Monday, March 31, 2014

Free Weekend!

Well, I have just enjoyed the first weekend with nothing I was required to do for what seems like years.  (Hasn't been years -- we did have a snowed-in weekend -- but it seems like years!)  No class on Saturday, so I did not have to get up early and make a trip to the grocery store to buy bagels and cream cheese and juice and pastries and then out to Beaverton to get the coffee started and the classroom set up before class started at 9:30 am.  And I also did not have to get up early to get started driving the three hours up to Ocean Park, which is what I do on the one weekend a month when I don't do the previously mentioned.  So the main thing is this: I did not have to get up early.

Now of course we know that I cannot sleep late, ever, cannot wallow in luxurious bed til the cows come home, since my caffeine addiction will give me a very nasty headache if I do, but I can sleep about an hour longer than usual.  And so I did.  The alarm went off at its usual time, I turned it off and turned over, and went solidly back to sleep for an hour.  An hour!  

And then I made my coffee and schlepped around the house in my pajamas for a couple hours, not immediately showering and dressing as I usually do, and that was fun as well.  I spent most of the weekend in my pajamas, in fact, only taking a few quick trips to run errands and go to the library.  I pondered merely putting my long coat on over my pajamas, but I am not someone who can carry something like that off with any degree of savoir faire, and would merely have looked like a housewife who had lost all sense of appropriate behavior.  And the library and the grocery store are places I go to at least once a week.  They know me there!  Not like it was a 7-11 across from the motel on my trip across country, or anything. I mean.

I also spent most of the weekend in my chair.  In my pajamas and in my chair, ahh, bliss.  I watched a few movies, and read a few books, and ate a few crackers.  Graham as well as soda.  I even took an actual nap in my bed.  Soundly asleep.  One in the chair, too, just a little naplet.  Often happens when I have been reading for awhile.

I did, however, do the dishes and fold the clean towels and tidy up and make a strawberry-peach upside-down cobbler.  The house smelled glorious as it was baking.  I went and opened my door so my neighbors could all enjoy the smell.  If any of them had turned up looking hungry, then I could have shared!  But none of them did.  They haven't learned yet, but they will.

Monday, March 17, 2014

And I Would Give You Flowers, and My Time, and Me

Do you remember the days when I lived in this apartment before?  The seven years in the nineties that this was my address?  I was dating Keith, and then Dale, and then Lewis.  And my friends were Jill, and Alan, and Kelly, and Cagney, and James, and Jim.  Toward the end of the seven-year-stay, when I had broken up with Keith and had much more time on my hands, I started hanging out in James' apartment downstairs, watching M*A*S*H, and smoking pot and talking with James, and Jim, and Chris Corno, and Big Paul, and Christopher, and Carrie, and Laura.  And Christopher was almost always there, since he liked the company, and the pot-smoking.  And I was fond of him as well, since he was Myrtle-my-landlady's grandson, and so knew more about her than I did, and because he was charming and friendly and like a big puppy-dog in his willingness to please and to be pleased.  And because he talked very frankly about things like pot-smoking, which was always something I wasn't so familiar with, and I liked having his outlook laid open for me.

I remember one night, in James' apartment,  when Chris and I had been seeing a lot of each other -- always in the group that contained at least James and Jim, and usually several others, one of whom was usually sleeping with Christopher -- and James and Jim were in the kitchen.  I was sitting on the couch, watching something, and Christopher came in from the kitchen and threw himself at my feet.  He was mildly intoxicated, and very up.  Clasping my knees in his arms, he poured out a beautiful and poetic picture of what our life would be like if only I would marry him, how happy we would be to wake up together, how happy we would be to go to bed together, how happy our life would be to look up and see each other across the house we would so happily be sharing.  "I would give you flowers,"  he said, "And my time, and me!"

Though amused and flattered, I was also embarrassed, and had to flee, and our interactions were flirtatious from then on, even the time I ran into him on the street after my marriage.  He called out, "It's beautiful Beth!"  and looking up I saw Christopher, and we walked together for about six blocks while he told me what was going on in his life.

And that was the last time I saw him until I moved back into the building, some fifteen years later.  He no longer lives here, but his grandmother still does, and now his mother and brother do, too.  And he did not recognize me, and I walked past him on the stairs without recognizing him, but goodness, I really did when his mother called his name.  He is much better looking now -- his boyish puppy fat is gone, and he has cheekbones and deep set eyes, and the same dark curly hair that he always had.  But he is still the same happy-go-lucky guy who doesn't much care where the money he spends comes from as long as someone has a joint.  I'm guessing his mother doesn't like that very much.

So, yesterday, I was walking home from the T&P, whither I had once again been driven, as the library's w-fi was too feeble to permit me getting online, and it was a lovely, lovely, early Spring day, with bright high sun and robin's-egg sky, and a warm buoyant breeze, and I passed Seth, Christopher's older brother, who does live in the building, crossing the parking lot across the street.  We exchanged hello's as we passed one another.  He looks like his brother, and I always have a moment of confusion when I see him -- Christopher or not? -- and so Christopher was freshly in my mind as I opened the door and went in.  Linda, his mother, was in the hallway.

"Oh, Beth," she said.  "I don't know if you've heard.  My son Christopher died yesterday."

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Eye-witness News

Across the street from my morning bus stop, and above the Tavern and Pool that occupies the ground floor, are some apartment windows -- one of which is usually lit, in the mornings when I am there, and never curtained. Since I am looking up at it, I cannot really tell what sort of room it lights -- on the one hand, it is a bay window, and has three sides, so too big to be a kitchen, or even a bedroom, and it is at the front of the building, all of which argue for it being the living room -- but on the other hand, the room seems to have several different types of furniture and articles in it -- so perhaps it is what they call in England a bedsit?  Or one of those kitchens that has no walls dividing it from the rest of the apartment?  Maybe one big room, with a bed out of sight along the back wall, and a kitchenette in the right-hand corner?

In any case, this morning as I sat on the little bench under the roof of the shelter, I was looking up at the yellow rectangle, which had a curtain drawn back in the far left side, condensation along the bottom half of the middle section making the view blurred, and the right hand section being at the wrong angle to see through.  And I saw what looked like either a blurred outline of a man's head, or a shadow on the wall of a man's head.  But I could not tell what on earth the man was doing.  It looked as though he were crying in desperate sobs, with shaking shoulders and bobbing head, on and on.  I looked away for a moment, and then looked back, to see him raise his head and then drop it again and the "sobbing" continue.  

I was both sorry for him, and confused -- it was seven a.m. -- not usually the time to see someone overwhelmed by tears.  Unless this were a very depressed person, or possibly someone with mental difficulties... and then the large cat stopped washing itself and jumped down from the table it had been sitting on.  Its shadow grew and shrank as it moved, until it clearly delineated a cat, and then vanished.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Anyone Who Knows Me Well

You know what I need -- I need a small tape recorder that hangs around my neck or slips in my pocket -- so that when these lines cross my mind I can record them, and not merely repeat them to myself several times in admiration and then promptly forget them.  Don't think I have remembered a single one, when I was seated at a keyboard.  That's why it would be good to have a place to set up my computer so that it was constantly on.  Still wouldn't be as good as having a tape recorder, but.  Can't afford a tape recorder at the moment.  

And the thought of one gives me a moment of mixed negative feelings -- since a) I gave Michael I small handheld recorder back in the days when I believed (or at least almost believed)that he was writing songs and needed something to hum into; b) Dad lent me one when I told him about how Michael was trying so hard to make me think I was severely brain-damaged, and couldn't remember what I had just that minute said and done; and c) when I consulted it and showed Michael what I had just, in fact, said and done, he pitched a huge fit, and confiscated it.  So I was unable to return it to my father. 

Nonetheless, I would like a small handheld, voice activated tape recorder.  And some mini tapes.

This is Saturday, noonish, and I already feel as though my holiday has gone on and on.  The cheerful smack of pool balls momentarily lifts my spirits, but I am feeling a weird combination of bored and lonely. Not that I AM bored -- I really am not.  Been enjoying myself in my solitude -- but it is a recognizable part of the feeling I have that makes me want to get my coat on and go out into the snow.  I called Ruthie yesterday and today, and that helped me a great deal -- and I feel as though I am going to accomplish all sorts of stuff in the time that I have left.

Unlikely as that may seem to anyone who knows me well.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

More Than I Deserve

It's been a lovely weekend so far.  I'm currently sitting in a comfortable booth at the T&P, waiting for the burn to die away in my lips and tongue, so I can think about ordering something sweet to eat.  I had a few little soft tacos and the Sriracha I sprinkled on didn't affect me until after they were gone.  I'm drinking clean, crisp, sweet and orchard-y apple cider -- so delicious -- and watching people stroll by, all of them squinting in the excessively brilliant sun.  Yesterday and today were both very, very bright.

(The Pogues!  How long has it been since I've heard the Pogues, when I wasn't playing them?)

Across the street, the usual crowd is standing outside Besaw's -- a perfect example, if any were needed, of the public's bovine natures.  Probably half of them have never been there before, but they've heard the name for so long, and the cachet of being one of NW Portland's oldest restaurants has brought them driving in from Gresham and Bethany and Fariview.

And when I think back to the first time I ate at Besaw's --twenty years ago -- and the only customers were some aged, deeply wrinkled little men drinking at the bar, and the cook was a heavily tattooed, skinny, black- haired man with track marks -- makes me shake my head!

Been watching "Fringe" all over again -- just finished the third season before I came over here -- and last night I went to bed at about ten-thirty,  feeling pleased that I hadn't allowed the seduction of that show to keep me up to any ridiculous time.  Woke up at about six, and was thinking about what the plan was for today, and it suddenly hit me like an ice-cold water balloon --I had left my car in the library parking lot overnight!  It was only allowed to be there until library closing, which on Saturday night is six pm!  So it had been there for twelve unauthorized hours, and this was in NW Portland, where not only is parking at a premium, but the people are, as a generalized whole, self-righteous and much given to reporting people parked somewhere they ought not to be.  I've seen that little meter-maid car out tooling around before dawn!  I threw my coat on over my pajamas, and without even wiping my eyes or straightening my slept-on hair, I rushed over there.  As I rounded the last corner, my relief at seeing the familiar blue lines of Beauty the Buick almost made me gasp aloud.

I also made it back to my apartment without running into anybody, or seeing a single soul, except for the driver of a car.  Which is more than I deserve!  Whew!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Michael Orville Estes

I was just reminiscing about Prairie people, specifically from my freshman year – the friends I made just as a result of being in the same place they were.  Not because they were friends of some other friend, or sister, or roommate.  Not because they wanted to date me, or Ruthie, or Roseanna, or Kelly. 

That was the best year of the three years I was there – there was no pressure.   I felt protected by my older sister’s presence, even though we shared no classes and rarely ate meals at the same time.   I wonder, now, if that was the cause of my terrible, mind-losing insomnia, my junior year – pressure from others, instead of from the school itself.  I was trying to be too many things to too many people – and at the same time trying to hide the person I was to person A, from person B, since I knew they would not approve.  What a coward I was!  Afraid of everything, and resenting others for having to be their version of me, to them.

Anyway – Shannah (my very first Prairie friend) had sent me an e-mail with pictures attached – one of which was of me and Mike Estes on the beach – my skirt is wet, and Mike is half buried in sand – and I paused and gave some time to thinking about Mike.  He was a really good guy – I had no fault to find with him, save that he did not light my fire.  And yet I had no idea how to behave towards him, to let him know that I did not “like” him.  I was just as friendly as was allowed, and when he wrote me letters – awkward, staggering letters at about a fourth grade level – I responded with real letters and candy and baked goods sent to him in boot camp – he brought me a stuffed fox and I named it Foxibus and kept it on my bed for years – I’m afraid I behaved just like a conservative, small-town Christian girl who intended to marry someone would have behaved.  But I did not know how else to be.  And no one ever mentioned it to me, no one found any fault with my behavior,  no one said  anything about it to me – I’m sure my parents thought I might, in fact, marry him, but we never mentioned it to one another.

So, I was thinking that I really owed the poor guy an apology for my ignorance and my unintentional leading him on.  I mean, he made the trip from Spokane down to Cannon Beach just to see me for an afternoon.  (I wouldn’t let him put his arm around me on that occasion, so perhaps that told him I wasn’t interested…?  but probably not.)

So I began looking for him, first on Facebook, (my goodness, hundreds of Mike Esteses! But none of them that blonde, square-faced young man with the wide space between his front teeth) and then on Google.   And on the first page of my search for Mike Estes – Army -- Washington, I got this headline:  Sheriff's Deputy killed in the line of duty.

Oh, my god.  And it was him.  Michael Orville Estes.  At age 43, so only about five years ago.  Responding to a 911 call, his car was broadsided by a semi-truck.  The only Walla Walla sheriff’s deputy to be killed in the line of duty.  Merciful heavens.

Dead.

I mean, really dead.  As in dead.



Is he the first one of my Prairie friends to die?  I will have to ponder that for a bit, but I think he really might be.  Marshall got brain cancer, but he recovered.  Daniel was in a car accident, but he is more or less okay.  Dave survived malaria.    I had a brain hemorrhage, but here I still am.  Mike Estes.  First death.  Wow.


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Opting for the Auto

Well, it's a lovely morning, in that good old Pacific Northwest way -- overcast sky, still a deep purply blue, fresh dampness to the air, though no rain falling, wet pavements shining gold and lavender in the reflected lights.  When I stepped out my door this morning, the familiarity of this lifted my soul with a physical lift that I could feel in my chest.  Ahh, home!

Which is probably why I wasn't annoyed or dismayed to realize, just as I rounded the corner, that I had forgotten to get my new pack of bus tickets the previous night.  I had gotten off the bus, thinking, "Stop at the library, then at Food Front, then home,"  (isn't it lovely to live so closely with one's need-suppliers?  Both of these things between my bus stop and my door!)  and I did make the library stop.  But when I came out, I was passing St. Honore's bakery, and my eye and appetite were caught.  I went in and bought a blueberry tart (note to self: don't buy that again) and a small bag of chouquettes, which I ate with great satisfaction -- and passed merrily by Food Front, without it tickling the smallest response in me.

But, as I say, I wasn't even remotely distressed by this, merely pondering whether I should ride the bus and pay cash, and then try to get some more cash somewhere to make the trip home, or simply drive.  And I opted for the auto.