Portland, again

by Wolf Pascoe on August 20, 2012

And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

— W.B. Yeats

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Ah, Yeats, I am old, I am old.
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

I’m sorry, I have to talk about Portland again. Arrived yesterday.

We’ve flown the coop, lit out, made tracks, and otherwise decamped to the Rose city for a two week stay. No hotel room with a crummy view of the freeway this time, but a cottage of sorts, in an actual neighborhood.

“Portland,” said a friend over dinner last night, “is San Francisco with trees.”

Exactly.

There are fifteen Portlands floating around, two in Australia. This one happens to be in Oregon.

But what, pray, is the problem with California?

Apart from all the cars, it goes back to my third grade reader, with pictures of kids throwing snowballs in their backyards. It doesn’t snow in California backyards, so you grow up in California feeling other places are somehow more real. Nor is it helpful when you can’t find a place to park.

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FARMERS MARKET

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Saturday. We go to the farmers market in Lake Oswego, a town in the woods south of Portland with a whistle train running by every few hours.

“You never hear it,” one of the residents says to me.

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I had begged Nora to go because I had to see the lake. My fantasy of paradise is a house on a lake, the grass rolling down from the back porch to the water. I just know it’s out there somewhere, but the houses we saw were too closely packed together—life as a sardine.

“Let’s eat,” says Nick.

We meander in the market’s food court. A sandwich sign catches Nora’s eye. She orders a caprise, Nick something with chicken in it. Next door they sell sausage. I’m a sucker for sausage.

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We spread out on a lawn overlooking the lake, the grass impossibly green. Why not just live at the farmers market?

After lunch, the ice cream booth. Exotic flavors with salt in them. No chocolate.

“You’re not getting any?” Nora says to me.

“There’s no chocolate.”

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MISSION

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Later that afternoon, back at the cottage, I tell Nora I’m going out to get butter and paper towels.

“Do we need them now?” she says.

“Yes.”

“Dada, can I go with you?” says Nick.

“It’s going to be boring,” I say. “And I’m only getting butter and paper towels.”

Yesterday I had seen a Ben and Jerry’s next to the supermarket. This is my real mission. By rights, I am owed an ice cream cone, but taking Nick to Ben and Jerry’s to watch me eat one is an argument waiting to happen.

“Okay, dadda,” he says. “I’ll stay home.”

I am a liar and sneak, a crappy father, a destroyer of family values. It’s only now, thinking back on it, that I notice Nick has used the word “home” to describe the cottage.

Infinitely adaptable, kids.

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SHAPE IN THE CUP

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A double scoop in a cup, chocolate on the bottom, cherry garcia on top. It’s the best ice cream I’ve ever had and fills, for a little while, the shape in my middle where the fantasy house on the lake had been. I bite off greedy mouthfuls in the parked car, the chocolate thick and spicy-sweet.

Somehow I make a mess, pink and brown stickiness all over my fingers. I fish a wipe out of the glove compartment to clean my mouth and hands. I stuff it into the cup and squeeze, then cruise for a trash can to get rid of the evidence. In California you can find trash cans on most corners, but not, apparently, in Oregon. I cruise a long time.

“I got the towels and butter,” I announce at the cottage door to no one in particular.

Nick inspects the goods and gives me a hug.

“I love you, dada,” he says.

In the evening the empty shape inside me comes back and stays the night.

And there was evening and there was morning. Our second day.

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Barbara August 20, 2012 at 2:09 pm

I wonder if anyone ever finds the exact spot that hovers in their dreams. Mine was a Victorian cottage in a small town with a square, similar to Mayberry. I ended up in a place totally different, but for some reason it felt right. P.S. I know how you feel about those photos with snow.
Barbara recently posted..Thirty Years and other sweet!s

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Wolf Pascoe August 20, 2012 at 10:30 pm

It never snows in Texas, right?

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Barbara August 21, 2012 at 9:16 pm

Well, it does, but not like it does up north. Of course, perhaps that makes it a little more magical!
Barbara recently posted..Thirty Years and other sweet!s

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The Exception August 20, 2012 at 4:54 pm

I grew up with the house and the yard and four seasons and the snow. I wanted my daughter to have the yard – she got the four seasons and the snow and I would so rather live without the snow and ice because as gorgeous as it is, it isn’t fun when it comes to commuting! And my dream – the old house with the high ceiling and the river close enough to hear from the sweeping front porch – Natchez, Mississippi without the heat and humidity… But kids often realize something we don’t – home is not a place but where you and your family are at the time.

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Wolf Pascoe August 20, 2012 at 10:31 pm

“home is not a place but where you and your family are at the time.”

You always nail it.

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BigLittleWolf August 23, 2012 at 10:48 pm

Frankly, I’m fixated on that ice cream.

By God, I could almost taste it with you.
BigLittleWolf recently posted..“Something American”

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Wolf Pascoe August 24, 2012 at 12:37 am

I don’t feel the least bit guilty about it.

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Kyle Bradford August 28, 2012 at 7:26 am

infinitely adaptable, indeed.
Kyle Bradford recently posted..The exhaustion of insecurity

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Wolf Pascoe August 28, 2012 at 12:06 pm

That’s the whole problem right there.

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Pamela September 15, 2012 at 7:03 am

One of your bests!! I too have that empty space ice cream can’t fix. What is that space? A craving for home?

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Wolf Pascoe September 15, 2012 at 5:00 pm

For the deepest wholeness, I think, the one before words, before the first betrayal.

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