Ostrich—free download

Here’s my latest downloadable. It’s a fictional piece called “Ostrich” and is in no way based upon my life. At least I’d like to think not 😀  Please freely distribute to any and all who may enjoy (it’s eReader friendly). I’d love to hear what you think.

Ostrich

Ostrich, by Aaron M. Green, 2016.

 

 

Indian Killer and My Trip to Joseph, OR

Wallowa Lake (photo courtesy of: http://wallowalakelodge.com/)
Wallowa Lake (photo courtesy of: http://wallowalakelodge.com/)

It was 11am on a Sunday. Ashley and I were hiking in the snow along a trail just south of Wallowa Lake in eastern Oregon. The way we knew we were still on a trail, some trail, and not just trailblazing our way up the side of a mountain, were the vast amounts of trees we’d pass with initials carved into them. Love-carvings (is that still a thing?), with typical hearts, letters, dates in time. Signs that humans (with knives) had walked this trail thousands of times before us.

We neither thought about nor realized whose trails we were walking. Like many before us, we’d simply driven to the end of highway 82, stayed a night in the town of Joseph, and continued to the road’s end on the southern point of Wallowa Lake the next day. There was a State Park with cabins, snowed-over campsites, and street parking. We parked our Prius behind another Prius, pulled on our beanies and gloves, and started walking. Aimlessly, I’ll add, if not for a sign that read “East Fork: 4mi” and “West Fork: 2.5mi”. We went west. We walked and talked about our future together, career choices, writing goals. We took a few moments to stop, glance around, and look up into the trees before continuing along. A stream with a man-made bridge above had not-yet frozen over. It was very-much alive and nothing close to quiet.

After a mile and a half we came to a clearing where we could take in views of the lake and its surrounding hillsides. It’s a shame it’s not spring or summer, I thought, wishing I could have experienced a landscape without so much white. This—though I was not yet aware—would become for me quite an ironic thought.

IMG_6776.JPG
The Jennings Hotel, Room 8

When we got back to our hotel room I noticed a sign above our window that was made to look like part of the window’s molding. It read, “Chief Joseph Hotel.” The room was one of many fully renovated rooms by an artist who’d recently acquired the building. Chances were good that he’d found the sign in an antique shop nearby and cut it down to fit perfectly above the window. I knew we were in the town of Joseph, but I wondered who Chief Joseph was. I sat down and picked up a book I’d been reading. It was a work that I’d later learn the author (Sherman Alexie) decided to distance himself from. Today, knowing what I do now, I wonder why that is? Did he believe himself to be too angsty? Too heavy-handed, too righteous for his cause? One thing is for certain: Indian Killer is not a book for kids.

indian killer

Set in mid-90’s Seattle, Indian Killer snapshots between various characters and their interactions surrounding the issue of an alleged, at-large terrorizer and murderer of white men. The main character, John Smith, is an adopted Indian (I shall use “Indian” at times to refer to “Native Americans/First Peoples” because this is the nomenclature that Alexie used) to two upper-middle class white parents. Among many things, he plays a symbolic role throughout the book portraying the confusion and generational frustration that resides within many Indians today. John never knew his real parents, never knew what tribe he was from, never fit in, and throughout the book, deals constantly with agonizing mental illness (possibly schizophrenia). Moreover, he often hallucinates and dreams of righting the wrongs of the White Man once and for all. It comes as no surprise, then, that the reader initially assumes John to be the Indian Killer.

The most interesting character to me was Marie Polatkin, a fierce college-aged activist who spends her time either handing out sandwiches to the homeless or challenging her Native American Literature professor, Dr. Clarence Mather (a white man in love with the idea of “being Indian” who spent two decades living amongst an Indian people-group in order to study their ways). Marie, herself a Spokane Indian, persistently challenged Dr. Mather’s notions on what it meant to be Indian, often insulting his expertise and insisting that Native American Literature should be taught and written by Native Americans, not white men. One of her most compelling statements came as Seattle was becoming more paranoid about the “Indian Killer”, and as more white people were launching assaults upon, especially, homeless Indians. Marie, herself always doubtful that the killer was necessarily Indian, reflected:

“…calling him the Indian Killer doesn’t make any sense, does it? If it was an Indian doing the killing, then wouldn’t he be called the Killer Indian?” (p. 247)

It was then that my perspective shifted. Not to sound dramatic, but the idea that the real killers in Alexie’s book (and by implication, much of our country’s history), were actually white people got me thinking. I started reflecting upon my 21st century, white, southern-californian education about First Peoples. Like many kids raised in American schools, I was taught about Squanto and the early settlers who came over on the Mayflower, and then in 11th grade U.S. history about various battles that the U.S. Cavalry had with tribes of Natives unwilling to relocate. But mostly, the perspective by which I was taught was that these battles were history. Numbers on a page. Tally marks and facts.

I’ve never read from the perspective of our First Peoples until Indian Killer (Alexie grew upon on the Spokane Indian Reservation). I’ve never been encouraged to and so I’ve never bothered to. The closest I’ve ever come to realizing the bleak situation my country has placed our First Peoples within was riding my bike through north-eastern Arizona, through Navajo-nation (as one white person I’d met in Flagstaff called it). “Desolate” was the descriptor they’d used.

As I flipped open Indian Killer and continued reading, it didn’t take long for me to make a connection. I started wondering about the town of Joseph and about the “Chief Joseph” sign above my window. Soon, I was reading wikipedia pages. Then came articles, and finally a primary source document written by Chief Joseph the Younger himself entitled, Chief Joseph’s Own Story. As I read I learned that his tribe, the Nez Perce, were indigenous to the soil upon which the town of Joseph was planted. I learned that the Nez Perce were initially peaceful to white settlers, and that our government allowed them to inhabit parts of the Wallowa valley. That was until 1863 when gold was discovered in the Wallowa mountains. The U.S. government then asked the Nez Perce to relocate to a smaller reservation in Idaho. Joseph the Younger’s father, Joseph the Elder, declined, and placed poles as boundary lines. To the governmental agents and white settlers he declared:

“Inside this boundary all our people were born. It circles the graves of our fathers, and we will never give up these graves to any man.”

(Chief Joseph: Guardian of the People, p. 73)

From there it’s reported that aggression toward the Nez Perce rose until eventually the U.S. government waged war. By then, Joseph the Younger had become Chief (his father had passed), and instead of fighting, he decided to migrate his people north in what’s been considered one of the greatest tactical evasions ever attempted. Hidden in the mountains of Idaho and dashing through the night while Cavalry pursued, Chief Joseph believed if they could reach Canada they’d be safe. But before they could, and after many among the Nez Perce had died, Joseph was forced to surrender. The tribe was transported to a P.O.W. camp in eastern Kansas before being transported to a reservation in Oklahoma where many in the tribe died of disease. Chief Joseph would continue to lead his people throughout the various places that they were transported. Most courageously, he lived out his days as an activist for all indigenous First Peoples, even pleading directly to President Rutherford B. Hayes.

Chief Joseph (Joseph, OR), photo courtesy of: http://ravenandchickadee.com/2013/06/recovering-in-joseph-oregon/
Chief Joseph (Joseph, OR), photo courtesy of: http://ravenandchickadee.com/2013/06/recovering-in-joseph-oregon/

The town of Joseph today certainly looks nothing like it did 150 years ago. Eateries, boutiques, and bars line Main Street. Artistic culture thrives, especially during the summer. A large statue of Chief Joseph stands near the town’s entrance. One evening a waitress told Ashley and I that when she moved to town she and her husband and many of their visiting friends had intensely vivid dreams. “This whole canyon is spiritual,” she said with an excited smile. “A really, very magical place.”

Visiting Joseph and reading the fictional story, Indian Killer, has caused me to wonder a lot of Why’s?, as might be expected. Aside from the compelling mastery that Alexie has over his prose, and the indescribable beauty of Joseph and its surrounding country, more than anything, these two experiences have made me sad and grieved. Much has been done that cannot be undone. An entire people group has been forced to assimilate. Imagine the state of our country if we had lost WW2. It’s tough to picture, but there’s a good chance that many of us might not even be alive. Still, I’ll never be able to realize what it felt like to be indigenous and then displaced; taken up and then taken hostage; used and then disposed of. There’s not really a handy or bright solution either. Sadness and grief just seem the most appropriate emotions.

My Designated Cave Space

It was April or May of 2013. Les and I had just moved into a studio loft in downtown LA. It had enormous windows, outstanding stone floors, and plenty of open space—to build!

Paul & Les working on the lofted bed in the LA studio
Paul & Les at work on the lofted bed in the LA studio

One of my favorite qualities about Les is not just his propensity to dream, but his ability to execute. I have a box of napkins filled with Les’ handwriting. Most came while eating lunch somewhere and dreaming about bike tours, tiny houses, small businesses, faith, being a writer, pastor, and timeless friend. Les is famous for his rigid eye-contact while reaching cooly into his bag for a ballpoint Bic, and then reaching across the table for a napkin. Many of my wildest dreams have come out of me spitting ideas and him recording them on napkins.

When we’d finished unloading our belongings, I recall sitting cross-legged in the middle of the space, windows open, the area filling with LA wind and noise, and Les drawing out everything we wanted to do with our brand new home. We saw tiny rooms with rooftop lounges, cat-walks in between, suspended bookshelves, floating bookshelves, and my personal favorite, designated cave spaces.

I’m not sure if there’s a real term for rooms that one can retreat into while barely fitting. To us, though, the idea was that the space would be small, cozy, and wrought with the potential to help welcome creativity. Les and I were hung up on what to call it until he said, “well, it’s designated for creating,” and I said, “and it’s basically a cave.” Boom: Designated Cave Space.

Me looking inspired in the first stages of the Loft Designated Cave Space
Me looking inspired in the first stages of the LA Designated Cave Space

Maybe you’re the type who thrives at your work in big, open warehouses. Or maybe bustling, coffee-shop spaces are your jam. Or even unexciting, bordering-on-boring spaces, like one of my literary inspirations Annie Dillard prefers.

Not me. I need a cave. I need space to build shelves, lay a piece of wood for a desk, pile up the boxes, get a tiny pull-string light and pull up a compact chair. Without realizing it until recently, I look for ways to designate cave spaces in every apartment I’ve moved into. Having a cave space must be the pressure therapy my creativity needs to excel. Maybe I get too distracted with too much square feet to look at, or maybe my imagination can’t emerge until my senses are hampered from sensing.

Whichever it is, this is my newest Designated Cave Space. It’s a 9×7 office in the SE industrial district in Portland.

Carl in the Des Cave Space
Carl in the Designated Cave Space

For now, as you can see, I’m using it for storage and as a place for Carl and I to work. It was unfinished and dirty upon move in, but I didn’t mind. Everything minus the walls and floor are my addition. And there’s still plenty more cave space decor to come.

2016: Attention & Definition

photo by Stephanie Yu
Full disclosure: this picture of Jack is only here to draw people into reading this post. Photo by Stephanie Yu
The new year is here (and somehow we’re already nearly two weeks in) and I’m happy to report that with it I have resolutions I wish to share here on the blog. But first: creating resolutions (not to mention keeping them) has never really been my thing. This has likely been more out of laziness than some heroically intelligent critique upon the efficacy and/or relevancy of making New Year’s resolutions. The way I see it, the fact that I’ve taken the time to come up with these goals for 2016 is reason enough for mentioning them here. Here they are:

  1. blog weekly
  2. read 3-4 books a month
  3. limit myself to a maximum of 15 leisure minutes on my smartphone each day.

OK, maybe these seem ambitious. Or strange. The smartphone one is certainly strange. But I promise, they don’t come out of nowhere. How these goals came about stems from an activity that a group of friends and I have been participating in since 2012. The idea is to come to New Year’s eve having prayed, thought, and readied oneself to present two words to the group. The words are to be like signs or themes for the year to come. They ought to shape what one hopes the year will hold, and therefore lead the way into the new year.

Last year (2015), my words were Surrender and Peace. I’ll be sharing more about these words and how well they actually did shape my 2015 later. For this year, I shared that my words will be: Attention and Definition. And from these I’ve decided I’ll measure how well I’ve kept my words by assessing how well I’ve kept my goals.

So why Attention and Definition?

Attention. I have to admit, I’m very aware of how distracted I am by my phone. How’s that for irony? No other “thing” consumes more of my downtime than my phone. And to make it worse, my phone even consumes my uptime, like when I’m driving, when I’m shopping for food, or when I’m at lunch with friends. Gone are the days when standing in line means looking at pictures on the wall or (God forbid!) talking to the person next to me. I don’t even have to be bored anymore. Nor do I have to sit with my thoughts, or my emotions. Many of my waking moments, whether filled by activity or not, go accompanied by the blue glow of my phone.

I believe God put “Attention” on my mind when I asked for words for 2016. But I also believe my conscience and my desire to be more present among others did too.

Definition. The way this came to mind was less formal than “attention”. By that I mean, “definition” came to mind like coming up with an answer after pondering a question. After several minutes of mining my heart and mind, it was there. Truth be told, I’m not sure why it’s a word I came upon. Maybe it’ll mean defining my occupation more? Or defining my writing voice more? Or my faith? Or all of the above. Regardless, I know I can use it like a tool to help me craft my year, so I’m going to go with it.

Back to my goals (blogging, reading, & less phone): they’re not the holy grail. I’m not going to judge myself if I don’t follow through with them perfectly. But with many goals I’ve made in my life, I intend to fulfill them. Meaning I hope they happen, and I hope I can report the benefits that aiming for them has reaped this time next year.

And I look forward to more writing, reading, and engagement with what’s going on in the real world! I’m even planning to publish here about the books I read, the fiction and nonfiction I’m working on, the musings about faith I may be having, and ideas I think are worth sharing. This much you should expect.

So, here we go!

Ten Bucks to Meet a Writer

He approached the register. “Yes sir,” I said. “Can I help you with anything?”
He said he was borrowing his daughter’s bike for the week and that it was making funny noises and not shifting right. His accent came from his side of the country. The way he wore his glasses and how said “I’ll give ya ten doll-ahs” made me think I was on the set of a Woody Allen movie. I pointed him over to our work station and came out from behind the register.
“See the way it don’t shift,” he said, pointing at his rear wheel’s cassette.
I’d placed his bike on the repair stand. I’d kneeled and looked at his derailure to make sure it wasn’t bent. I flexed his thumb shifters across each gear and found the problem. Slight adjustment needed to the limit screws—a ten-second fix. “See these two, tiny screws?” I said, pointing with a fine tipped screwdriver.
He leaned in. “Uh huh, oh right. Yeah I see ‘em.”
“Just need a slight adjustment, that’s all. Have you on the road in no time,” I said, beginning to turn the screws a quarter turn until I felt his gears fall into the right place. Bike fixed.
“So you must be some kinda racer judgin’ by the size of those calfs,” he pointed at my legs.
“I wish,” I said. “I just commute by bike. Haven’t owned a car in years. Maybe three or four years.”
“It’s betta’ by bike, wouldn’t you say?”
“It is. I love it too.”
“Betta’ for the environment, betta’ for the roads, betta’ for ya health.”
“That’s right, sure is.”
“You know, I always wish I’d done more about the environment. I’m a retired journalist. Always wish I’d of cared a little more. My kids they went to the West coast. Son in L-A, dwoughta here in Portland. I’m trying to get more in touch with my progressive side, I really am. I’m thinking about moving out this way now, seeing as how all the kids they wanted to get the hell off the East coast soon as they could and all.”
“L-A,” I say, nodding.
“Oh yeah, son was living downtown, one of those posh lofts. Paying something crazy. Something like twenny-two hunded doll-ahs for a studio downtown. Says he can’t even ride his bike anywhere. Says it’s getting betta though.”
“Oh I bet. I lived there in downtown before I lived here.”
“Oh so you know! You know what I’m twalkin’ about. What bwought you here then, to Portland I mean?”
“I’m actually here to study writing, actually. Taking some classes, trying to learn the craft. You know.”
“No kiddin’ eh. What kinda writing?”
“Well, I’ve thought about journalism actually, but I’d like to be a fiction writer. I don’t know though. There’s a lot I’d like to do. I’m writing a memoir right now about a bike trip I took actually, from L-A to New York.”
“No kiddin’ again. Hey now, tell me the truth, did ya take it easy, enjoy the ride, or did ya do it up all fast like the young guys.”
“Fast. Too fast actually. I only wish I wouldn’t have wanted to take that job I had lined up, or to be home with that girlfriend I had. I was twenty-three. I was so young.”
“I know it, I know it. I bet you flew that bike across, got home and wanted to get right back out there.”
“That’s right, I did.”
“So you’re here now. You’re a bike man. You’re becoming a writah. Hey let me tell you a couple pieces of advice. This is coming from my journalism perspective okay. Best writers are journalists anyway, you know. Don’t let ‘em tell you different!”
“I bet. Those deadlines. I bet!”
“Tell you a story. The day I wanted to be a writah, you know what I did? I found a newspaper. I found the firm’s address and I walked right in and took the elevatah up to the fourth floor. I walked in and looked the receptionist dead in the eye, I said, ‘Hi, my name is Bud, I’m a writah, and I’m good. I want to speak to your editah right now.’ As luck would have it, the editah’s office door was open and there he was with his feet up on the desk looking at me. He says to the receptionist, ’Send him in!’”
“No way!”
“I’m tellin’ ya, resume’s don’t mean shit in this industry. You send a resume to a magazine, a newspaper or whatever, and you might as well have never tried. Those go to H-R and those folks are only looking for people wantin’ to follow the rules. They want clean-cut, by-the-book individuals who’ll stay in line. They don’t know what a writah is. But they get so many applicants they hardly have time to call anyone. Go straight to the editor, tell him what I did. Tell him you’re good. What the hell do ya have to lose anyway? Get up the courage, get that confidence up, muster it from somewhere, even if you don’t have it. Tell ‘em to give you a shot. Watch what happens.”
“So you just… I mean just get the confidence. Get it and stand in front of the people who know the craft, who know the business. And just tell ‘em.”
“Exactly. Like I say, what do you got to lose? Look, in the writing world it’s hard, and you gotta be brave and sure. You gotta know what you’re saying. The world is reading what you say. You’re the authority. Believe in yourself, kid. Okay, here’s one more thing: find the watering hole. You wanna succeed as a writah? Find the writahs. Go up to the Oregonian building, go right up to the door and then stop and turn around. Look up and down the street and find the bar. Go in the bar and order up a beer and wait. Just wait ’til you see someone. Start asking questions to everyone until you find a writah. When you find him, tell him you’re a writah and that you want to learn from him. And there you have it, you’ve made a contact. Somebody knows you now, a foot in the dwoor. Then email him. Journalists are obligated to respond to every email.”
“Really? Is that right? Every email?”
“Every, damn, email, even if it’s an auto-response that says they’re outta town. It’s their job to respond. Email the one you know. He’ll write you back. Make human contact in this industry and you’ll go far, trust me on this one.”
“Wow, I… I don’t know what to say.”
“Hey, look kid. Name’s Bud.”
“Bud, I’m Aaron. Nice to meet you.”
“Take this ten doll-ahs.”
“No, Bud. No way. Seriously I didn’t do anything, the bike is great.”
“Aaron, look. Don’t insult me. I’m a journalist. I get insulted all the time. Look, take the money, buy yourself a beer. First one’s on me. Go find the writahs. Go find them and in the meantime just keep writing. That’s all you need to do.”

El Pueblo De Nuestra Señora La Reina De Los Angeles De Porciuncula

This story, while written by me, belongs to and originally appears in the “Los Angeles 8th Edition” collection at LOVE NAIL TREE. Check it out here.

Los Angeles 8th Edition

They say LA is Dodger, Bruin, shoreline, sky, and levi-cutoff blue. Say cheese! Generations have been smiling here for more than two centuries.

Mi Corazon siempre soñará para las olas calorosas y las playas demasiado llena de gente en Los Angeles.

Behind the guise of a single season and incessant sunshine, though, the city of angels has features any foreigner would double-take. It is smog and sunset (that is, “smogset”) flavored pink—on any given evening there is a fire cooking in the sky. Hollywood is chaos the color of gold, land of dreams, pills and enemies. The beach is beige (the counterfeited color of imported sand, in case you didn’t know), and the history of south county has seen more bullets soaring the skies than birds.

Le sangrará para su cultura y sus oportunidades.

Still, 1 in every 3.8 Californians lives between LA County lines, and 2 of the remaining 2.8 want to. Why? We are experts at turning spoil into splendor, that’s why. We make misfits and migrants into prophets and kings. Land of the free, home of more than a billion American Dreams: come proudly with pennies to your name and at least you’ll get to bronze your skin for free. We are the melting pot of grit, sweat, fashion, ethnic cooking, a million freeway ramps, and failed audition after failed audition after failed audition after failed audition… and we revel in it. When on our deathbeds when we breathe our last we’ll say: “oh yes, oh yes, LA, best days of my life.”

Es donde yo, y millones más, trabajará, jugará, comerá, descansará y morirá, porque no hay otra cuidad que es mi hogar.

 

“Bon Courage”

This story, while written by me, belongs to and originally appears in the “Bon Courage” collection at LOVE NAIL TREE. Check it out here.

Screen Shot 2014-08-13 at 2.59.29 PM

“Bon courage!” yelled people in the crowd. “Bon courage… bon courage… bon courage…” the cyclists were saying around her, smiling and nodding at one another. Bon courage, Angie whispered to herself. It was a phrase she first heard on a talk-show on a hotel television while she waited for Steven to finish showering. That was one year and four days ago. This year she’d come alone. This year was her first cat 1 race.

Categories (i.e. “cat”) in cycling are based on experience and/or placement in a number of races. Female cyclists start in cat 4. From cat 4 they can move into cat 3 either by scoring points with top-ten finishes, or simply by experiencing at least 25 races in a 12-month period. From cat 3 they must score at least 25 points by placing within the top ten in a 12-month period in order to move into cat 2. The same goes for going from cat 2 to cat 1.

The course was Tomblaine to La Panche des Belles Filles, a 199 km medium-mountain stage, otherwise known as what would be stage 7 of the 2012 Tour de France, a race that takes place across the sunny month of July. Angie’s race was for women, and so it was in February, and it was cold and rainy.

250 women in brightly colored jerseys and matching shorts—some heavy with sponsorship logos, and some with only few—were huddled within the starting corral. Elbows pressed to elbows, thighs to thighs; most riders were already clipped in, the mass was one great organism leaning upon itself. Each woman had a bib with a number between 1 and 250, and it varied based on how many points she had scored in races recognized by the International Cycling Association throughout the year. Somewhere near the center of the pack, with an already irritatingly pinned bib to the middle of her back, was Angie. Her number was 108.

The race official was speaking French into a megaphone. She’d taken French in college, and she figured this would help, but the crowd was so loud that she couldn’t make out what he was saying. Riders around her looked tense and some were shaking out their arms and jiggling their legs. Others just stared forward. When the mass began to move it was slow, and it took Angie twenty-eight seconds just to cross the starting line. They were a faucet draining out of Tomblaine, single droplets and dense pelatons of riders alike drenching the north-eastern suburbs of France.

Bon courage, she thought to herself every time she made a move and clicked a gear higher to leave a pelaton behind. She loved hearing the wish-wish-wish of her tires on the wet and narrow pavement.

She’d read several translations of the ancient phrase. Her favorite was: “take heart—don’t give up. Hang in there. Have courage in the difficulty you are enduring.” Every move she made was her telling herself that she was courageous; every rider she passed was an emblem of her taking heart.

Bon courage, she thought again as she began the initial climb just outside of Grandvillers, and when she came into view of the lead pelaton during the middle of the climb in Gerardmer.

“Bon courage,” she whispered softly as she sucked down water at the peak of Col de Grosse Pierre and while gripping her handlebars for the 14 km descent that followed.

“Bon courage,” she moaned as she felt the heavy lactic acid build-up in her quads as she climbed toward Col du Mont de Fourche.

“Bon courage!” she cried as she caught tailing riders from the front pelaton in Ecromagny, and as she pulled well within the pack at 30 km to go.

“Bon courage!” She screamed aloud when she felt her body crying for relief at the base of the final climb.

The outskirts of La Planche Des Belles Filles now in sight, she screamed “bon courage!” and heard groups of spectators yell it back to her. “Bon courage,” she called to bib 35 and then to bib 42, knowing there was a chance they might resent her for it. The final 2 km took everything from her, somehow managing to crank while knowing there was nothing left. Her body ached and her lungs were ablaze.

Bon courage, she whispered as she pulled beyond the 10th place rider, securing herself placement. Bon courage, she whispered again as she pushed hard on her pedals. Ten… nine… eight… seven… She heaved into her last stroke and dipped her head for a flashy finish.

She felt the cool rain water mixing with the warmth from her face. She looked at the sky, feeling the familiar elation of her heavy-pounding heart, and she smiled.

Faulkner Told Me to Do It

Faulkner

“Read, read, read. Read everything — trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.”  ― William Faulkner

I used to think I needed to finish everything I started (and I still kind of do). But if Faulkner implies that I ought to throw Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead, or Tom Robbins’ Jitterbug Perfume out the window, well then consider me looking to fill some space on my book shelf.

The Season I Fell In Love

During the Fall of 2010 I fell in love. It was silly how easy it was. Crazy even: a short drive, a salesman, a point, a swipe, a contract, a lifestyle. Stepping out of the retail store with a bag around my wrist and it in my palms, I felt like I was just handed the holy grail. Beams of light seemed to radiate from it. Its fragility juxtaposed with my wild inability to keep my desires contained; I wanted to look at it all day long, my focus captive as a beetle in a glass jar.

I didn’t give it a name, but I did believe its delicacy meant it was a she, and that I needed to take good care of her.

She was simple enough to understand, and she could do everything. My blood pressure seemed to decrease with each new thing I learned she could do. My life would finally be organized, I thought, and pools of knowledge, social interaction and game-play were finally at my finger tips. That night I held her face close to mine and we stared at each other for hours. My body had scarce been this attracted to anything before, my mind never before so enthralled, and my heart never so quickly in love.

The next day I took her to work with me because I was too excited to leave her in my bag or in my car. I had, after all, created a space for her just below my computer screen between my stack of post-its and paperclip holder. We watched each other all day, just as the evening before, and we held each other more often than I’d done with any others before her.

Needless to say, during that Fall season, I accomplished a significantly smaller amount of work than normal.

From the Rental Car Waiting Room

This is the day I move [back] to Portland.

2014-05-15 15.14.31-2

I wait now in a grey-blue rental car waiting room. The news is on—Garth Kent, of ABC 7 Eyewitness News—in the NW corner; a woman, three seats to my right is tapping her iPhone with her index fingers, glasses slid to the tip of her nose.

Coffee lingers on my breath like when I don’t sleep enough and get ready to fly somewhere and smell my breath in a moment of hazy remembrance while standing in line to board. A familiar taste indeed: new things after traveling, with the possibility of a headache if I don’t nap soon.

There are pudgy men outside explaining car mechanics to a pudgy woman in large sunglasses and a floral-patterned shirt. The wind is hot and dry out there because Southern California is a desert, unlike Oregon.

My neck hurts. I slept funny. My feet are hot, socks too thick. They’ll work fine in Oregon, though. I suppose I’m getting acclimated.

My mind is tired, my heart full. I am digesting the last two weeks. Were my heart a bucket it would need a gutter all around it, for I don’t want to lose the memories of friends and their hugs and prayers. More than I can recall now anyway—my twenty or so meetings since quitting my job and getting ready to leave have molded together like steel above fire. I remember ten percent of all the loving and thoughtful words said to me. Ten percent. But, I remember one-hundred and ten percent of all that has been shown to me about what I mean to my friends. That extra ten percent falls over the brim and into the gutters. I will collect them again soon, sometime in the next month or two when I need them—when I need to feel the love of my people. I have reserves built up, ready to overflow my portion again. I have no way to fail; I have no ways to know how to not be loved.

A Mexican man—headphones swallowing his ears like lobster arms holding his head—whose phone makes noises, sounds that may or may not be known to him. He is in all black, his face down, his hands full of technology.

It is 11:50, and in ten minutes Hertz will rent me my vehicle. I will fill it to its capacity; I imagine using my shoulders to close the doors. I will pull the arms of my sunglasses over my ears, flick on the air-conditioning, turn to my travel companion, Les, and say, “well, here I go again.” He will nod and may say, “that’s right, man. That’s right.”

Five minutes now. The grey-blue room around me has failed to swallow me like the Moby Dick esophagus that it resembles. I can still see the sunshine outside, and I’m going to bring it with me all the way to Portland.