Pioneer Pride: Part 12-Coin Flip

Twelfth and Jackson was also the location of the public swimming pool, where I would go and watch my fawn-like and soft-spoken girlfriend compete in swim meets, perhaps my favorite pastime in high school and perhaps the last time I was truly supportive to a girlfriend or partner. She used to knit me sweaters and ties. She taught me how to play chess on a bearskin rug in front of a roaring fire while a dozen taxidermied animals looked on.

From my senior year journal:


I did something this weekend I have never done before and enjoyed it immensely. My girlfriend came over and we played Scrabble. It was very relaxing, increased awareness, and was fun. It sounds weird but I really enjoyed it. There was nothing emotionally tied to it and that was nice for a change. To be interesting you have to be interested.

I lost my virginity to her on Halloween night of my senior year. We had gone to party dressed as gangster and moll. She’d sewed her own silk flapper dress and it clung spotted to her body in the rain that pelted us that evening.

There was also the matter of the coin flips that took place between me and my girlfriend. The story went like this:

We always went to the bowling alley on our dates although we never bowled a single frame. She always drove us in her brown Pinto and we kept the sound of the AM radio low because we loved to talk.

I always flipped a quarter and she always called it in the air. If I lost, I had to sneak into the bowling alley, sneak into its fetid men’s restroom, fit the quarter into a condom machine, and turn a silver knob until a little wrapped package plopped out in a tray below. If she lost, she had to sneak into the women’s restroom and do something similar although she never gave me a description of its décor. I can’t remember the brand, color, state of lubrication or texture of the condoms we each purchased, but we never went without one. In 1981, the Oregon City Bowling Alley was the only business in town an underage and responsible couple could buy condoms after hours. Most went without. This was also the same year the NY Times first reported on a “Rare Cancer Seen in 41 Homosexuals.”

After the purchase, my girlfriend would fire up the Pinto and we would drive Molalla Avenue toward Singer Hill and explore Oregon City’s historic area east of the bluff overlooking the Willamette River and the paper mills. We always searched for a vacant and unlit place to hide the car and have sex in the back seat. The Pinto probably deserved its reputation as a terrible, even murderous American compact car, but the Hatchback model she owned was incredibly spacious with a huge curved rear window that allowed for scenic views and plenty of maneuvering.

The parking lot of a huge stone church near the John McLoughlin House was our most frequent and preferred spot. We never drank alcohol during these Pinto moments. We never smoked cigarettes, let alone pot. We never had the radio playing. Neither one of us had a curfew to obey. We invariably left the condom behind as a reminder to next morning’s churchgoers, whatever reminder that churchgoer wanted to conjure; it could go either way. We always laughed about that.

The police never rousted us.

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