I was cooking dinner tonight and a vivid memory, from 1993, came flooding over me, from when I was living with my boyfriend Don.
He was working as a dishwasher at Hamburger Mary's during the day and playing bass at night, and I was working at some dead-end thing, I think I was doing data entry and teaching a preschool class on Sundays for the Quaker church.
Don was younger than me, by a year and extremely naive, having devoted his whole being to jazz music and not much else.
He also came from a nice family.
He was not what anyone would call worldly at that time.
Don would come home with lots of colorful stories, because Mary's was a colorful gay bar and diner, the kind of place that generates a lot of FUN!
He also loved the soup that the new cook Gary made.
Don would come home and ask me to try to replicate the fabulous soup, made by Gary the morning cook.
One of these soups was a tomato with orange and basil.
I worked for weeks to try to duplicate that god damned soup, but could never quite get it to be as good as Gary's.
At some point it came up that Gary had recently got out of prison and didn't know very many people in Portland.
He came from somewhere in Idaho, or Montana, someplace small, without a lot of people around.
He was living close to us, in that shitty, narrow building that used to run along West Burnside and 26th.
A real dump.
A real roach motel.
I'd been to that building on several occasions, as it was a place that would rent to punk teens with sketchy employment.
So all the while Don is talking up Gary's cooking to me, he is also talking up my cooking to Gary!
Eventually, Gary invited us over to his place for dinner.
I brought acini di pepe with blue cheese, garlic and olive oil and arugula from our garden, and Gary was going to make the orange soup.
We walk down the windowless hall to Gary's place, and knock on the door.
The door opens and a tall super muscled dude wearing Docs, red, narrow suspenders and a white T-shirt opens the door.
His hair was slicked back and he had a hard look about him.
When he reached out to take my pasta, I noticed he had SKIN tattooed on his wrist.
We ate our food and bullshitted about cooking and then we left.
On our walk home I asked Don if he'd noticed Gary's tattoo.
At this time, Portland wasn't yet overrun with tattooed hipster, so it was mostly counter culture types and bikers, that had ink.
"Isn't that the funniest and most ironic tattoo ever? I mean SKIN! His skin is tattooed with the word SKIN!"
I gently explained the suspenders, the shoes and what SKIN stood for, while Don looked at me like I had killed a puppy.