masking tape solution
Wednesday, July 27 2022
location: Northeast 24th Avenue, Northeast Portland, Portland, Oregon
Gretchen's brother's family in Corvalis (but not Gretchen's brother himself) would be driving up to Portland to hang out with us for the day, and Gretchen was aware of how socially exhausting this would be for me, so she carved out a lot of alone time for me this morning and went off to hang out with Gilly. So I could drink coffee, eat a leftover soy curl wrap, and interact briefly with a beautiful marbled grey & black cat who slipped under the gate into our little house's private yard and seemed about to walk in through the open sliding-glass door. But when I said something, the cat withdrew to the alley and sat outside there watching me through the slats, wondering if I was a good witch or a bad one. Eventually he or she moved on.
When Gretchen returned from whatever vegan bakery she'd been to, she brought me a delicous tempeh-based reuben. Since we'd just spent our last night in our lovely AirBnB, we then packed up our stuff and left it in an almost move-in ready condition. We then walked over to Gilly & Allen's place and actually went inside. Based on what Gretchen had said, I'd assumed it would be a holy horror in there (on one visit in recent years when Allen wasn't doing as well, Gretchen had found the place so apalling that she'd actually cleaned it herself). But it looked reasonably tidy to me. Sure, there were mats on the floor, and some of them were slightly crusty from multiple accidents from Gracie the dog (now seventeen years old and having no conscious control of her excretory functions). Yet it didn't even have a smell. I don't know that I'd want to sit on one of the oft-pooped-and-pissed-upon couches, but for standing around dropping off backpacks, it wasn't an unpleasant experience.
We'd be meeting our sister-and-law and the two kids at the McMenamins Kennedy School (also within walking distance), but first we went to a Walgreens to buy those cuticle snippers Gretchen hadn't been able to get last night. (Gretchen was amazed how cheap those snippers turned out to be.)
We saw a car with Arkansas plates out in front of the Kennedy School, so we went inside to look for them. There are only a few fully-public places and hallways connecting them, but we didn't see them anywhere. We asked the staffers at the front desk if they'd seen a group that appeared to contain a teeange Joey Ramone, and they suggested we look in the big restaurant. But the Corvalis family is universally small in stature, and it was hard to see short people in the tall-backed booths. But then I saw a poof of dark hair and went to investigate. I'd found the folks from Corvalis! They were just finishing up.
We walked up and down the halls looking at all the wacky art and other things (such as the "detention," a small bar where one drinks brown liquors and smokes cigars, though that might no longer be allowed). It's all quite an eyeful for those who've never seen it, but for me it wasn't as amazing as I'd remembered it. Eventually one of the employees with nothing better to do unlocked the Boiler Room, the two-tier bar lavisly decorated with plumbing pieces all fitted together into banisters, screens, and rails, and let us look around. He also told us about this history of building the Boiler Room, which was a huge undertaking done about fifteen years ago. Gretchen keeps looking for a job for Gilly's partner Allen, and she asked if McMenamins was hiring, which of course they are. But Allen is sort of an old school writer; he doesn't really grok modern social media, and that seems to be coming up a lot in his job hunt. (Gretchen had also asked her brother if Oregon State might be looking for someone with Allen's skills, and he didn't have any great ideas.)
What followed after that was a long, leisurely walk up and down Alberta Street, stopping at all manner of stores to look around and (rarely) buy a few things. An early initial purchase I made was of a roll of masking tape to deal with chafing wounds developing on my feet where the flip-flop straps had been rubbing. I've been wearing these flip flops for years and thought I'd thoroughly broken them in, but maybe walking in the sand yesterday increased their abrasive power. People seeing me taping up my injuries kept wondering if I wanted a bandaid, but I didn't. A bandaid is much lesss useful to fight chafing, since the bump at the adhesive square becomes a surface against which the abraiding material pushes laterally, quickly ripping the bandaid off. But, as with many things, Americans are conditioned to use the "correct" product for protecting injuries, just like the idiots in Idiocracy had been conditioned to water their crops with energy drinks. After fixing my feet, I just barely squeezed my left hand into the void in the middle of the roll and wore it like a bracelet. "Next time you're in Portland," I explained to the kids, everyone will be wearing these!
At some point we passed one of Portland's many tattoo parlors, and our niece brought up how much she'd like to get a tattoo of a heart on her wrist (when you're that young it's harder to know what exactly is cliché). Of course her mother doesn't want her getting any tattoos or, for that matter, nose piercings, and of course Gretchen had joking ideas for various work-arounds for that absence of parental approval. I had a different kind of joke: I said that back when I was a kid, my parents had demanded that I get a tattoo, but I rebelled against them by not getting one.
Gilly snuck out of work to meet up with us briefly at a plant store on Alberta. Gretchen and I warned the kids that Gilly is a cantankerous bitch before they met her, with the joke being (of course) that Gilly is the nicest person anyone could hope to meet, and that the niceness sometimes gets a little irritating.
Our walk eventually took us to the Bye & Bye, where we all had a lunch. I ordered the meatball sub, which was great. When our waitress gave us several options of hot sauces, I knew I didn't like any she mentioned that I was familiar with. So I picked the one I didn't know: Secret Aardvark. It was habanero sauce and extrmely good. I might be ordering it online. Our niece had been telling us that her brother prefers beverages to foods, so when he claimed that potato chips were the lowest-quality form of potato, I asked what if someone were to take a potato and puree it into a beverage. Would anyone like that? My nephew raised his hand and said that he would.
After lunch, Gretchen had us drive over to Mississippi Avenue to get a sense of that neighborhood. By then the heat of the day seemed to make our walking proceed even more slowly than it had been previously. Our niece was very excited about a comic book store, but even with an open mind, I found nothing interesting in there. There was also that store that sells salt; everyone but me went in there. And then we sat in some chairs just outside it while it air conditioned air flowed over us like a mountain stream. At that point a ridiculous-looking basset hound came waddling up and kerplunked down on the bricks in a place where that cold air was probably forming someing of a pool. He knew what he was doing. His human father let him do that for awhile, and when it came time to leave, the hound was reluctant to go.
We also briefly looked into the windows of the wacky lightbulb store on Mississippi, the one that features assembled Star-Wars-themed Lego kits in the window even though they have nothing to do with lightbulbs and Lego isn't sold in any form in the store. These days a further indication of the kookiness of the owner is all the signs and bits of paper stuck to the front door to tell customers that under no circumstances are they to bring dogs into the store. The owner supposedly suffers from a health problem she attributes to either dogs or the parasites they carry.
For dinner, our group went to a vegan soul food restaurant on Mississippi called South X Northwest. When we got there, we found a nice young couple eating in front with a couple very friendly rescue pit bulls, something Gretchen and I made a special fuss about when in front of her brother's family as a way to showcase how awesome true rescue dogs can be.
Eventually we were met at our table-for-seven by Gilly and Allen. We'd felt the need to warn the kids about how shy Allen can be, but when we did so, they assumed we were being ironic like we'd been about Gilly and were expecting an extreme extrovert. No, Gretchen assured them, we're not lying. He really is shy. But Allen didn't end up being especially shy, so we could've said nothing. As for the food, some of the equipment in the kitchen had been turned off due to the extreme heat, so there were no sandwiches. So ordered a slab of "fried chicken" with sides of fries, collard greens, and baked beans. It was all fairly good, though the strong baked bean flavor of those baked beans took a little to get used to. Initially I'd thought I'd want the hush puppies, but my nephew gave me one of his (they'd all ordered early since they were on a tighter schedule to be able to get back to Corvalis) and I found it far too rich to be eating any more.
Once the Corvalis family left, we all went to a nearby vegan icecream place (because everyone but me for some reason felt like eating yet more food).
Back at Gilly & Allen's place, we all sat outside in the side yard and yacked away the hours before Gretchen and I had to catch our red-eye flight back to New York City. As we talked, the elderly, incontinent dog Gracie paced back and forth in the yard restlessly, reminding us of our old dog Sally in the months before we decided to euthanize her. Gretchen had been saying "aside from the incontinence, Grace is doing great!" But now she wasn't so sure. Gilly & Allen also have another dog, who, like Gracie is a supposedly rescued purebred German shorthaired pointer. His name is Otis, and he is much taller and something of a galoot as he careens around energetically, often forgetting guests are there until he catches sight of them again and experiences the joyous discovery all over again.
While we sat there in the side yard, Allen told us about his father's career in academia at (I believe) Oregon State University, where he was a botanist. But he got promoted into administration too young and didn't like that he was no longer teaching. When he had to fire his friend (a guy who would never speak to him again) that was it, and he retired early. This reminded Gretchen of my father's career trajectory, first as a professor at the University of Chicago (until he had a fight with the administration) then his work as a senior scientist at NASA (where his environmentalist papers got him in such trouble that he eventually quit work forever and moved the family to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia). Gretchen mentioned his membership in Earth First!, and I told Gilly about how he used to write quite scientific articles for the Earth First! publication. Working in the fish habitat non-profit world, both Gilly and Allen were very familiar with Earth First!.
Eventually it was time to go, so we hugged Allen goodbye, said goodbye to Otis and Gracie (that last one, probably for the last time) and Gilly drove us to the airport. This time our TSA PreCheck allowed us to bypass a long line of dreary travelers. We also went through a special, faster-checking machine, but Gretchen got unlucky and was randomly selected for greater scrutiny, something that didn't take more than ten additional seconds.
This time we'd be flying JetBlue and it wasn't a full plane. JetBlue has a couple extra revenue streams we hadn't encountered before: $65 to use the overhead bins and $11 to select a seat. That first one was ridiculous, so I planned to stuff what I could of my fairly large travel backpack under a seat if necessary. As for the $11 seat-picking fee, that seemed like a good investment. So Gretchen got us an aisle and a window seat in the same row, hoping there would be nobody between us.
Before we got on the plane, I wanted to poop and change into long pants. So there I was in an airport bathroom stall with its piss-spattered floor, not wanting to touch it with my clothes or bare feet. I made a little surface with my flipflops to stand on and then scrunched up a leg so I could put it on without it touching the floor. When I'd achieved it with one leg, I knew I could do it with the other. Had the Portland airport people included non-terrible hooks to hang things on, it would've been significantly easier.
We were among the last people to board our plane, and as we did so, Gretchen asked the guy at the gate if anyone was seated between us. He looked it up and said there was. But then one of his colleagues told us to take seats near the front of the plane in an empty row up there, that he'd change it in the computer. This was a big score; it would mean we would have more leg room and get off the plane quickly. But then the other guy corrected himself and said he'd been looking in the wrong seats and that no, there was nobody between us. "Does that mean we don't get those other seats?" Gretchen asked. "You got what you wanted, didn't you?" the guy replied. Gretchen can always be counted on to look a gift horse in the mouth much more thoroughly than I would.
We took our ambien early in the flight, and I was starting to feel groggy as the drink cart neared. But I held out long enough to order an orange juice, which I mixed with vodka and began to drink.
The door of the kooky lightbulb store on Mississippi Avenue in Portland. Click to enlarge.
My niece and Secret Aardvark hot sauce at the Bye & Bye today.
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