Saturday, May 27, 2017

My Summer of Love

We are approaching the 50th anniversary of the "Summer of Love."  Ironically that contrasts sharply with the summer of hate that seems to be upon us now.  People seem to be muttering "something's happening here, but the contexts are vastly different.  50 years ago, I was a college student living in Southern California.  Like many, I went north to San Francisco that year to check out the intersection of Haight and Ashbury and see what all the fuss was about.  No, I did not wear a flower in my hair, but there were many who did.  What we all had in common was the overwhelming sense that a substantive change was upon us.  People were fed up with the direction of the war in Vietnam and the lack of trust they felt in their government.  They were buoyed by those that sacrificed all in the struggle for civil rights, and the hypocrisy of a star-spangled monument that was beginning to tarnish.   To be a young person that summer was to be insanely curious and optimistic.  It was to feel supported on the crest of a wave that had you breathing fresh air and certain that together, we could make a real change.
Because I was a struggling student the 500 mile trip was done in sections.  With a friend, I took a Greyhound bus, and rode all night to Salinas.  As unromantic as that sounds, it was terribly exciting to be going somewhere north. I studied the people on the bus.  A smattering of Latino farm workers, servicemen, and single women with children.  Throw in a few old timers, a few more college students and the bus was full.  After a brief early morning stop at a near deserted Salinas station, we rode to Monterey and then made our way to Carmel, where we had booked a room in what was then known as a "guest house."  In the pre-computer, pre-Air B&B world, there were still folks who had a spare room that they rented out and my friend had been there before.  In a beautiful little home on a very quiet street, we explored the Carmel-Monterey area for a couple of days.  On the wharf in Monterey, I found a craftsman by the name of Grabowski who had all manner of things I'd never seen before.  I left his little shop with a peg belt and a knit scarf.  That belt, which featured a wooden peg that went into a couple of leather loops in the belt was one of my signature garments throughout the 60s.
The most memorable part of that little trek came when we stood on Highway 1 and hitchhiked our way to the city by the bay.

San Francisco was buzzing that year.  Thousands flocked to "The Haight" and congregated in Golden Gate Park.  I vividly recall how young most people swarming the streets of the city were.  How broke they were two. People walked calmly but curiously through the streets. They seemed to be wondering, "Where you from?"  My first encounter with what the media soon dubbed "hippies" was a couple of dirty faced, tired kids from the midwest trying to get quarters to "buy some doughnuts."  I forked over a quarter to the chants of "we love ya man, we love ya." Nothing romantic there.  I remember an ice cream store on Haight called "God's Eye" and, of course picking up copies of the San Francisco Oracle and numerous other counter culture publications, all of which have vanished like the morning fog every day.

My friend Rob and I stayed in a cheap hotel in North Beach.  This was almost required behavior for young poets celebrating the hallowed ground of the Beats. One bathroom down the hall and a blinking red light from a strip joint flashing at night.  I recall that I just laid on top of the bed, not wanting to discover what surprises laid under the covers.
We frequented City Lights books and took in the scene on upper Grant Ave. near Chinatown and then rode Cable Cars to Fisherman's Wharf.
In what might be a classic scene from a bad movie about the "Summer of Love" one memory stands out as most amusing. Walking from the heart of downtown Monterey back to the highway, a Gray
Line tour bus drove by.  Both Rob and I had bought new hats, rather big black frontiersman looking things that kept the sun out of our eyes and the rain off our heads.  As the tour bus passed, I could hear the driver talking on his microphone telling the passengers to glance at us over to the right.  "Two hippies on their way to hitch hike...blah blah blah...it tailed off.  Laughter and tired feet, sourdough bread and cheese...Summer of Love.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

No Fly Fishing on the First Date

Finding a fly fishing partner has eluded me.  Since moving to Oregon, I've had a couple of short term relationships with fly fishers, but so far none as gone the distance.  It's complicated, but either they no longer share my passion for the sport, or have moved away, or aren't available.  I once tried placing an add on an online community bulletin board, but that only resulted in a woman who was looking for more than a fishing buddy.  Truth be told, she lined up under the banner of "I always wanted to try fly fishing." Not interested.

I need a clone.  Someone near my age and ability who enjoys getting into a float tube and onto a lake, or perhaps walking the banks of a small stream or friendly river.  But the risks are great.  I have fears too.  I'm afraid of finding someone who isn't all that easy to be around, or who has bad habits, or plays food and alcohol fast and loose.  Someone who talks too much, or is a slob, or isn't punctual or is essentially too needy.
I'm not perfect. Hardly, but I'm at the age when I refuse to lower my expectations for a partner who would accompany me in this sacred endeavor. I'm conscious of time and health and this is serious.
Sure my tongue is firmly in my cheek as I write this but these are real considerations nonetheless.  It's somehow a whole lot easier to go alone and avoid unnecessary drama or time with someone I don't respect.  It's a lot like dating.  It can get lonely too.  So I'm looking and trying to put myself out there again as summer nears. As I said to my neighbor, an older woman enjoying the independence that retirement brings, "No fly fishing on the first date."  It's like that, you know.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Jerked Around

I had a rather unsettling, if not bizarre encounter with a homeless person the other day.  As I was scurrying to meet with a teacher I'm mentoring a 20 something guy sprang from a bus bench and asked if he could ask me something.  We all know the drill here, but his youth and condition held me for a split second so I thought I'd just cut to the chase and tell him I was busy but here's a dollar.  The dollar bill I thought was in my front pocket turned out to be a five and at that point the threshold is crossed.  No turning back.  He took the money and then rather uncharacteristically seemed to undergo a personality change.  What followed was a rather speedy, rather schizophrenic diatribe complete with people from another universe and his anger at have ing the 5 dollar bill.
"Well, if you're angry about having it, you can always give it back," I replied.  He wasn't going for that but seemed intent on continuing the conversation, one-way as it was.

I was done.  I wished him luck and fought off the temptation to urge him to get help.  I can still see the tattooed letters over one eyebrow.  At first they looked like RFK.  A homage to Bobby Kennedy?  Not quite,  just another use of some letters that might have been an R and a K somewhere.  So what's the takeaway?  That even homeless people can get angry when taking your money?  That finding food and shelter come after finding mental health resources?  Probably all of it.
That afternoon I had a scheduled visit from the cable TV guy.  My signal boxes, like me, are old and need replacing.  Since he lived in my neighborhood, we got into a quick discussion about some of the new places coming into our rapidly gentrifying corner of North Portland.  Soon we focused on a jerk chicken place called Jamaica House.  Just opened, it's been filling the surrounding streets with the aroma of cooking chicken.  I mentioned that I'd seen a guy with dreads and a ball cap with a large cannibis leaf on it working over a BBQ placed in front of a Jamaican flag that adorns the old house where the restaurant is located.  My technician, a Puerto Rican, originally from New York said he'd heard of the place and was wanting to try it also.  He then launched into a diatribe about  how one can't be too careful about assuming anything because it might just have been a non-Jamaican sporting all the cultural regalia out there cooking.
That afternoon, we walked over to the place, my wife and I, and entered the Jamaica House.  Said cook emerged from the kitchen with a big smile and gave us a menu.  Though the place was empty, it was still early enough in the afternoon so we waited.  A woman sitting at the bar offered a comment about the uncharacteristic spring weather.  The old house turned restaurant reminded me of a few similar places I'd seen in Texas.  Only those were BBQ joints with red soda water and potato salad.  They often had juke boxes, one in particular with only BBKing, Bobby Bland, and Little Milton records inside them.

We heard hacking from the kitchen; meat cleaver cutting up chicken...I hope.  10 minutes later we were home with our meals and the moment of truth was at hand.  The chicken was OK, not memorable and rather bony.  Present were a few parts most people don't eat.  I must confess that I'm a chicken bone lover and eat most anything and definitely every part except a few.  What passed for beans and rice was a large serving of rice, completely undercooked.  Crunchy.  Hard crunchy, not fried rice crunchy.  The beans present I could count on one hand.  That's right, five or fewer, no joke.
I hope this place makes it, but I have my doubts.  Portland is a food town and people will vote with their dollars and their palates.  I'll try again in a few weeks, just to see if anything has changed.  In the same way, if I ever encounter that homeless guy again, and we are both not in such a rush to condemn, we'll see if a donation to his well being still makes him angry.  You got to accept people and things were they are, not where you want them to be.  At least, in the beginning.