New Seasons in the PAC-Northwest

27 09 2018

The leaves are changing and some are falling. Autumn is here. I am content with my life in New America. The financial difficulties and poverty struggles are in the past, although the memory still fresh in my mind and it serves me well in my daily interactions with the less fortunate.

The streets of Portland and Seattle this summer were riddled with the lost — San Francisco, I heard, is way worse. In Seattle last week, I had a delightful time with a local son — a true west coaster. Kyle showed me the sights around Capitol Hill, a neighborhood I had previously visited five years prior with my good friend, Ryan.

Ryan is on the slow boat to China, but that’s another story.

Kyle is a visual merchandiser for a major American department stores chain headquartered in Seattle. He is a handsome man who likes to read and is interested in things that nourish your soul. He also enjoys a good laugh. We got a long famously.

Seattle, like Portland only to a larger extent, appears to be a growing city with cranes of construction abounding. It is picturesque with its hills and harbor — protected from the ocean storms that often batter the east coast around this time of year. From my perspective, Seattle is a politically left-leaning city that gets business right and welcomes tourists from around the globe.

SeattleKylesView

Before skipping around Capitol Hill with Kyle, I had to participate in yet another episode of David’s car breaks down. He drove the BMW up from Portland and took it down into the masses at Pike Place Market where the vehicle promptly overheated upon entering the parking garage. Smoke fumed from under the hood as we descended into the underground garage.

It would take 18 hours to get the car out of the garage. Two tow trucks couldn’t fit and AARP offered little assistance. Frankly, I did not handle the situation well. I have long since lost my patience with David’s desire to rehab this particular car. Fans, radiators, tires, you name it — I’m over it.

I wonder how many marriages have become divorces because of cars?

But I digress.

I remain grateful for our life here on the West Coast. The challenge of learning a new city, state and regional culture is exciting. Working your way up a ladder is fun and seeing David’s design spirit come to life is true joy. Revisiting Portland is a glimpse into where he was born and raised. The hospital is still here. We drove past his boyhood home in Mount Tabor. David was a junior in high school when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

“My passion is still with architecture and design,” David said recently. “But I have yet to find my vision here in Portland,” he added.

DavidPortland2018

We still have our tiny flat in one of America’s queen cities. I now work for a B corporation and we are starting to make friends. I would like to see Kyle again. I’m not sure what that agreement would be. Maybe a trip to San Francisco or Japan?? You know, to save the lost…..

 

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Coming Back, Gracefully

7 08 2018

Recovery going well. It has been a surprisingly hot summer in Portland. I accepted a union job offer from a local grocery store. Cleaning toilets and taking out the trash. It’s a smelly job, but somebody’s gotta do it and I am damn glad to have the work while earning a decent wage.

Walking the streets has been challenging but it has made me stronger. One must stay ever vigilant in certain sections of the city (Old Town/Chinatown) where those who have fallen on hard times lurk and dwell. I was not prepared for such a stark reality. Skid row here is ugly. Real ugly. These conditions I had not seen since the summer of 2009 in New York. People had lost their minds and were living like dirty gutter rats.

Old Town’s Stag

I’ve seen that here. On more than one occasion.

At my new job it is required to interact with the public. A daily evaluation of the local market. Even in brief conversations, messages can be exchanged. Understanding the neighborhood is important. Knowing hot and cold trends keeps you in the game.

Physically, the job can be exhausting. There is a lot of time on your feet. I average seven miles a day. There is also a lot of lifting to be done. There is even a demolition component involving “bottle machines.” The bottles and cans provide a source of revenue for people living on the margins. A tiny profit for people living on the streets or neighborhood folks trying to pay down bills.

I walk to and from work most days and nights. It is a safe neighborhood with a hospital nearby, plenty of construction projects, shopping and street car lines. Portland, I’m learning, is a major rail city. David and I enjoy riding in the street car. We’ve taken it to the riverfront, library and over to the eastside. Our studio apartment is coming along, albeit slowly. The biggest fix was getting rid of the leaking air mattress.

The Jeep is gone as well. God bless that vehicle. It did its job and more from Calgary to Miami. But, when in recovery mode — rebuilding lives — one needs less worries not more. Vehicles in the city are a luxury. There are risks to street parking no matter where one calls home.

I’m still reporting on queer issues for south Florida and, locally, have picked up a restaurant beat for a Portland neighborhood newspaper. We have joined an Episcopal Cathedral and begun volunteering at community events. Friends are planning visits…. I’m happy again. That’s the most important thing. 





The Caucus and The Camaro

20 02 2016

The jet took us from Miami to Chicago in just under three hours. It was a new frontier in traveling.

Yes, I packed all of my stale cliches into a couple of bags and boldly charted a course to Iowa, site of the first in the nation caucuses for the United States Presidency. I’m still trying to figure out just what the hell a caucus is?

Before Iowa, I spent a few days in Chicago, catching up with an acquaintance from the Florida panhandle. Billy is one of those online friends, who you meet in a club one night and become virtual buds. He is intelligent, handsome and 10 years my junior. I see some of myself in Billy, having been through emotional relationships and escaped what can be an intolerant Southern culture. Billy is dating a young man from Philadelphia and seems happy with life when we meet for brunch at the Golden Apple Diner on Chicago’s north side.

I ask him if he is in love and without hestitation he says yes. He is also quite passionate about a certain U.S. Senator from Vermont. Yes, Billy is a Bernie Sanders supporter. He spouts statistics about income inequality, criminal justice reform and big banks. He agrees with socialism and plays Modest Mouse records on a vintage turntable in his living room.

Knowing his political knowledge was strong I had asked Billy if he was interested in traveling to Iowa with me. He said he couldn’t get away from work, but wished me well. After crashing on his couch, I got up the next morning and motored into Iowa. The guy at the counter of the rental car company had struck up a friendly conversation with me about Pompano Beach. He upgraded my ride and I bought some insurance off him. I’d be rolling into Des Moines in a sporty red Camaro.

ChiCam

ChiCam

The Camaro was fast and fortunately the roads were not slick or covered with snow. It was late January and it was cold. I felt it in Chicago, the wind…. the chill. It had been quite some time since I had felt real wintery conditions. On my first night in Des Moines, I had dinner in the bar of the Bennigans near the interstate. There, journalists and politicos gathered to drink and discuss the day. I noticed a table full of Rand Paul supporters, four dudes, lots of testosterone and tattoos. Next to them were two European journalists who had been following around Ted Cruz and Rick Santorum. After my dinner, I approached their table and asked for their thoughts on the election.

“They are all fake,” I said trying to get the Swiss cameraman to show his cards.

“Sure,” he said, appearing somewhat surprised by my pronouncement and seeming bored with me already.

“Who do you think is the most geniune?,” I asked, in my best Cajun French accent.

“Trump,” he said.

This surprised me. The Swiss journalists said they had been at a Cruz event earlier in the day and one of the men boasted of his one-on-one access to Santorum, a former Pennsylvania Senator and stauch crusader of the religious right. Both men also mentioned their wives.

“People must come to their senses sooner or later,” I said, offering a distain for the campaign up to this point. The Swiss said nothing. I went back to my hotel across the street, but before going to sleep, I decided to check the weather forecast for the weekend.

Sunny and clear for the next day but a snowstorm was approaching out the southwest.

 

 





My Valentine

14 02 2011

Breaking out of my lil’ depression now. Listening to the brilliant Pandora app on my I-phone. When I think about my life, it is silly to wallow in self defeat.

Yes, I’ve experienced Ammmmazing things through the course of three decades. Been to exotic places and met incredible people. It’s high time to be grateful.

I am most grateful for David. He has seen me at my worst, heard all the stories, rumors and half-truths and still manages to see through it all. I know it hasn’t been easy for him, these last two years.

We met when my world was falling apart. And he still let me drive his BMW.

David is truly a gentle soul. A believer in overcoming obstacles and moving mountains. He rebuilt that sporty ’89 BMW and restored it to classic condition. It was a blast to take out on the campaign trail.

There was a moment, during the sultry summer, at the Fourth of July parade in Lynn Haven, that sticks out in my mind. David had suggested I stand in the BMW — through the sunroof — and wave at the crowds. This idea, at the time, seemed foolish. My confidence was weak then. Instead, I donned a T-shirt for the Governor candidate and marched with the party faithful.

Looking back, that was a mistake. The Beemer would have probably got me noticed more. It’s a cool car and I especially love zooming through traffic in it. David enjoys talking about the work he’s spent restoring this ‘ultimate driving machine’ to tip-top performance.

He’s done the same with me.

When I came back to Panama City, after failing in New York, David was there to pick up the pieces — shattered ego, bruised body and all. I know it hasn’t been easy for him. He has made many sacrifices.

And no matter how hard I fought to remain independent, he kept loving me. All those times, I railed against the system, complained about my plight or sinned for the sake of sinning, David stood by me.

The campaign was, for all intents and purposes, a very public trial. I learned a great deal about my community and found true friends. There were days when I didn’t feel like getting out of bed yet David always managed to motivate me to be better.

I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve him. I’m just happy he chose me.

Happy Valentine’s Day Lover!