Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Mother's Day weekend of 1984, I stayed over at a small apartment in downtown Lake Oswego.

My mother was living there temporarily with my brother, while she waited for the lease to run out on the house she owned a few miles away.

She had been renting out the house, while we all lived with her boyfriend in Dunthorpe, but that whole arrangement had gone slowly south, and now my mother and my brother were here in a dumpy little rental, while I stayed on with the boyfriend and his cat and one of his daughters.

It was an odd time of flux.

I was just over sixteen and weary of change.

I liked the house.

The cat was fine.

The boyfriend was teaching me to cook in a more sophisticated way than my own family had.

My mother was away at her army reserve weekend, and I was staying at her tiny apartment, writing a paper on Marx, seated cross legged in front of an Ethan Allen coffee table that was way out of scale for the room.

I know this, because there is a snapshot of me, hard at work, with a severe bi level haircut, long swoopy forelock across half my face.

The photo was snapped by the older daughter of the boyfriend that was living here and there and occasionally with my mother.

In the photo, I am wearing a frayed Brooks Brother's oxford, with the sleeves cut off at the elbows, a blue sweater vest, and enormous silver moon earrings, and I have about 6" of silver bangles on my left arm.

I have on blood red lipstick and a great deal of green eyeshadow.

I look like a child playing dress up.

I am making a face my mother would call a frown, and that would be called resting bitch face, today.

At some point in the evening my friend Chris phoned to say he was coming over.

As it turned over he was coming over by freight train, from downtown, which was a thing that you used to be able to do back then, hitching a train from downtown to Lake Oswego.

It was a very dirty and dangerous thing that we used to do.

He arrived covered in soot, with a fellow I didn't know, named Colin.

My friend Dom worked a few blocks away at a Chinese diner, at the time, waitressing.

I called the diner and asked her to come over.

We all decided to walk up to meet her halfway.

The fellows were absolutely filthy, so I suggested cleaning up.

Chris adamantly refused, due to some attachment to either his leather jacket, or the notion of cleaning up being an affront to punk rock.

I went to work looking for something clean to put on Colin and in my search, came across our mouse costume.

My mother made the costume for me in 6th grade, out of pinstripe flannel, but because I had shunned food for several years, it still fit.

Colin put the mouse costume on, because it seemed like a perfectly reasonable thing to do at the time, and we all set out to meet Dom after work.

One soot covered leather jacketed boy

One in a mouse costume

And me.

We met Dom and she suggested getting beer.

I am now and was then very risk adverse, so the notion of procuring beer made me queasy, so we split up, with Chris and Dom heading out to shoulder tap, while I went back to the apartment with Colin to wait.

We waited, and waited and waited and waited.

We waited a very long time.

Eventually hours later they returned with beer.

It turns out they had walked to the 7-11, followed by a stray dog.

As they sat in the parking lot waiting for someone to buy them beer, the owner of the dog showed up.


He was so happy to have his dog back that he bought them beer and offered them a ride back to my place.

He just had to make one stop along the way.

The one stop turned out to be at his drug dealer's place.

They thought it would be a in and out type of deal, but the drug dealer was getting a haircut in his kitchen from his sister, and it took a while.

Eventually the dog guy did make good on his promise and drove them back to the apartment.

At that point it was very late and we realized that there was no real food in the house.

Chris set about pouring all of the condiments into a frying pan and mixing them together and eating them.

A sort of giant mustard and pickle omelet.

There rest of us sort of lost our appetites after that.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

I went to an awards dinner last night, where my son was honored, along with eight other seniors.

Eight in the state of Oregon.

He had been nominated for a college prep program his sophomore year, and we learned last night that the nomination came from two different teachers.

This program is unique because it reaches out to children that have a sort of X factor, something special that a teacher sees, rather than just grades, or the predictable jock angle.

Students apply for the two year program, and the chosen folks meet weekly to form a plan.

A master plan for how they are going to be successful in college.

Sound simple, but my goodness, what I would not have given for any kind of guidance at that age.

In addition to strategic planning, they were supported in applying for grants and scholarships, given field trips to colleges and coached on the etiquette of being successful.

Maxwell is was born diplomatic and eloquent, but this program helped point him in the right direction, in ways that I, raised by a pack of wild corndogs when it came to college prep, could never have done.

Two years is a long time for a teen to stick with something, particularly something as boring as these meetings surely were, but he did and in the end he got a $6000 scholarship, but more importantly, he will have on going support for four years, from the advocate that runs the program.

One of the very best pieces of this whole experience, is that each child was plugged into a project that was uniquely suited to their skill set.

Maxwell was able to do an internship with the city of Milwaukie, and fell in love with urban planning and the notion of local politics.

Instead of flipping burgers this year, he was making $15/hour working at city hall, and more importantly, making connections.

Mark and I have worked with him extensively to make sure he makes good choices, does well in school, feels supported, has enriching experiences, but we can use all the help we can get.

While so many people I know have the wheels falling off with their teens, I feel like we have had an amazing experience parenting him through high school and that he can have reasonable expectations for a bright future.  

Thursday, May 4, 2017

I recently watched The man in the high castle, which is a dystopian two season series based on a Philip K. Dick story.

I really liked the first season, the acting was excellent and the story was fascinating-   what if Germany and Japan had won WWII?

The story took place in 1955/1963 (sort of a vague time travel vibe) and demonstrated both institutional  oppression and man's drive for independence beautifully.

My friend Steve said seeing all of the displays of swastikas was disturbing, but naturally that was the whole point.

Many people are comparing the show with our current political shitshow, which I think is absurd.

Both the Nazi's and the Japanese ran their respective parts of the conquered US with great precision-

Oppressive as fuck?


Crumbling infrastructure and toxic drinking water ?


I would liken our current political situation more to Dr Strangelove, or may Jerry Lewis' Cinderfella.

Anyway, I continue to keep my garden loppers sharp in the event the reinstate the draft, and I need to remove a toe from either of my babies.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

I took Mark to see Patton Oswald for his birthday.

He is turning 50, a big one, and impossible to buy for, and experience gift seemed like the way to go.

My friend Barb was shopping for gifts for her husband over Christmas, which made my heart catch a little.

I cannot think of a single deeply meaningful gift, that I have ever given Mark ( and I am a really good gifter, usually).

He is just one of those people that buys himself the things he desires, and he is terribly unsentimental, so it makes him my great challenge and failure, which is doubly terrible, me being me and taking that sort of thing very seriously.

So when I read on Facebook that Patton Oswald was performing in May, in Portland, I snatched up those tickets like a crazy person.

I got one for Maxwell, too, since he just had his big, meaningful 18th birthday and comedy is something he shares with his father.

I was WINNING, as the slang goes.

I also bought a ticket for myself, which was highly unusual.

I am typically so frugal, so cheap, that we have in 20 years together rarely done things together.

In some ways my neurosis around money has been good.

We almost own our home outright.

We have no debt, and money in savings.

But in some ways it has been damaging to our relationship.

I am terrified of debt, homelessness, wreck, ruin, failure, that ominous rainy day you always plan for.


Living with real and imagined danger around every turn is wearing, and I know it has been hard on Mark to navigate my fear of spending money.

So this time I shocked him and went along and we had a terrific time.

I did not complain, or fret, I just went and even purchased a teeny plastic cup of $9 wine for me, and a $5 bottle of water for him.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

I buy coffee every morning at a small cafe near my house.

The coffee is much too acid for my taste, but I buy twenty ounces anyway, because I like to be supportive.

The cafe is on Foster, a street that needs a great deal of support.

The cafe is not very cute, despite some effort from the owner, a man I suspect is about my age, but looks older, with a bald head and an unfortunate beard.

He wears hats most of the time, felt fedoras beige and loden.

He is a darter and and lacks charm.

He parks wonky and makes it challenging for me to get in and out of the gravel parking lot.

The whole place is a small L shaped room, with a restroom tucked into the corner.

Homeless people try valiantly to use the restroom and the staff, grumble at them to purchase something.

I watch this exchange almost every morning.

There was a very large homeless camp in the large gravel parking lot, but a developer bought most of the lot last year and put up a chain link fence.

So now most of the campers are more covert, slipping under hedgerows after dark.

Foster is one of the last ungentrified stretches of old Portland.

A place with wide unencumbered streets with plenty of parking, and run down buildings, with interesting storefronts.

The inside of my charmless cafe, suffers from an identity crisis.

The tables look as though they were meant to sit outside in a beach town.

Round with orange mosaic tile.

The mosaic tile tables were no doubt purchased from a big box store and cheaply made somewhere with shameful human rights practices.

It is one of those things you can just tell about things.

There are pastries in a plexiglass case, which looks a little old, even at 6:45am.

There are also breakfast sandwiches, which people seem fond of.

Some mornings there are several people ahead of me, and two or three invariably order a sandwich.

Usually the ponytail guy and the mail carrier woman.

They may think of me as impatient, frumpy, red lipstick lady, or messy bun, zaftig, gal, who knows.

I always ask if I can cut ahead and grab just a coffee, and they always let me.

There are two fellows that work the counter, both named Andy.

I call the dark haired one Jimmy, because he looks like Jimmy from Quadrophenia.

The other Andy is tall and skinny and appears to cut his own blonde hair with clippers, and I think of him as Shawn, because he looks like my friend Shawn did in 1984.

They like to play jazz and I like to surprise them with a tiny bit of jazz recognition.

This morning Jimmy asked me again why I call him Jimmy and we had a nice laugh over Quadrophenia.

Jimmy is from Salem and plays in a band.

Shawn is from someplace more sophisticated and has the demeanor of someone that studied philosophy, or maybe comparative literature.

Shawn never greets me, but Jimmy always does.

I'm not really keen on sales people calling me by name, but coming from him, it feels ok.

He is just on the very edge of smarmy, but he pulls it off well.

We talk about the changing neighborhood often, and about food service, and a little about movies and music.

I have precisely the taste in movies, books and music that arty school drop out boys have, so it works well.