The Red Rocket’s Glare

July 11, 2010 at 12:25 pm (On the road again...)

Hey baby, it’s the Fourth of July…

I still had the car, but it was a work day. If I’m going to sit around killing time until work, might as well do some sightseeing, right? I got my work gear together, loaded the car and headed out.

In the opposite direction of work.

My lovely cousin Freddie had been by the old homestead. “You wouldn’t recognize the place,” she texted me. I’d been back last year, but hadn’t had a lot of time to look at the old neighborhood. (Too busy absorbing how Sandy, Oregon had turned into mini-Beaverton.) I figured with an hour in each direction and a half-hour for sight-seeing, I could still get downtown to find a parking spot and be on time to work.

I took Powell through Gresham, fully expecting mini-Compton the way the media depicts Gresham. Granted, it was noonish on a Sunday holiday morning, but nobody was out. No proliferation of gang tags. Nobody doing the Jay & Silent Bob thing in front of the Plaid Pantry. As I passed the lumberyard, I impulsively reached for a cigarette. I haven’t smoked in years, but that was the lighting-up spot. (I’d have just enough time to smoke and air out before returning the car to Mom.) Funny how ingrained habits never die.

I took Bluff Road, cruising past the berry fields that are now tree fields. Hello Kingdom Hall, the God’s house I helped build back in 1974. I wanted to stop at the Bluff, but it was overgrown, and I knew the view too well. Time to see what the old street was like.

Full-blown suburbia. The cow pasture, home of the cabin and so many parties, was now more than a cul-de-sac. Rows of houses. I’d estimate thirty to fifty homes sat on what used to be our property. (I remember my dad feeling encroached upon when the neighbor’s kid built a house 300 yards away…) Not wanting to arouse the suspicions of the neighborhood watch, I moseyed on. I took the back way to Firwood School, site of my first formal education. I wanted to go look at the school, but was running low on time. If I wanted to be prompt, I should head for town.

With Fourth of July fireworks and the Blues Festival in full swing, parking would be challenging. I hoped for a spot in front of the store, but settled for one right around the corner. Until dark, I could keep an eye on the car through the reflection in the window of the coffee shop across the street. Even downtown on a drunken holiday night, I figured the car would be safer there than in my neighborhood, where every house has to recreate the battle for independence with hundreds of dollars of explosives from across the river. Perhaps I should have gotten insurance just for this one day…

Dr T was underwhelmed with the Toyota. “I figured you for more of a Delta 88 man…” He shook his head. There goes my blues cred.

Whitney and Weird Steven were more enthusiastic. Weird Steven stood in the store truck loading zone and Whitney watched the till while I zoomed around the block and reparked the car. They leaned against the car, smoking and looking cool, trying to find ways to stress me out. “Road warriors are keying cars along Morrison Street, coming this way…” Or “I didn’t know ICP was in town. A bunch of Juggalos just got chased out of the parking garage for breaking windows…” They gave up when I refused to bite.

A volley of explosions, then the drunken herd. “Got a bathroom? You sell Four Lokos?” Fourth of July was over.

One of the best things about having the car? No packed-house drunken bus ride home! I could take my time getting out, and with a bit of forethought I could miss all the traffic. By midnight, the traffic was contained to the parking garages, where people think it’s a wonderful place to park and watch the fireworks until they realize it takes four hours to get out of said parking garages. I zipped along, seeing the occasional burst of color in the sky. I pulled up in front of the house, where my sister was getting ready to leave for the paper route. As I waited to take her parking space, my twelve-year-old niece came out of the house.

“Cool car! Can I look inside?” she asked.

“Of course. Would you like to go for a ride?”

She was asking her mother before I could blink. “Where are you going? I’m not sure I want her out cruising with a dirty old man at beer-thirty…” Sis sounded stern, but I heard the play in her voice. “I suppose, as long as you’re careful.”

I took a couple minutes in my room to formulate a plan. I had a BOGO coupon for Pita Pit, which was open on Hawthorne until 3-4 AM. Dinner is served. We took a slow ride, I pointed out the paper station where her mother worked. We talked about stupid drunken people standing outside bars, smoking and running into traffic. She was amused by the “Spaced Out Room”, which I gently corrected to Space Room. “I like your name better,” I told her. “It’s more fitting.”

We were home safely by 3 AM. I munched, and knowing when to say when, I decided to return the car a day early. If I kept it through Monday, I’d have to babysit and worry about it all night. I searched websites and Twitter, but couldn’t tell if street parking cost on the 5th of July, the observed holiday. Also, I had to have the car back by noon on Tuesday, a work day. My alarm is set for 12:30 PM. I’m gonna do it the easy way.

I gassed the car, emptied it of everything, and headed for the airport. The check-in dude gave it the once over, told me the car looked super, and would I sign here please? I’d dodged the insurance bullet. Woohoo!

I boarded the airport MAX, and put on my MP3 player. I jammed to RL Burnside, gripping the bar atop the seat in front of me like I was still driving. I’d put about 500 miles on the car, saw many an old site, revisited many a memory. I was asked more than once, “Are you going to miss having a car?”

Nope. Not really.

I’ve been walking a lot, and the exercise has been saving my life. I like having a half-hour of decompression time on the bus to gather my thoughts and let the steam release, so I don’t walk into the house yelling and throwing things. I like being able to afford a place to live. If I had a car, that would be where I lived, and I’ve been there/done that. I like having a roof and indoor plumbing.

An Affordable Classic

And now it’s back to checking Transit Tracker, making sure my shoes are fitting properly, hoping the random assortment of fellow bus riders is an easygoing batch. I’ll miss the availability of 3 AM munchie runs, but I wouldn’t be able to afford those 3 AM munchie runs if I had to feed the car. It was fun while it lasted.

And FINALLY, I can say that I’ve been to the beach this year. This decade. This millennium. It was worth the wait.

Besides, I still have my dream car…

1 Comment

  1. 5secondrool said,


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