Crosscut Saw

July 14, 2007 at 10:40 pm (On the road again...)

I had big plans for this Saturday morning. A friend’s daughter is in a live performance of the Wizard of Oz, and I had planned to make a show of support.

The venue? The Washington Park Rose Test Garden Amphitheater. (Not to be confused with the Rose Garden Arena, aka Paul Allen’s PringleDome.) The first hair in the butter? A 10 AM curtain call. The first bus doesn’t get near the place until about 10:30. I figured I could catch at least part of the performance, and give the standard thumbs-up/break a leg/attagirl speech.

Second hair in the butter? A good night’s sleep, and I didn’t awaken until 9:45. Any attempt to get there would be futile, but since I was up, in the mood for an excursion and had the whole weekend to kill, why not go for a ride?

MAX construction has torn up Southeast Portland, as well as downtown. An overpass I traverse on a daily basis has recently been upgraded, and the graffiti removed. Even though the graffiti came and went, there was always one splotch of something that made me wonder. It was near the top of the underpass, directly under the freeway rolling overhead. It looked like a cow pie, stuck to the side of a wall, as if a bird flying out of control had met its muddy demise. (It also brought to mind the saying, “Be glad cows don’t fly.”) This mystery blob has been stuck to the wall for nearly seven years, and now it is gone. I was tempted to crawl up and take a picture, or better yet, bribe my nephew to do so. Now I may never know what the eternal cow pie was made of.

I rolled along, for once enjoying the smells of my fellow bus riders. (Two freshly showered teenage girls sat in front of me. Much nicer than the dumpster-like smells of the late-bus denizens.) After 82nd, the bus emptied out, and I had a bit of reflective time. Yard sales. Car washes. Teenage girls in too-small mini-skirts soliciting people into parking lots, where middle-aged men drool as cheerleader types spray each other with hoses. Does this really send a good message to today’s young girls? (Keep in mind, this question is coming from a middle-aged pervert.) I sincerely hope each and every one of them get a diploma and become doctors or lawyers. But from the conversation I overheard, with the R Kelly soundtrack, I’m seeing clear heels and a brass pole in the future of a couple of them.

I arrived downtown about noon, stopped by work for a spot-check on the new guy, and to get a free cup of coffee. Customers assumed I was working, and after one too many price-check questions, I decided to get outta there.

The 23rd Avenue bus was a couple of blocks away, so I hustled to the bus stop and caught it. Again, people weren’t out and about yet, so the ride was mellow. Back in 1979, when I moved to downtown from the country, I liked Northwest Portland because you could wander amongst the homes and buildings and rarely see another person. Now, even at 6 AM, there’s always someone at the bus stop, or digging through a trashcan, or sipping beer through a straw out of a black plastic bag.

A blast from the past! A double-trailered logging truck was having difficulty maneuvering a corner, and I got to stare and reminisce. The previous generation of males in my family were by and large sawmill workers and log truck drivers. My dearly-departed brother in law, who threatened to ‘break his foot off in my ass’ if I ever even thought of becoming a truck driver, used to take me on runs with him. My brother, who died driving truck, let me read his study materials when he went to truck-driving school, and I got to drive my first semi, sans trailer, at age fifteen. They both encouraged me to study computers instead, and while their language was twice as salty as mine, if I wanted to piss them off, all I had to say was “spotted owl.”

By the time I’d made it to Montgomery Park, imbibed in a bit of herbal distraction and got back on the bus, the yuppies were coming out. Quiet time was over. I shared a ride with a couple of nice ladies. It took them a while to get on and off; the young one was 95 and her companion was 101. It was ten minutes well spent.

I located the new Biscuits Cafe, a block north of Burnside on NW 21st. I’d pondered going there, but still had a grocery stop to make, so decided to make my own breakfast. (I’m not much for dining out alone. I can cook just about anything I like better than a restaurant, most of the time.) Biscuits is located in an old Arby’s, and much easier to access than the other one I frequent. I will be back for the farmer’s omelette…

By the time I got back downtown, it was teeming with shoppers, so I decided to head back to Felony Flats. A co-worker was on the bus, but he talked on his cell phone instead of to me. There were a couple of methadone-abusers (86ed) who made small talk, but I was brief with them, and they left me alone. As we stopped on Belmont, I saw an old friend from the ’80s. (We’ll call him Wilson, like the soccer ball from Cast Away.) He was curled up on the sidewalk, smoking a cigarette and looking productive as usual. (Sarcasm of black-hole density there…) He hasn’t had much use for me since I quit smoking and drinking. (Back in the day, we were the best at hustling up a free drunk. I will discuss this era in detail, one of these days.) I had a lot of fun getting drunk in Old Town back in the day. That which doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger. Most of the guys from that era have died, most of them at about the age I am now. I’m glad Wilson is alive, but I can’t be around him anymore.

I scored groceries, went home to make the best Philly cheesesteak ever, and have makings for a killer omelette tomorrow morning. (Forgot the potato, goddammit…) The humidity is relaxing its grip on my room, and it’s about time to watch a movie. Maybe The Wizard of Oz? With Dark Side of the Moon for a soundtrack?

Nah, I’ll save that for next Saturday. My munchkin/little witch/flying monkey has a second performance. (At ten o’clock in the effing morning!) Maybe I’ll have better luck getting there next week.

Remember, follow the yellow brick road!

It was a white brick road before Toto got there.

But that was the spotted owl’s fault.


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