Thursday, December 8, 2011

Falling for Portland - Twice

Why do I write? Many centuries ago, a Chinese poet noticed that to recreate something in words is like being alive twice. I so get this! 
When I write, I recapture those fleeting thoughts and subtleties sidelined by the persistent present. Writing encapsulates the moment and enlivens it yet again for my future. I am going to love reading and reminiscing when I am very old - holding my loves, my family and friends, my adventures to quickened pulse - once again.
I’d asked for a quieter room, away from the elevator. Sounding like a country bumpkin, I pleaded my case during check-in. 
“I don’t sleep well in cities.” It’s true. The sirens, the traffic, the gunfire – I don’t sleep for long anyway – normally six hours. If I’m awakened? Fohgahdit! 
She gave me a corner room at the end of the hall, on the sixteenth floor. I opened all the drapes, exposing twenty-five feet of glass, sat in the corner window seat to watch daylight dissolve and Portland’s skyline come alive in lights. City streets below teemed with commuters - cyclists and cars jockeying for asphalt.
Portland is known to be the most cycle-friendly city in the country. The leading 20-feet of major intersections is painted in the familiar and universal bicycle icon. You know – the green square with the centered white bicycle? That icon – painted on the roadway. No kidding! When traffic is stopped, cyclists wend their way to the front of the intersection and cluster upon the icon. The green light sends a surge of flesh and metal charging into the intersection with the right of way. 
The theme song from I Dream of Jeannie filled the room and I reached for my cell phone at the end of the bed. As an aside, I Dream of Jeannie is a constant reminder for me to come out to play, make merry, and grant wishes. It’s about being A YES to life and its numerous invitations. As ee cummings so aptly wrote: yes is a world and in this world of yes live (skillfully curled) all worlds
As an aside to the aside, I have never seen this quote without parentheses though we KNOW ee cummings never used any letter or symbol requiring the use of the shift key. Hence, his writing is sans capitals and punctuation. He would NEVER use parentheses (though they add clarity) in this phrase (of which I am quite fond). Ha! But I digress, twice in two paragraphs even. My apologies.
To repeat: The theme song from I Dream of Jeannie filled the room and I reached for my cell phone at the end of the bed.
“We’re in the lobby,” Fred said. Funny how a voice from so long ago can seem so familiar. I wonder if time is kind to our vocal cords, his voice sounded exactly the same. That voice on the other end of this call? I’d know that voice anywhere… and he was no longer the young man I knew. 
We reconnected this year on facebook when Fred sought high school classmates. He subscribed to my blog in an effort to learn who I had become. During the intervening years, Fred had married and raised a family. His adult children and wife interact on facebook with hilarity, kindness, and affection. In my vernacular, love is present. That single assessment filled me with admiration for the life he had made for himself. 
Upon learning I would travel to Portland for a diabetes conference, I sent Fred and Tina an invitation to meet for coffee, drinks, or dinner. They collected me at the Hilton for a dinner that was representative of Portland. 
      We drove to Jake’s Grill, established in 1892 and apparently resuscitated from near-death by McCormick & Schmick in 1994. Their menu “features an incredible selection of seasonal Pacific Northwest foods, hand-built and hand-mixed cocktails in one of Portland’s liveliest bars.” Dere’s no doubt dat joint was jumpin’.
We sat on old, wooden, high-back benches, the style early settlers placed before the hearth to trap heat and warm its occupants. They also work to keep conversations at the table - and restaurants quieter. 
Have you noticed that newer establishments are as noisy as Chinese restaurants? Voices and clattering dinnerware, the sounds of dining float unimpeded across the eatery. Notice the bare floors and walls? Nothing to absorb sound and bring decibels down. Establishments like P.F. Changs and the Yard House believe noise creates energy and draws customers. I find competing with the din to speak with my companions, annoying. I dunno, perhaps it’s a sign of age or early hearing impairment or senile irritability or all of the above. I must be getting old.
Fred bears a striking, almost eerie resemblance to his Dad. Tina is model-esque. You know: statuesque and svelte - the kind of figure that flatters every stitch of cloth. Their children are handsome and when I said so, they agreed, confessing their surprise.
“We don’t know where their good looks came from,” they laughed.
Our three-hour dining extravaganza began with a local Riesling followed by Crab Louie for me. Ya know - I’m no wine connoisseur but I do live near Napa and by virtue of proximity, have become a vino snobbare! The Klamath Riesling was fair though, now that I think of it, infinitely better than the Georgian Chardo-vi-nnay-gar prompting a reflexive spew some years ago.
We reviewed the last thirty years: parents, siblings, children, nieces, nephews, classmates, the significant highlights. Fred is a mechanical engineer. I suddenly remembered his interest in drafting classes, the hours spent on a single drawing. I think we were high school seniors that year but it might have been the year previous. That he is now an engineer is consistent with the young man I knew. Guess it’s true; we really don’t change. 
Fred built their home. That too is consistent with the guy I knew, always tinkering with cars and fixing things. A lot of our time together was spent fixing his latest wreck on wheels. I remember a Corvair with a hole clear through the backseat floor! He sold that for a VW Bug and upgraded Bugs for years.   
      Bug-bitten, I bought a 1979, convertible, Super Beetle - Danube blue. It has been my longstanding favorite car until my most recent acquisition, Z Jet, a Mercedes convertible, SLK 350.
“Do you know you are the last guy I ever dated who could fix anything?” It was more accusation than question, one leaving me instantly unsatisfied with the majority of the men in my life. “My Dad could fix anything and it’s such a valuable skill. I’ve never had another man who was handy. I’m that man!” I stabbed my chest repeatedly to their chuckles. “I’m the one with the tools. And there are things I don’t know how to do." I scowled, It’s so annoying.”
Tina is a writer. Her avocation is writing and she has several pieces published in the Chicken Soup book series. Fred thought writing would give us common ground on which to build a friendship. I’m guessing he eliminated self as that commonality?
“I have one rule,” he announced sternly, “I’m off limits. You cannot write about me.” Oh how he doth flatter himself! 
Tina laughed, “Honey I write about you all the time!” Laughter ruled and we agreed that Fred was off limits. So he rubber-stamped me not writing about him here. They dropped me at the Hilton; we hugged and promised to keep in touch. Tina invited me to stay with them upon my return. I wonder if she cleared that with Fred?

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyable read. I agree about the noisy restaurants. So delightful to reconnect as you did. Had a similar experience last time I returned to my birth place. My friend was just as full of enthusiasm and interest as she had been in high school.

    Oh, and how about a pic of you in the Mercedes?