Recent Experiences

I saw Gus the Beaver recently, along with a baby otter and a muskrat. These glimpses of wildlife in the city excite and relax me at the same time.

I sat in a table of an OTA joint the other day and in walked in former Oregon Governor Barbara Roberts. I was working on my book about the homeless in my neighborhood, looked up, and there she was. She was headed toward a video poker/slot machine five feet where I was sitting. Before she sat down and started playing, I introduced myself and thanked her for her distinguished tenure of service as Governor. We then discussed the passage of Measure 5, a property tax limitation measure that ended up crippling local and state services , which occurred during her one term. I reminded her of something she said at the time—that this law would kill Oregonians. Governor Roberts looked straight at me and said, “I was right.”

I wanted to chat more Oregon political history with her, but she was ready to gamble. I said goodbye and she sat down and went to work supporting state services while Nike, Google, Intel and Facebook don’t because counties and cities gave them all these absurd property tax breaks.

Temperatures plunged into the low 20s the other week and I thought about my homeless friends in the neighborhood. I went looking for them in the afternoons to see if could render some kind of assistance. They were nowhere to be found.

I’m completed a strange short story about my relationship to Steve Prefontaine. It’s the last one from my forthcoming collection of short stories that should be out this spring. I really don’t know what I’m doing with the unconventional structure of this story, but I’m just running with it and trying to convey Pre’s unique influence on people.

One of the great joys in my recent life is working with two octogenarian women to publish their memoirs. It’s such rewarding work and I get to employ others in the production of the books.

I started writing an essay on the concept of maintenance.

I had Pearl Jam’s Ten CD in my hand for a quarter. It was for sale in a tiny hospice thrift store. Did I really want to revisit that album? No. I did, however later buy a two-disc CD of Willie Dixon for a buck. Rock has absolutely nothing left to say to me anymore. It once did.

My dad told me a great story from a recent lunch at his assisted living center. Three ladies had joined him at this table and they were discussing some item from a magazine that referenced a line from The Merchant of Venice without sourcing it. The ladies weren’t sure of its origin. Dad filled them in and then quoted Shylock’s famous soliloquy. I asked if he then recited Portia’s famous soliloquy. He did not. Then I asked him to recite and he did. I think Portia’s The Quality of Mercy soliloquy constitutes the most beautiful and just words ever written in the English language. Mercy. Mercy. Mercy. We don’t seem capable of it anymore as a collective society. There is too much anger, judgment, self righteousness, stupidity—on both ends of the political spectrum. People can’t seem to listen anymore, either.