I lived in Shelton in the mid-1990’s, and my day always started here at the Redneck Coffee Shack. At the time I was probably drinking coffee with two espresso shots added; I needed the jolt to get on the road.
The first task was a thirty mile drive to drop off my baby in daycare, before I spent ten or more hours dealing with the mayhem of coordinating statewide disability advisory councils. After work each day I would hit the coffee again before driving sixty miles in the other direction to help care for my grandmother, dying in hospice back in my hometown.
Adding in the various errands and work meetings, I logged more than 200 miles per day on the road every day, often more, generally with a small child in the back seat demanding attention and entertainment. This is remarkable given that I was still recovering from the car accident (and that I no longer drive… at all).
I was distraught over the disintegration of my family, intensely involved in my work, and getting no more than two or three hours of sleep each night. I wish that I had fond memories from my time in Shelton (Kristmastown USA) which has always struck me as beautiful and under-appreciated. But all that is left from the time is a hazy recollection of anger, pain, and really strong coffee.
The first time I met Ana Helena we were standing in the backyard of 19th Street as experimental films were projected in the kitchen behind us. She was on a tear because she had just encountered the Jenny Joseph poem about aging. Despite the chaos around us, the punk show in the basement, the drunk characters lurching around the yard, what I remember best about that night is Ana Helena repeating over and over at top volume “I will wear purple whenever I fucking want!”
Our friendship grew out of the shared view that life is for living, and that you have to make an effort every day to create the world you want to exist in. Ana Helena has been a brilliant friend ever since, as we separately moved away from Portland and around the world.
Ana Helena is also the practitioner who restored my sense of smell, a dozen years after my doctors told me to give up hope for a cure. The world doesn’t always smell good, but I am grateful beyond measure to have that knowledge.
I stored decades worth of abandoned family objects in the basement of my Portland house when I moved away, and fourteen years later I still don’t know what to do with it all. Where did these suitcases travel before they landed in my house? I have no idea; my great-grandmother was a Saami woman and an illegal immigrant. She did not like to answer questions.