Sunday, April 24, 2005

sunday bloody sunday

The boys are out in the boat. George is a Texan idiot. A genuine southern gentleman. He says things like, "here fishy fishy," which is the manly equivalent of suicide on the water. He wants to hug when they catch one. A real friendly fella. I am home, obviously, four girls littering the house. three vegans plus Hazel. Hazel got in a little trouble a few weeks ago and is on a short leash. She allegedly stashed booze for some kid and attempted to bring it to a "show" (a small, in-bar concert) and was caught by her parents. Consequently, it all came out and one of ours was in the mix. So.... it begins. I remember being arrested at 14 for drinking wine I'd stolen from Woodland Heights Market. A trunk full. There were six of us -- 5 boys and me. or me and 6 guys, I can't remember. All I know is that we were plently drunk and noisy when the cops showed up way out in an orchard above Jacksonville. They chased us, we scattered. I lay face down in a ditch (something that would be a recurrent theme for me later in life) and pretended I was invisible. They found my purse and began to call out to me in that sing-song police voice. "we know you're out here... there's Mexicans in the orchard.... they'll raaaaaaaaaape you." This surprised me, but I didn't come out. (Ah.... the raisin' of a Southern Oregon girl. I've been terrified of singing roadside Mexicans since, those gentle brown men who love my particular body-type.) But they found me at last, and thus went my first ride to jail in the back seat, slick brown leather, handcuffed, sliding side to side around unnecessarily sharp corners. I sat in the police department and waited for my mother, a drunk herself, who said, "I'll bet you think you're pretty smart." She was never more correct. For my punishment, I had to write a 5000 word essay about my behavior. Always the rebel, I wrote the words to Donovan songs: "First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is..." Ode to the sixties. Initially, I wrote something short and sweet, something like David Crosby might have written: "Sorry I drank, thanks for the liver." However, as you may suspect, this, my first in a long line of attemped corrections, was no deterrent. Party on.

So back to the future...

I've always noticed signs. I painted signs for a long time. It could have been lucrative, but it typically took me about 300$ worth of crank to paint a 200$ sign, so you can see the discrepancy right off. I, unfortunately, could not. Anyway, I've been here a year now, and want to report some bad signage. This will take awhile, and I'll just fit one in here or there.

1. A chinese restaurant in Scappoose: Lung Fung.
2. In Milwaukee: Jer' Bear's Bed Mart. (You gotta see Jer' Bear.... Any sign with a likeness of the owners face is considered for a place on the bad-sign list.) Any adult who allows themself to be called Jer'Bear.... I rest my case.

Okay, that's it for this morning. It is nearly bicycle time.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

another saturday night

The girls are vegans now. This week. An adjustment for this carnivore. But I can make burritos out of anything. What I haven't been able to find is my favorite tofu stuff: Tofu Man Burrito Mix. Its the stuff they use at the Burrito Palace or whatever its called at the Country Fair. It is so good, and I want to turn the girls on to it. I love that stuff. What cracks me up is that there are vegan substitutes for different things, but the one that is disturbing is the hamburger substitute. I mean, hamburger, in its real state, is only a substitute for food anyway. It is terrible. Why reproduce it. Very Soylent Green. My question was: is this for health or a philosophical position. They are pretty sure it is philosophical. They are keeping twinkies in the mix. So, it is a process, like so many things. The burritos I made were good, but I couldn't eat the Soylent Green.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

learning weather

Where I used to live, I could stand outside and know which way I was facing. Landmarks meant something. I knew the color of the sky and could predict the weather without listening to the news, which, in my view, has taken the fun out of it. It is true that only fools and tourists predict Oregon weather, but admit it, all of us real Oregonians do it. We know the sky. But here I am, in the great North, and the sky is different-- Mt. Ashland no longer defines the direction "South." I know the Willamette cuts the city East/West, but I cannot yet stand in my yard and know which way I face. The morning sun, the same sun that blazed through my papersack curtains and woke me for work, hides in the morning clouds and doesn't dare show its face until noon. It is spring in Portland, and the sky is gray. And this is the way it has been for eons before I got here. I wake up and if the sun isn't blinding, by my experience, it isn't a sunny day. But making such premature judgments cuts the promise from the day. If only I could apply that to my life. I am quick to judge. Whap.

I quit my job. I will be the anti-social worker for about 25 more days. I'm going back to bossing people around. I'm better at that anyway. Overall, the nursing home experience was a homecoming for me. I spent the first 15 years of my worklife in old folk's homes, and it helped me remember who I am. And, I suppose, who I have become. I am going back to what I know, humbled, in awe of social work. When I accepted the sw job, part of my rationale was that I was going back to what I know, back to more direct contact with the patient. What I didn't know is that the past 10 years have changed me. Hubris to think they would not or could not. So my movement to the next thing, the same thing as before, feels at once forward reaching and stagnant. The whole be-here-now of it escapes me.

Fishing: The Columbia closes for the springer season at one minute before midnight tonight. K will be out on the bank, spin glow's a spinnin', hoping for one last chance. Last year we caught 2 on the last day. Pray to the fish gods for a fat catch.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

privacy and descent

In our neighborhood, it is quiet but for the clank and bang of trash being thrown from the rooftop of Susan's house. She doesn't live there anymore.

The story goes like this: Susan, her husband and her son lived on Clinton Street in one of the big houses for a long time. They were across the street and one block down from us. Her son, Chris, went all through school with the girls. He was a smart kid, a geek. They went door to door for good causes, Run for the Arts, things like that. The husband got sick and died of something, and his life insurance policy was huge. Susan looked like an old hippie woman, was friendly enough, very quiet. When the money rolled in, the first thing we saw was a 78 Corvette parked in front of the house, the 13 year old son sitting in the drivers seat, where he would have to wait a long time for a license.

It was insidious... and I think all of us feel bad, feel guilty. I know I do. We tried a little. I'm not sure when the bad kids started showing up. August maybe? I think the rush of popularity, the appeal of acceptance by the bad-boys, was more than the kid could resist. And Susan, wanting so much for Chris to finally have friends, made room.... Soon, there were hoardes hanging out atop the over-garage deck, shooting bb guns at passing rivals. We called the cops once. They came. We told them what was going on from our point of view, but our point of view was distant. I found Susan at the coffee shop just after, and told her it was us that had called in the complaint, and that if she needed anything, that my husband would help her. If she wanted the boys cleared out, we would do what we could. She never asked. I guess she couldn't. After that, we saw her less often, and there was a forty in her hand where there used to be a coffee cup. Grief, I thought. I had no idea.

I came home from work last week and cops were everywhere -- the house being boarded up, stickers all over it. Susan is in a local psych unit somewhere, Chris in foster care. The money is gone. Someone drained her bank account. The inside of the house has been gutted. There is not a surface that isn't tagged with "Clinton Street Villians" all over it. A motorbike blown up in the kitchen, burned out cabinets. All the furnishings, all of her belongings, slashed and destroyed. All of the windows broken out. Everything is being tossed into a huge bin. Nothing is left. The house will be sold at auction.

The bad boys are everywhere now... dispersed.

It is tough to know what to think. We are all in shock. All of her neighbors.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

How to catch fish

Blood in the boat. Finally. My husband caught his first springer of the season. It is late, the run scarcely noticeable, fish counts far less than half what they should be. I say this knowing very little about it. I'm repeating what I hear at the boat launch, around the lunch room, from boat to boat as we troll the Willamette. It is an education. Apparently, the fish counters look back 6 years to determine what the run will look like. They had projected a strong run, but it has not panned out. Perhaps because of the low rainfall this winter. But we did get a nice one and had salmon sauteed in butter for dinner. Catching the fish is fun, killing it-- not so much. Slippery little devils. We catch them on frozen green label herring (blue label are bigger males and don't work as well). Greg, the fishing god from Scappoose, says to make sure the herring don't have white eyes, which, to me, a neophyte, makes absolutely no sense because you cut the heads off anyway. K ties three-hook mooching rigs with a corkie between the second and third hooks. See?? Its another language. Me? I just like to ride in the boat. Depends on the depth of the water how you actually fish. If we're in 15-22 feet, we hold the poles and bounce along the bottom, just keeping the gear out of the muck. If the water is deeper, apparently the fish hang out at about 15 feet depth and we stick the poles in pole holders and wait for the bite. (a great invention, the pole holder. second to the coffee cup holder.) It didn't make any sense to me at first... but I guess its about vision. If they can see the bottom (consider water turbidity, sun out, and depth) they go for the food on the bottom. If its deep and they can't see down there, they hang out in the well-lit water down to about 15 feet. How do they figure that out? Not the fish, the fishermen?? It does make perfectly good sense.

But more about coffee cup holders... I got up as usual at the butt-crack of dawn and made a huge thermos of coffee. Somehow it was shattered on the way out, and we had no coffee all day. ALL DAY. I am so hooked.

And about boat ramps (you don't care about all of this, do you?) we headed out to the Willamette Park Ramp which is out across the Sellwood Bridge, and it was full. No room at the Inn. So we drove down-river (which is hard for me to figure out... which way is up??) to Swan Island and put in there. It was industrial fishing. Not the scenic route by any means. But I like the seedy underbelly of industry. I find beauty in rust and rotten pilings. Boat hulls in dry dock like carcasses in the wasteland. The bone yard. We fished alongside barges and tugs, rolled in their wakes as they blew past us. The Mock's Landing boat ramp is not as pristine as the other one.... kind of like the difference between NE Portland and Sellwood. I'll just say this: I measure all locations by the bathroom. I am diabetic and I pee more than you do, I'll bet. So my travels, while circular, are many, and the facilities, compared to others were sub-standard. I can pee on command in a snowstorm. I can pee standing up, almost. But this was nasty. I peed, but bathed shortly after. You get out of a boat, you gotta go. The bad part was that I was wearing overalls. My twenty pound Carhartts. You have to watch where the suspenders land in nasty outhouses. My husband, handily equipped as men are, peed in a baggie in the boat. The worst accomodations I've ever seen were in Bridge, Oregon behind the general store on Hwy. 42. I would not pee there. No Way. Memorably bad. I found a tree. My favorite? Across the street from the old Copper Store before the Army Corps. levelled it and built Applegate Lake. I have a poem about it somewhere. Ah, here it is:


the lake
was not always there
was a river
was warm
was too low to swim in after August
but we did anyway
like bath water

the dam holds it all back now
great cupped hands that
save it up and let it go
when the summer comes
keeps the river cold

there’s a town under the lake
was a town
not much to look at
just Guy’s store and some houses
a two-seater outhouse across the road
diamond shaped notches carved in thick pine boards
where you could piss with a friend
on the way home from swimming
sunburned and drunk
to know the secret places
of deep green water.

Okay, well, that's the story of my life: The Ranking of Substandard Pissers in Oregon, by someone.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Friday night

We just pushed the boat uphill out of the garage for another fishing saturday. heavy boat.

Spaghetti for dinner and the girls are here. Nicole cut her hair and looks like a pixie. Haley already did. As they leave for punk rock heaven, somewhere down on Burnside, we will rent a movie and stay in.

Today I told a wife her husband will never get his mind back. I do it every day. It's as though I have a crystal ball and wield it indelicately. Somebody has to say it, and turns out its me. They thank me. That's the wierdest part. Thank you so much for telling me my life will never be the same, that I need an attorney to protect all we've worked for from the great State of Oregon. It will be a long road, I tell her. A long and expensive road. And it only leads to the end, anyway. Best to stay off it as long as possible.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

my streets

I have been here one year tomorrow. It seems significant. I remember staring in awe as the fragile spears of the lillies of the valley began to pierce the soil beneath the rhody out front. This year, I know them--crabgrass of the flower world-- that invade cement and travel for miles underground to choke the life from lesser species. But don't lose heart. Not every single thing is demystified. Not every ounce of magic is gone from my world. A year. There are still the wire-walking squirrels, the Clinton Street hunchback, and now that the police have cleared the homeless folks out of downtown, they are here... thirsty hoardes who roam the hill that is my street in every manner of shopping cart filled beyond capacity with all of the treasures Clinton Street residents are known to abandon to the night. (I still have one flamingo. I don't think it will last long after the sun comes out. It is just too attractive. It is bait.) Today, three cart-people came by as we were working in the yard, shouting to us how we are missing out, how our chains to mortages and car payments are the only things standing between us and the bliss of homelessness. (Ah, beer. It is so good at first.) The woman, the lone woman, lounging atop the refuse in the cart, was pushed along by her three companions like royalty in the midst of human decay, her gender a fragile commodity, no doubt. Her eyes were closed and she was already sunburned on this, the first day of warm weather. I have looked at the cart people before and seen freedom. I have looked at them and seen the bondage that I know it to be. Its a half-full, half-empty thing for me. Low overhead can be appealing.

Today, Fred Meyer was having Fuschia Days. Free Dirt. I love free stuff, so we (I) dumped all the dirt out of last years pots and anything else I could find, and trotted them on down to Freddy's. You had to buy plants to get the free dirt. They took the starts and potted them for us. We brought huge pots. Old crab boxes, hanging baskets lined with sphagnum moss. You name it. I planted about a million fuschias, half a million geraniums, five hundred ferns and a big pot of honeysuckle. I figured if I plant the honeysuckle around Sid's pen, we won't smell the dogshit so bad during barbeques this summer.

And besides, as words go, honeysuckle is a great one. I remember playing a game with a bunch of people and one of the questions was: what is your favorite word? For most of the people there, it was an easy question. For me, not so much. I finally caved and wrote: river. It was a hard question to answer. But I digress.

Today, I saw two men loading two gigantic buffalo heads into the back of a pickup truck. What do you suppose they were planning to do with them? They were huge. I mean HUGE. They were as big as, oh, say, an overstuffed chair. For those of you who know me: the red wine chair. They were each that big. Can you imagine how massive an animal would have a head that big? And to think that I saw it on Mulberry Street.

Boat Update: Since I am an idiot and too lazy to figure out the picture thing, you can see our new boat on craigslist. See portland, fiberglass boat. check the postings around march 21, 2005. Like any new habit, it is expensive to get it right. Additionally, I am accustomed to beach fishing, and there is a bit of a learning curve to boating. For instance: coffee. The whole notion of gyroscopic movement is at play, and the need for a.) a lid for the cup, and b.) somewhere to put it when you are trying to: steer the boat, reel in the line, check the depth finder, pull up some line, pull out some line because the bottom of the river is its own mountain range... Anyway, I'm sure you can imagine my dismay when the whole bring-a-book-to-lounge-in-the-boat thing didn't pan out. And I love to fish, but the passive beach fishing, the long wait for the bell, is a thing of the past. This is an action packed event. And, the boat floats, which is good. We haven't caught any fish yet, but I hear that when the dogwoods are in bloom, the fish are in the river.