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Men in the Making
Reflections on Masculine Youth Encounters: Tuesday, February 28, 2023
© 2023 James LaFond
I am in Portland, having descended on the Coastal Starlight Train for an easy four hours, this past Sunday. The following are a number of encounters with boys and young men of the guilty kind.
On Saturday night, Captain James and myself were sitting at the kitchen counter with Ben, his third son. Over beer the father counseled the 22 year old son against going to the Indian casino to play blackjack, “Son, there are four things in life you cannot trust: a fart, a hard on, the government—Dumbocrat and Rape-publican—and Muckleshoot women!”
Benny is a tall, muscular, handsome, blond man, a plumbing apprentice who comes home so filthy he leaves his clothes outside, and so tired that he lays down on the floor or couch as Annie the Tuxedo cat and Toby the black dog curl up on their Benny, who is their favorite human.
James continues, “Now Son, your turd-herding clothes are so filthy they need to be burned and not violate Mamma Bear’s new washing machine. Listen to me, the Turd Herder’s Union has a collective bargaining agreement that stipulates the replacement of turd herding clothes fouled up in the line of duty.”
“What else, Geeze?” asks Ben.
“Son, I don’t want you drinking and driving. You’ve wrecked more cars than I have and your just getting started.”
Ben becomes distracted by the Crown Royal Apple bottle on the counter, “Are you finishing this, LaFond?”
And out the door Benny went with a glass of Apple Crown, his father smiling with a crooked pride, “Strong as all tomorrow and dumb as the day is long—the Army has taken all my sons but the one who really needs their discipline!”
There is a picture on the wall next to the wood stove of Benny in his high school football uniform. I recall the story that was told about his dedication to the game. Benny had to drive 20 miles on country roads with his bicycle to practice and did so suited up for practice. He became a local hero among the motorists who would look for him on the road on their way home from work and take him and his bike in the bed of their pickups to practice and then return on Friday night to cheer Benny on.
James and I stayed up drinking rum and beer and whiskey and playing cribbage until midnight and Benny was not yet home. I woke up at dawn to shovel the snow from the parking pad and side walk and saw Benny’s truck there. I went inside where he had fed Toby and the two cats and was dunking his head in a sink full of cold water in the kitchen to wake up for his drive up the mountain where he was eager to snowboard in the fresh powder.
“Good morning, Ben.”
“Mornin’ LaFond, tell the Geeze I’m gone.”
And off into the snowy dawn he went.
What a stud.
Portland is one of the few train stations where you can get a cab with ease. One is always parked there. That was not required. My friends from the Dive Bar in Felony Flats had, unknown to me, planned a dinner and drinks for my return. Dove informed me that she was picking me up, and when I objected, she said she was already on the way. When I emerged from the station the cute Eskimo rolled up and informed me that plans had been made for me and that before we went to the Dive Bar , that Kelly and Lori wanted to buy me drinks at the 82nd Bar & Grill, more of a dive than the Dive Bar.
I bought Dove’s drinks as a way of paying for the ride. She needed to stop in to a 7-11 to grab something. I could find no keto coffee. So simply stood aside as she checked out her purchase and held the door for her, as there were some rough tweakers hanging about.
She looked up at me as she walked under my arm and said, “That little boy back there wants to speak to you,” nodding back at a young blond woman with curly hair and her little son of perhaps 8. The boy was dressed up like a viking, with hair and beard. He was walking towards me with his thumb up, smiling under his viking helmet.
As I towered over him in my oiled boots and duster he said, “I think you are cool!” and held up his right thumb the higher.
I reached over to him and shook his hand, “Thank you. When I was your age I was no where near as cool as you. Have a great day.”
“You too, sir!” he waved to me as Dove said, “He is so sweet! We’ll have to tell Kelly. He loves little boys—he’s always giving them his antique car collection and fishing equipment.”
Kelly greeted me, “Welcome back, brother,” with a double shot of apple Crown and a beer at the 82nd, introducing me to John, an old fishing buddy of his.
Dove told him about the little viking boy and he grinned, “There’s nothing better then a boy who wants to explore the world. Once when I was fishing at [named and forgotten] lake where they had cabins and what not, this little boy was waving at me while I rigged my boat. He asked if I could teach him how to fish. I asked if he had his father’s permission and he said, ‘All my dad does is get drunk and sleep. I can’t wake him up.’
So I took that boy out on the boat and he was happy as can be. I gave him all the fish, including a 27 inch trout. Never saw that kid again, but I hope he’s still fishin’. He’d be a man now, kids of his own maybe.”
Three times since Sunday, younger men who I do not know, some working on a plumbing job and a couple shopping, have gone out of their way to greet me, wish me a nice day, have held the door for me, one fellow even lending his eyes sight to finding me the nasal spray at the dollar store. As I drift about America, this man to man courtesy is very rare. One fellow, remarking on my walking in the ice and snow and rain from 122nd to 59th street, gave me a handful of his bus passes good for a day on bus and rail, assuring me that he likes his SUV too much to use the transit passes he gets for buying the senior breakfast at IHOP.
The reader, wherever you are, might hear or read about Portland, Oregon, the city that went to hell that is unlivable since the police have been defunded. But my Portland, a place where two families have offered me warm beds when they found out I was living in a garage, my Portland is the place where homeless people, flock to, to shiver through six months of rain in a leaky tent, rather than enjoy warmer and drier weather elsewhere.
The only folks as kind as the people in Southeast Portland are the Mormons in Summit County, Utah and the ladies working at the Dollar General in Exeter, Missouri.
But don’t trust me, I’ve only lived here for a year over four years. CNN and Fox News, on the other hand, agree that Portland is bad, that only more government action can “fix” this city and disagree only on who broke Portland. Well, broke Portland treats this broke human fine.
Ethnographic Note
Dove agreed with Captain James, “You stay away from those Muckleshoot women—they’re bad, all of them!”
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