Tuesday, July 9, 2013

. . . You're My Home

A year gone by, now, and everything is the same, and everything is different. One year ago today-- July 9, 2012-- we rolled into town with little clue and high expectations.  We were tired, having driven that day from Snake River Canyon in Idaho. Our first stop was Pearl Self-Storage, where we planned to sign some papers, pay some cash, and get some keys to a storage unit that would store all of the Stuff we had been stupid enough to cart across half a continent. The Stuff that had once Occupied a three-bedroom house; and we now had 500 square feet. (I capitalize Occupy, as in "Occupy Wall Street," because I've come to believe that our Stuff Occupies us politically, forces its will upon us. But, I digress.) We accomplished all of that, and were welcomed by a manager of the storage units called Tim, who informed us that we would be an "awesome" addition to Portland.

The plan, of course, was that Montana's dad and uncle would start unloading the Penske truck with all of our Stuff, while we drove downtown to our sublet. We'd be back in only! a! few! minutes! and then we'd help them finish unpacking. Subletting apartments is technically against the rules, but we'd talked to both the current renter and a manager of CYAN/PDX apartment complex, and both of them were okay with bending those rules. The only problem was that neither of them were there when we arrived.

We'll call the employee we ended up having to deal with "Brad," mainly because that's his name. "Brad" informed us that he did not know what was going on, and that subletting was Against the Rules, and he was certainly not going to give us our key. I was clueless at the time, but after a year here in Portland, I now understand that "Brad" was probably from California. The Rude, the Obnoxious, the Car-Horn Honkers, the Fake-Boob-People: they are all, apparently, from California. Brad fit several, if not all, of those criteria.

We ended up having to drive to suburbia to pick up the key from the renter. We didn't get back to Pearl Self-Storage until Montana's dad and uncle had finished unloading the Penske. Exhausted, we directed Gary Don and Larry to their motel (in-- your standard "that's another story"-- what turned out to be the red-light district), and we drove back to CYAN/PDX.

So many memories of first impressions flit through my mind on this anniversary. Recapturing those memories, it's like trying to catch a lightning bug in a jar. The ginormous Portland Trailblazers billboard that faced us as we idled in traffic, waiting for the Steel Bridge to lower. (The drawbridge was up: Montana and I looked at each other-- "Does this happen all the time?"-- It doesn't. We were just lucky, as they say.) Driving through PSU the first time on our way from Pearl Self-Storage to CYAN/PDX. Walking down from our sublet to get essentials from the car, I chanced into the pedestrian mall connecting Lovejoy Fountain with the Ira Keller Fountain and beyond. The automobiled street ends at that block, and it's all pedestrians. It's hard to describe what it looked like to me, in the mood I was in and coming from Texas. But it seemed otherworldly in that night air. It was a spot that my still-influenced-by-Texas logic dictated should be Occupied by cars. But there were trees, and dogs cavorting, and people lounging in what ought to be an SUV-infested street. It was-- in that moment-- an alien landscape, an Ewok village, a blissed-out Utopia. Even after the stressful day we'd just experienced. Maybe because of the stressful day we'd just experienced.

In the days, weeks, and months to come, we'd experience many such new experiences. Ironically, somewhere in there I remember telling Montana that I didn't want to forget how Portland looked to us in 2010, when we visited as travellers.  I always wanted to keep some of that tourist appreciation. Now, it all just looks like our life. I struggle to recapture the feelings and remember the way things looked even a year ago, let alone in 2010. So much that was once brand-new has become-- I don't want to say "commonplace," at least not yet; I'm not that spoiled, but-- familiar.

I try to hold on to the awe, because this place is awesome, but I also revel in that newfound familiarity. Early on, I was raised a railroad brat, which is something like being raised an army brat in that you move around a lot. I was more comfortable in the far midwestern outposts of Kansas than I ever was in Texas, but, at age twelve, the road paused for me in Texas for three decades. I never felt at home there, or anywhere.

Until now. Finally, I feel at home. I can't offer a complete explanation; I don't thoroughly understand why. It's just a thing, an ineffable Thing. My wife recognized it the instant we exited Union Station on our Grand West Coast Tour of a Honeymoon. Portland was an afterthought, a Coastal Starlight train stop between the California central coast and Seattle. But, upon exiting Union Station, Montana breathed in and said she liked it here. Then: She said she really liked it here. It took me slightly longer, but, now that I am here, I am not leaving. This is home. Finally. I will grey here, and I will die here, and my ashes will be thrown into the Willamette River from the Hawthorne Bridge. And if the Great Cascadian Megaquake hits before that happens, and I survive it, I will ride a bike around the post-apocalyptic ruins of the city, and I will do what I can to help rebuild it. I will not leave. Ever. Because this is a place I can, and do, love. It is-- for me, at least-- the Last Best Place on Earth.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Creative Commons License
Upside Down on Mars by Barry J. Cochran is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.