Tag Archives: Portland

Portland

The first place I lived in Portland was a room. I hated to pay rent because I had been living for free. The room cost me about $300 a month. And it was decent. But the house was a mess. The owner lived downstairs. He had dogs. They pooped and peed all over the downstairs area. I avoided it at all costs. And when I couldn’t afford rent, I worked it off by cleaning up after the dogs.

One time I owed him money. He told me I had to pay or move. Okay, I told him. But I wasn’t phased. Which made him angry.

“Don’t you understand,” he yelled. “I am threatening to kick you out!”

I am not sure he understood, I had been out for the last two years. It wasn’t what I wanted. But it wasn’t something I feared.

Then I met a guy on the bus. He took me to meet his roommate. I don’t know why I talked to the man. Or why I went to meet his roommate. Or why his roommate offered to help me. But he did. So I told my landlord  I was moving. My new friend offered me a deal on rent. And no dogs. Plus the house was better and closer to work.

When I told me landlord I was moving he asked about money I owed him. He could take it out of my deposit, I explained. The landlord tried to tell me it was a non-refundable deposit. He never got the money. And I found out later non-refundable deposits are illegal.

This information came from working for a non-profit. I volunteered to answer phones and help people with rent problems. It was a free service, and we were only educated in the basics of rental law. Also we had to inform them we couldn’t provide legal advice. Because we weren’t lawyers.

The first job I got was at a deli. It was with a Korean couple. For the most part they were good people. One day the man asked if I had a girlfriend. I told him I didn’t. “Girls are trouble,” he told me.

Around this time a case was in the news. A girlfriend had gone to the coast with her boyfriend. Everyone knew he ended up dead in the ocean. No one knew how. The family and others suspected the girl. And in the end she was charged. “See, I told you, girls are trouble,” the man told me.

What I will always remember about his was time. I would do everything within my power to be on time. And I would be 10 minutes late. Once I swore it must have been the elevator which made me late. The place was in an office building on the fifth floor. It really bugged me. Until I walked in one day, looked at the clock, and looked at him. Then it just clicked in my head. “You set the clock ahead 10 minutes didn’t you?”

“Yes, the one at my house is 15 minutes fast,” was his answer. Which didn’t seem fair. It felt like the deck was stacked against me.

The woman and I didn’t get along often. “I need this first,” she would say about something. And I would think she meant she needed to use it before it was washed. But she wanted me to wash it first. And I doubt I ever got done in the time frame they wanted. But they did feed my everyday. Lots of rice.

One day though, they brought me my last check. “You make me feel dumb,” the woman told me. They paid me for the day and said I could go home. I left upset. Walking downtown upset, some Christian bastard offered me a tract. “No mountain too high for Jesus.” I just walked past him.

My new roommate wasn’t perfect. When Mother came to visit, she said, “I think I am taking it all in well.”

“What, my gay, mentally unstable, kleptomaniac, speed freak, HIV positive roommate?” I asked.

But he is a sweet person. And one of the better roommates I have had in my life. If I ever needed something, I know he would help me again. It was a real blessing to have met and got to know him. Oh, and his health as of writing this is good.

He lived in a house closer to downtown. The first place I lived was in the ghetto. Well, it was at the time. Over the years it has changed. Many would say gentrified. The new neighborhood has also changed over the years. Also gentrified.

Before I moved into the house my roommate hit on me once. I made it clear he was a nice guy, but I wasn’t into men. As roommates he never again crossed the line. We respected each others space, for the most part. But he was a tweaker.

Once I had a notebook I wrote in as a journal. And it disappeared one day. It was no where to be found. Then it reappeared. My roommate had stolen it, read it, replaced it. So I wrote on one of the pages, “Fuck you for reading this…” Just in case he did it again.

I’m not sure how long I lived with him. At some point he started to break-down. There were drugs. And a tweaker moved into the basement for a while. She taught me a few things about running paper. Trust me, making money the legal way is better.

The problems between us mounted. And then he kicked me out. By this time I was working at my second job. Before I moved M had come to visit me. We talked on the phone for a couple months. I had told her about my roommate. And she was surprised we acted like friends. I think we were always friends. Even though we didn’t always understand each other.

My second job was at Burgerville. Like many jobs I started in one place and moved around. My first job was running the drive thru. And I did a good job. Soon I learned how to run the front counter. And then the grill, and the fryer. It wasn’t long before I could, and did, do everything.

After leaving the second house I was homeless again. A co-worker let me sleep in their car. I made the mistake of putting my bike inside, and it ruined the ceiling lining. To this day I feel bad. If I ever make it rich and I could track them down, I would make it right.

But I also slept in the park. Or under one of the bridges downtown. Eventually I found a roommate in a new apartment. It was a friend of a co-worker. The apartment was two blocks from work.

Being close to work. And being able and wiling to do anything meant I worked a lot. There were times others couldn’t get hours. And I was working over 50 hours a week. Sometimes I would get bored and go to work. “Got something for me to do?” I would ask. And the answer was almost always yes.

Once a new manager was asking me when I worked next. “Whenever I feel like it,” was my answer. Which made him laugh. The next day they called me and asked me to work. I had plans, but I arranged a time which worked for me to work. So, I was right. It was when I felt like it.

There were a number of things I liked about the job. I had so great co-workers. In fact one of the best friends of my life I met at Burgerville. But she will need more space to tell her story.

Here is a short tale. One morning I came to work. The manager offered me a cookie. Which I accepted. My friend Michelle was also there. “You going to offer Michelle a cookie too? I asked. He did, but you could tell it wasn’t his original plan. They never liked her much. She doesn’t fit the mold of a fast-food worker.

Towards the end I started training for management. And if I had stayed with the company I think I could have gone far. But I was restless.

While living in Portland I had met a friend from Santa Cruz. Sean was an artist. And to be honest I didn’t recall much of him from Santa Cruz. I know once we were on the beach. He was making art work out of driftwood. It didn’t impress me at the time. When I met him again I appreciated his art a lot more. He became a good friend.

It was also at this apartment near Burgerville where I met Heather. Her story will come later. She was troubled. But I felt a real connection to her. It could have been because I was troubled myself.

Sean and I had talked about taking a trip. And around the same time the Burgerville where I worked was going to be remodeled. I didn’t want to commute across town to work. And I didn’t want to find a new job. Also I was restless. So I put my notice in and left town with Sean.

A few days before we left I was walking with Sean. Crossing the freeway I found a rubber chunk. After picking it up I played like I would throw it over the fence. Sean asked to see it. I tossed it to him and with a fluid motion he threw it over. Bam, it hit something. We were discussing how stupid it was as we walked. Ahead a couple guys stood by the sidewalk.

One leaning on a car, the other on a tree. I didn’t take much notice. But as we passed they grabbed us. They were police and had seen everything. Lucky for us there wasn’t an accident. Sean could have been charged.

During this time in Portland I had Sean. And for a while I had M. But for the most part I was alone. It really felt like I was struggling against all the odds by myself. There were people who helped me. But I had to fight just to get by from day to day.

Oh my first landlord showed up to Burgerville one day. He sat in the drive thru and demanded his money. I told him since I was at work I didn’t have the money. I had no plan to ever pay him money I didn’t feel I owed him. My manager had to threaten to call the police before he would leave.

I am still friends with the second roommate. The roommate in the apartment was a good guy too. He was also gay. Once he was singing the Dolly Parton song, “The Night the Lights Went out in Georgia.” He sang it over and over, I wanted him to stop. So I told him what I read in a book about singing cover songs being bad for your voice.

But when I had girl troubles he was a good friend. He had a lover at the time. And he told me, “coming from men, who like good men, we think you’re a good man.” And I was touched. He knew I was straight. And there was never an issue. But I found it to be a meaningful compliment.

Later I lived with a girl from work. She was crazy. There was a guy at work she liked. Our windows faced the freeway – just across a small street. In fact we were on the floor level with the freeway. So she put a note in her window with tape – to this man. Also I noticed she never took a towel into the shower, and when she came out my towel was damp.

Things didn’t go well a lot of the time I was in Portland. But I started to love the city. It was beginning to feel like it could be home. Downtown was a complex and interesting place. Pioneer Square Park where I met Heather. The waterfront park and Paranoia. I met a lot of interesting people. But only a few of them became permanent friends.

The First Trip

My first trip started in Santa Cruz.

The plan was to meet M in Eugene. Then we would attend the Rainbow Gathering. It was in Eastern Oregon.

After the gathering I got sick. I think it was food I ate. Hitch-hiking back we stopped in Willits California. I sat on the curb. And threw up in the gutter. It was cold and wet. And I didn’t feel good.

We got back to Santa Cruz the next day. After a short while we got a ride Seattle with James. In Seattle we stayed with her friends. But we didn’t stay long. We hitch-hiked east from the city. We wanted to go to Lewiston/Clarkston. Two towns across from each other on the Idaho/Washington border.

We headed across the desert heat. M wanted to stay on the interstate. But my idea was a more direct route. Almost right away I could see I was wrong. We got dropped off on a road with little traffic. Washington is the Evergreen State. But not the eastern half.

There were a couple small towns. We made it to one about nightfall. I’m not sure where we camped. The next day we were making little progress. Sometimes on the road, under the sun you can find shade. Even a post can help. A sign creates shade. In the dry landscape out there I thought I was going to die. There was no shade. No moisture.

I remember wondering around feeling out of my mind. Thinking there might be shade in a ditch, or under a leaf. One of the towns was Othello. And we decided to never go to a place with the word “hell” in the name. The highway was number 26. And I still don’t like the number.

At last we got a ride. All the way to our destination. The first day in town we went to a food bank. M went to talk to them and I waited. When they came out he asked us if we were homeless. A question which in most cases results in no food at a food bank. This is because Food Banks don’t stock the foods homeless people need. And homeless people tend to not be able to use the foods they provide.

So a bit nervous, I confirmed we were homeless. To our surprise he put us up in a hotel for three nights. We didn’t have plans to stay, or look for work. We made it clear. But he wanted to help us anyway. It was a good three days. The town itself felt friendly. It had the same feel of a lot of middle American towns.

We did look for work. I still had my ID. But after three days we hitched a ride east. Next stop Missoula. We got a ride from a good guy. But we were hungry. And when we stopped for him to get lunch we ate the whole basket of free crackers. We had no money.

In Missoula I lost my ID. It was rough. We spanged at a store for a while. A woman invited us over for breakfast. And we ate at the shelter. The shelter there felt like ones I have been to in Roseville, California or Santa Cruz, or anywhere. Missoula is a neat town. One place I could see myself living.

We headed out after a few days. Feeling a little more lost. But headed east. It had started to rain, so we left. We went through Wyoming. In Casper someone stopped and offered us a ride to the shelter. When we tried to hitch-hike in town the police stopped. They were friendly. Asked us not to hitch-hike in town. And also offered us a ride to the shelter. The next stop was Boulder, Colorado.

We were there for a while. Took all our things out and dried them in the sun. This became a ritual on our trip. Rain, sun, dry, wet. We spanged on Pearl Street. Slept in a corner by the library. We were happy. Once we asked a cop for money on accident. When we apologized, he replied, “what I’m human too.” He gave us some change. But the rains came and our trip moved along east.

We developed a motto. “Tomorrow may rain, so I’ll follow the sun.”

Across the great plains was a straight shot. We got at least one ride from a trucker out of Limon, Colorado. There really isn’t anything else in Limon.

We stopped next in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Another friendly town. But not one we stayed at long. This is where our brief shoplifting career started. We went to the store and then slipped things under the garden fence. Outside we retrieved the items. It was an easy scam. And it fooled me into thinking we could get away with stealing.

Ann Arbor is a college town. It had the same feel as Berkeley and Santa Cruz – and Arcata. I recall going to Food Not Bombs. This organization sets up in a couple different cities. It is like the socialist answer to the Christian soup kitchen. They give food and provide political materials.

From Ann Arbor we continued east. We stopped along the freeway in Ohio. It was a spot where the I-80 and I-90 ran close and paralell. M couldn’t sleep, but she managed to sneak us into a hotel room in the morning. She had found a hotel with a key drop for departing guests. When someone exited she grabbed key and we went into the room. She was good at these things.

When we were going through Portland we slept on Jantzen Beach. She went to a hotel and found left-overs from room service. Then brought them back for us.

After Ohio went passed through Pennsylvania and stopped in Ithaca, New York. We tried our tricks at K-Mart, but they were wise to us. Then I was bold enough to think I could walk out with the bag. It didn’t work. I’m not sure what we were trying to steal. But I store security took me to the office.

The police came and put me in handcuffs. I was upset. Worried about M. I remember crying. They took me to the jail. And fingerprinted me. A judge was going to come and talk to me. The judge wanted to know about M. Did we know anyone? Would anyone be taking care of her? She could see we were alone. And she made me a deal. If I promised to stay until Monday, and then report to court I could spend the weekend with M. And not go to jail.

We thought about running. But the wiser choice was to stay. We knew we would be at a bigger risk if we got stopped again. And homeless people get stopped by the police often.

The weekend was good. Another town. They were beginning to feel the same. Like the Simon and Garfunkel song: “every town is the same to me, with their movies and their factories.”

At court on Monday the prosecution pressed charges for disorderly conduct. I wasn’t charged with stealing. The judge released me on a conditional discharge. And it was one of the smartest moves I’ve seen in my life. I could go, but if at any point in the next year I got a ticket for anything – jaywalking – I would spend 15 days in jail. M and I made our way to the city limits as fast as we could go.

But what a smart move. If I had gone to jail the city would have been paying the bill. And M would have been alone on the street. I believe she knew given the conditions we would leave town. So she saved the city money, and encouraged us to leave with one step.

From there we continued east. The goal was Cambridge, Massachusetts. But along the way we had trouble. Just outside the city is a beltway freeway. All the roads were tollways. We got dropped off at a tollbooth between one freeway and another. And we couldn’t get a ride.

We tried to walk off the freeway, but got stopped. The police drove up behind us and yelled, “get the fuck off the freeway.” We told him we were lost and asked for help. We told him we wanted to get off the freeway, but didn’t know how. He told us to go back to where we were at the tollbooth. Which we did.

In the end we got a ride. But it was the wrong direction. And it was raining again. The ride dropped us in Worcester. We tried to sleep under some trees but we got wet. We sat under the roof of a gas station.

In the morning the lady who opened it was friendly. She gave us some food and hot chocolate. Our things were piled by the door. Once someone looked at them strange. “Their mine, got a problem?” the lady said. She let us sleep in her car for a couple hours. We needed the sleep. Then before we left she gave us some donuts.

M had no sweatshirt because it had gotten soaked. I took mine off and gave it to her. We started to walk to a smaller highway to catch a ride. Someone offered us a ride but M didn’t trust them. Then a guy driving by stopped and gave me a jacket. Later we made it to the on-ramp, the same car stopped again. And M said she didn’t trust them again. So we had to spend the night in Worcester again. It was still raining.

There was a garage or shop of some kind near the road. We walked around back where there were a couple old cars. One truck had the door unlocked. So M and I slipped in and slept on the seat. I felt more in love with her than ever. She was on the side closest to the seat. She was so warm and soft. And I had the stick from the clutch in my back half the night. But we slept and stayed dry. It was a bit of a risky move.

The next day we saw the car from the previous day. We just let it drive past us. In the end we got a ride to where we wanted to go. Cambridge is a cool area. We hung out in the park. And Harvard Square of course. And read at the bookstore. I have M roses. She put them under the shelf and left them. I guess we couldn’t have taken them with us.

In the park we met some odd people. One guy said he once blew a blood alcohol level higher than .50. This means he added, his blood was more than half alcohol. I don’t know if it could even be true. But I did see them mixing ingredients in a bottle to leave in a hole. They were making their own alcohol.

We slept at a park with a fountain. I recall it waking me up when it sprung to life every morning. We went to a Catholic service. It was a good time. We even ventured into Boston. Walking along the street we saw an amazing church. A sign mentioned tours. So we asked for one, and got one. It was so grand and large. We walked around the sanctuary. Then when it was time to leave, the door out seemed so small.

We dried out things here, well mostly. Then it rained and we started for home. In Rhone Island I recall checking one of my notebooks. It had been damp the whole trip. It was so upsetting I just pitched it into a tree.

“There are important things in there,” M told me. At the time I didn’t believe it was true. But now I wish I still had the notebook.

We hadn’t made it far before we stopped to get food. We stashed our things in the bushes and went to a restaurant. We kept a small bag with us. When we returned everything we had left was gone. This meant we now had no blankets. And it was starting to get colder. We wondered for a while confused about what to do next.

Then we met some odd junkies who said they were going to Utah. The woman was friendly. The guy wasn’t so open. They gave us a ride through New York City. We hopped it would be a ride all the way. But they guy kicked us out in Pennsylvania. It wasn’t easy four people in one car.

So we were out again. No blankets. We tried to sleep. When you get so cold you want to stay close. But also to roll up tight. And you can’t do both at the same time. I know I slept little.

The next day a lady gave us a ride. It was a good long ride all the way to Ohio. I was in the front, and M was in the back. This is normally a safer situation for M. But this case was odd. I was talking to the lady. Then trying to talk to M. But at one point she sat back and I knew she was upset. I figured we could discuss it later.

The lady gave us some blankets. She dropped us off at a gas station. As we got out she came and gave me a big deep hug. And turned and just patted M’s back. I knew I was in trouble.

“Fuck me or buy me a hamburger,” she told me. Turns out I hadn’t noticed what was going on in the car. Every time M tried to talk the lady turned up the music. I was flirting with the lady. Not in the hopes of scoring with her, I was with and loved M. But in a more natural relaxed way.

While still in Ohio the police came while we were hitch-hiking at a tollbooth. He suggested a path to another exit, with more traffic. But it wasn’t passable, so he gave us a ride. We told him about the cop in Massachusetts. “No wonder they get shot all the time,” was his reply.

Crossing Ohio we actually got a short ride from another friendly officer.

In Indiana we stopped in Gary. The truckers got us scared to go outside. They said we would get shot and killed. The road had left us with little energy. So we believed the hype. Instead of going out we curled in the bottom of a phone booth in the building. It has a lock. I locked the door and we slept there. It wasn’t as uncomfortable as it sounds.

The next day we got a ride from a trucker. All the way to Reno, Nevada.

It was the first time I crossed the salt flats. Waking up in the middle of them is odd. You know it is summer. And it is warm. But it looks like the ground is covered in snow.

From Reno, to Sacramento, to Berkeley. I believe M took the bus home from Berkeley. And I went home to Santa Cruz alone. More alone than ever.

This trip may be the highlight of my life. I learned so much about the country. Some places were smaller than I imagined. And some places were bigger. We live in an amazing country. And it is full of amazing people. Every where we stopped people were friendly and helpful.

This trip emboldened me to take on risks later in life. And it still does.

The Big Move

The big move. I made it because a bunch of little moves were not working.

I moved from Santa Cruz to Portland. The first step of the move was Thanksgiving with M.

My plan had been to go home for Thanksgiving. But a couple days before I called my mom. I wanted information about plans. But all she could do was complain about my sister. Just a moment I told her.

Then I hung up and called M. Can I visit I asked her. And she told me to come up on the bus. So I rode the bus for 12 hours. The visit went well and we made plans for me to move. I would move to Seattle. We would be together.

Before I could leave Santa Cruz, M told me we would only be friends. I moved to Portland because she hated Portland. I had enough money for the bus ticket. And because it wasn’t too far from M. I still loved her deeply. I thought about going to Austin. But it was further. And the bus ticket would have cost much more.

I wonder sometimes how much different my life would be if I had gone to Austin.

I rode the bus into Portland. And started living on the streets of a wet city. It gets cold in the bay area. It rains in the bay area. But the weather in Portland was different. And I got sick.

For a while I slept under a freeway overpass. It was close to downtown. And it was just under a ledge of the overpass. I slept there for many night with the cold wet air. I managed to stay dry for the most part.

During the day I wondered downtown. I tried to get together money. And I looked for a place to live. But finding a job with no place to live is hard.

I was doing signature collection. One of the issues was to disband Metro. In Oregon, Metro is a regional body with authority over growth issues. It also runs the zoo. I didn’t understand what Metro was at the time. One woman stopped to ask me questions. When it was clear I didn’t understand she got angry.

“You’re not even a citizen here,” she yelled. “You’re more of an interstate resident. It would be better if you were panhandling.”

And at times it felt like it was true.

Eventually someone showed me an empty house to sleep in at night. Which is good, I was really sick. During the day I would go to the bookstore and try and read. Try to stay awake. At night I would toss and turn and be so hot. I had fever dreams like never before in my life.

One dream I was Van Gogh and I knew perfect brush strokes. I would dream about the strokes. Then wake up. The dream was inescapable. Every time I went back to sleep it was waiting for me.

But a few people helped me. And through an unknown miracle I found a place to live. Then I found a job.

During my search I met a woman recruiting for a business college. I went to her office. We filled out paperwork for financial aid. But I was too young to not include my parents income. They didn’t give me a penny at the time. But they made enough I couldn’t get help for school. There was the option of loans. But I didn’t want more debt. I had told myself no more student loans ever. But I broke the promise.

“I’ll worry about you,” she told me. “Clearly no one else does.”

This made me mad. Of course people worried about me. But none of them could save me. Not just none of them could bail me out with money. But I had to go through something and save myself. In a real way I took myself off the street. I did it. And I did it with little help from anyone.

My first days in Portland were dark. Not just the rain and the clouds. But I felt alone. And I was depressed most of the time. Sometimes people would talk to me. But I soon learned most of them were either selling me drugs or religion. The experiences I had on the streets in the bay area were not repeated in Portland. People were not friendly to me. The city felt cold, and I felt alone. I wasn’t sure I cared about living.

But it didn’t last forever. After a lot of luck and hard work I got myself started. Even if it did mean moving into a house with dogs. The owner of the dogs did nothing to train them. And the pooped and peed all over the place. But it was inside, and it was warm. And it no doubt helped me climb out of depression. And to climb out of the gutter.

Library

A blonde woman sits at the computer across from me. And a brown-haired man.

The woman has gotten up to look at movies. The library has a small collection. But  a variety of good movies.

The brown-haired man uses a Chrome book. A laptop borrowed from the library. He sniffs quietly. Working on a project. He listens to music on the bulky headset.

The blonde woman is back at the computer. But she is distracted by her phone. She looks first at her phone. Then she looks up at the computer. There is a calm noise in the library. Parts of conversation are heard around the room.

The man across from me with the brown hair wears a coat. It was a brown leather coat. And it is open at the front.

A woman in a red coat sits down at the computer next to me. She plugs a scanner into the computer. On her lap is a note book about yoga. She appears to be in her forties.

She wears a monkey hat. It has flaps to cover and keep her ears warm. The woman is scanning materials into the computer from her notebook.

Across from the me the brown-haired man types. Then rises to use the restroom.

The woman in the red coat is getting help from the librarian. She has grey tights. And a pair of multi-colored shorts. The woman wears glasses. They have silver rims.

On her thin white fingers is a ring. On her ring finger. A ring with hearts. It is a simple piece of jewelry.

She sits on the chair with one leg under her. The other leg resting on the floor. She is scanning multiple pages. She slips a flash drive into the USB port. On her face is a solid look. An impression of focus and determination. She has a goal to achieve. But now she is done, she takes the scanner and gets up.

New people are at the table. Some time has passed. The man in the leather coat remains. A bigger man in a black coat reads a magazine. His hands resting on either side of the open pages.

A younger man sits next to me. He wears a white crochet hat. And is checking out a fashion site on the computer. It has been a quiet day at the library.

The big man across from me has curly hair. A grey short-haired beard shows his age. But his hair retains a shade of brown. With only traces of grey.

He has ear bud headphones and silver rimmed glasses. His eyes focus on the magazine through the silver rims. His coat is zipped closed. A man’s face stares back from the magazine. The big man reads, turns the page and reads more. It is a copy of Time magazine. The man gets up and puts the magazine away.

I man next to me, in the white hat, looks at a newspaper. Then returns to viewing a news story on the computer.

A small child’s voice can be heard across the room. Outside it has gotten dark. It is only 5:30 but the days are getting short. Soon the times will change and days will get longer.

The man in the leather coat looks intense. Focused on his project on the computer. His hands resting on the keyboard. He sighs and watches a woman in a green coat walk behind him. The woman in the green coat is looking at movies.

Her hair is pulled back in a pony tail. The blonde hair is short. She picks out a movie and looks at the cover. Her green jacket is a wind-breaker. It has a hood and looks like a coat for wet weather.

A cough is heard from the far side of the library. The librarian returns movies to the shelf.

I once found an attractive woman at the library. And wrote a great entry about her. Now every time I come back I look for her. But she is not here. Maybe it was better before I happened upon her. Then I didn’t expect to find someone so attractive to write about for this exercise.

The super hot library chick is behind me now. My day is complete. She has a maroon top on. With a black sleeveless bubble jacket on top. Her brown hair pulled back in a pony tail. She examines the CDs through black plastic frame glasses. Under the maroon top are black tights.

She is behind me and I feel like turning around to look at her is really noticeable. The man in the white hat saw me, and smirked. But I don’t know how much I care. I want to look again.

And now she is gone. The other librarian is putting away CDs. The grumpy one. An older white male with a squared striped top. He is always wearing a similar shirt.

The hot librarian is now putting movies away. She straightens the ones on the shelf. I think she must be in her 20s. Though someone said it takes a long time to be a librarian.

She has black shoes with white socks peeking out. A small patch of white skin visible between her socks and tights. She walks with such purpose. If only she would speak more and I could hear her voice.

But the library is closing soon. I should be moving along.

Onward

The time is coming to move away from writing about Santa Cruz. But there is a part of me which doesn’t want to move on yet. I had good times in Santa Cruz. For years afterwards I thought about going back. Getting some money and getting a place to live. But I haven’t been back in years.

I grew a lot in two years. I was born again. I created myself with new roots. But if I went back today, it would be empty. The town isn’t the same. The people aren’t the same. Nothing would be the same. I have changed. The city has changed. Things change.

When I made the move from Santa Cruz to Portland it was all about getting off the streets. The main reason I wanted to make the change wasn’t money. It wasn’t about being uncomfortable. It wasn’t about a warm house. Or making money.

I was lonely at the end. When I first got on the street I had friends. But then they left one by one. And I didn’t make new friends. And I thought I could meet someone special. I imagined having a girl friend. Living in a place I could where I could take a woman. Not just for sex, but to watch movies, to eat dinner.

The biggest reason I wanted to get off the street was boredom. My days were empty. I wasn’t doing anything with my life. I wanted to do something in the world. Maybe be a writer. Maybe something else. It wasn’t specific. Just I wanted to do and be someone special.

All these years later I am the same. A homeless person with a house. A poor person with a job. My heart hasn’t changed. As much as I want. I imagined I was growing up. But I am still the same child I was on the street. But more alone, and in some ways more troubled.

In the first year on the street I felt many things. But rarely did I feel alone. In Santa Cruz, and San Francisco and even Berkeley I met people. Not just homeless people. Real people in the community. And this is why I imagined life would be better when I got a place to live.

Maybe the mistake was moving to Portland. I knew no one in Portland. But I feared staying in Santa Cruz would mean not growing. I wanted and needed a change right? And I don’t know the change could have happened in Santa Cruz.

Even now writing this I think about going back. But you can’t go home again. The past is the past because it has past. And it won’t pass again. Raven, and Tony, and Moon Raven, and the high school girls. They are all gone. The corner where I spent time on the mall is gone.

It would be like walking around in a haunted city. Every corner has a memory. And all the memories are pulling me backwards. When I need to be moving forward.

There have been times I visited Santa Cruz. And I wondered around like a man in a circular room looking for the corner. It wasn’t the Santa Cruz I knew. The Santa Cruz I knew was a dream. Like Woodstock in the 1906s. Like the Summer of Love. It was a good dream. But it was a dream I lived and cannot live again.

And if I could live it again. Would I really want to go through all the lessons over? Our dreams like this are sent to us as lessons. And when we have learned, we move on to the next dream. It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to return. Anymore than I could go back to high school. Of course I hated high school.

The movie Napoleon Dynamite reminds me of my high school years. And I hated my high school years. I was picked on, had no friends. I was lonely all the time. There was a trapped feeling I lived with all those years. And I still don’t understand what the trap was, but it was there all the time. I couldn’t escape.

In Santa Cruz I felt free. But I never felt loved. I felt a part of a community at times. But I never felt a connection. There were friends in Santa Cruz, but there wasn’t family. Not after Raven left.

I left Santa Cruz to create a new life. But have I only created a different life? Am I any better off now because I have a laptop and a tablet and a cellphone. Does my job at Walmart make me better off? I am not a writer. I am not doing anything of value with my life.

I am still alone.

It doesn’t feel like it could really have been almost 20 years. But it has. I feel like it was yesterday. And I feel like it could be tomorrow.

Is this even worth what I gave up to attain it. Maybe I gave up nothing. But nothing is a lot. Janis Joplin’s words haunt me day and night. “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose…”

And now I have plenty to lose. But little freedom. And is it worth the cost? I don’t want to go back to sleeping in the woods. I can’t and I won’t do it again. But how much longer can I live with this boredom?

 

Timeline of events

I graduated from high school in the summer of 1994. My first year of college was fall of 1994. And spring of 1995.

I spent the summer of 1995 at college, living in the dorms. I worked at Subway.

My second year of college was from fall of 1995 to the summer of 1996. It was at the start of 1996 I became vegetarian. And I started my period on the streets in the summer of 1996.

For most of 1996 I was in Santa Cruz. But I spent time in San Francisco. In the winter months early in 1997 I met Amy. And I lived with her for a couple months. Until I met M.

Over the summer of 1997 M and I traveled. We went to my first Rainbow Gathering. Then we visited her father in Seattle. Afterwards we hitch-hiked our way across the country to Cambridge, Massachusetts. And we hitch-hiked back.

It was the winter of 1997 I went to visit M for Thanksgiving. We made plans for me to move and live together.

In the spring of 1998 I moved to Portland. Plans with M didn’t work out. After a few wet months I rented a room in a house. The first time I paid rent in my life, if you don’t count the college.

I lived in Portland until the spring of 1999. In the summer I went traveling with a friend across the country. We went to my second Rainbow Gathering.

After coming home to Portland, I moved to upstate New York. This is where I was for New Years 2000. But in the spring of 2000 I went back to California, and then to my third gathering. This one was in Montana.

After the gathering I went to Colorado. And then back to California. I moved to Portland again in the fall of 2000. I was in Portland for the election of George W. Bush. But I moved again early spring.

Once again plans were made with M. But once again things changed. So I moved back to California. I spent a month at Mother’s. But I got a job at a camp in the Sierra’s for the summer. It was 2001. And in the fall I went to New York City. Yeah, just one month after 9/11.

It was because a friend invited me to visit. After three months, she said no one ever visited for three months before. And I started back to California. It was 2002. Along the way I visited Alabama where a friend lived.

In the spring of 2002 I lived with Mother, and my sister for a short period. After a short trip to Portland to visit friends, I went traveling again. And I went to my fourth Rainbow Gathering. Before making a visit to Boulder. Then returning to California.

Back in California again. I worked at the summer camp. There I met someone who told me about Yosemite. After the summer I moved to Yosemite.

Yosemite was my home from winter of 2002, to early in 2005. A little over two years. Then I moved to Stockton. And I went back to school. After a year and six months I moved to Humboldt, and Humboldt State. The summer of 2006.

I lived in Arcata from the summer of 2006, until early 2009. Then I moved to Wyoming for my first real reporter job. And I lost my first real reporter job and moved back to Arcata.

This time I lived in Arcata from late spring 2009, until fall of 2010. When I moved to Colorado. After six months in the mountains I moved to Nebraska.

I arrived in Nebraska in January of 2011. And I moved away from Nebraska in the summer of 2012. Texas was the next place I lived.

And I lived in Texas from the summer of 2012, until the summer of 2013. For the last two years I have lived in Vancouver, Washington.

New Years Day Location:
1990-1994 Coarsegold
1994-1996 Scotts Valley
1997 Santa Cruz
1998 Santa Cruz
1999 Portland
2000 Glens Falls, New York
2001 Portland
2002 New York City
2003-2005 Yosemite
2006-2010 Arcata
2011-2102 North Platte, Nebraka
2013 Lubock, Texas
2014- Vancouver, Washington.

Okay, shows over time to go home. No, I just wanted to lay out the timeline for a confusing lifeline. It took me a good deal of thought to get it straight in my own head. And I was there, well mostly there. Now I can go back and tell the stories. If you get lost you can return to this chapter to guide you. I think I will have to come back myself.

The Library

It is a grey day. Not a gloomy day. But the sky is wet.

Outside there is a tree with orange leaves. The air is heavy with mist and rain. This is the weather for which Portland is known.

Across from me an older man is checking his email. He wears a jean jacket and has a graying beard. He asked the librarian for help logging into his account.

The table has a blonde wood finish. And there are spaces created for electrical outlets. But this table does not have any for use. I am alone at the table to the g-mail checker now. He is using one of four computers at one end of the table.

Someone has placed a large backpack on a chair across from me. It is blue and grey. The kind a hiker might take on a day trip.

The librarian is named Carol. She introduced herself to someone on the phone. She is working on stacks of books at the service desk. The service desk sits in front of the table.

A balding man comes and moves his backpack. He sits down and begins to read a magazine. There is an ad for a watch on the back cover. He is wearing a light-gray jacket.

The library is quiet today. There is a hum of conversation. Mostly kids playing in their own corner. But they are not disturbing. The gmail checker is reading emails. His hat has “KB HOMES” on the front. On his left hand is a ring of jade or turquoise.

A man with a beard and brown hair sits at one of the computers. He explained to the librarian he is using his girlfriends account. He has brown hair and beard. The man is wearing a long-sleeved shirt. It has a grid pattern and is a neutral colour.

An older woman has sat next to me. She is on her phone. And now looking at a pamphlet on the table in front of her.

The backpack man is reading the New Yorker.

The library carpet is a dark grey colour. It is a carpet designed for heavy use. The kind which doesn’t show stains. Outside the wind is blowing gently through the leaves of the trees. And rocking the signal lights back and forth.

A older man has joined us at the table. The New Yorker reader has gotten up.

There is a cute woman talking to the librarian. A short black dress which falls just below her knees. Her shoes are black and white. They match the black and white shirt. Her hair is curly. It is cut just above her shoulders. The girl with the dyed red locks walks away.

Now it is just three of us. The woman on her phone. The g-mail checker and I.

There isn’t much foot traffic outside because of the weather.

A woman with an orange shirt and a bead necklace just sat down next to me. She is using the computer. The one next to me is for checking their catalog.

The woman on her phone has a flier. It is offering help on college application essays. There is a light bulb on the flier. And inside the bulb, “get inspired.” The woman in orange has gotten up. She had a stack of books.

Carol is back at her desk. A young girl comes to the desk for help. She is in the fourth grade. She wears black tights, a pink skirt or dress with a neon lime green sweatshirt. She has a pink hair tie. Her hair in a pony tail.

She is practicing a volleyball serve. But she doesn’t have a ball. The front of her sweatshirt has a Nike logo. Her shoes are black, with a pink lining. The soles are white.

Whatever she is looking for is checked out. The librarian told her the books are popular. She suggests putting the books on hold.

There is another girl with a huge instrument. She is reading a book. She stands at the bookcase with brown boots, a denim skirt and blue sweatshirt. Her long brown hair falls down her back.

A blonde with a pink coat just sat down at the computer. It is one for internet use. Her ear rings are large and diamond shaped. She has a piercing in her eye brow. On her legs are black tights with fashionable rips along the side. She is wearing a red mini-skirt.

Outside the weather is the same. Grey and wet. The girl with the instrument walks around looking at books.

The blonde has a big ring on her right hand. It is silver with a yellow glass or stone. The woman on her phone has left with her son.

Large windows sit in front of me, with a view of the street. I can see the wet city. The leaves of the trees, some orange and some green. The sky is a grey white, like a building across the street. There is a slight breeze right now.

A man is at Carols desk. He is trying to help someone on the phone. Based on his facial expressions he is confused.

The girl with the Nike sweatshirt is yelling at her brother. “What’s wrong with you?” They are leaving with their mother.

The blonde woman is still on the computer. On her left hand she has more silver rings. One on her pinkie and one on her ring finger. She has sunglasses pushed up on her head. But today is not a day for sunglasses.

A man sits near the window ledge. One leg he has on the floor, and the other propped on the ledge. He is using a laptop. He is sitting in a chair. From where I sit I can only see his blue jeans and brown shoes. He has gotten up.

The blonde has quit using the computer. It is just me and the older man checking his email. This is more interesting when someone attractive is sitting across from me. The man takes off his glasses, rubs his nose, replaces them. He looks ready to get up. And now I sit alone at the table.

Two men are looking at movies. The young man still sitting next to the window. Across the street is the Armark building. But their sign is using the sloppy but “cool” lack of capital letters theme. I don’t see how it is cool. Maybe it was before it became so overdone.

Carol is walking around the library. The hot librarian I have a crush on isn’t here today.

A woman walking by the window pushes her hair from her face. The library is so quiet.

A woman just came in with two kids. The boy directed Carol to sign him into an iPad.

The cute woman with the red hair is back. From this angle she looks older. She has a lanyard with a library identification badge.

A man has sat down at the computer. He is wearing a short-sleeved green T-shirt. His short graying brown hair matches his beard.

The red-haired librarian is chatting with Carol. I would guess she is late 30s. Her hair tucked behind her ears, she has a cute face. Her eyes are expressive and her lips full.

She is helping a couple with some books. An older man wearing a black coat is looking at the libraries CD collection.

Someone coughs. The couple are waiting for the librarian to come back to the desk. She has black pants and a white top. They are gone now.

And it is just the red-head. She has her glasses on. She is using the computer. She has the mouse in one hand and a coffee mug in the other. She has thin arms. And a round full face. Her mouth is small, with dimples at the corners. She has a little round chin. When she smiles you can see hints of her front teeth.

She is typing and reading. Outside people wander by the windows. We all pass through each other’s lives, but we don’t even see each other. Do we even see the people we think we see? How could we, they are all ourselves. If we think we see someone else, we are seeing nothing.

The librarian looks over her glasses. Then through her glasses. With a finger she pushes them up on her nose. Her black and white blouse has puffy sleeves. Her nails are not manicured. She is a pretty woman, but in a basic beauty. Her hair isn’t red. You can tell it is a dye job because it isn’t a natural colour. But it looks good. It is more of a maroon colour.

The boy is quietly using the iPad, and his sister sits next to him doing her own thing. I don’t know technology is a great tool for kids after all.

Right now it is 5:11. I will write until 5:30 and stop.

The librarian twirls her hair in her fingers. She is looking at something on her desk. Now back to the screen. Right now it is me, the librarian, the two kids and three people looking at movies in this part of the library.

I wonder if the librarian’s hair is curly from her twirling it with her fingers. She takes a swig from her drink and goes back to her work. Typing and using the mouse. The blonde is back and talking the man in the green shirt. It appears they know each other. She also has a small ring in her nose.

Her hair is clearly dyed. But it works. She has a pretty face, and it matches her skin tone. She doesn’t have makeup on. And she doesn’t need it. Her hair is long, past her shoulders and down her back.

The two are talking quietly. But they seem to be talking about apartments. A woman stands next to the table with a stack of books and a copy of the New Yorker. I hope it was her copy, because she just put it in her bag.

The librarian is biting her nails. Leaning on one arm, she fidgets with her glasses case. The blonde is now outside. She is taking a picture with her phone of someone’s bike. She has a backpack on. I can’t see what she is doing now from where I sit.

She puts her phone away in her pocket. She has a bike of her own. She pushes it up the sidewalk.

The librarian reminds me of my ex-girl friend. I wonder if she is also a Taurus.

Aren’t we lucky to have noses to keep our glasses on our faces. The librarian has a cute nose. And the phone rings, but I couldn’t understand her name.

This is not a busy day at the library.

The weather outside is more of a stay at home and nap weather. The librarian is explaining “Lucky Day” books to the caller. The librarian is dressed modestly, the neckline of her outfit is square and doesn’t show cleavage. Her strong shoulders are visible though.

A man with his two kids walks by the window outside. A girl on a skateboard with helmet in hand. More children and a mother walk passed the window. Outside the wind is brushing the trees. Inside there is a still in the air.

I have two minutes. A young boy in unhappy about it being time to leave. “NOOO!”

A woman it looking at the movies. She wears black pants and a black top. A green shirt is visible under the black over-shirt. It has pin stripes of black. Her hair is up in a bun.

 

Olympia

I went back to Olympia.

It was the first time I have been there since I left you in your bed.

The sun was burning down out of the sky, like an Albert Camus novel and I was the stranger. I looked for your place, the old place where we were together. And where I left you in your bed.

But the old place is gone, the place where you lived. The place where we loved, is gone.

The whole city was haunted by you. I could see you on every corner. I heard your thoughts regarding the signs in the windows. You were always so intelligent, and witty.

I went back because I haven’t been there in years. I wanted to take photos of the places I knew. It is a part of me, the time you and I were close in the small town. It will always be a part of me, and today it is a part of me I miss.

The pictures of the capitol building, the park, the lake and the streets all made me think of you. It all made me think of you. And as I drove home I listened to the mix CD of your songs.

Even those places where we never went together were haunted by you. The spring in town where I spent time waiting for the bus. On the final lonely dark and cold night we were together.  And then apart.

My mother was on her way to help me move to California. I moved to Portland the first time because you once told me you hated Portland. Now I wonder where I would be today if you hadn’t said those words. For the second time, I had almost moved closer to you.

I am back in Portland. But I wouldn’t be if it weren’t for the people I met the first time I moved here. And the second time I moved here is when the wound was the deepest for us. The last time. I went to see you in Olympia after you invited me to visit.

But I stayed too long.

You weren’t happy to have me there so long. You weren’t happy for me to visit you at your school job. You weren’t happy. I walked out that night after you told me you didn’t care if I spent the night or not. I wanted more than anything to be close, and warm and with you one more night. The smell of you.

But I left because I also wanted more than anything not to be leaving the relationship on a note of apathy on your part. I was so tired of your not caring. At the end of the day, it wasn’t enough. Maybe you did care, and for some reason you just couldn’t tell me. I know there were things I didn’t know how or couldn’t tell you. I loved you so much, words failed me. Everything failed me. Sometimes I feel like I failed us.

Where are you now? Hawaii, San Diego or maybe Washington DC. Where would we be if that night was not the last night?

Remember the baby? The one we almost had. You said you did the dance for joy when you found out it was not to be born. My father was happy I wouldn’t be tied to you. But I am tied to you with the fabled red string. Because I once loved you deeply, and I still do, across time and space. Of course time and space are real and love changes.

You introduced me to Leonard Cohen, and he is the one who said. “True love leaves no traces, if you and I are one, it is lost in our embraces, like stars against the sun.”

What we had was never accurately described. I wonder if the fact your mother once called me your “boyfriend” was a factor in your ending things. I never understood why you went through your mood swings. You said one time a boy had left you, and after drinking your mom found you crying and yelling in the driveway. I wanted to hug you, I wanted to go back in time and hug you. I wanted to hug all the pain so many people caused you away. Maybe because like me, so much of the pain in your life was a result of the actions of people who should have known better. People you should have been able to trust to love you and care for you. We were both lost you and I. And I still am.

I went back to Olympia, because it was a place. A moment in time. A memory of not feeling either so alone, or so lost in the world. Every day I feel like the people in my life are further and further away. But it is my fault. And I am more and more alone, lost and emotionally confused. Although I can’t recapture the past, I can taste the memory.