Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Day Summer Ended

Often life takes us in a direction rapidly, and we generally perceive that orientation as forward. It is an ardent current that catapults us through a gauntlet of decisions which ultimately determines our future fate. Upon the rare moment that our heads breach surface for a breath we have an opportunity to evaluate our life. How did we come upon this life we live now? When did our youth end? Through pangs of nostalgia we conjure images of happier times when life was a little simpler and we were a little more pure. In such a breath I found the change in current, and it was a hot summer day of August 2006. The day that the summer of my youth had ended.

It was mid morning on an August Saturday. A morning that saw no appreciable difference in temperature from the previous day. It was only ten in the morning and I could feel dampness starting in all the unwanted places. I stood in my kitchen enjoying the cool fake hardwoods on my bare feet, while my two cats circled me expectantly. With a cut open water bottle I scooped a generous amount of kibble from their food bin and heaped it in to their small food bowl. With no gratification they began to scarf their morning meal. My cell emitted a default ring tone from my shorts pocket. I extracted it as I carefully set down a full water bowl for the two ingrates. I glanced at he display before answering...Beau.
“Heya stud. Whatta are ya up to today.”
“Nothing monumental. Why? What are you up to?”
“I was planning to moving my stuff up to the Portland house today, and was wondering if I could get your help.”
“Not a problem. What time you want me there?”
“Not long, just need a couple more hours to pack...2:30ish?
“Alright see you then.”
I sighed and dropped the cell in the cargo pocket. It was not a surprise that Beau was leaving. I knew after he interned last summer that they were going to hire him after graduation. That was last summer though...a year never seemed so short. I ate a bowl of cereal and enjoyed the cold crunch as the outside temperature rose.

I made my way to Beau's house off of Northwest Highway. Windows down, vent full blast, and the stereo blaring to overcome the cacophony of traffic. Modest Mouse, the Moon & Antarctica consoled me as I made the trip across town. The sun was already past it's pinnacle and the intensity could be felt whenever I was stopped at a light. My sweat soaked into the fabric of the seat covers.

I arrived and Beau had most of his possessions in the back of his father's degraded blue pick up truck. Save for the heavy items he was nearly finished. After heavy perspiration and some lightly muttered curses we were ready for the drive to Portland. We stopped at a Shell station where a derelict attendant filled the tank. I went in to pick up a couple beverages and snacks for the road. The truck's guttural engine sank into a steady rhythm as we hit its maximum speed on I-5. The drive was filled with capricious dialog that avoided mentioning depressing reality at hand. We enjoyed the company as it lasted unaware of when our next encounter would be.
We arrived in Portland's concrete embrace as we were swept along familiar traffic patterns. Finally we stretched our road weary legs as Beau acquainted me with his new residence. A charming house with all interior design picked at the fashionable peak of 1972. A collage of ugly hues and patterns adorned the walls and floors, including a fake vista wallpaper of a lakeside. The only redeeming decor was a light fixture that reminded me of an ancient Egyptian Orb. Over the next hour we unpacked the truck and decided to get cleaned up before we went out for dinner. The shower and the cooling air of the evening brought me great relief. We found some dinner and brought it back to nosh in the sparsely furnished living room.

Exhausted from the long hot day we hit the hay early. Beau crashed out on his mattress crammed into the corner of the living room. I got the sofa. The streetlight cast a orange light through the open windows softly illuminating the room. I stared at the ugly lakeside wallpaper stifling depression and sadness. I knew that we would keep in touch, that our bond wouldn't diminish with distance. It was something I was unable to understand at the time, something unbidden.

Euphoric after the conclusion of my college career I was unable to leave the town that held a cache of wonderful memories. A network of friends and the strong familiarity of Eugene I sought to extend the idealistic life. I accepted a job below my ability, and continued to live like I was still in school. Defiant of real responsibility I drank and played while my job received minimal deference. Beau was attending law school, and Josh was working as a chemist on the other side of town. Each one of us at a stop gap in life knowing the inevitable footfall of adulthood would come shortly. Our finite time was filled with football games, disc golf, beer, ladies, ultimate, laughter, and great conversations. We had formed a triumvirate of kinship that staved off the earnest decisions of our future. Together we were invulnerable...we were good. I was happy.
A swell emotions caught in my throat as I watched a member of our triad depart from the reverie. The glow of the ideal life waned. Although Josh and I stayed close we knew there had been a loss. Inextricably Josh and I would be drawn into the current. I quit my job and took on another position with higher pay and responsibility. Josh was accepted to medical school. Our triumvirate was splayed by distance and constraints of life. We left behind our fading youth to face a new set of challenges. A current of unmade decisions that run into a distant, unknown horizon.

On that cool August night bathed in an orange luminescence I stared sullenly at the surreal lake. The current could no longer be ignored. It was the end of summer.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Wood Village

I sigh as cram my wide feet into my beaten up sneakers, and survey my selection of coats. The Oregon winter can belch out any weather condition within a given day. This makes the task of choosing the correct coat a science of calculating temperature, precipitation, and wind speed. Thankfully, American companies, such as Northface and Columbia are there to remove the guesswork with a dizzying array of provocatively named color coordinated jackets. Swaddled in the synthetic fiber I feel all variables are accounted for, even barometric pressure and dew point. I gage the level of grayness outside and choose an appropriate color. Today I choose "Dark Tundra" because it's the only thing more barren and gray than the Oregon sky. I grope my left buttock for my wallet. Check. My front right thigh for my cell phone. Check. I quietly exit the house and lock the door behind me. I take a moment to reflect on the weather. Perhaps I should of put on my “Papaya” windproof fleece. It's another Tuesday, and I'm going to Wood Village.
If I am to be spending any length of time in a location I would prefer to know a little background. This research project brought me to the woefully drab home page of Wood Village. The words on the site contain no self worth. Even the Chamber of Commerce admits its citizenry is better served by its neighbors. Wood Village is an unimpressive town with an equally unimpressive history. It was built as a company town for Reynolds Aluminum in 1942, and incorporated in 1951. The Reynolds plant is closed, and has been for some time. The town is a concrete stain of a community on the southern bank of I-84, wedged between East Portland and Troutdale. One small interesting detail is that despite its name and a population of 2,900, Wood Village is classified as a city. It also has a park.

I motor through two of three lighted intersections in this “village” and pull into the Multnomah County animal shelter. Since the beginning of December our temperamental cat, Whiskey, ran away from our abode. Sadly, he has not chosen to return. This has spurred an extended campaign of feline finding through bitterest winter weather Portland has experienced in the last decade. Losing a pet is an experience that runs you through an emotional gambit. Angered at his audacity to run away. Tentative hope that he'll make his way back in the next few days. Depressed that he has not returned in hoped for time line. Resigned that he'll never make it back. Seeing as this is one of many trips to Wood Village I'm at the last stage.

I walk into the malformed public building and begin searching the bulletin board for a few key words: American Shorthair orange/white neutered male cat. There's only one orange/white cat, but it's female. Next depressing task is to go over a small black binder containing information on DOAs...dead on arrivals. Nothing here. I stand in line to ask the staff about recent arrivals. The assorted sounds of animals and humans assault me as I watch the G.E.D. office staff struggle with basic requests. It's too warm in here with my jacket on, and I can feel an unpleasant dampness growing in the small of my back. Irritated with the wait I begin to fidget with my phone. The staffers and customers are shouting through the thick glass barrier that separates them. I pondered on the necessity of the bullet proof Lucite. While I was mulling this over it was my turn to slur words through the barrier asking about recent arrivals. Not willing to accept the responsibility of being wrong the staffer turns to her coworkers. The staff speak quickly over a casting of chicken bones to dredge up the answer to my inquiry. Reassured by the group's decision, she returns to me with a smile to tell me that no cat fitting that description has come in. A frustrating answer to get based on the amount of time it took, despite the smile. I fumble for my keys and make my way out of the shelter.

The time at the shelter took too long and I was more frustrated than usual. To ease my emotional state I decided to reward myself with a lunch out on the town...I mean city. Thankfully this little city has delectable spread of restaurants...a Quizno's, Taco Del Mar, and Yazzi's. My general distrust of fish tacos and Greek truck stops greatly reduced my choices. American food chains always appeal to my inner economist because they deliver an expectation. They don't create ostentatious meals that challenge my taste buds or cooking ability. They promise a consistent experience of mediocrity from coast to coast within minutes of ordering. I made my way to Quizno's. I ordered a sandwich meal combo (#5) for $6.99, which was made by a nonplussed crew of high schoolers. As I gaze at the rivulets on the window I count my cadence of bites. Two flatbread sandwiches, 5 bites a piece. Chips, 11 bites. Soda, 15 standard gulps. Approximately $0.19 per mouth full. More expensive than I wanted, but it delivered the expectation. On gulp #7 I look past the asphalt wasteland to Yazzi's Bar & Grill and wonder if I missed out on Wood Village's only local eatery. The design of the building, and a classy sign using the 'Y' as a martini glass reminisces of a happier time in 1983. I conjured images of worn booths made of cracked vinyl, outdated carpet far from the original color, despondent staff, and a film of grease from their fry-a-lator which has been running since opening day. Perhaps I have not missed a thing. I complete my meal in order of chips, sandwiches, and soda. I refill my soda and leave.

The route back always seems to take less time. It may be the increase in traffic into Portland that produces an illusion of rush or my desire to leave. Wood Village has concentrated all the emotions of a lost pet owner in the span of an hour. Anger that I have to go all the way to Wood Village. Tentative hope that I may find Whiskey out there. Depressed when he's not there. Resigned to come back to Wood Village next Tuesday. In either case it's Tuesday and I went to Wood Village.

Monday, January 5, 2009

On Writing

It's January 5th, and my new resolution is already beginning to wane. Late last year I excitedly promised myself that I was going to start blogging. I began to formulate a series postings, inspired by brief musings. Aside from the original flash point of inspiration I have little to back it up. My series of postings turn into glib lines of speculation. When left with the condensed material I began to wonder if it's original, thought provoking, funny, mildy offensive, or worth saying. After several cycles through it is little surprise that I end up not writing a single thing. Like the years prior it seems that 2009 was going to pass with another empty promise.

I've always believed that a resolution was merely a commitment to do better. How can one commit to do better when one has never started? I suppose starting is better than nothing. As the prospect of writing began to dim I decided to revisit the term resolution. The definition of resolution(amongst several) is the act of resolving. To be resolute is to be of firm determination. Therefore I am firmly determined to resolve my inability to write.

I will appreciate patience as I set off on this ruined road. I hope that the journey will become smoother as I get better. I thought it would be easier to convey my jumbled thoughts into words, but if it was I wouldn't need a resolution.