Back in Cambridge in time for a wedding in college.
Congratulations to Adam and his beautiful bride!
One afternoon in Seattle I happened upon a friend I haven’t seen in two years and he asked what I’ve been up to.
I answered Not much – my life has been rather boring lately.
Later in the week I took the ferry to the place I was born, and from there a smaller ferry to my hometown. I was dismayed to find the latter has been replaced by a shiny new touring vessel; the decrepit ship that took Navy Yard workers across the bay throughout my childhood was set adrift and allowed to sink when the line went bankrupt a few years ago.
I was pondering the fact that I am now too old to realize a youthful ambition to join the ferry service – literally the only discernible career goal I have ever formed – when I remembered the conversation with my friend.
Staring at the shores of the beautiful, horrible place where I grew up, it seemed inconceivable that I have traveled so far from home.
When I was a little kid I was afraid to visit Seattle because the trip was too long, the buildings too tall. Now I claim to be bored because over the course of eighteen months I have only managed to visit the US, France, Germany, Spain, and the Czech Republic.
Growing up mutilated and poor, I was ashamed and lonely. Now I feel fretful because I do not have enough time with friends scattered across the world.
When the boat docked I dragged myself out of the marina and stood on the curb in front of the cinderblock library built with no windows on the bayside, watching the sun go down over warships, wondering all over again at the ravishing perplexity of the place.
Last night I met this guy on a sidewalk who said several intentionally irritating things before he offered to show me his tattoo, repeating you know you want it, say you want it.
I stared at him and said No. I don’t.
The other people in the group exclaimed over the design etched on his arm. By this time he had already said half a dozen more offensive things and while I found his palpable need for attention amusing I was not overly impressed with the performance.
So I said Wanna see mine? and pulled my shirt down.
He read the inscription and said Okay, I officially hate you.
I said thank you and Jeffrey, at least, was getting a little nervous about what might happen next when the new fellow touched my face.
In fact, he reached behind my glasses and pressed on the scar bisecting my eyelid. He said I’ll just smooth this down so you can see the world like you did when young.
People who know me – and all sane strangers – are perfectly aware that I can and will break their fingers for lesser transgressions.
I decided to be charitable, given darkness and drunkenness, presuming that he was just cocky and vain and pitiful.
So I grabbed a handful of the belly artfully hidden by his stylish coat, and twisted.
He jumped away, emitting shocked squeaky sounds.
I motioned to my friends, blew a kiss at the annoying man, and departed.
At the end of the block I found Ade hiding in a doorway and snatched him up to venture forth to the Crescent, where I convinced the crew to perform especially for me with the guarantee If you sing Convoy I will love you forever!
Yesterday started with a North Portland brunch in my honor organized by Ana Helena and hosted by Stevie Ann. My kid surprised everyone with his excessive height, charming manner, and the fact that he no longer hisses at babies.
Seven years does tend to change a chap.
There is never enough time with these friends, but it was still good to see the Thunder Pumpkin, Maki, Gabriel, Nicole, and the sprinkling of strangers who always show up for these things.
I said goodbye reluctantly and headed north in a torrential rainstorm to meet my mother in the parking lot of a donut shop in Tacoma, where I handed off the kid and my mother thrust stray mail in my hands (this time an invitation to my twentieth high school reunion – apparently I am supposed to take a casserole – yeah right).
Then we got in our respective vehicles and departed.
Horrible traffic gave me the opportunity to demonstrate mad navigational skills, as I do actually know how to get from the Tacoma Narrows Bridge to Seattle without ever touching I-5.
Though the driver was not especially impressed, and denied my request to stop at the B&I with flimsy excuses like stores are closed on Easter.
I arrived in time for sunset in a hotel room with a view of my dire hometown across the water.
Oh, Seattle. How I’ve missed you!
I’m in Portland visiting my abandoned life.
Check it: everyone is quite improbably… seven years older.
The children I knew as babies are all grown up, and Chorus members are in their thirties. There has been a migration from the Mississippi neighborhood to Cully. The Seed building is still standing, but many other landmarks have vanished.
Though aside from these superficial differences, everything is pretty much the same. Chaos, drama, intrigue, music, tea parties, zines.
Last night I was absolutely entranced to find myself in the living room of a house on Emerson at midnight, drinking wine and listening to Polly tell all the stories I missed because we haven’t spoken since I moved away.
Two days is never enough time in this town, but it is the limit of what I can tolerate. I miss this life – these friends – the streets – the river.
When I was little my mother cleaned hotel rooms and my father pumped gas.
Consequently, I retain a visceral horror of making a mess in rented accommodation, and a profound fondness for hanging out at gas stations.
This week I’m lodging in the Women’s Faculty Club at Berkeley. Does this mean I am dining in the breakfast room, lounging around in the swanky parlor, or enjoying the gardens?
No. I am barricaded in my room, hiding from the housekeeping staff.
Regardless of how much my life changes, I feel like I should be working with my hands, not my head. I always feel seasick when I notice that I am no longer entitled to my place in the underclass.
Though I must admit that while I have anxiety about people cleaning my room, I am wildly amused and gleeful about lodging in the faculty club of a university I was not eligible to attend as a youngster.
The fact that I spent all of my high school years idling in a mix of remedial and vocational classes mattered not one bit in the larger schematic of this life.
A pox on the houses of all the small-minded small-town teachers who tried to convince me I was worthless and stupid as a disabled kid! Curses on the guidance counselors and professors who told me to drop out when I became a teenage mother!
While I am sufficiently contrary that I probably only bothered to accomplish half the shit I’ve engineered as an adult because nobody wanted me to succeed…. I remain appalled at all the needless trouble I had to wade through to get here.
The fourth of April was officially my Death Day Anniversary and I celebrated twenty-six years of unwarranted survival by catching a ride to Stinson Beach, where I fell asleep in the sun, reluctantly waking up after an hour when I remembered that whole “skin cancer” thing.
Though I just draped a shirt over my face and went back to sleep for awhile.
Later I wandered over to the Mission to eat tacos (have I eaten anything else on this trip? No) and meet up with Hiya and Jonathan, who were staging a typewriter protest (or something). We engaged in complicated negotiations to haul five people in two cars across to Oakland for the birthday party of a person I’ve never met nor heard of.
Upon arrival I was introduced as Bee to a woman who replied Lavender?
This startling call and response sort of exchange was repeated two more times before I decided to huddle under a heat lamp in the garden, where a sinister looking fellow announced that he really really adores me, while attempting to stroke my hair.
Then I went and hid behind a cactus.
To say that my social skills are rusty would imply that I had any to begin with, and that is just not true. But when I lived here I was certainly used to people knowing me by reputation and acting flat out weird when they recognized me.
Five years of anonymity in England has been, by comparison, a lovely respite.
Jaina Bee & her pencil house:
Huh. Some old photos of a Portland party just turned up. I only wore this once, for about two hours, and suspect it was one of the precious items destroyed by sea water when I moved across the world. I miss my dresses!