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Life, Portland
Savoring My Second City: 11/4/2022
© 2023 James LaFond
JUL/14/23
Nature intrudes. I was to spend the day at the bar today taking care of long and near neglected emails. But the rain is so heavy, now, that I’d ruin the laptop in that two mile walk. The rain is expected to triple in force and volume, with up to six inches falling along the Hurricane River on this one day. So, next week is office week. This Friday, I write here in this now cozy garage, filled with weights, heavy bag, stick snake, an engine hoist, a transmission, a drum kit and five guitars, where the Yeti Waters band played last night, while I drank with a retired marine and some cute girls at a dive bar last night…
The Yeti Waters cubs are now larger than I am at 12 and 13 years, the oldest as strong as a man. He wants to work with me on boxing and weights. So, while his bones lengthen in his morning sleep in the main house, I’ll write while the torrent of rain drums on the plank and membrane roof above, the wind down from Mount Hood makes the insulated garage door [glued closed] heave like a lung, and the still green trees whistle like sodden reeds—still dark at 7:35 in the A M.
The shop vac did a great job on the place yesterday. Resting the eye after a long Wednesday write and feeling like the yurt was all squared away, as rain drizzled, I thought that a moist Thursday should best be spent going to the points of my urban compass and gathering the supplies for the coming month. The first week in a two month berth, tends to be hectic and atypical. For instance, the written view of the just arrived writer is, at such times, a distillation of intense experiences had by those friends rejoined, who reel off the most memorable recent happenings. Knowing the surrounding few miles well, I decided to explore and then squared my observations with those of the Portland natives at The Dive Bar, who treat this old hoodrat like one of their own.
I walked two miles to the bank. This branch now has a plywood rather than a glass door. The bank is hiring. Only one of the old staff is left. At the counter is a stunningly beautiful and tall Latina, with long hair, hoop earrings, wide check bones and flowery suit dress. She wears no name tag, indicating that she gets marriage proposals regularly, so I make a note not to stare and put on my grandpa face. Reviewing my banking history, she winces at the 800 dollar stay in San Jose and asks me how I like Portland compared to Maryland.
“Portland is my favorite city. I spend the winter in the Pacific Northwest. The people are great.”
She brightened up, as all women do at the thought of travel, and her ample breast heaved at vistas that must have risen in her mind’s eye, perhaps disappointed that this nice older fellow only had $998 to his name: “So, James, what is your favorite place you visit?”
“Utah, Northwestern, Utah in the Uinta Mountains. I spend late summer there and it is the most beautiful place I’ve been.”
She smiled with magnetic eyes, and then became sad of a sudden, and in a fluttering of big brown eyes, recovered her substantial grace, “It’s so nice to have you with us for the winter, James.”
“Have a nice day, Miss,” and she noted that I had looked to see if there was a name tag there over her heart, and she smiled wide and beamed, “Thank you, James—you too!” and waved.
I crossed the street ahead of two lowdown tweakers, a quadroon and a wigger, who give me space. Four homeless men squat near the recycling bin in the basement parking garage of the Safeway supermarket, near a pentagram etched in dripping blood as if with a knife, upon a white painted pillar.
Above, in the store, I find a good price on diet tonic water and beer. As I walk to the only register with a cashier, a young Mulatto clerk notes my Safeway jacket, salutes, smiles and says, “Love the jacket, sir!”
In line, the cashier, a pretty young mystery meat babe, smiles and wishes me a nice day.
A tweaker lurks out front and gives me a wide range as I glance hard and sidelong at him, and do not step off the curb until he backs away.
An eatery has a plywood door now.
The tweaker camps have dispersed into individual stealth camps. The measure to round up illegal campers and place them in concentration camps has passed on the ballot.
A large warehouse, long out of use, is covered in graffiti with an RV parked in front of it.
The Day Theater, the old marquee sheltering a homeless woman, has a wrecked camper reinforced with cardboard and tarps, parked in front of it.
Graffiti is more artistic and cryptic, less crude and political and dystopian as back in march.
Another business has a plywood front door.
The Devil’s Point strip club is empty and open for business.
The sex show across the street is open for business with its negro doorman. Next to that the Asian grocery is open for business with its celestial doorman.
After taking the case of beer and tonic water home, I walk to the liquor store for a bottle of rum. I am the only customer. The only employee, a very young woman who helps me read the proof on the rum with my one bad eye, is taller than I. She should not be here alone, so fresh-faced and helpful. I tip her and she smiles with a tear in her eye as I decline a bag and carry the bottle back here. After stashing the rum, under $10 for 80 poof Kentucky rum in glass, mind you, I head back out, in another direction.
Another bar has a plywood front door.
I head out to get half & half for coffee at the local corner market, the counter manned by another pretty brown-haired girl apparently just out of high school. It is interesting to see so many attract women, of about 20 years, at service counters in a place where people with university degrees have been migrating for some two generations. The girl beams at my entry, so happy to see a man who is not homeless, I suppose, as three bums huddle outside her door. I tip her too, there being a jar for that purpose on the counter.
Back east, people like this, good looking young folks behind counters, treat me like shit. Here, in Portland, I am admitted once again to humanity by youthful souls for whom Fate grins so mercilessly.
Off to the Dollar Store I go, past a renovated city park, where one homeless man has his tent, at Holgate and Foster, past another bar with a plywood window and door that declares in spray paint, “We Are Back,” as music jams inside and the two young male owners smoke weed out front. I walk past a homeless couple sleeping in the mouth of a covered alley. The two bar owners blow their smoke away from me and step aside politely.
Portland is still home of the most pedestrian-friendly drivers, who stop for any person crossing. Utah Mormons are nearly as caring. The rest of the country will run your ass over. This is a law still on the books. But even after laws are no longer enforced, people will stop for me even when they see me patiently waiting for them to pass. The only drivers who do not place pedestrians first, are blacks, who are still not as aggressive as their eastern cousins who try and run you down for sport or spite.
The hipster fаggot joints are doing less than pre-Covid business. The wood stove and sewing machine shops and the gun store, are doing good business.
The Dollar Store has a plywood front door. The glass doors in 25% of businesses have been kicked in over the past 8 months. The three tweakers out front give me a wide berth. These fuckers are getting cagey, can sense that they have worn out their welcome and are no longer acting like a conquering army, but a garrison that is being discharged without pay…
The single employee is a teenage girl, who is not pretty, but is polite and hard working and bags groceries with a care. The female customers and the cashier, treat me like I’m a knight who has arrived to set the bandit-plagued world right. It is quite amazing, how starved the women in this town of all ages and races are, for a pale man who is not begging, taking, grifting or apologizing for the condition of his birth, to simply, and politely, walk confidently bye. I feel like a celebrity, like The Last Whiteman.
It is so strange for me, in an American city, to be treated not only like a human, but like a Man.
I gather a case of canned goods and a bag of groceries and walk back, motorists stopping for me. A homeless couple, whose man is frantically pressing the crosswalk button, as the rain gathers over the heaped and wheeled plastic tub they call home, stop and look on in wonder at a pedestrian hauling stuff in the old temporary “headed home” way.
The two homeless women by the 7-11, who cheered me on when I faced down the black thug that was taxing white folks, last Thanksgiving, stopped coughing long enough to look at me, then at each other, then to wave.
Last night, arriving at the Dive Bar, the door was plywood, having been kicked in, and the darling Chinese barmaid locked us in, and chirped, “We safe now—no tweaker tonight, we locked in!”
I suppose I am experiencing the good vibes cast upon a veteran that shows up in a city under siege and casts his lot with the defenders. The people I know in Portland, all think it went from the best to the worst place in America on their unlucky watch. People outside of Portland, wonder why I choose to spend the largest chunk of my year here.
In large part, I like Portland so much, because it reminds me of Baltimore, when I moved there in 1981, when I was strong and young, and when Hell had not yet entirely come.
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Sam J.     Jul 16, 2023

James, this is some first class writing you do. It's gets better and better.
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