I’m in line for the free Flaming Lips concert at Waterfront Park in Portland, Oregon. It’s 3:21, a Sunday and hot. I’m actually standing up the Hawthorne Bridge. I’m waiting for my friend Kim who is running late because she took a nap. I’m somewhat annoyed with her mostly because I don’t want to go to this concert alone. I hate going to things alone: parties, book readings, restaurants. I also haven’t done anything fun lately. I’ve been working, writing and going to readings but I haven’t gone to the river, to the movies or concerts. I’ve been taking care of that cat.
She’s slunk down to 8.5 pounds. Every day she stops eating a little less. The vet trips have increased. I’m working more to pay for the vet trips. The people around me in line are not irritating. Shrieking teenage girls and crying babies are my top pet peeves when it comes to being out in public. There’s a group of 25 year old guys ahead of me in line. I recognize one of them as one of the workers from the self serve frozen yogurt shop that I frequent in summer. Sometimes that self serve frozen yogurt shop is full of shrieking teenage girls and crying babies. I have to go to Ben and Jerrys across the street when that happens.
The Flaming Lips are playing at 5-ish. I’m standing close to where I saw Barack Obama campaigning in 2008. I went to see Barack Obama with my friend Amy.
She was from Florida and was pregnant with her first kid, Sebastian. After he was born her brother starting calling him “Seabass” because it was easier to remember than Sebastian. I started calling him “Seabass” too because it was odd and funny.
I only know about the Flaming Lips from “B” the original non-boyfriend. He was obsessed with them. When I met him in 2002 the only song I knew was the “Jelly” song which got considerable radio play in 1994.
He didn’t like that song very much.
He didn’t like a lot of things that much.
Kim’s not here yet but on her way. I grab an extra pass for Kim and one for me so we can get into the show. In line I make it to the front for bag check. I have my bike water bottle with me and I’m expecting to be told I will need to dump it out even though it’s 90 degrees. An African American woman with long locks barely checks my bag. I guess I don’t look like a terrorist. She lets me keep my bottle full of water. This is Portland; not New York. When I was in New York City two months before in June I went to a German beer garden with my friend Maia and the bouncer made us dump out our water. I was irrritated.
I walk around the grassy field in front of the stage that’s 1/3 of the way full. I find a shady spot next to a blow up white bear that’s advertising “Bimbo” bread. There’s a whole bunch of white and green crap on the ground. I’m sitting in Canadian goose poop. “Oh well.” It’s the only shady spot. I’m resigned to the sadness that’s been following me around for the past five days:
watching Lilly melt away to nothing, buying more cat food, tuna and anchovies to get her to eat.
throwing the leftover food that she barely touches into the compost bin on the side of my house
constantly running the dishwasher to get the stinky cat dishes clean
watching her condition
watching her on the couch looking out the window trying to figure out how she is feeling
Kim gets to the show and we chat for an hour before the show starts in the sun. She tells me about her 20 year old cat that was in a similar predicament as mine. She tells me everything she did to keep her alive. I wonder if I’m doing the same thing to keep Lilly alive. I think about my maternal grandparents and everything that my mom and my uncle did in their final weeks in January 2009 to keep them alive at Mercy Hospital in Portland, Maine. My grandmother had fallen in the shower at her Alzheimers Care facility and had a stroke. She was in the hospital with half her body frozen and slouched and the other half normal. She couldn’t speak. My grandfather was on another floor with pneumonia and hooked up to a set of machines to keep him alive.
I was in Portland, Maine for a week before I had to go back to Portland, Oregon. I left with guilt that they were both hanging on by a thread. Two weeks after I came back they were both gone. I was happy that I had gone to see them in their final days but distressed about the state they were in: the cold and frozen snow outside and the hospital.
The Flaming Lips come on stage and I sing along to the songs. I know most of the words. I look around at the twenty something’s who don’t know the words and just bob their heads in Portland fashion. They were little, little when “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots” came out in 2002. Back when “B” and I were walking to Trader Joes in Hollywood. The old Trader Joes. The too tiny one where we had to stand in line with our frozen burritos and frozen juice bars. The old Trader Joes is now a Dollar Tree.
It smells like a Dollar Tree.