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.