I met T-brid at the co-op in southeast. I ate a chocolate-covered pecan from the bulk bins, an energy nug, and an anemic gluten-free cookie that had unpleasant, uncooked millet in it, and which attempted to fly on the strength of its dried cherries alone. We walked to T-brid’s shack. She carried a chainsaw in one hand, an umbrella in the other. She had to pause and tell everyone she met on the street why she was carrying the chainsaw. There were a lot of people about, wearing nappy wool and unkempt hair. Southeast has its own population of people, they are not the same ones you see in northeast. They are handy and environmentally minded, they go on hikes and build cob benches in their yards. The northeast is populated with fierce hipsters who fight each other for barista jobs. Burnside keeps the two demographics separated, like the waters of a strong river.
T-brid and I walked past the brooklyn trainyard and down into the swampy, frog-infested woods of oak’s bottom. We saw two great blue herons (my grandmother! Said t-brid, as one flew out over the Willamette), a white egret, two flocks of starlings and a flock of redwing blackbirds. T-brid is a birder, she can recognize the flocks by sound. The cacophony of springtime! Clustered on the electric wires. I know it is spring. The mosquitoes have returned, the frogs, the spiders. The spiders have come home to my shack! I woke up on Tuesday with a spider bite on my left cheek, the first of the year.
We reached the eroded edge of the woods and stared at the flat water of the river, slow and steadily moving. The sky was dimming and the lights on the west hills blinked on, warm-looking homes, overly large. I told T-brid that I wished I had a wooden skiff, with oars, that I might paddle my way home. The walk had made me tired, and I didn’t want to bike. The skiff would have an oil lantern on a tall metal pole, and I would call out as I rowed, and there would be mist along the water. And in the stern of my ship would be a flag of such height that all six of the bridges would have to go up for me, on my way home, like they did for the barges. Ross Island, Hawthorne, Morrison, Burnside, Broadway, Steel. T-brid offered to be the lighthouse on the bank, with a tea-light in a glass lantern.
I had no boat, I biked home, in the dark. It did not rain. The hills seemed extra long. At home my housemate and I talked about what junk foods we ate as kids- whether we drank whole or skim milk, and what sugar cereal was our favorite. I fixed myself a bowl of salad, and Brussels sprouts, and leftover curry, and rice casserole that my housemate made that had zucchini in it, and sausage, and almonds. I ate too much. There was a bag of milk chocolate sitting on the table, and I ate some of that too. “I miss ice-cream,” I said to my housemate. “Bacon tries to be my best friend, and it’s good that ice-cream and I aren’t together anymore, but I miss it.” There is nothing like ice-cream. Nothing in the whole world! It makes my bones ache from missing. Instead, my housemate offered me use of her kayak, sitting in the side yard among the blackberry brambles. “It doesn’t have a rudder, tho,” she said. “so it’s kind of hard to steer.” I imagined myself paddling down the Willamette in big circles, leaning left, leaning right, my lantern swinging crazily on its long pole, my tall flag swiping starlings from the sky. My dreams have been filled with water lately, my imagination with boats. If I am to stay in Portland for forever then I see no reason why I should not get a water craft of some kind, for free somewhere. An old skiff, a canoe. I can take it to Ross Island and build a treehouse there. Or perhaps I will only imagine my boat, and the things my boat and I would do, which is almost nearly just about as good.
(also, not to be discounted, is this– perhaps the most important piece of writing on the entire web.)