I crossed the street because I was afraid. I was afraid to walk past this man in a black weather torn leather jacket who was with another woman, and a tall lanky dark tanned Indian, all three kind of sprawled on someone’s front lawn, with their feet visiting the pavement.
The man in particular had a thick build to him, long biker hair, greasy from living outdoors, but he couldn’t have been as old as he looked. Chiseled with a charcoal dapple to his face, cut by the wind and cured by the sun.
The girl she may have been 17 or so, was freckled in the face, very course and thick hair, with the brownest eyes, and thick to the waist. Jeans and sandals, dirty white halter top, not profoundly busted, but suggestive as a woman and clearly the mate of the tall Indian who presented himself with a jean jacket, Viet Nam style- cut off sleeves, definitely had been doing road work for quite awhile.
They were drinking wine without a brown bag to hide behind. They were street people, pan handlers, pedestrians whose idea of a walk about, was to get as piss drunk as possible, as often as possible, to linger briefly for the day, and relive the first morning hour- because that was all they had left. They were to figure heavily in the direction of my life.
This was LoveJoy Avenue in Portland, Oregon, 1976.
I had just arrived from Pittsburgh on the wings of my thumb, and digging into survival mode. The first rule always, was to scope out the city, and get to know it fast. Shelter hadn’t yet become an issue because I was staying with a couple of friends who had moved out here a year ago, and were a couple of 47906 girls. Zip code for Purdue and it’s graduates.
Susan and Kathy were 23ish, totally new wave in terms of mustang freedom and new found empowerment. I had met them during my stint as a crisis center counselor back at 47906, a transitioning moment from hormones to empathy- that particular path a little cloudy at best. I had a mad crush on Susan and a twisted sense of desire for Kathy, but that was all moot, because we were spiritual and intellectual buddies, and pretty well ingrained with that “do you want to talk about it- before we do it”- intervention mode, that basically ends up redacting any further gene extrapolation of any particular anything.
No need for a conversation here.
With empowerment, familiarity, and empathy, any attempt to take this friendship to the next level (unless helping to move the couch upstairs) was locked into some undecipherable well of chains, chastity, and hopelessness.
Yeah, that’s how it went with Kathy and Susan. Regardless, they were friends enough to allow me to sleep on their couch for a few weeks while I got my bearings straight. It was a wonderful visit until I made a couple of mistakes in terms of judgement.
The absolute worst thing you can do as a guest and sleeping on the couch in the home of two attractive post graduate ladies, is drink a lot of beer, take up couch space which in turn leads to implied subterfuge in terms of undermining their ability to pick up other more desirable (than myself) men.
Compounding the first issue, comes the realization that I had delivered to this pair of pristine debutantes, a colony of visitors that had no doubt made the couch I was sleeping in, their own particular Shang-Gri-La.
Even the Crisis Center had failed to prepare either of these two women with the tools, and intellectual compassion to hide the crimson venom coursing up their faces as they started to connect the dots and sequence the inevitable destination of these rather opportunistic vectors.
The fact that they (vectors) have a Latin name implies that being diminutive does not guarantee obscurity. A Latin name means you have been doing this for awhile, and unlike the language, you aren’t quite right dead yet.
Quite the opposite.
Warm & moist = Beach.
So a replay of my post grad relay. Pounding pavement once again. Lesson learned? Beware of fraternities and what lurks in their couches.
Off to find a place to live, and the first step was to side step the street people.
5 thoughts on “Leaving Childish Things… On LoveJoy”
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Inge- we have so many things in common- the meandering quests we have engaged in …
Interesting start… So what happens? You write extremely well, I am looking forward to seeing more.
I did what I thought I would not do!
Went on a cruise because of an offer to share the cost.
A dubious 70th birthday present to myself.
There shall be no repeat!
Floating cities upon the waters… populated by flabby humanity overflowing small ports of call.
They say the islands do prosper because of the ships… maybe… most of them the wrong people.
I saw the same poverty in other countries…the poor standing in salty shallows washing their clothes and themselves… a man in a wheelchair…
missing a leg… trying to keep to a sliver of shade…
his eyes light up as I empty my wallet… it is not much for I carry little… but maybe he finds a spot in the shade and a meal to sustain him.
Do not think me naive… but I know need when I see it.
We need not leave this country to find the same.
Most of us are one illness removed from bankruptcy… where is our social consciousness?
Not all homeless are careless… not all are addicted… social inadequacies abound… and yet it hit me more when I was a “stranger on the shore” of an island of the Caribbean or, so many yers ago, in India…
We must help where we are planted, no matter how limited our influence.