Monday, May 26, 2008

Portland Pic Parade

Not that you asked for them, but here they are anyway!

First up: A trip down memory lane... or Sandy Boulevard, at least, home to the Hollywood Theater, where I worked in a variety of jobs from ages 15-17, including as a projectionist, where I ruined such films as "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" and "The Land Before Time":

The obligatory Mt. Hood shot (by Ryan, who snickered every time someone said "Mt. Hood"). When it's clear, the view of the mountain from so many parts of the city is really breathtaking. I'd forgotten that...

The obligatory Mt. St. Helens shot, done in a not-so-obligatory way. You can get better shots of the slumbering volcano but Ryan opted to take this from Forest Park northwest of downtown, looking out over the industrial part of the city:

The third "mount" image, this time, part of Mt. Tabor park--an extinct volcano in the middle of the city. Also scene of numerous days and nights for me in high school, sometimes sober, sometimes not (again by Ryan):

Mt. Tabor graffiti that makes no sense and yet made me laugh anyway:

I'd forgotten the dappled effect of sun through the giant fir trees. I know I've been in California too long when these trees seem so awe-inspiring. The nice thing is that they kept the sun off us in the near 100 degree heat...

Of course, Portland is not all natural beauty and sun filtering through trees. In fact, it's not even always about good food. Then again, there could be good food here. We didn't find out (and I couldn't believe it was still there):

But the real fun was seeing everyone I hadn't seen in a while, including (in order here): Jill, Susan, and Kathleen, with whom we both look shiny and hot, since it was 100 degrees and we'd had beer...

And, of course, Ryan... who so graciously posed next to this tavern in (as we like to say) "Deep Southeast"...not far from the estate sale that had room after room of clown art in it:

But I wouldn't want you to think that Portland is all about clown art, bad diners, and worse taverns. What would The New York Times write about if that was true? So, here, here's some more prettiness to cap it off:

Thursday, May 22, 2008

On How I Was Never Cool

Yes, my trip made me miss Portland. No, I'm not sure if I want to live there again.

Until about 20 minutes ago, I wasn't convinced I'd write much about this too short vacation. But I just realized I have been feeling totally nostalgic for 1991 after seeing a bunch of old high school friends. Simultaneously, Portland brings out something maudlin in me. It also makes me want to run into the forest and disappear. I am not entirely sure this is such a good idea, so I tend to stick to the city proper.

It seems to amaze a number of people that I am still in touch with so many people from high school. I mean, it's not like I send emails to everyone in my graduating class, but I still stay in touch with about 6 people, which I guess in some circles is 6 too many.

What was so fascinating to me on this trip is that it coincided with so many pretty significant moments in my friends' (and my own) lives: Susan's birthday, Jill's getting herself back on her own two feet after a divorce, Kathleen celebrating completing her doctoral dissertation in Indiana, back in Portland to have a party with family and friends. This doesn't even take into account my seeing my entire family, including my brother, whom I'd not seen since he first got sober back in 2006 after being missing for nearly two years.

Throw me and Ryan into this mix and you can begin to imagine the swirl of activity. Five days was hardly enough time to do much of anything but drink some great beer, eat some fantastic food courtesy of Lissa and Tom, on whose floor we were crashing, and try to escape the insane heat that didn't break almost until we left.

Stripping away the day-to-day excursions and estate sales we perused (oh how I wish I could have taken pictures of the house in which there was almost nothing but clown paraphernalia like paintings and masks EVERYWHERE--not to mention a giant koi pond; Belle claims she had no idea I really hated clowns that much before she took us there), I was left with a fair amount of amazement at these people I've known for 20 years who have grown into such funny, smart, engaging adults. There's an aspect of it that's completely terrifying. None of them ever knew my dad, for example, as he was already dead by then. They know a segment of my life that feels like it's still unfurling.

I was especially cognizant of this the second night I was there. It was still hot out, even though it was nearly 10 p.m. and the sun had finally set. The full moon was rising and Kathleen, myself, her girlfriend, Amy, and their two friends were hiking up to the top of Mt. Tabor park, a nearly 700 foot tall hill in the middle of Portland that was once a volcano. It was the scene of many nights in high school, including one memorable January evening during which I parked my 1974 orange Ford Maverick in the rain in the park and Kathleen drank a bottle of champagne while I downed bottles of beer. Our friend Geoff was there as well, as drunk as we were. At one point, the cops came driving down the park road and we panicked, the windows of the car more fogged up than they already had been. So, in our 17 year old minds, the best thing to do was simply lay down across the bench seats, alcohol still in hand, and hope that they didn't get out to look.

What they did do was slow way down and scan a spotlight across the length of my car, twice, while the three of us held our breath, whispering to each other to not move and trying not to completely freak out. Maybe it was only because it was pouring rain, they did not stop, and we sat up, petrified, drunk, and wet with perspiration. And then what did I do? Drive home? Why, yes, I did. Oy.

Kathleen was telling our assorted audience members about this as we trekked past the exact spot, which was within spitting distance of her parents' house and she said, "Mikel was so cool in high school." Which made me choke on the water I was drinking.

"No, I wasn't," I protested. "I had bad clothes, a near 4.0 GPA, and horrible hair. Not to mention I was a flaming homo who couldn't come out of the closet!"

What could she possibly be thinking?

"But you smoked," she countered. "And drove an awesome car! And your mom sometimes let us drink in your house!"

We caught each other's eyes and cracked up, again perspiring on Mt. Tabor, nearly 20 years later, under totally different circumstances.

"I'm glad someone thought I was cool," I said. Then, to everyone but Kathleen: "But I really wasn't."

And it's true. But despite the bad hair and geeky drive to be perfect in school, I had friends like these--when I was both drunk and sober, I might add. Looking at Kathleen, then, the two of us older, a bit grayer in the hair, yet still able to laugh with each other, I figured things have to happen for a reason, right? Without her and the rest of them I'd never be where I am now, that's for sure.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

News to You... and Me

This is making me entirely too happy today.

No News Is Good News

More once I'm back from the Pacific Northwest.