The Summer of 1997

My dad had gone from being a district attorney in the 80’s to judge in the 90’s and was on a committee with the Citizens Crime Commission (or CCC as it was known) in downtown. He was working on setting me up with an internship. I went to lunch with the woman who would become my boss, Louise, and Susan, the secretary for the three person operation. The executive director didn’t join us. He was out of the officet going to meetings with city leaders, police officers and government people. We went to Jazz De Opus in Old Town and had lunch. It used to be a dark and smoky jazz club but now it’s a strip club. It was dark and old wood like a jazz club should be. To Louise and Susan it was probably a regular business lunch but to me, a 21 year old, it was fancy and a big deal. Most important, I was someone out on a business lunch and didn’t have to pay.

I probably didn’t eat anything before the lunch interview…or after. Or I ate half the meal and asked for a to go box. I probably left the to-go box on a trash can in Old Town Portland where we were meeting. Left overs never came home with me because I was afraid I would binge on them and might gain weight.

My internship at the Citizens Crime Commission came through and was paid $10 an hour, which was amazing by 1997 standards.  In the CCC office in Old Town I researched the reduction of crime in Portland and compared it to other cities, like New York, San Antonio and Denver. I spent a lot of time learning about the connection between the mental health population and its impact on petty crime. Vera Katz, the mayor of Portland, Steve Amen, host of Oregon Field Guide on OPB, and Charles Moose, the chief of Police, sometimes came to meetings at the CCC. At the meetings cake or cookies would be served on occasion, but I would pass on it entirely. In the break room at the CCC I had discovered gold: a combination coffee and hot chocolate dispenser. I spent my days drinking coffee out of the World Cup dispenser or if I was feeling hungry, hot chocolate, quelled that even though it was 90 degrees outside.

I got dressed up each day and took the #20 bus into Old Town, an area known for a lot of transients and drug use. When I woke up in the morning I was hungry but I liked that feeling. I was accomplishing something by being skinny, even though I cranky and there was a constant rumbling in my stomach. At 9 am, I’d get to work, drink hot chocolate or coffee, make small talk with Louise, who was from Alabama and told me she rarely went by her formal name, instead choosing to go by Lulu, a nickname her family had come up for her when she was a little girl. At lunch time with my stomach rumbling I would stand in line at Dog’s Dig It and will the people in line ahead of me to hurry up and order with my mind.  Dog’s Dig It, was a hole in the wall place a few blocks from the CCC and could get a soft pretzel with mustard for $1.25.

After my soft pretzel I’d sit outside downtown Freddy Brown’s and smoke two more cigarettes before going back in. In my cube I would research crime and Instant Message on AOL messenger with my friend Stephen in Salem and Alicia in Rochester, New York. I worked fast so I could get away with screwing around. Frances would call on me to fix computer problems. I wasn’t really an expert – just young and was one of the first generation to be around computers from a young age.

For dinner I’d probably eat a Subway sandwich if I had the money. This was right around the time of the whole Jared Subway weight loss marketing boom. I’d order a six inch turkey, a bag of low-fat Lay’s chips and a soda. That would be my entire meal. I’d be hungry the rest of the night, go to bed and wake up hungry. I’d look in the mirror the next morning and that feeling of accomplishment would hit me again. Even though I was cranky as all get out having a skinny figure made it all worth it.

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The Ball of Sad

At the Alanon meeting its dank and basement cool but better than my house on a 90 degree evening and when I walk in there’s John, the guy I asked out two years ago after I came back from Fishtrip.

When I asked him out on Facebook he was seeing someone but I had no idea. A few days after I saw that he ignored my message his relationship status changed. It was right after I broke up with The boyfriend/non-boyfriend.

I was nuts.

And sad and sad and sad and SO SAD.

I was a big ball of sadness that needed hugs but I would never tell you that.

I don’t make eye contact with John and slink into a folding chair in the corner.

***

The other day while biking to therapy downtown I passed The boyfriend/non-boyfriend on my bike. I just gave a head nod as I rode down the hill near his house. The same hill I would bike up to sleep with him once a week for over four years on and off. The same hill I biked down to Jazzercise to get relief from the constant sad that followed me around after we broke up. In Agatha’s class we’d do a kickboxing move and I would pretend the boyfriend/non-boyfriends head was on the receiving end.

I’m strong all the way downtown. I think about how strong I am without him. What a douchecanoe he was for bossing me around and telling me what to do. When I get downtown to my therapist’s office I get teary but only for a minute. The ball of sadness that followed me two years ago is still there but it’s tiny. Teeny tiny.

 

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What I’m reading 

I haven’t posted a list of what I’ve read lately, what I’m currently reading and what’s coming up. I recommend all of the books below. Excellent reads!

I just finished: The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Girl at War By Sara Novic 

Chernobyl Strawberries by Vesna Goldworthy

Missoula by Jon Krakauer

What I’m reading: Lean on Pete by Willy Vlautin

Baby’s on Fire by Liz Prato

Coming up: The Free by Willy Vlautin

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Conversation with my naturopaths assistant

Assistant: “Dr Henry (fake name) is really on point today. Did you notice?”

Me: “Yeah.”

Assistant: “I think it’s cause he’s fasting.” 

Me: “Yeah he was on time today.”  (He always runs 10-50 minutes behind)

Assistant: “He was on time and caring too.”

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Monday

Monday morning I read through another draft of “The Yellow Blanket,” my five year work in progress. It’s liking pulling teeth to work on it. Once I start tho it’s easy. I’ve read through the material so many times I know it almost backwards and forwards. That’s what five years will do. It’s almost done. At least I think it is. It definitely seems close.  I’m making myself read through the material again, write some more, and move some things around before I give it back to my editor. 

****

I’m working on other projects right now. I don’t know if I have another book or two in the works. Right now I’m writing about: wells, princess Diana and her death and my trip to Scotland and England. I didn’t blog about it.  Mostly because I felt guilty for taking so many trips this year. It’s only June and I’ve already taken two major trips this year. 

In July I’ll be going to Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine for a week of family stuff.  I’m excited to see the lakes of New Hampshire. They are amazing and remind me of what summer should be like. 

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Bread 

At whole foods on Fremont street it’s sunny and I gnaw on a vegan vegetable roll that’s that basically a ball of yeast and gluten. I’ve upped my gluten intake the past few days: eating a cinnamon roll/blueberry Danish at the pearl district whole foods and a bear claw from new seasons.  I go through phases.  I’ve been on a mission to lose ten pounds or maybe it’s fifteen. In late April none of my summer shorts fit. I downloaded the MyFitnessPal app, started tracking my food and fitness levels. I lost five pounds in the first three weeks but the shorts still didn’t fit. In New York, Scotland and England I walked 7-10 miles a day. I didn’t bring the shorts with me.  My clothes started fitting looser and I never stepped on a scale. 

At whole foods I can feel the gluten belly forming in my stomach.  It’s ok.  This is really ok. 

During my eating disorder days in college I ate very little and ran too much. I rarely stepped on a scale but if I ate full fat ice cream or cake it was a big deal and I had to punish myself for days.  I would exam my body in the mirror and look for new bulges in my stomach or fatter thighs. 

I kept a close tab on things. 

Today it’s about not being mean to myself or punishing. I already do enough of that.

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Harrods

After resting in bed for a little while at my Airbnb I decide to head to Harrods for my last night in London to see the weird Princess Diana Memorial. Wikipedia said it was weird and so did some of the reviews on TripplannerQuestTourist website from hell. The tube is an eight minute walk through a mostly quiet Turkish neighborhood. At my stop, Turnpike Station, the tube is empty at rush hour. It arrives at the station and when I come out I realize I’m at Hyde Park. The wrong stop. It doesn’t matter. I have all the time in the world to walk.

I haven’t been to Hyde Park but make a mental note on my iphone notepad to walk there after Harrod’s.  It’s 5:30 pm and I walk up Brompton Street to Harrods. All I can thinking of are mini-foldable bikes called Bromptons. As I get closer to Harrods the street is crowded and the area is a mostly a shopping district. My least favorite parts of a town. My H&M clothing is no match for the power of the other shoppers clad in gold, fancy watches and high heels.

At the entrance of Harrods a few buskers perform out front and a crowd draws around them. The tourists take video on their smartphones and I wonder why. It seems stupid. It’s mostly Muslim women, men and children gathered around. Real muslim women with the veil covering everything but their eyes. Secretly my inner women’s studies major wonders if they are happy fulfilling their gender conforming household duties and rearing children. I would lose my mind. Inside Harrods it’s crowded and I’m uncomfortable walking through the perfume and richy, rich handbag section. Like the security guy saw me come in the door in his little room hidden away somewhere in the Harrod’s basement and he’s trained his security camera right on me and my cheap H&M clothing.

I don’t belong.

The Egyptian room is in the middle of the store but I don’t know where the Diana Memorial is. Wikipedia didn’t say and neither did the TripplannerQuest from hell website. I’m forced to ask one of the many mostly female saleswomen standing around looking like they are doing nothing. The store is grossly over staffed by American standards probably because of people like me. Commoners. I ask a sales woman in white blouse and grey pencil skirt standing next to Ferragammo purses where the memorial is. She tells me to take a left into another room and down a set of escalators.

I take a left into more richy rich handbags and past more salespeople. There’s a sign that says “The Eqyptian Escalators: Dodi and Diana Memorial * Access to All Floors” and I pass under it. The floor is marble brown and so are the walls with gold sconces everywhere. There are so many floors up I can’t count and statues of Egyptian kings and queens on the walls. The escalators are tiny, small and too many of them. The escalator ride down is short and over the rail in the middle of the lobby is a gold statue of Dodi Fayed and Diana dancing. The statue seems so out of place in a department store. It needs its own home in a park: one with many small escalators.

At the bottom of the escalator I hop off and there’s a picture of Diana with her 1997 blond highlights and one of Dodi right next to her. There’s a giant marble monstrosity with a black pyramid and fake pink and white flowers on top. My iphone comes out of my bag and I snap some pictures quick before a tourist jumps in the way. I turn around and on the ballast of the giant gold monstrosity of Dodi and Diana it reads “Innocent Victims.” Fayed’s dad felt the royal family conspired to kill him and Diana because of their relationship. The memorial makes me tear up a little but there are so many tourists it’s hard for me to focus.

If only they would just get the fuck out of the way.

After only two minutes I turn on my heel and leave. I’m not sure where to go so I just start following some German tourists up the escalator. The Egyptian kings and queens get bigger as I head up each zig zag of the tiny escalators. The images of the crash in the tunnel, the repeated footage of Diana and Dodi leaving the hotel bar out a back door with their drunk chauffeur in Paris, the hearses driving through London, Wells and the beginnings of my own crash with alcohol, stealing and starving myself run though my head. After eight zig zags up the escalator I turn back down and I’m behind a Muslim woman and her husband. She’s not in the full gear. She’s in a magenta scarf, a Burberry watch and Louis Vuitton handbag.

In recent years I’ve upped my travel game to see parts of the world I only read about in textbooks or saw on tv. The drive to see as many things as possible in a short amount of time is something I can’t explain. My trips aren’t so much about relaxation but more about just seeing and being curious: museums, landmarks, and people. A psychic told me she saw me in the 11th century living in the Alps as a 14 year old boy signing up to join the Crusades because I wanted to see the world. The reality check was when I came back I lost part of my right leg in battle. I believe in psychic shit. It seems in line with how I am now: I work and prepare and get ready for each trip, mentally prepare myself for long plane rides alone, and get irritated when I arrive and have to battle tourists who just gawk.

I want them out of my way so I can learn and see.

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