again!)  I had a caesar salad and fish tacos.  The fish was rock fish, fried.  The tacos were quite good and there were plenty of them.  Eight dollars.

We played some chess. Ray is better.

I just snuck a couple of swigs of some Portland-made vodka I bought Saturday betwixt and between the hike and the sushi.  There was a couple in the store purveying their liquid wares.  Roy and I were both interested in getting vodka but I was indecisive and relented.  I knew once I went and sampled these folks’ vodka I was done for; I’d pick up a bottle no matter what it cost and regardless of whether the sample I had was any good.  As if vodka could strike me as all that good, warm and on no ice, served in a little thimble of a cup like something used at communion—the body and the blood.

They were slinging both vodka and gin, though personally I never pour gin and vodka together.  After trying the vodka and only grunting in response when the fella, who was scruffy looking and soon I realiZed of British descent, asked me what I thought.  Warm vodka is what it tasted like.  We moved on to one of two gins.  Not something I’m going to slug warm either—unless I’m on an airplane!—but the first and then the second gin—green, fancy, and botanical—were not at all bad.  I said, “I like the gin but we’re drinking vodka tonight so I’ll pick up a bottle of that.”  The fella started his bit about this vodka:  “The thing with good vodka, your Grey Goose, is that they use soft winter wheat.”  He uttered these words with such delicacy that they might have been the precise movements of a spell.  I’m looking at this fella, his teeth are clean but misaligned, his right eye is twitching.  And I’m thinking, “I haven’t had one drop of Grey Goose in my entire life, why are you talking to me about Grey Goose.”  He says that this vodka of his also relies on, you guessed it, soft winter wheat.  Then he mentioned some other way in which his vodka was similar to Grey Goose but I had stopped listening and was thinking only about getting out of there with a bottle of vodka that was going to cost me $26.

I felt like a sucker.  Walking out of there I said to Roy, “It’s over when I have the sample.”  The name of the vodka was getting jumbled in my head.  I was thinking to myself it was called “Raw Deal.”  I had myself convinced that that is what it was actually called.  When we got back Roy put it in the freeZer.  We drank some beer until rounding the turn of the night and getting to the first hard liquor we would have in my short time there.  I looked at the label of my vodka.  The name was “New Deal.”  And, it turns out, it wasn’t such a bad vodka.  A little oily, a little rum-y: an aftertaste and a smell of an aged rum.  I can’t explain that.  Nonetheless it’s fine on the rocks, not as good as Tito’s but better than Smirnoff.


Nachos at Kay’s

The trip to Saddle Mountain was our only excursion.  I didn’t want to spend much time in a car while I was there.  We took Cronos for numerous walks.  I thought a lot about Squirt.  We went for two runs.  The first was right away Thursday morning, a four-and-a-half miler out and back to the Reed College campus, uphill on the way out and overall quicker than is my custom, miles of 9:15 on average.  It felt great to have that run in my pocket.  I described it as, “The gateway to the day.”  Later I thought  I could have dubbed it, “The gateway to the rest of the trip.”  And damn, now it’s over and I’m on a plane over Nevada or somewhere.  Gone are the fallen magnolia petals, the carpets and sheathes of the spongiest, hairiest, happiest moss I have ever seen.  Goodbye then, green oasis.  Goodbye for now, anyhow.

I slept in V’s bed, which wasn’t as clown-car-ish as it might sound.  I had not one bad hangover.  Last night I went to bed rather early.  I was feeling the curtains falling down around me and I was ready to leave.  I wanted to step into a transporter.  I was prepared to be sucked into a Hyper Loop.

There were stretches when the two or three of us ‘really, rarely talked’ but I wasn’t particularly talkative on the whole.  Roy and Joyce probably would have talked politics or policy for hours but it wasn’t something I wanted to get into.  Roy and I talked a little about a bill Georgia is putting through that would afford private businesses a sort of safe harbor from anti-discrimination laws if e.g. a business did not want to hire a homosexual.  This is a topic they are adamant about and I can’t seem to find the energy or the interest necessary to participate in a discussion wherein I would do anything but agree with the person who wanted to have the discussion.  Life’s too short for me to let what the legislature in Georgia is up to raise my blood pressure or occupy more than a little slice of my mind.  There is still a Constitution and there is still a court system.  If the law isn’t constitutional then it’ll come down.  My view of America is not so cynical and jaundiced that I believe a bigoted legislature somehow also has on its side a corrupted, multi-tiered state and federal court system.  When there is so much locally—and personally, individually—that can be corrected and over which I actually exert some degree of control I won’t give up five minutes of a vacation in Portland to wring my hands over the transgender person in Gwinnett who can’t get a job at Chick-fil-A.


Second little bottle of vodka, though this bottle is a little larger and it is made of glass.  It once contained Sambucca.

I can’t remember what this place is called

I liked Sellwood.  B and I could be happy there.  It seemed a neighborhood of amalgam.  Transplants.  More young family and young professional than hipster.  I could see that it was a city fast growing that was putting ample pressure on its infrastructure.  It is a city of bridges, the ones I saw spanning the Willamette.  At least I think they were bridges—as opposed to culverts, the difference between which we were unclear.  I liked the walkability.  I was not floored by prices but then again I do not know what the state income tax is.  There is no sales tax.  Roy made an allusion to rent being stiff, like a strong drink handed to someone who doesn’t drink much.  They take a sip, “Wow—.”  Cringe.  “That is strong.”  He said he was going to rent out the second bedroom this summer (Joyce will be in DC).  We saw a young, hooded person going through the recycling I dumped in the the blue container outside the apartment building the day before.  There is a bottle deposit in Oregon and we had gone through some glass: Ninkasi, Rampant bomber, Buoy bomber, Yellow Wolf imperial IPA.

Portland composts.  It rained at least a little every day I was there.  We had tasty curry and I had some ridiculous pork spring rolls the first night I was there, from this place “Jade” right on 13th in Sellwood, a simple stroll from their a-p-t.

I did not see V.  This is spring break and she was out of town with her mother.  That’s it for the second bottle.  So long, Sambucca!  A Ratatat song comes on.  Roy had Ratatat going in the car when he left me off at PDX.  That was “Wildcat,” this is “Seventeen Years.”  Seventeen years ago today…March 26, 1999.  Where would I have been?  In college.  I had not met B but I probably did see Roy that day.  We might have been scoping out our first place together.  1997-98 was Liggett Dorm; 1998-99 was Dauten dorm with Scroggins and Ebel; 1999-2000 was 7330 Forsyth, the upstairs unit, which I would now run past frequently, if it had not been torn down.

We didn’t talk much baseball because the season has not yet begun.  And because there is already a little bit of a hush and a pall over the Cardinal season because the Cubs appear so loaded and primed and formidable.  We did, however, draft the 2016 version of Andrew Jones, a keeper-league team in the Smokey League, as played on yahoo.com.  (I pass on the coffee that goes by, even though I’d love some…sock dreams…bathroom problems).  We drafted a disgusting relief core that contains the likes of: Wade Davis, Andrew Miller, Tony Watson, Dellin Betances, Drew Storen, Sam Dyson, and Brett Cecil.  Then on offense it was a supplementary cast of Swiss Army knife position players (who don’t strike out) such as: Daniel Murphy, Ben Zobrist, Yangervis Solarte, Stephen Piscotty, and Logan Forsythe.  Strikeouts count against you.  So do losses.  I like the team.  I paid up for Maikel Franco, who is the only draftee I believe could be a keeper in 2017.

Fantasy baseball.  Guesses, prognostication, and forward thinking.  It makes me think of the stock market, something I worked diligently not to think about the whole trip.  I had checked the market action early Wednesday, but I didn’t check at all after 11:30 a.m.  I don’t know how it closed Wednesday.  And I shut Thursday out entirely.  I did look and see that the FTSE (London) was down 1.62% early Thursday.  But that was it!  The market was closed Friday (thank You!)  In the car on the way back from Saddle Mountain, the NPR news reader could not help himself from reviewing some of the market action in Asia.  Why?  I don’t get it.  Because NPR listeners are so concerned about what the Nikkei has done in overnight trading?  And the stupid Nikkei was up point-seven percent.  Japan has been a poorly run nation for decades.  Abenomics is a scam and a slow-motion robbery of the Japanese people.  And more countries will try the same recipe.  Leave the fish uncooked, I say.  It’s fine raw.  God gave it to us and we don’t need you in there picking around with your tainted turmeric and corrupted curry.  Or your bad basil, your crummy cumin, your contaminated coriander.  For these mistakes we have no Supreme Court, no appeals mechanism of any kind, and no ballot box!  We have only our wallets and our pens.

Before I get carried away I want to do a little housekeeping.  Alaska Airlines.  The boarding process is by way of rows.  There is no silly feedlot-style queueing up.  There is no “fastest finger” check-in 23 hours and 59 minutes before the flight.  I like this.  No games.  No chicanery.  No tomfoolery.  No digital grab-ass.  I used a “mobile boarding pass” for the flight to Portland.  I had checked in online, probably 21 hours in advance, but I didn’t have any way of printing the boarding pass.  I sent B a copy of said mobile boarding pass (sent to my email) and had her print it at work.  But it looked so spartan and generic.  It was a long security line at STL.  Eventually I did see people sticking their phones under the boarding pass scanner.  I was worried that no one else seemed to be using their phone passes and all I had was a paper copy of the “mobile” boarding pass.  For this current flight I didn’t check in until I got to the airport.  I used a check-in only kiosk to print my boarding pass.  That approach worked well.

I did not check a bag.  My backpack is stuffed pretty good but it did fit in the overhead with a little shoving.  In it that was not in it on the way out: three deep v-neck tri-blend American Apparel ties that I bought in downtown P-town on Thursday.  I don’t look real good in them but I use them as undershirts, for work for instance.  And then I’ll run in it the next day.  Forget the white undershirts with their liver-yellow pits and insufficiently deep Vs.  (And as Pat and I discovered separately about a year ago buying Jockey: the talls aren’t as tall as they used to be.)  These Am App tri-blend deep Vs are deep alright.

In addition to the three t’s are two books: one DeLillo, one Beattie.  From Powell’s Books, an incredible place, sprawling, trafficked, but bountiful.  I bought four used books there, all Vintage paperback, an Exley and a Dybek in addition to the aforementioned.  Oh, one more, I also got William H. Gass’s, In the Heart of the Heart of the Country, which contains one novella and four short stories.  They didn’t have any of his used books.  I was looking for a particular work of W.P. Kinsella’s.  They had plenty of his books—the Canadian Indian stories—but not Alligator Report, which contains the short story, “I Am Airport.”

Otherwise there is some change in my bag that wasn’t there before, and some receipts but nothing substantial.  I had told B about a black and white photo of a barn I saw and liked in The Ugly Mug Thursday morning.  It was $150.  I thought I could box it and ship it back with my t-shirts and books. I was also going to go to Sock Dreams, just to check it out.  But these were first full day thoughts and I lost my luster and my gusto and eschewed and simply “made do” once I realiZed I only had so much time and the trip was beginning to get away from me, as all of them eventually do.

—I write this in memory of my loving friend Squirt, who died not long after, leaving me bad and broken and bereft, and not ever quite the same—

March 2016.

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