Sunday, October 3, 2010

"The City"

It looks like I am a country boy at heart truly! I did not expect to return to Portland so heavyhearted, but the web and hum of machine and the thick threat of madness seemed to blanket every street as it took me back in the very first day from the high desert. I had accidentally booked my flight the same day as Harvest Festival, so while my brother Max was likely stuffing himself with homemade pie and local brisket, I was sitting on a plane awaiting traffic. I can hear his mocking laughter now. Oh, sweet brotherhood. The security at the airport in Albuquerque was the first shock back in to the reality of empire. As I held my hands above my head, the machine scanned me from head to toe and I blanked my thoughts as if they could read them as well. The jet I transferred to in Salt Lake City was a large state-of-the-art sleekster, complete with flat screens that automatically drew down from the ceiling in rows above the passengers, playing advertisements and television shows. I laughed to myself when I thought of the movie 2001 and remembered that it’s 2010 now. Oh, dear. I go from hauling water in buckets and cooking on an outdoor flame to sitting in a jet that puts to shame the space shuttle that was launched the year I was born. First night in the city, I went for a long walk to help me feel better. I had no destination, simply to reacquaint myself with the town and perhaps console myself with its beautiful aspects. Every other person I met on the street was drunk, high on crack, belligerent, suffering from mental illness or wrapped in a fog of sadness. I found myself tearing at my hair and murmuring out loud self-admonishments for planning to live again in the city. This walk was having the opposite effect! Without conscious effort, my feet led me across the Broadway Bridge straight to the train station. I stood before it, laughed at myself out loud, and looked at the tracks leading out of town longingly. I sang Hank Williams “Rambling Man”, threaded my way through Chinatown and meandered back to my apartment on the inner eastside. I found myself missing the mountains and the call of elk like a broken heart misses its love. I laid awake past midnight listening to the grind and screech of industry and trains on the river, then awoke four hours later with my sister and put hot water on the stove in the darkness before dawn. We laughed while talking of building houses and planting gardens on the mountainside. Now the birds are starting to sing and the sky is turning a soft grey-blue. I am reminding myself for the goal I set, the reason to be here: saving up for top surgery. I am reminding myself that the city is simply the human hive, like the anthill, and there is a kind of beauty in it, even through its suffering and dysfunction. In the meantime, I'll start a boy band, ride a bicycle, utilize one of the nation's finest library systems, and glean what I can from this dirty old town before it falls into the ocean. Besides, it's October, my very favorite month. The neighborhoods smell like wood fire and pumpkin pie. Seven months. That’s all. Then I am going back to school in New Mexico, living in a beautiful Spartan “Mansion” on the hilltop, planning the cabin of my dreams, eating fresh sheep cheese, drinking sweet honey mead and living the rest of my days as a mountain boy. Now I can deal with that.

1 comment:

  1. Billy, you write so beautifully. For my own selfish reasons, I am glad you are back in Portland. Julie and I need to get down there soon to see you and Spence. Let's try and get some time together while you're up in the NW this time! Hope to see you soon.