The Curious Girl Under Glass
“Remain true to yourself, but move ever upward toward greater consciousness and greater love! At the Summit you will find yourselves united with all those who, from every direction, have made the same ascent. For everything that rises must converge.” - Pierre Teilhard de Charden’s “Omega Point”, which could have just as easily been written about a most beloved city in the Pacific Northwest-- Stumptown.
When flying into Portland’s International Airport, there are two things you can be certain of: 1. That the air around you will generally be at least 20 degrees cooler than the location you departed from, and 2. That you will feel as if you have just entered a 1980’s carpeted shopping mall and that you have somehow beaten the time-space continuum by traveling backwards rather than forwards. As humans, we tend to believe that time is a concrete ideal; a tangible reality that brings forth structural significance in our daily living. But when you step off that plane for the first time (or the second, or the last), you will feel as if you are partaking in just a fraction of time, as the world spins effortlessly on its axis in its rapid movement.
Sometimes I feel like I am always running away from something. I just can’t seem to escape the complexities of human relationships that bring me to their bidding. I want to believe I can transcend these things; to rise above the fallacies of temporal cogency that time and time again tends to test my very will. The reality of this is never simplistic in assumption; there is always room for blundering introversion and despicable controversy.
After standing at the baggage terminal for a while, my bags finally made it around the conveyor, with labels stating “Jen Elliot” scrawled in half-hidden cursive with an even less intelligible address written thereafter. It is times like these that I feel rather nomadic-- as if I might join the natives in a round of hunting and gathering and go live in a buckskin yurt or a cave out in the middle of the woods somewhere. The inevitable times of change tend to bring out the more animalistic qualities in me; the ones that cause me to revert to some facet of my former self long lost in the concrete wilderness of $5.35 chai lattes, weekend trips to IKEA, and long nights in dive bars wishing I was somewhere or something else.
Brightly colored posters, reminiscent of the Bauhaus era, are staring at me in their laser-printed exuberance, telling me to “Shop. Dine. Fly PDX.” I don’t even bother pulling the departure schedule for the TriMet or reading every fine detail. I already know where I am going. As I push my way through the gate to board the railcar, the summer air hits me so suddenly to the point that it is almost nauseating. I adjust my bags in the candy-colored fiberglass seat next to me and watch as the world whizzes past me in a flurry of greens and yellows, with the occasional white and grey of the looming clouds about me.
I close my eyes and put my headphones on, feeling the low rumble of the railcar as it slides its way across an electric wonderland of lightrails through the Cascades. As we round a corner, the car slows and squeals as it rearranges itself on the tracks. Overhead, the announcements blur, one into the other, stating that we are in a fare-free zone. I lean on my elbows, absentmindedly thumbing through songs on my iPod, waiting for the twenty-eight minutes that would pass before I would reach my final destination. The other passengers seem equally wrapped up in their own states of ennui. It crosses my mind to ask them where they are from, or where they are headed to, but instead I try to decide between listening to Beach House or The Monitors. It is a tough decision, so I opt for silence instead and get lost in the narrow hum of the lightrail as we skid along to our next stop.
As the spruce trees rise and fall around me in rapid succession and my journey takes me alongside I-5, I feel as if I am standing on some monumental precipice of lethargy. What started as a chance to reignite my adolescent life has become an attempt to replace the imbalances that convoluted my adult life. I turned twenty-five about three months ago and the inertia of my existence up until then has weighed very heavily on me. I have never been much of a champion of my own complacency, for the story of my life is one of wonderful events and painful regrets. On the plus side, the stagnation of mediocrity is only partial to my subsistence. On the negative, I feel constantly plagued by the doubts of others and by my own internal infatuation with societal meanderings.
I thumb through my copy of Flannery O’Connor’s Everything That Rises Must Converge relating my journey to Julian’s and how apathetically inconsistent human morality is. How, much like now, we still relate to others with a marked disinterest or indifference, unless they have something to offer us. Although some of her writing is rather reclusive, I like O’Connor. In comparison, I can say she and I have much more in common than I would ever want to admit. I start thinking about her work being published posthumously; wondering if it is a disappointment to have your work so overlooked while you are alive and prized after you are no longer around to receive the recognition for it. The car slows and passengers are exiting. I grab my bag and walk onto the cobblestone near Skidmore. From there, I begin my wayward descent to Burnside, past dilapidated factories, pizza parlors, and the Salvation Army. I stand on the bridge for a while, taking in the scent of licorice and sea air that has filtered in from the coast, while watching the tiny tugboats bobbing like little ducks in the water below.
Sometimes I feel as if I never left. There is sort of a peculiar feeling when one is coming home to Stumptown. It is the inert equivalency of seeing a good, old friend that you haven’t seen in almost a year. It is awkward for the first few seconds as you get your bearings, but suddenly you pick up where you left off and it seems as if you never really vacated the friendship. Or maybe the aunt or uncle that you were close to while growing up is now racked with cancer and you want to spend every waking hour attending to them and counting those precious hours that you have left. That is how I feel about Portland. It is a subdued homecoming, yet a powerful force of nature all the same. I walk past Hippo Hardware, my shoes cracking the tranquility of the block, thudding against the empty crevices of construction below my feet. The world is changing in its slow-as-snails pace and I am but a fleeting moment in time; the sound of feet on pavement as the world evolves and devolves around me.
Standing at the crosswalk, I walk with strangers with a malleable fate. We smile vaguely at one another; the end result being an ambiguous posting on Craigslist’s Missed Connections for the “hipster chick in the green dress” or a vague description of my glasses martyred for all the city to see in a rapid inflection of words upon a computer screen. Many times in my life, especially now, I feel like I am missing the connectivity that I used to reject for fear of vulnerability. I want to believe that there is someone or something more prominent in my life, but I am lost in my own thoughts these days. My emotions rise and coalesce like some furtive scheme, lacking the substantial sequences that used to keep me in check during more lackadaisical procedures. I see an advertisement for Lazybones, a friend’s eclectic brewpub, and it further confirms the fact that I am back “home” in a philosophically Yo La Tengo way.
I pass by an old friend that now works at Simpatico and we exchange phone numbers, although it is likely that we will probably not get in touch until months later when we run into one another again at random. Technology is such a commonplace diversion at times. Even with all of the best intent in the world, we are failures at relating to people on the intrinsic levels that we yearn to. Instead, we make superficial alliances based on what we perceive as being a “good person” and doing “good things” or seeing oneself reflected in the eyes of another. They are a blessing and a curse-- these social deviants and useless coercive palindromes in the absence of true logical rhythm.
When I get to his apartment, I loosen the key from the tiny crevice we always have hidden it in with a deft movement and proceed to unlock the door. The stagnant air (for lack of air conditioning) hits me and his dog greets me eagerly, carrying the present of a shoe or other inanimate object of some sort. I pet Gage and run my fingers through his coarse fur, as we both crash on the couch. I’m so tired that I don’t even bother locking the door. I curl up on the 1970‘s velour floral couch that smells like a cross between mothballs and old pizza and I wake up to the television on some sort of cable access show, although thankfully the volume is low but audible.
Derrick is eating a bowl of pasta and is propped on the couch next to me, in his boxers and an old ratty Bad Brains shirt that I could have sworn I threw out three years ago. We don’t date anymore, he and I, for a multitude of reasons, but we have always made good roommates and partners in crime. I yawn sleepily and he proceeds to masticate the pasta into a fine pulp before asking me about the events (or lack thereof) of my flight from Philly. He didn’t bother asking me about my father, and I was glad. I wasn’t quite ready to talk about all of that with him yet, honestly. I don’t think the shock of the funeral had really quite worn off, even though I knew it was an inevitable part of life. I didn’t even cry this time. I just stared gravely off into the sunny graveyard and pretended I was in an old film and that none of it was real; that I would go back to his house later that day and he would be there, watching boxing matches on thrifted cable and eating four-day-old potato soup.
Even after my flight west, I still expect my phone to ring and to hear my father on the other end, coughing and hacking away and telling me how great life is, despite the obvious limitations for him. I knew I would gradually adjust to this obvious change in my circumstances, but for right now I felt predominantly listless. I felt cold, so I grabbed a blanket and looked out the cracks of the blinds to see the sun dimming its lights as it arranged for its finally nightcap before descending into the rugged terrain of houses on Mt. Tabor. Derrick pours me a shot of whiskey and fills me in on the various happenings of our mutual friends. Since we talked almost daily when I was away, there wasn’t too much to go over, but I enjoyed the little dramas that he had stashed away for my return. He is tired, too, so we curl up in bed with Gage between us and fall asleep for a while. We have sort of settled into a slightly sexual living situation that is compartmentalized by our unabashed devotion to each other but also our personal need for independence from one another. So far, it has worked out. In the morning, Derrick stirs me with the robust flavor of coffee and we walk over to Safeway to get some much-needed supplies. Derrick left a bit later, hopping on his fixed gear bike to go make his rounds as a courier. I watched him ride off down our road and noticed that a canister of engineering drawings strapped to his back was fighting against the wind as he swerved around the corner and out of view.
I was able to get my old job back at Tabla, but I had a couple days to get situated. My old room was still in the disarray I left it in, so I spent a few hours organizing my few belongings and planning my next steps. I took the long way down to Laurelhurst Park, walking Gage, and we sat for a while in the grass, taking in the sunshine that rarely graces us with its presence. I decide to put my hair up in a bandana and watch the clouds for a while, feeling the warmth of Vitamin D surging through me. The air is so clean here that sometimes I forget what it was like where I lived before; although industry exists here, it is so much more regulated than the Northeast. The smokestacks and oil wells seem so far away now; almost as if in a dream. I breathe in the oxygenated air and read for a while, although Gage tugs at me restlessly from time to time as the squirrels scamper near us.
Later I find myself walking aimlessly, surveying the changes that had occurred while I was gone those few months. I watch the people‘s faces, enclosed inside tiny vehicles that pass by, while they converge upon insoluble dalliances that present them with a chance to make decisions that affect their daily routines. Will they turn left or right at this traffic light? Are they going to use a turn signal or are they just going to haul ass and go? I trudge along, peering into vintage shops and automotive repair places, hearing snippets of isolated conversations. I wonder if my conversations with others sound just as lifeless and generic as theirs do. I walk in a liquid fashion, right foot and then left foot, my internal compass leading me up towards the Steel Bridge and towards the inane mediocrity that is the Pearl District. Pella windows face me on a shiny, newly renovated building, complete with eco-friendly bamboo flooring and recycled fiber facing. I sit down for a while near a diner against a wall, my head just barely reaching the flood mark plaque on the brick from a major flood that happened a long time ago; long before I even existed. A police officer on horseback eyes me warily, and even though I don’t look like a felon or anything, I saunter innocently off towards Whole Foods and grab a container of Kombucha in retreat, in case that unpaid parking ticket comes back to haunt me.
Where did I go wrong? I often ask myself conceptually what I could have done to repair some of the things I was running away from. I have begun to feel like every time something worthwhile has happened to me, I have purposely alienated myself from situations in attempt to balance my cultivations and inclinations. Some days I wish I was like everyone else and did not feel everything on such an amplified level. Maybe it is just natural intuition, but the lines get crossed somewhere sometimes. I feel everything around me and can note the discrepancies in human behavior, but sometimes I invent discrepancies in order to compensate for my lack of control. It is the equivalent of having radar sensors all over everyone and everything, yet by not being able to truly experience things in their personal position, I can’t fully rectify what my perceptions are as realistic functions. Many people go through life feeling nothing at all, and some days I would rather feel nothing than feel everything coming at me all at once. Lines get crossed much more easily when you feel like you are in a constant state of emotional ADD and have to analyze the motives of others and their responsiveness in a variety of bodies and situations. Life often feels like a still life and I am in the middle of it, watching the scenic world surpass me in its indifference.
When I left my hometown back east for the first time, I uprooted myself from everything I knew and branched out into the Mississippi neighborhood with an open mind and a naive heart. A student of architecture, I would make the trek to PSU with dedication and regardless of the weather, I would walk there every day, fascinated by every little avenue of character that Stumptown was built upon. Now, I am a voyeur of people, taking in the creatures in their natural habitat, and watching how their environments stifle them or cause growth and impermanence. I have walked these streets so many times that I could name every speck of dirt, or tell you to the day when the last heavy rain was, or what houses used to be old shacks that were bought for less than $40k that have been doctored and priced as $300k homes now.
I have never been perfect. In truth, I have always been a little different; a little bit on the outskirts of the eminent degree of normalcy that a yuppie society produces. There is always an awkwardness resulting from remaining true to one’s self; a sort of defense mechanism against a Westernized society based on stress, drama, and perfectionism. I find myself getting older and retaining a sense of stagnancy with upward mobility, yet it is hard to face that old traditionalism is dead and we have to disconnect from what we perceive to be the reality that we were raised with: substantial integrity. When you aren’t true to who you are, every mirror you pass reflects your failures and vices. Your sins are etched so plainly on your face that you will find disgust in every action you make because it differs from who you are and where you need to be going. After living on the beaten path for a while, I learned things the hard way, and it took me several years to return to the reality that was quite elusive so long ago.
Miniature horses stand in a line on tiny patches of land and I find that it is afternoon now and I am sitting in Pioneer Park, watching someone reenact a play about some folks in the Kennedy administration. There are children running up and down through the stone levels that curve around me like the bands of a nautilus and the dry heat of the day makes me crave sustenance in the form of capitalism as I buy an iced coffee from corporate America. I beeline past Adidas and Doc Marten’s and the arid stench of old Indian food in a dumpster hits me as I round a corner to escape the heat. The alleyway is narrow, with nature overtaking the brick facades and colorful graffiti masking the imperfections of the old brick. I wonder how many sailors were shanghaied here in the old days and what happened to them when they reached the Asiatic coast. Did they raise families and retire to a sizable income? Did they become ill and perish? Did any of them ever learn the second language well or did they just retain enough to get by?
Rickshaws pass by as I walk onto a Chinese boulevard and I see the old whorehouses and buildings that seem to have eyes peering at me in a suggestive or suspicious manner. I recall all of the old westerns I used to watch when I was a kid and remember sitting on brown shag carpet that mirrored Europa only in inconsistency. The perverse fascination I had with foreign cultures seemed to stem from the unpredictable facets of existence experienced before absolute culture shock. A man blesses me from the shade of a tarp-like canopy, handing me a bookmark that he made just to give folks that he “felt an affinity with,” and I thank him before floating into endless parking lots and establishments that seem faceless and void of life.
I pass by another alley and I recall a night walking back from an old club off of Couch that doesn’t exist anymore, back when I lived off Williams used the bridges as a form of mapping out my drunken escapades. My friends and I used to cut up aluminum RC cola cans and place the faces of them around our PBRs so that we could walk the streets with them. It was pretty ingenious of us at the time, although probably not necessary since we rarely ever were approached by police officers. The events of that night run together now, but at some point I remember running through the sprinklers on the lawn at Union Square and making out with some nameless boy in an alleyway who I never saw him again to this day. But, for that moment, I was living and breathing in the intoxication of a city of limitless possibilities and it was in that very alleyway that I truly fell in love with Portland. This became an unofficial marriage that would last a lifetime.
Making my way back to the apartment, I walk by the bread factory and watch as the golden loaves run down the conveyor and are sliced by mechanical blades and thrown into flimsy plastic packages. The air is full of the smell of yeast and sucrose and I breathe in the aroma with a mixture of hunger and nostalgia. I walk past turquoise walls with perfectly aligned trees, poisonous berries hanging down from their limbs, enticing me to marvel at their infinitesimal perfection. I watch gas station attendants pumping gas while tourists bitch about having to stay inside their cars and I laugh, remembering that I, too, was aghast at this when I first came here.
Everyone here is living for the moment. It is an atypical wonderland for those of us that refuse to experience life through the realistic spectrum of black and white, but choose to live around a scale of pigments that harnesses the feelings of wonder and whimsy that exist in a child’s heart. The lack of definitiveness, the ever-changing multitudes of partially-part-time jobs, and hosts of other maladies are dwarfed in comparison by the feeling of freedom and the prospective potential for adventure and a love of aberrancy. It is a zeal for experience that holds us all in its talons, carrying us to destinations and exploits that we would have only dreamed about as we lived in the colorless void of media-induced civilization.
I see Allison working at her record store and I knock on the fiberglass until she smiles and rushes to greet me. We hug and make plans for drinks later that week. She places a stack of recently thrifted records in my hands and I look through them, inhaling the familiar scent of vinyl and mildew that often accompanies older treasures. The record store, with its handmade labels and endless variety of vintage Japanese Godzilla action figures invokes a certain feeling within me that I can’t quite place. Ally and I share a beer and I tell her about my father. As she has met him once or twice when he came out to visit, she is visibly floored by the news. Her aunt that she was very close to recently passed away, as well, so she knew where I was coming from. We then sat at the counter for a while in silence, listening to the Velvet Underground and talking about her upcoming wedding to a mutual friend.
When I came home, Derrick was already in the shower. I sat on the couch and flipped through the channels for a while, in zombie fashion, drinking a a glass of water. I was pretty hungry so I made a makeshift salad and checked my e-mail. Derrick informed me that a bunch of my old friends were going to join us at Doug Fir for dinner and drinks. I will be going there tomorrow morning as well for Crafty Wonderland in the basement of the lounge, and am pretty excited about it. I took a shower and changed clothes and sat in the backyard on my laptop for a while, pirating the “free” wi-fi from the neighbors upstairs. Their router is named “fuxalot” or something lame like that, so I don’t feel too bad stealing bandwidth from them. Lightning cracked overhead and within minutes the patio was drenched in rain and I was forced to move to the living room to finish reading the Willamette Week. I know it is probably pretty cliche, but they have some really good editorials sometimes and several of my friends are on staff at the creative department there.
I walked in the hallway to grab my jacket and saw all of our fantastic vintage religious relics plastered up on the wood paneling. Neither of us are very religious but Derrick has a rather abnormal preoccupation with Jesus (he sort of looks like him, actually, so that may have a lot to do with it.) Our apartment was built in 1962 and is nestled between a residential area and a commercial district, so our landlord is pretty cool with us painting or fixing things. The rent is a little steep, but a far cry from what we would pay in North Hills. We are almost on the outskirts of Gresham, but not really. I don’t like to claim that particular fact, anyway.
As the rain finally subsides, the air is moist and bustling with life once again. This time of year is my favorite because all the flowers begin blooming and the world is full of color and tends to strike me as exotic. Everything seems clean, the folks are friendly, and there are lots of festivals. Sometimes the traffic gets on my nerves during the festivities, but since I walk a lot it generally doesn’t bother me too often. When the fog begins to lift, the peak of Mt. Hood looms ominously over the city like Mt. Olympus, home of the Gods, although it actually looks more like Mt. Fuji. I keep reading about the supervolcano under Yellowstone so I am a bit wary of the mountains here in general, but they are magnificent all the same. It may sound weird but I really respect that mountain, like I have personified it as some ancient great-grandfather that tells some amazing stories about walking barefoot in the snow to school for 12 miles and having to get water from a spigot in the drylands and so on. He’s always bitching at us for spending our money frivolously on bottled water and wasting our money on the latest trends and I can’t say I blame him for it. He’s got some good points, that Grandpa Hood.
I think that when you go out west to the ancient forests, the immenseness of everything is almost overwhelming. Despite all of the logging that was done in Oregon and Washington, there are trees that are hundreds of years old that reach upward to the sky so high that you can only wish to see the tops. The mighty spruces, like the mountains, are so broad and tall that you immediately feel indebted to them in their majesty. Driving along the Sunset Highway, the broad expanse of everything and the rolling hills of forests and bluffs engulfs you in a magical sea. The fog lifts your spirits and you feel very small in a place that still seems untouched by time. I imagine that much of it today looked the same way when Lewis and Clark trudged through it. At the coast, the gigantic trees reach their arms out playfully off of the bluffs, reminiscent of lemmings about to jump off into oblivion. I look at the tiny spruce on our front porch and wonder if it, too, will be eighty feet tall one day.
When Morel season comes, the lot of us camp out for a weekend at Sauvie Island and collect some of the tastiest mushrooms from underneath the cottonwoods, although they are pretty hard to find. We spent one weekend last year foraging and came back with just a few Chanterelles. Since there are so many gourmet restaurants and people are eager to make a buck, it is getting even harder to find morels. Despite sometimes coming back with nothing to show for all of our hard work, it is a pretty memorable experience and usually someone ends up on fire, breaking a toe, or has to get their stomach pumped.
I really want to go to the coast before I start back for work, but not having a car makes that a bit more complicated this time around. Every spring and summer I usually fight the often inclement weather to undertake the 1.5 hour drive out to Seaside. I never swim but I like to sit on sand and watch the fog roll in, feeling the gritty sand and shells under my feet. Sometimes I get a latte at a beachside shack and walk the shore, looking for sand dollars and feeding gulls pieces of a bagel. Certain times of the year, you can walk on the rocks on Cannon Beach and see starfish and anemones latched onto rocks in tide pools. My friend Sarah and I used to take the old shells of dead mussels and make necklaces out of them. Derrick and I would bring Gage with us sometimes and he would enjoy chasing the gulls as they flew up above us, spying for fish or snacks to swipe. We spent a weekend there recently with some friends and made a camp near some of the bluffs. Waking up every morning with the fog and the sound of the crashing waves was a nice break from the sound of car horns, alarms, and the occasional racket of tires screeching.
I’ve never been outwardly religious, but sometimes this place makes me feel a bit closer to whatever it is that created us. There’s so much proof of existence here and so much life that makes mine seem minute in comparison. Even outside of my apartment, the quiet streets seem to speak to me in a language that is calming and confident. Not that Portland is the safest place to live, either, but there is a certain detached community feeling that makes you feel as if you are not ever truly alone but also that you need to depend on yourself to make your own path. It is a rather ambiguous feeling but definitely a welcome changed from some of the other places I have lived in.
As we stepped down the stairs into Doug Fir Lounge, the delightful aroma of greasy food and mixed drinks made my stomach rumble. Our friends, sitting at the bar, hugged me fiercely and we sat with them, listening to Perry tell one of his ridiculous tales of a romance-gone-wrong with his recent ex-boyfriend. Some of the stories Perry tells are extremely appalling, especially the ones about his nights out at the Matador, but he has a really good sense of humor. Perry got really drunk at a party we threw one night and ended up taking a shit in our backyard, in front of all of our guests. And then there was also that time we found that video of him masturbating to photos of a well-known American Idol contestant. He still has yet to live that one down and we won’t let him, either. It comes up in conversation once every two months, at least. The good part is that he laughs at himself so there’s no real harm done. I imagine he is quite accustomed to his own antics by now.
Derrick’s best friend Jonah came up to us and introduced us to his new girlfriend Natalie. I had actually met Natalie before at the PSU, so it was nice to catch up with her. She is a textile designer now, although like most of us she is working a sundry mix of disproportionate jobs. She and her friend Karin recently opened up their own handmade boutique off Williams near The Waypost. When I asked what the name of their store was, she laughed and said it didn’t have one yet.
When our order came, I was in Heaven, for there is nothing like fresh salmon bisque and rosemary hash browns. Although I do love the Lebanese street food at Saturday Market, Doug Fir’s hash browns will always have a special place in my heart. I could easily survive for life on those and some of the brews at Mcmenamin’s. While Perry was telling us another raunchy story which has to deal with a plunger and a loaf of bread (don’t ask), I started thinking about the resume I sent into Skylab Architecture. I have been applying to that place ever since I was open for internships, but to no avail. I imagine it is pretty competitive, but I keep hoping that my persistence will end up paying off. I pretty much told them that I would keep applying until they gave me a job, so I guess if it means clearing tables at Tabla for another couple years, or playing some shows to keep my student loan paid up in the meantime, so be it.
I phased back into the conversation in time to hear Jonah talking about going to the Woodpigeon show at the Crystal Ballroom recently, and part of me felt rather envious that I had missed some good events while I was gone. Although Philly has some pretty awesome acts come through town, Portland seems to be a safe haven for most of the groups that tour and the variety of great bands to come through is pretty impressive indeed. My friend Lizzy is a booking agent for K Records out of Washington, so she usually gets Derrick and I in for free to a bunch of the local shows.
When we left Doug Fir, it was late, and pouring rain. I feel pretty confident that most of us never carry umbrellas here-- the weather is actually fairly predictable. If it didn’t rain today, it will rain tomorrow. If it is raining, it will likely rain tomorrow. If it isn’t raining, it is usually still overcast, except for the occasional dry spells. The same can be said with snow and ice. Some winters are more fierce than others, but there is ALWAYS chaos for drivers and the scenery is always very beautiful and dynamic, which makes up for the lousy weather usually. I used to hear stories about how during the rainy seasons, loggers would leave the big logs in the middle of the street and the rains would wash them down into the Columbia River. I don’t know if I believe this to be a very feasible story, but with the amount of rain we get, it wouldn’t exactly surprise me.
Derrick and I ran ahead of the others to our bikes and I saw that Jonah’s rim was mangled. It pisses me off that people are always stealing bike parts up here. It’s probably not an isolated incident, as I’m sure it happens in a lot of cyclist-friendly cities, but it still kind of sucks. The only solution we have found is to have really cheap, beat-to-shit bikes and to lock them up as well as we possibly can, but even then the thieves are always finding new ways around the obstacles we set in place to deter them. Jonah was pretty upset but thankfully the bus lines run pretty late. Since Natalie had already left a few hours earlier, we waited with him until the bus came and watched him load his bike onto the crooked rack on the front, sad and defeated. Although it wasn’t going to cost him too much to fix this time around, it still was a pain in the ass to have to shell out money on a crappy bike every couple weeks. It was just the principle of the fact-- it didn’t seem this bad before, when less people were here. It’s like we have less violence but more petty crime now, if that makes any sense. I’m not sure which is worse, honestly.
We rode down Burnside, feeling the wind and rain scatter on our faces and laughing at Perry’s crazy antics. The playing cards in our spokes drew forth a whispering melody that amplified the wind as the rubber of our tires spun on the wet pavement. I leaned against the stem of the bike, clutching my handlebars and feeling the repetitive motion of the crankset as the chain moved around. I marveled at this amazing piece of machinery, wondering at the simple intricacy of the design process. We wandered down hills, the reflections of neon signs and streetlights blurring into the puddles on the basalt like a German expressionist painting. I steadied myself as we rounded the corner to our apartment, feeling lighter than air and completely free. Perry waved goodbye, his hands completely void of the bicycle as he spun down the road towards his own humble abode.
Derrick pulled the key from its crevice, turned the handle, and in a few moments we had our bikes secured and could venture in to the warm, dry haven that was our apartment. We let Gage out for his nightly ritual, brushed our teeth, and chatted about the night’s delights. After we towel-dried poor Gage, we curled up in bed in our usual sleeping order and turned the lights out.
As I drifted off to sleep, the whirlwind of events that had taken place since my return played before me in my mind. I recalled the sights and sounds around me, the people and places, and the many poignant reflections that Stumptown brought out in me. Despite often feeling as if I was on display myself, the simplicity and eccentricity of this town resonated powerfully in me, evolving my very form in new and surprising ways. I smiled confidently, curiously attaching my anxieties to what new experiences and discoveries would present themselves in the days to follow. As Derrick snored and I could feel what I believed to probably be a wiry dog hair in my mouth (Gage had been sleeping on MY pillow again, it seemed), I closed my eyes and realized I was truly at home once again.