Black and Blue

The property management lady looks at the signature on the lease. “We rent mainly to young urban professionals like yourself, but we have some older tenants like me who have been with us for years. You should really enjoy living here.” The last is said with a stern stare that says, If you don’t enjoy living here, something is seriously wrong with you.

“I’m sure I’ll like it just fine.” John glances at the keys she holds to his new apartment. He’s signed the lease and given her a check, but she makes no move to give him the keys. Instead, she just makes him uncomfortable by staring at his hairline. “Is there anything else?” he asks.

She pulls her gaze from his hair and smiles at his face. “No, nothing at all. You’ll fit in fine.” She hands him the keys, then rises to shake his hand. “Welcome to the Portland Towers.” Continue reading “Black and Blue”

Swallow It

That first Christmas being back in Portland with my family was my first time being sober through the holidays since I was a teenager. It was raining Christmas, that distinct Pacific Northwest drizzle that is less than rain but more than mist, much like in the Scottish Highlands but without the romance, and we ate Christmas dinner at my brother-in-law’s parents’ house. It was an extended gathering of his family and my sister’s. I knew everyone, but not well enough not to be uncomfortable when the banter faltered. I don’t follow sports, not even the local U of O Ducks, but if I had the evening would’ve been a breeze. This was the fallback topic when there was no interest in the other person, easy conversation for people halfway through their second jumbo box of Gallo’s finest. Continue reading “Swallow It”

Departure, Arrival

I’m sitting in the Dublin Pub with two good friends, Will and Paul. We’re drinking pitchers of Henry Weinhard’s, waiting for the Fabulous K-Tels to start playing. They’re one of our favorite bands in Portland, playing old R&B, like Booker T and the MG’s, and a few dated surf tunes. The band brings us three together, strengthens our bonds. It’s known for that among our other friends. Wednesday is K-Tels night, a guys’ night, the night we three go out and talk guys’ talk. It’s a different sort of evening than the weekend. We have no dates, no need to entertain, no restrictions. Guys’ banter takes care of it all. Continue reading “Departure, Arrival”

The Plaid

KissesIt was when I realized more people were coming out of the bathrooms than going in that I started to get the creeps working at the Plaid. When I got hit by a car working as a bike messenger, it was a way to collect a paycheck while the tendons they reattached in my thumb healed. It was hard to stop a bike when my thumb wouldn’t do what I told it. With the long row of stitches on the back of my hand, my chances for being a wedding ring hand model were slim to none–maybe I could model skull rings–but a friend of a friend hooked me up at the Plaid. Either way, I needed to work. Work kept me out of trouble. Continue reading “The Plaid”


the scorpion and the frog - pluggedDinty scratched the bald spot on Stanley the stuffed Chihuahua’s head. “I was getting headaches until I started wearing two,” he said, tapping the earbuds in his ears with his index fingers. Both were attached to the cell phone in his shirtfront pocket. “Now all my calls come in stereo, like a voice inside my head. When Mr. Orly calls, he sounds like the voice of God.” Mimicking his boss’s deep baritone, he said, “Dinty, public toilet two in Tower Three has crap smears in it. Get over there with your brush.”

He petted Stanley’s side, curled up in his lap. “Mr. Orly is like every boss, absolutely obsessed with smears.” Continue reading “Plugged”