I heard something very powerful today – not on the news and not from someone wearing wisdom on their sleeve, but from someone I encountered at the grocery store. He’s from Africa. I know this because the little girl in line with her mom had asked. He’s singing as he weighs my fruits and vegetables and has a wide smile on his face. And when the woman behind me asked how he was he answered, “I’m always good.” Although it shouldn’t have, it caught me by surprise. And it wasn’t what he said, but how he said it. He wasn’t saying it for affect or to be cute or trite. He was sincere and he meant it and kept on singing. “I’m always good,” he had said – what empowerment, what peace.
The morning chill still hung in the air, but it didn’t matter since I was taking an early morning soak in the hot springs and the temperature was perfectly steamy. The sun was rising over the desert and light was inching over the east face of the Steens. Part of me had wished that the hot springs would be empty when I drove up so I could enjoy the morning alone. But the conversation was nice, not what we talked about necessarily, but just talking with people who all wanted to be in this special place far away from towns and cities and weekday life.
The conversation flowed from one thing to another, nothing too revealing, but after a while I could tell that in other places, under other circumstances we might all find ourselves on opposite sides of issues. That doesn’t matter in the Alvord Desert. What matters is that we all care about this place and are brought together by that one simple fact. When I mentioned that a warning light popped up in my car about low tire pressure this one man said he’d check and fill up my tires. When I talked about wanting to drive north and explore a new path home, but would have to backtrack to Fields to fill up my tank he offered to sell me gas. That is the way things work in the desert.
So it was fitting that the conversation centered on Carl Thomas who died last spring. Carl had the one ranch situated right at the edge of the desert and throughout the decades he lived there helped more people than anyone can count – stuck in the mud and he’d pull you out, need a phone he’d offer his up, the main entrance too bumpy and you could use his road to access the Alvord. Carl will be missed.
If July was all about birthdays then August, well August was all about reunions. Within one month I had reunions with friends from high school, college and grad school.
It started at Ted and Tara’s wedding. Having gone to college with Ted and graduate school with Tara I should have guessed that their wedding would be a reunion for me… but I had no idea how many friends from Lewis & Clark and the University of Oregon would be attending the wedding. Friends like Suzanne and Renne whom I’ve kept in touch with since leaving LC had made the trek, and it was great to catch up. On top of that so many other art major friends whom I haven’t seen since graduating over 15 years ago made their way to the wedding including Trey and Amy. Trey’s warmth and Amy’s energy made it feel like we were in the studio together again.
I’m fortunate to be surrounded by oodles of friends from grad school, but not everyone has decided to live in Portland so it was amazing to see Anne and Valerie and relive our crazy days in architecture school. We worked hard and played hard in Eugene and had whacky fun times… this wedding reunion felt like we were right back in Eugene.
Just two weeks later a real reunion took place. It’s been 20 years since I graduated from Wilson High School and so it was time to gather the troops and spend an evening (or weekend really) catching up, reminiscing and feeling like I was 18 again. I may not have graduated in 1999 (it was really 1988), but as Prince sings I sure partied like it was.
Mini reunions began earlier in the week with the highlight being the Portland premiere of Scott Prendergast’s new film, Kabluey. The audience was filled with WHS grads and I’m sure I’m not the only one who felt incredibly proud of Scott’s incredible achievement. His film is amazing and truly showcases the talent we all knew he had in high school.
Saturday night was the main event and I don’t know about anyone else, but I felt like I couldn’t talk fast enough. There were so many people to catch up with, so many stories to hear and tell, so many memories to recall. In high school I had a notorious habit of crashing early, often times in cars on the way to parties or nights out with friends… and I have to say that habit hasn’t receded with time. But come midnight when the lights went up in the ballroom I was still energized and ready for the night to continue… and continue it did.
By the time my “night” ended I had been kicked out of the hotel, played beer pong until nearly sunrise, crashed in a random bed when my eyes couldn’t stay open just one minute longer, and slinked away in the mid-morning hours once my car was no longer blocked in. It felt like high school again – and a great way to honor my young years! I only wish more friends had been there to relive it all together.
Every time I take the train from New York to Boston I relive my post grad school life.
I pass through Rye, my first stop after driving 3000 miles from Oregon with Ivy in the summer of 2001. I pass through Westport which I was dreaming would be filled with fresh produce and wonderful food markets ala Martha Stewart, but which paled in comparison to the fresh fruits and vegetables I could find in my own home state.
I pass by the East Norwalk train stop where I deboarded the commuter rail nearly every day on my way to work. The platform looks the same. We stop in Bridgeport and it still looks as rundown and ghostly as it did when I lived here. There’s still a promise of restoration, but reality is a much different story. As we lumbered out of the station and continued to head north I could see the downtown was filled with grey rundown buildings next to a couple brand-spanking new renovations that stuck out like diamonds floating in a sea of tar.
Beyond that we stopped in New Haven and it took everything I had not to get off and pop into see Jeromy, Anne and Ella. Maybe have a little pizza at Modern, maybe drink a little whiskey at Bar, or catch a concert on the Green.
From there the landscape changes to less familiar places, but beautiful bays and inlets that dot the shoreline through Connecticut and Rhode Island.
Finally the train rolls in to Boston, passing alongside the commuter rail stops that run to the city from the south making their way to Back Bay and then South Station. I can’t count how many times I passed through South Station on my way in and out of Boston, but it felt so familiar walking through the doors and heading to the T. I was back!