August 16th, 2009:
After being back in San Francisco for a couple of days, I'm thinking back to my trip to Portland with it's many highlights and unexpected directional signals. In no particular order, here are some of the most memorable times on that important trip:
Sitting no more than two yards away from my father in his apartment and listening to him tell me with no filters and full heart: "I love you so much!" Sitting there and believing him tell me this after waiting some sixty years to hear it. How lovely! The strength and purity of my Dad's conviction really came through. We talked about whether this would be my last visit and if I would ever see him again. By the end of the trip, I felt secure that I would be able to return at least one more time to visit him.
Going into the Eighth St. Grille in Portland's Pearl District with Willem, his mom and his godmother Christine. Once Willem had been seated in his high chair, this kiddo who is a couple of weeks shy of two looked at the waiter and said, "Grilled cheese, please!"
Getting ready to head out to the Farmer's Market for some produce shopping one morning and realizing that my right leg and pelvis really hurt. The prospect of walking around in downtown Portland seemed very daunting. I realized that I didn't have the stamina to go into the world that morning, then I became overwhelmed by the possibility of not being able to walk some day soon. I felt like I was heading into a dark future. What a cruel, abrupt stop after a lifetime of hiking, strolling, walking, ambling, etc. No more leg power. I cried while being held by Kris. That's what I needed: comfort and empathy. I stayed home that morning, rested on a chaise lounge overlooking Portland and watched a remarkable cloudscape for an hour or so. I rested, my body unwound from the pain and tension, and by the afternoon, I was fine. I guess that's how I'll accept whatever my body does with the growing tumor and other debilitation: have moments when I open to the fear and then ease back out. As with having anticipatory grief, this is anticipatory fear and acceptance.
Portland was so generous with people. I spent time with people I've known since I was a little kid. People including Jacob Avshalomov who conducted the first concert I ever went to back in 1952. John Baker whom I've known since I was six and who has been such a comrade as a friend and fellow gay man. Tom Talbot who I went camping with as a boy scout, and anticipated sitting next to every morning on the bus to high school. Leonora Guinazzo, my Spanish teacher in high school who virtually insisted that I start exploring the larger world outside America. My college friend Jolly Butler who has been such a fine companion intellectually and emotionally for the past forty years. Cris Maranze and Stu Levy whose cultural gifts were as wide-ranging as the history of great photographs and the song book of The Grateful Dead, and who taught me that roommates could also be soul mates (if you were really, really lucky).
It was good to travel back to the city that nourished me for the first thirty years of my life. It is so green, so beautiful, so placid and also full of purpose and health. Yes, I would like to go back very, very much. At least one more trip, please.