August, lately

I’m back! It’s been a month of rearrangements and revelations, and this breezy, late-summer midafternoon feels cosmically opportune.

Opportune for catching up the things that need catching up, I mean to say.

I’ve been home in Portland for three-and-a-half weeks now. I just had my 31st birthday. And last weekend, I ran in the Hood to Coast Relay, essentially a 36-hour race in which teams trade off running legs along a route that winds from Mt. Hood clear to the edge of the Pacific ocean, some 188 miles west. (Hence the “Hood” and the “Coast” parts.) I clocked 18-or-so miles in a little more than 24 hours and it felt great! The race was by far the most athletically challenging thing I’ve attempted and I’m sort of proud. I feel qualified, at this point, to call myself a real runner instead of a mere jogger. (Did that smack of elitism? I didn’t mean it! Love to the joggers.) It happened around 11 p.m. Friday night, during my 7.25 mile leg through outer Scappoose. The cars were wooshing past on Highway 30 and this crazy wind kept whipping the dust and gravel into little tornadoes around my face and I was up and down those hills and so completely in my body and the whole thing felt unbelievably rhythmic and correct, even if it was hard. My breath and my thinking and my movements all synced up and it was magical and proper and right.

Erin at the Hood to Coast finish line! Photo By Emily Gaige

These three days later, I’m almost almost able to walk down flights of stairs again without looking as if I’ve just had a vasectomy, and aside from some pain in my right shin, I feel wonderful.

I’ve additionally been unseasonably busy writing freelance pieces for a few magazines and papers, pounding away at my standing academic editing-and-proofing gig, and getting to know my new roommates, Emiliano and Isca, as well as my new neighborhood, the Alberta Arts District. So far, all of it feels like a blast. Autumn should be a sweet season in many ways.

Life in NE-PO is quite a departure from the idyllic, low-key existence I lived at the Oregon coast the past few years, and It’s requiring a bit to adjust to all the new noises and smells. I haven’t lived in a large city since Busan, South Korea, and that was like five years and ten incarnations ago. My first few nights here, when it was balls hot and I was too disoriented and distracted to log more than a few hours of sleep at a time, I’d lay in my bed and track a mental list of strange sounds, which included:

• Frequently passing freight trains (that sound! So lonely and so lovely!)

• The clank and roll of pilfered shopping carts clattering down 11th in search of unreturned empties after dark.

• Airplanes.

• A horrible, horrible parrot that lives across the street and a few houses down, plus a demented crow that enjoys flitting around the trees of my neighborhood each dawn, screeching maniacally.

• Plenty of sirens … NE-PO may be gentrified, but things still get fast around these parts of a 2 a.m.

• Rather mysteriously, a pig, somewhere just east of our yard.

• The neighbor’s late-night washing machine.

… The bouquet of neighborhood smells includes:

• Nag Champa. Los and lots of Nag Champa.

• Wafting pot smoke

• Sewer

• Barbecue

• Indian food

• Rotting apples

A feast for the senses, to be certain, whether you want it or not!

Also, here is a picture of some crazy-good food I ate on my birthday. My mom took me to Andina, a neo-Peruvian restaurant in the Pearl District. They’ve got a banging and somewhat-affordable happy hour, by the way:

Quinoa salad and purple potatoes with chicken at Andina. Photo by Erin J. Bernard

Life is all hanging together pretty nicely these few weeks out from leaving Cannon Beach, one nasty little blip excepting, and I’m mostly mentally ready to emerge from my semantic hiding and get back to blogging. All these changes … Retreat is my modus operandi when life gets dicey, but I always find my way back, eventually. It helps to write it down, as they say. It also helps to know who your real friends are. I am fortunate enough to have quite a few of those. A whole ragtag band of them, in fact, and I’m resolving in my 31st year to pluck out any remaining fakey stragglers and flick them to the curb like the mangy little scabies babies they are, so step aside, charlatans and insect brains!

I’m drinking a bubble tea on 23rd Ave right now and this chubby little 13-year-old girl behind me is complaining to her mom about a friend who calls incessantly. She just sighed, flipped her hair, and said, “THIS is why I don’t give my number out.” You couldn’t pay me enough to go back to junior high. Well, actually, I like money, so probably you could, but it would have to be a LOT. Like, “Indecent Proposal” territory. At least a million.


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