Jazzercise

Sunday afternoons meant Jazzercise class at 3:30 pm with Audra, the uber skinny, red headed vegan instructor teaching.

The Jazzercise studio was a long room on the second floor of an older mixed use building on 18th/E. Burnside. Audra was on a raised stage with a microphone headset thing and a black sign behind her that said “JAZZERCISE”.  A Top 40 hit was blasting. Traffic on Burnside blasted by outside the windows.  She was in a green leopard tank top with “Jazzercise” written across the front, calf link black lycra workout pants, manic panic red hair and pale. I knew she wasn’t a full time Jazzercise instructor. She worked in the bakery of a Whole Foods to pay the bills.

“How’s everyone doing?” she asked.

I turned my head and in the class of 25 no one answered.  The woman with thick blonde hair down to her knees was behind me dancing.  She never put my hair up.  It was a mystery how she could Jazzercize with all that hair flapping around.  She was in her mid-50′s, tan and wore a knee brace.

We were beginning class with stretches, marches and toe-taps.

“Is this thing on?” Audra tapped the microphone.

I smiled. This was normal Audra behavior. She was so energetic it was like she had had 3 cups of coffee before class. When I first starting taking Jazzercise classes two years earlier she irritated the crap out of me.  I meticulously watched the online Jazzercise schedule so I wouldn’t have to take classes with her.

“Let’s try that again,” the music changed and we started in on a cardio routine. “How’s everyone doing?”

A series of “woos” belted out behind me. That’s how it was at Jazzercise.  The instructors asked a question and sometimes everyone yelled “woo!” It took me a long time to appreciate Audra’s style and the random “woos!”.  I learned that she was high energy for a reason. I always got the best workouts form her.  She was non-stop movement.

Just like me.

From the time I woke up in the morning, had a cup of coffee, went to my office and wrote, worked with clients, cleaned my house, biked to Jazzercise, ate dinner, took a shower, cleaned my house and went to bed it was go time.

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Spacemen Sundays

Sunday morning reading on the sofa
Cloudy
Spacemen 3 on Pandora floats from the home office
Reminds you of Sunday mornings long ago with “B”
Under the covers in the loft bed
With his Italian/Greek skin
Olive
Black hair
The relaxed feeling that would come from knowing he was there next to you even if you were a ball of anxious

You go back to reading on the sofa
The neighbor kid yells something incoherent
You hear it through the kitchen window
“Shh…” you say even though you know he won’t hear

No one really hears me
That quiet mixed with shame

The night before you go to a party full of other “writers” in a fancy building downtown
Start talking to another “writer” about your memoir.
“What’s your memoir about?”
You cough. Ahem.
“Early childhood trauma.” You’ve learned to code/hide your truth even though it’s your truth
You don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable
It happens anyway
Two women whisper to each other nearby. They have black hair. Curly. They look well put together.
So do you. You know the act. How to act but inside you’re a ball of uncomfortable.
“We have to get going,” the black haired curly women say.
You’re relieved.

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Today’s reality

Never gonna have kids
Never ever
I accepted that a long time ago.
My truth at age 10.
Motherfucking ten years old I knew.
Didn’t trust myself
Didn’t trust mom: too violent
Didn’t trust dad: too vacant/gone
Myself: didn’t want that mix of violence/insecurity/fucked up mess raising kids

Now this being alone thing
It’s new
Too new
Uncomfortable
No one made that decision for me
It’s just the way it is
Try and be all zen about it
But it just doesn’t happen
Pushing and struggling.
Struggle struggle struggle
Punch and fight and fight and punch

Where is that person to wake up next to on Sunday morning
The perfect recipe of fucking
Coffee
Breakfast
More fucking
Watch a movie
More fucking

Then: You go on your merry way.
I start my day: clean the cat box, wipe the counters down, another load of laundry
Water the rosemary

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Hot damn

It was late and warm out.  9:30 pm.  82 degrees.  It was late for me anyway.  I was normally in bed watching Hulu at 9:30 pm.

Instead, I was standing in front of the cold case at New Seasons Market on Hawthorne.  I wanted something quick and easy.  I was starving.  I scanned the case and settled on what looked like a so-so chicken/vegetable combo thing.

I was in a long pink tank top with a dinosaur on the front that I had bought at Uniglo in New York and purple and white striped calf length stretch pants from Uniglo in Seoul, Korea.  Oh and the clickety-clackety bike shoes.

I had just biked from the Tin House Writers conference at Reed College.  I had listened to Jo Ann Beard, an essayist from New York read in the Cerf amphitheater an hour and a half earlier. I was excited to see novelist Elissa Schappelle, memoirist Nick Flynn, fiction writer Cari Luna, and poet Matthew Dickman in the audience.  It was a literary wet dream.

I turned on my heel to pay for the chicken/vegetable combo thing. There was a guy standing in line at the check out.  He was staring at me.

Hard.

I took a few steps and looked away.

He kept looking.

He was tall, light brown hair, tan and blue eyes.

He kept looking.

I looked again and quickly looked away.

Part of me wanted something to happen.  I wanted to go stand in line behind him, him strike up a conversation, get his number and go have wild and crazy sex.   The other part of me just wanted to pay for my chicken/vegetable combo thing, shove it in my craw, bike home and go to bed.  I jumped in line at another open check out. 

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McMinnville

***Trigger warning for discussion of suicide***

McMinnville is like this on a hot Saturday in July:

small town festival

high school girls walk past me and squeal

“I haven’t seen you in sooooo long,” one girl says to another one 10 feet away.

they check me out in a competitive way even though I am 37.

i look at my phone and ignore them

just like I do with most of the people at the small town festival

smells like kettle corn, hot and beer from the McMenamins.

#####

On the way to McMinnville you drove past that waterpark you were going to go to with your sister, niece and brother in law before realizing admission was $33 last winter.

you were broke and it was either pay that stupid admission fee or pay the mortgage.

The mortgage won.

you see a sign for the town of Willamina.  Your prom date’s best friend from summer camp where he worked in the early 90′s lived in Willamina.  It’s a small town you’ve never been to but it seems important that you remember that detail.  The town that is.

Before McMinnville and the water park you drove through a small winery town: Dundee.

It was littered with cops parked on both sides of the two lane road.  They were looking for speeders, drunk drivers, people acting strange.  Anything to keep the bored cops occupied.

####

You realize this is the same slow road you drove to Lincoln City twice to see Michael, your ex-boyfriend, in 2006.  He moved to his dad’s beach house a few blocks from the beach.  You drove to see him each time hoping his mental illness would go away or be different.

Just hoping.

You think back to that windy night walking on the beach in Lincoln City with him.  It was dark.  He was smiling.  The wind was crazy.  Your hood was up.  So was his.  The rain was spitting.  But it was ok. You were with him.  He was in his Carharts and Sambas.  Those Sambas just like he wore in high school.   When he was the only smiling face you knew in a high school filled with assholes, jocks and cheerleaders.

You still nurse that resentment.

Three months later he’ll be gone.  He’ll go out on the beach late at night with a gun in July and shoot himself in front of the Chinook Winds casino.  A female jogger will find him the next morning at 11 am.  You won’t ever think about the Chinook Winds casino in the same way.  Not that you ever did in the first place.

####

The day you found out about his death you remember: the hot, sun, sadness.

Trying to act normal and hold it together.

Eight years have passed and you are still sad.

The day of his anniversary, July 13 you post a status update on Facebook.  You do this every year.  Twice, in fact, including his birthday May 20.  It’s usually beautiful and sunny on both days.  So hard to recount death when the sun is shining.

####

the cops, the traffic, the tourists, high school girls, Michael’s death.

It makes you mad.

Still.

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Cold

Michael was the ex boyfriend I wanted to forget. Not in a bad way but in a “your time has passed and I’m done way.”

He had sent me another Facebook message a few days beforehand. It was June 2014. It simply said “I learned so much from you.” I hate to sound cold but I ignored it. There was a lot of that. He would pop up out of nowhere and message me on Facebook.

We had dated from December 2009 to may 2010 when I was on an extended break from dating the boyfriend/non-boyfriend. He was a lot older than me. I won’t tell you how much older. Sorry. We spent a lot of time at his apartment in SW. It overlooked the field where the Portland Timbers soccer team played. I liked his apartment but missed my own apartment in close in North east. I missed my cats. Michael had just recently divorced and it felt like he needed me. More than I needed him. I didn’t know if he wanted me to be his replacement wife. He had been married for a long time and had kids. When we started dating he was 3 months out of the divorce.
I will never do that again. Never date someone so “fresh.”

I ignored Michaels Facebook messages in the same way the boyfriend/non-boyfriend had ignored my text a few weeks earlier. I had texted the boyfriend/non-boyfriend a picture of a red 1987 VW Vanagon camped out next to the sea in Iceland. “I found your ilk in iceland” I wrote. It was a lame attempt to be friendly. Or maybe it wasn’t lame. Maybe I was just trying to finish off the last of our relationship. Or whatever you wanted to call it.

He probably smelled my desperation the same way I smelled Michaels.

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Late spring

This is an excerpt from a piece I’m working on about Palio, a coffeeshop in Ladd’s Addition, the rose gardens in Ladd’s Addition, and Laurelhurst Park in Portland, Oregon:

The day I told “B” I loved him we were at Laurelhurst Park near the big duck pond in the middle of the park. We were standing in the gravel near the edge. It was 80 degrees, mid June 2002 and night time. It had been really a really warm late spring. “If it’s gonna be this warm I would have just stayed in Florida,” he would say quite a bit. It was his repetitive nature that drove me away from him.   He left Florida six months before because he couldn’t take it.

The hot

The people

The flatness

He drove across country to Portland even though he had only been there once before. His constant complaining about Florida grated on me. He talked about quitting smoking and maintaining his pot use constantly.  

At the Laurelhurst duck pond “B” asked me a question but I couldn’t tell you what it was. My mind is a blur about  our conversation before and after I blurted out “Because I love you silly.” I think he told me he loved me back but honestly I don’t remember. I remember the hot and being at my apartment with him later on that night listening to the new The Flaming Lips cd on my boom box. He loved that band.

I loved him.

“B” and I broke up 8 months later on February 13.  The timing was shitty.  I went to Zupans grocery store after it happened and walked around the store gathering food for dinner.  It felt like everyone in the store was shopping for Valentines candy, roses and flowers. I was miserable. The pond at Laurelhurst park had started to turn brown and it smelled stinky. 

Four months later in June 2003 the pond would be infested with blue-green algae.   A combination of shallow depths, sunlight and duck poop from the 12 male/female duck pairs led to the blue-green algae build up.  It would take the city five years to dredge it, another year to put up a fence around the entire pond and another two years to finally remove it.

20140714-151211-54731403.jpg
The pond in mid-July. Green but aerated.

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