We live in accelerated times, in our jobs and our judgments. We live as if gripped by some gigantic beast, and gripped so tightly that all our dreams and data get squeezed into a boiling pot stewed by warlocks for unimaginable profits.
But, long ago, in an Oregon far away, there existed a languid era of looseness, in a special city, a historic city along a mighty, abused river with lustrous waterfalls, hulking paper mills and sturgeon the size of whales lurking in the deep right off Main Street.
That city is Oregon City, or was Oregon City, and I grew up there in the 70s and early 80s and attended public schools, graduating from high school in 1982, a year of double digit inflation and unemployment and Ronald Reagan and everything terrible he was about to wrought.
My high school mascot was a Pioneer, a bruising, bearded, buckskin-clad He-Man who brandished a musket and Bowie knife. Various athletic coaches from my Oregon City youth, apparently instigated by perceived slacking, would thump the sternums of their players and scream into their faces about PIONEER PRIDE! SUCK IT UP! I can say now, almost with a smile, more than 40 years removed from that style of coaching, some of it actually stuck.
This is my memoir of that era and it doesn’t follow any natural narrative direction. Whatever came to me went in the book, and I dip casually in and out of elementary, junior high and high school as the story unfolds. Memory is like that.
I can hardly claim my experience was comprehensive or even representative of the typical Oregon City adolescent/teenager. I didn’t fish. I didn’t float the Clackamas River. I didn’t work on cars. I read novels and biographies. I didn’t drink. I didn’t smoke pot. I barely listened to rock music. I kept a journal. I didn’t fuck around. I skipped school exactly one time. I think I missed out on a lot, but I was doing other things, thinking different thoughts, floating among a few friends and a great girlfriend, but mostly floating by myself.
So let us now return to that era in a series of remembrances in serialized form, not as an act of nostalgia, but in hope of perhaps inspiring others, particularly acquaintances from Oregon City, to reflect upon what we’ve lost since that gauzy analog era and to see if there is something worth reclaiming, if only a mindset. I mean, you can still write letters in longhand or play tennis with a wooden racket! The thrift stores are packed with vintage stationery sets and rackets made from ash and maple.
Several years ago I was waylaid by a catastrophe that forced me to go deep into my personal history and creative mind to survive. Returning often to Oregon City in my memory and physical reality played a monumental role in saving me from destruction. I have long known of Oregon City’s distinction as a regional historic place, but that was all John McLoughlin and the Oregon Trail rigmarole. There is so much more richness to my hometown’s past and I invite you to meander back with me and discover some of it in this book.