Tuesday, July 04, 2006


Today is the 4th of July. We took the boat out, put in at Willamette Park and drove over to Sellwood to see some friends. That was boring. Then we took the boat up to Oregon City along a stretch of river I hadn't seen before. I love to look at the homes along the water. I love the houseboats, each one a work of art. The Ross Island houseboats have one that is like a nautilus shell, wood and copper with lots of windows. I like to pick out the original homes along the river, among the McMansions, the little shingled cottages and river houses that preceeded the conspicuous consumption of these days. The houses are side by side now, each worth millions, I'm sure, each with a deck and a boat house and a long floating ramp meant to weather even the 100 year floods. I wonder. On the Willamette, 100 years passes fairly frequently. I was living in Portland in the flood of '64. I was in the 5th grade, Mrs. Jones' class. I had a peach colored umbrella that blew inside out in the wind and acutally lifted me off my feet. I remember newsreels of one of the bridges over the river that buckled and swayed and collapsed with cars on it. I could be making that up, but I think it is true. I remember bringing a scrap of newspaper to school that year. It was about the Beatles. I was the first person in my school to know about them. Even then I was tragically hip. We moved to Portland when my father died. Actually, I think we were visiting, and just stayed after we found out he was gone.

The other day I drove by the house I lived in when my father died. I'd tried to find it before, but I guess I went down 66th place rather than 66th. It is in felony flats. Was even then. I was surprised it was still standing. It is a tiny hovel, with narrow stairs and burgundy flowered linoluem and I could see my bedroom window that overlooked my uncle's huge garden of poppies. He had the whole yard planted in them, towering red tissue-paper thin flowers with circus tent seedpods in the centers. Even then there was the occasional pale flower, a gray or white throwback, that caught my eye. Its no wonder I loved heroin. I recall him standing in the yard in his overalls, a great fat man, watering those poppies each evening. When I water my yard, I recall his patience, and try to give my flowers as much attention. He lost his mind, finally, and went about watering even the flowers on wallpaper, which caused some problems in the family. I guess he was probably mentally ill -- schizophrenic, best guess, and had a big heart. I think I've said before that he rode his bicycle up and down the west coast in the final years of his life, finally coming to rest on a boat in San Francisco Bay where he died alone on Christmas Eve. The yard is different now, and the big field next door where we built a fort beneath a huge cedar tree is gone, of course, and the big lilac is gone. There used to be a narrow cement walkway that cut through the middle of the poppies from front gate to front door. My brother rode his skateboard down it too fast, put out his arms to stop himself and broke both of his wrists. Mrs. Wallace lived next door. She was 80 and could do handstands. And did. Every holiday she brought over a fake can of peanut brittle that was actually full of spring-loaded snakes. The first time it scared the shit out of me, but then I was on to her and had to fake it.

I remember the day the phone call came about my father. I don't recall crying, which doesn't surprise me. I remember confusion and disbelief. He was a good man. A happy man. He would have liked my husband.

I suppose we will wander down to watch the fireworks along the East Bank Esplanade. I just hope I don't have to stand near the very scary statue of Vera Katz. If anyone makes a bronze statue of me, I hope they use a picture of me when I was five. I was much cuter then.

Here's a shot of Sid on the patio. Is it a patio? Is that what we call it?

The blues festival wraps up today. Each year we bring the requisite cans of bad food and a couple dollars down there and brave the throng. The thongs. Actually, it is a rather gray crowd, all of the age-resisting boomers who continue to defy fashion but not time. We take the bike down and park easily, which is the hardest part, really. And each year I yearn to be among the boat people, listening to the blues from the water's edge. This year we did it. We put in at a strange little ramp up river, cruised by the fabulous Ross Island and Sellwood houseboats, and finally wound our way cautiously, paddles in hand, through the yachts and speedboats. Front row seats. The sound was good, but alas and as usual, I had to pee.... When sitting up on the lawn the day before, I had noticed an outhouse floating among the boats, so my darling husband, keeper of my comfort, said it was no trouble. He's great that way. So once again, we threaded the gauntlet, bobbing and weaving, until the yellow plastic oasis was in sight. We pulled up alongside the dock, hopped out and peed. My husband decided to jump in the water to cool off and suggested I do the same. I just really wanted to splash a little and not get my hair wet (I can't stand women who don't get their hair wet) but it didn't quite work out in my favor. I slid in, and under, and couldn't get out. My shoulder, you see, isn't quite what it used to be, and heaving my bod out of deep water just isn't something I can do. So, Kurt tries to help me, and as he is helping me, yells, "the boat!!!" which, as you might imaging, is floating away. So he dives in to save the boat and I am left to save myself for awhile. He rescues the boat, ties it to the dock and by that time, I have located the big rope tethering the dock to the anchor. I stand on it as best I can, and he pulls me up enough to get a grip and haul myself out. It matters what you wear in these situations, and my wardrobe malfunctioned in a big way.

It was the second time that day that I flashed Portland. That same morning we rode our bikes to Sellwood park and I was wearing one of my favorite short sarongs tied around my upper half. Turns out it flaps in the breeze of a downhill bike ride. I was horrified, but I'll never see those people again. I've managed to survive worse shame in my life.


L. said...

loved the walk through a portland fourth.

asia said...

Oh, I think I saw that from the bank. That was you??

Just kidding. I think I was there on Monday. Did you watch the fireworks from your boat?