The Puget Sound is the home of my childhood. When I lived in Oregon I was homesick for this landscape.
I don't miss my Portland friends because we travel in an amorphous cloud, traveling up and down between B.C. and Eugene, with the occasional exile to L.A. or extended stay in San Francisco. It might be accurate to say that we all live just off Interstate 5 rather than specifying a town.
Even those who truly live elsewhere-- James in Tokyo, Susie in Rhode Island, Jess and all the others in New York -- I see more regularly than I did some of my neighbors in Portland.
The mathematicians have a different migratory pattern, but it comes down to the same essential fact. I see them all over the world, in Paris or Rome or Vancouver or New York or sometimes in Portland, but always the people traveling through. We managed to go out with our Australian friends twice after they moved to Portland, the Swedes only once. But now that we live in a different state, I expect to see them more frequently.
Gabriel showed up to paint a mural of rocket ships, and Maki, Anna Ruby, and Marisa dropped in the next day. They all slept on the floor of the free apartment, and we went to visit gardens, beaches.
I've stayed with Gabriel's family in Colorado, hidden in his mountain cabin to work on a manuscript. Byron has visited Anna Ruby and her father in Boulder. We drove to Santa Fe to visit Marisa and see the circus.
My friendships aren't located in one town. My friends live all over.
Another good reason to come back to Seattle -- the law against postering was found to be unconstitutional.
Driving through a sketchy neighborhood near Sand Point, staring out the windows as the used car lots flashed by, I saw a sign for Volvo repair. I glanced at the place, an old-fashioned greasy shop with a few cars parked out front.
One of the cars was a black 240 sedan. With a for sale sign.
Pull over! I requested and Byron did; I hopped out, jumped over the metal fence, and pressed my face up against the car.
The seats were clean, seatbelts intact. The body of the car was pristine.
We went home and I sent email inquiring about the car, but showed up the next day for a test drive before I heard back from the mechanic.
The shop was staffed by men shouting instructions at each other in Russian. The place smelled of oil and cigarettes.
I drove the car, and it was my car, the one I always wanted, the best and most thrilling thing I had seen in years. The fellow who went on the test drive knew everything about Volvo maintenance, knew more car trivia than anyone I had talked to since my childhood hanging at my grandparents service station.
I said my husband will want to see it and waved and drove off to figure out how much we should offer. It is of course necessary to haggle the price down by at least a third.
But essentially, after several rounds of bargaining, that car is now my car.
And this makes me happy.
I don't remember doing this interview, but it is interesting to see what I said about Portland. I still believe all of those things.... I just don't want to live there any longer.
The Give a Fuck Coalition is an effort to build an all-ages musical venue in Bellingham. This is a very cool idea, and better yet, they just bought a church.
My small son refused to let his little teeth go; he said he didn't care if it made his new teeth sick. He said he loves his little teeth too much. He wiggled them fifty times per hour, using an old metal counter to keep track. But he wouldn't pull them out.
These teeth didn't appear to be attached to anything. They were held in place with simple determination.
I knew he would not enjoy having the teeth extracted by a dentist. I knew the dentist would lecture us both. I knew that even with insurance, it would cost a ridiculous amount to pull out the two teeth that were simply resting on the gums.
I offered treats and bribes but he was having none of it; he put his hand across his mouth and shook his head resolutely.
Until he figured out that this whole situation might be worth cash.
He managed to strike a shocking deal: twenty dollars per tooth plus an ice cream supper.
The teeth are under his pillow and he is drawing maps for the tooth fairy so she doesn't get lost when she brings the money.
Our real estate agent invited us to have dinner at his house. We arrived on time and the people we're buying the house from were already settled in the backyard with drinks.
Sitting in the middle of the lawn there was a huge pink parrot on a perch. The bird stared at my son, who approached cautiously. Two huge cats strolled around the yard, unconcerned with our presence or the bird.
It was a beautiful hot evening and we laughed and talked and admired the house and yard.
This free apartment has cable television. It has been at least five years since I gave up the habit, and I'm actually shocked by the programs that pass as mainstream entertainment.
Worse yet, I am watching commercials that I would have been better off never knowing about.
Like the Jaguar commercial using London Calling as the jingle.
Or the cruise line using Lust for Life.
We have now either exchanged email with or talked to every used car dealer in the metro area.
We have talked to every single person advertising a 240 in the paper or auto sale guide.
There are no cars in our budget that meet the criteria: automatic (because of my typing injury), no accident history, good seat belts, cheap enough to buy with cash on hand.
Never mind concerns about the aesthetics -- I do not, for instance, wish to own two wagons. I don't even want to drive the wagon we own. I would prefer a black car to match my hair.
These are whimsical thoughts when I can't even find a car with a straight body.
The children demanded pizza and I remembered Piecora's: the pizza shop my friend David worked at in the eighties.
We drove down Broadway and I picked a random street, but I was right.
Green and red painted wallks, red checked cloths on tables, posters for plays and exhibits. The place hadn't changed in thirteen years. The children loved the pizza and the waiters didn't seem to mind us. I looked around in mild shock: even the bathroom was the same.
We went home and the boys went to sleep. I stayed up and watched Breakfast at Tiffany's with my girl, a fan of old movies and musicals and all things dramatic.
This was the first time I had viewed the movie as an adult. I was surprised at all the pieces of the story I never noticed, even though I was not an innocent youth. I wondered how the movie might diverge from the book and resolved to find a copy.
Last winter we went to San Francisco to visit relatives and stayed with my friend Jennifer in a rowhouse in Bernal Heights.
I met Jen, and her current roommate, when we were all industrious and excessively community-minded teenagers. They were jointly awarded the Washington State Governors' School Award for Citizen Leadership the year before I received the same honor. I still have my plaque. For many years it lived under the green armchair in my parents living room, but now it is in a sealed box inside a blue filing cabinet, hidden away in storage in a distant county.
Jen was ecstatic: she had just been accepted to the PhD business program at Berkely. My children played a loud game with marbles and the fridge and we listened to Jen talk about her grad school plans.
We sprawled in her kitchen and talked for hours, and at one point Byron asked why do companies try to get the teen audience anyway? They don't have money.
Jen explained that marketing to a teen audience is all about brand loyalty. She said that if a certain product -- chewing gum, a type of shoe -- is accepted by a consumer as their choice before a certain age, they will stay with the product throughout a lifetime.
We laughed and talked through the night, and I forgot the conversation until today, when I found myself making a mad, misguided effort to find a Volvo 240 to buy, and nearly cried when I realized it would not be an easy or even achievable task.
I was fifteen and a half years old when my parents gave me my first car: a black 1968 Camaro. I coldy returned the keys and declared that it would be a Volkswagen or Volvo or nothing thank you very much.
My parents wouldn't let me have a VW because they said the car was a death trap. They wouldn't buy me a Volvo because the cars were too expensive to work on. My father and grandfather were mechanics and ran a garage, so they were in a position of authority; I begrudgingly accepted a beige sixteen year old Toyota Corona with bullet holes in the rear.
My Toyota was mildy reliable, or intermittently disastrous, depending on your perspective. I was one of the only kids with a car and a license and no curfew, so my friends didn't mind that the car was cramped and slow-moving. It had no reverse and the brake lines leaked constantly, but I just carried a case of brake fluid in the trunk and refilled every few days.
When the Toyota started spewing black smoke from the engine for no reason, I borrowed my mother's white Chevy Sprint to go on a road trip.
I drove that car up a mountain and on the way back down, collided with destiny in the form of a reckless teen driver who turned her car into my lane, turned our lives inside out, nearly killing my dearest friends.
After the accident, I refused to drive. I could not, would not, even consider getting in a car again. I stood in the driveway barefoot, face stitched back together, bruised heart racing, and screamed No at my parents when they tried to coax me to try.
They left for an hour and came home with the best present a traumatized girl could hope for: a Volvo 240 wagon, maroon like dried blood. My mother said I had to drive now, I finally had the safe car I always wanted.
I drove that car for years and years, drove it through age seventeen and eighteen and into my twenties, until it was no longer feasible to keep it running.
When I received my share of the advance for Breeder I used the cash to buy the only thing that could possibly improve my life: a used, battered, sky-blue Volvo with a ski rack and questionable title. The car had been in an accident; it was cheap but no bargain, a real beater, in worse repair than any car I had ever owned. But it was a Volvo, the ultimate symbol of safety and security, the kind of car that allowed me to drive again, drive away into a new future.
I drove that car until it was near death and when we moved to Seattle I planned to bring it along. But on the way home from the grocery store a few days before the move, I turned a corner, and the back door fell off.
Now I need another Volvo, not just any Volvo, a 240. I want it so badly I could have a childish fit. I won't be able to drive without this particular model of car, no matter how odd or illogical. No matter that the 240 series has been out of production for ten years, making it an old car, making it perhaps not the safest choice on the market.
I guess this is what Jen meant when she talked about brand loyalty.
We dropped one kid off with grandma and headed to Oregon to take the oldest to camp. Byron drove and I fell asleep listening to Nico singing I'm not saying that I care, I'm not saying I'll be there, but I'll try.....
Angie had agreed to sheperd our girl and we stopped to chat for a few minutes before kissing Mina goodbye and heading for the coast. Gabriel and Danielle were meeting us somewhere in Astoria, the show was somewhere else, and we didn't bring any scraps of paper with notations on the designated location and times.
We booked a room at a dive hotel with a pink tiled bathroom and green porcelain tub and headed downtown to find our friends. I figured it would be easy enough to find someone from one of the bands, or at least spot their vehicles.
It was easy- Astoria is excessively small - and we sat at the Columbian watching Gabriel and Danielle finish their dinner before walking two blocks to the show.
Al sang a song about iconographic versimilitude, and in another imitated the cry of a seagull. He sang a song about true love and true moonlight and walking in a dark Northwest forest, trying to find both.
The Microphones did a set of exquisitely beautiful songs. Rich Jensen talked about the historic and current population trends between British Columbia and Eugene. Calvin Johnson performed songs from his new album and the whole event took on a singalong quality. He did a version of Hard Travelin' that included such changes as comments about the war on terrorism and the phrase I've been doin' some hard mixin'.....
Stella Marrs presented a slide show using old magazine advertisments to illustrate a personal narrative of environmental toxins and illness.
The slide show was thrilling and I had to leave the building to think about the gap between statistics and belief. I paced up and down on the cold sidewalk next to the pier, the smell of seaweed in the air, thinking about the concept of home.
We were on the ferry on a foggy summer morning. The teenager in the booth behind us was wearing a visor. His bushy reddish hair had spiraled out, springing up, rising at least five inches above his visor. He was wearing a beige tshirt and silky training pants flaring out to cover his shoes. I wondered why he was going from Seattle to Bremerton: he should have been migrating in the opposite direction, but perhaps he had already moved to the city and was going home to visit.
I read a newspaper report from my hometown about a fellow airlifted off the peninsula after a weekend party gone awry; he fell into a bonfire hands first and the paramedics reported that the skin of his hands was sloughing off, the polyester jog pants melted to his legs.
We stood in line to board the monorail. We stood in line, the kids anxious to race for the front seat, but the doors didn't open. I realized that the driver had come out and locked the vehicle behind him, that a woman in a different kind of uniform was moving methodically from seat to seat, opening each, feeling behind all possible crevices. I realized there must have been a bomb threat.
I wondered what to do -- it couldn't be terribly serious because there were no police officers; surely they would have evacuated us if any real danger existed. I watched the woman and read her expression: annoyance, hurry, but not real fear.
The children drooped in the heat. A little girl nearby was restless and her mother pointed to Aubrey and said Look, that little boy is patient.
The doors opened and we boarded.
The fourteenth anniversary of the accident came and went. This is what I was doing: taking my child to the doctor, listening to the Blue Angels buzz my new neighborhood, buying rain coats and school supplies for the kids.