Sunday, October 24, 2010

Portland Thoughts, At the Breakfast Table

(Author's Note: I recently had the opportunity to attend my great-aunt and great-uncle's 60th wedding anniversary with a lot of other family in Denver. It was a real blast, and one of the awesome moments was having my aunt-and-uncle's best friends come in for a surprise, who had been the matron of honor and best man at their wedding. Sunday morning, we were sitting around the breakfast table at the hotel and they started reminiscing about Portland, back in the fifties. It was a wonderful moment that I had to recreate from memory, an hour later--I didn't want to record it and break the moment. The following is the best I can remember.)

Our apartment back then had bunk beds.

That’s right! Bunk beds. Because there was no space for two beds side by side. But it was classy--hey, it had a separate bedroom! That was CLASS.

That’s right, and in the living room we had that double bed, with wheels on the top.

That’s right. If we had overnight guests, we’d lay it flat, you know, but in the daytime we’d push it up against the wall, and it became a couch, you know, because one side of the double bed had wheels on it and it ran up against the wall.

Like a futon, these days.

That’s right.

We shared a bathroom with the couple next to us, and SHE kept the bathroom clean.

That’s right. That was a miracle, such a boon for two bachelors living alone, you know.

Yes. And the walls were so thin that she could easily hear our alarm through the walls, so when our alarm went off, she used to jump up and run into the bathroom first.

That’s right, and one day we got wise to this, so Dave set his alarm for three o’clock in the morning.


(Dave: I cannot confirm my actions at that time.)

They were such a nice couple, though, that the husband--what was his name?


That’s right, Hap. Hap found me (Jimmy) the next day and said, “Hey, you know my wife gets up when she hears your alarm, and I think yesterday you might have set it wrong! I hope you didn’t get up late or miss an important meeting.”

(More laughter)

And he meant it, too--he was concerned about us.

That’s right. And then he was so nice about the girls.

That’s RIGHT! The landlady, would only rent to couples, normally, but she made an exception for Dave and I, but she said: “NO GIRLS.” We weren’t allowed to have any lady guests at all in the apartment.

That’s right. So Hap says to me, (Dave), “Don’t worry about it,” he says. “If you want to have lady friends over, you just tell me, and we’ll run ‘em through my apartment.”


And when it rained, we had to put a PLANK down to walk over to the university.

That’s right. Thirty bucks a month, we paid for that place, fifteen a piece.

(Joan speaking.) And then there was that big house on Stevens street that we lived in right after we were married. And we threw a New Year’s Eve party.

(Dave speaking) And that was the LAST New Year’s eve party we EVER threw. All my fraternity brothers came, and their wives and girlfriends, and it got pretty wild.

[Name forgotten] got so mad that we ran out of fixings for Tom and Jerry’s, and so he went into the kitchen and scooped that stuff out of the sink!

(Joan) That’s right. We threw a dinner party there and we [she and Matron of Honor] were making spaghetti, because that was all we could afford in those days, and we didn’t have a colander so we were draining it over the sink and the lid came off and there went all the spaghetti, right into the sink.

[Matron of Honor] We looked around, and we didn’t see anyone, so we just scooped it out of the sink and put it back in the pan.


Well, there wasn’t any more! To serve, I mean, or eat. That was all we had.

That was a wonderful old house, though. On that New Year’s eve party, Margaret’s husband Whitney was supposed to leave for Korea the next day, and in the middle of the festivities, he quietly left the party and went out to his car. No one saw him go.

All of a sudden we hear a gunshot.

All of us, thinking the worst, run out to the car, and there is Whitney with the gun in his hand, very calm. He had just fired it in celebration of the New Year. It was a tradition with him.

That’s right! He fired it into the ground, though, not into the air, because he was smart and careful.

Yes, he was very savvy with guns. Always was.

That was a wonderful old house. It was old and large and falling apart, but I loved it. They knocked it down, you know, because they put the street through there.

Oh, I didn’t know!

Yes, it’s gone.

Well, it wouldn’t have lasted long anyway. It was falling apart. Needed a lot of work.

(Dave) Like that cabin that my father’s friend, Jay Gould, (Author's note: ?) had. It was out by the lake. We used to go out there, and fish during the day and play cards at night, and he (Jay) had to have the biggest and best of everything, so one year he buys this gigantic, high-powered, portable radio. This thing was HUGE, I remember, although of course most of the size was due to the batteries. And it was my job, back when Portland had a ball team, to listen to the radio and call out the score. And I could barely hear it, because the reception was so bad, but still it was my job to sit with my ear pressed against that goddamned thing.

What was that announcer’s name?

Randy Truitt. (Author's note: I got this wrong.)

(Wow, there’s a name I haven’t heard in fifty years.)

Yes, Randy Truitt. And when they hit the ball, he’d announce it, and he had a matchbox in the press box and he’d flick the matchbox--thwock--so that it sounded like you could really hear it.

That’s right.

Right before we got married, Joan’s mother knew that she was going to move out, so we moved her into a much smaller apartment downtown, so she could get to work easily.

That’s right--right around the corner from the big Unitarian church. I slept on a cot in the living room, because we knew it wouldn’t be for long.


(Author's Note: It sounds so...simple. I'm not one to be nostalgic, but...awww.)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Beautiful Fall Day Conversation

Me: (begins to steer our walking back to work)

Kentucky: "Oh, yeah, guess we should turn."

Me: "Well, if we want to go back to work, we should."

Kentucky: "Let's just keep walking!"

Me: "And arrive in beautiful downtown Kent!"

Kentucky: "Hey, if we kept walking, we'd eventually get to California."

Me: "After a week."

Kentucky: "More like three weeks. How far do you think it is?"

Me: "From here to California? At least five hundred...I'd say, eight hundred miles."

Kentucky: "No! It is not THAT far. Well...where in California?"

Me: "Just to the border would be shorter."

Kentucky: "No, I want to go deep in California. San Francisco or L.A."

Me: "At least 800 miles. Maybe 1000."

Kentucky: "No!"

Me: "Yes! There's a LOT of California to cross!"

Kentucky: "I'm going to look that up."

(Much later.)

Me: "It's 808 miles from Seattle to San Fran."

Kentucky: "Hahaha."

Me: "And it's 1,135 miles to LA. AM I GOOD OR WHAT?"

Kentucky: "Yes. Quite!"

Me: "Thanks."

Kentucky: "If we walked at a 15 min mile pace, it would take us 20 days at 10 hours a day to get to San Fran." (Author's Note: She was right on when she estimated three weeks, earlier.)

Me: "4 miles an hour for 10 hours? We'd have to train."

Kentucky: "Yeah, I'm not saying it's going to happen anytime soon."

Me: "But what great training for Nepal!"

Saturday, October 02, 2010

The Best Scene Of The Movie

Foy: ...He certainly did give himself a billing, this George M. Cohan.

George: You don't have to memorize that one, kid. There's plenty more all over town.

Foy: I'd like to forget it. Say, mister, you connected with this turkey?

George: What makes you think it's a turkey? I hear it's pretty good.

Foy: It's a malicious rumor to gyp the public. Who is this guy Cohan? Where's he from? What is he, an upstart?

George: Oh, he's been through the mill. Played everything. Small time, big time, vaudeville, rep shows. Even followed dog acts.

Foy: Must've looked like an encore. Say, uh, is he as good as Foy?

George: Who?

Foy: Foy, Foy. (Foy sprays George's face) Eddie Foy. Oh, pardon me.

George: Pardon me. I didn't quite catch the name. Would you mind spraying it again?

Foy: Eddie Foy! The star that's got the big show down the street with a chorus of seventy.

George: Why, I thought they looked a little younger than that. I hear now that Cohan's in town, Foy is gonna retire.

Foy: Foy won't retire till he's ninety!

George: Is it gonna take him that long to discover he has no talent? Why, they tell me when he tries to sing, the orchestra puts up umbrellas.

Foy: Tries to sing! Foy is a genius! He keeps his audience glued to the seats.

George: That's one way o' keeping them in the theater. Cohan does it with talent. Look (he points out the poster) - produces his own plays, writes his own books, lyrics and music, plays the leads, and he's a great dancer.

Foy: He dances, eh? When does he get time to practice?

George: When you write your own plays you don't have to practice. Cohan's done all right. He's given the world 'Yankee Doodle Dandy.' What's Foy done for his country?

Foy: He gave 'em seven kids.

George: Does he dance?

Foy: One o' the best.

George: When does he get time to practice?

Foy: Say, listen, young fella. My name's Eddie Foy.

George: I know it. I'm George M. Cohan.

Foy: Oh, so you're Cohan? (They shake hands) Well, if I said anything accidental to make you mad, I want you to know I'm darn glad I did.

George: I don't blame ya. I'd feel the same way if I were up against Cohan. What do you like to drink?

Foy: Oh, moxie-

George: I can supply it! The attraction inside is a whole lot bigger than I am. Come and see it when your show closes.

--From Yankee Doodle Dandy, 1942

Friday, October 01, 2010

Sittin' In Some Place Weird

The boy was sitting outside the restaurant, on the ground, I mean fully on the ground, his butt on the dirty concrete and his back pressed hard up against the railing that separated the restaurant's territory from the territory of the sidewalk, with all its casual passers-by, of which Bobby and I were two.

At first I thought the boy was a homeless kid high out of his gourd, with his legs hanging out slackly in front of him, cuffs and shoes resting fully in the filthy alley, his arms hanging limply by his sides, but his shirt and jeans were pristine and not cheap. His face was clean, he was young, and he wasn't mumbling or grinning, but his eyes stared blankly at nothing.

Bobby put a finger on it first: "THAT'S a breakup."

I turned to him. "You're right! I was trying to figure out what the hell was going on."

Bobby nodded. "We're all been there. You have to leave the restaurant, and your feet won't carry you any farther than you to absolutely have to go. So you end up sittin' in some place weird, and you know you're being awkward, and you know you're attracting attention and you're just like, "Fuck ALL of you. I'm gonna sit here and be weird, and fuck you and the horse you rode in on."