I’m not going to work today

wpid-1411782160538.jpg…and its not because of Thanksgiving.
I had marginally planned to take at least some of the day off, to do a little ahead of time cooking if my work load allowed. It doesn’t, but I’m staying home anyways.
I work in a part of the city that historically has had racial issues. And I’m talking about a city that was once know as the Mississippi of the West.
I love my neighborhood by the way. And it is mine. I lived there back in college with my sister and with my poor mad boy. His family home is there. The place where he hides in his little empty room. I always planned on going back. That’s why I looked so hard for a job in the area.
But I couldn’t get a house there. I was dumbfounded by the prices. I was only gone a couple of years. A couple of years! The gentrification that everyone seemed to be doom saying about back when I moved out was real, and it was here.
I work all day with black and Hispanic and Asian clients who used to live in the neighborhood like me. Their family homes were here for generations. Now they bus in from cheaper neighborhoods. Some of them hang on. A lot have moved into subsidized housing that has been built around the outside edges of the area as a concession to those who protested the gentrification. Right. Because a crappy little projects apartment where you have to get rid of your pets and can’t have a garden or a BBQ or a lot of other things is totally the same thing as the family home you lost because you couldn’t pay the hiked up taxes.
They go without food. The prices in local restaurants are hiked up too, but that’s not the real problem. The problem is you go up to the counter and you wait. And you wait. And you wait while the counter people keep waiting on all these white hipsters that keep coming in the door after you.
And this rears it head up constantly at my work. And I’m not just talking about the clients. I often catch people I work with speaking in terms of “us” and “them.”
The other week, I spent a lot of time dodging around corners when the Hispanic workers felt one of the black workers had unfairly denied funding to one if my Hispanic clients. “You’re on my side, right?” They kept literally saying that. Apparently there’s no Indian faction and we redskins are up for grabs.
I was unaware of the protesting in Portland initially when it started. And I got a weird phone call from a black client during that time. He put his girlfriend on the line too. She seemed confused, but offered her two cents too eventually. It made more sense later in context of the protests.
So I’m not going in to work today. I’m not afraid. I did a self-check: is this just my PTSD predicting a possible crisis and avoiding it? No, I don’t think so. Let’s face it, I’ve kind of sucked at avoiding conflict lately.
No. I just have this sinking feeling I’m not going to get much work done. Clients or coworkers are going to be too caught up in trying to find out from me, “Whose side are you on?”
And I think I’d rather just go cook some cranberries.

La, la, la, la, take me Home

Work calls me out to a part of the city that I haven’t needed to go out to before. Not being up on the traffic patterns out here, I ended up being almost an hour early. No problem: I just put Dutch Bros. Coffee in my GPS. There’s one 2 minutes down the road.  It’s in the parking lot of a small, decrepit shopping center. And, I say decrepit because,  except for a Dollar store in the corner, all the other shops are empty, abandoned.  So it’s when I’m sitting in the drive-thru line staring at a rather distinctive-also decrepit -building across the street, that it hits me. I’ve been here before.

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This is my childhood neighborhood.  I didn’t even realize I was here. My house, was literally a few doors down from that funky brick and yellow building. There used to be some kind of shop in that building -I don’t even remember what, but for advertising they had a bigger than life gorilla manikin that would hold up different sale signs. One if the cheesy man-in-a-suit gorillas. My cousin, who lived next door, and I found it thrillingly scary, and would look forward to seeing it and screaming every time we walked down to the grocery store with our moms.
The building is abandoned now, and it looks ready to fall down. They will rip it down soon,  I am sure. It will be an empty lot for a while, because there is no growth in this neighborhood.  Then they will build a cellphone franchise there.  I want to save it, the way I want to save so many old buildings. But especially this one, because it is the gorilla store from my childhood.
So this parking lot I’m sitting in here,  this is the parking lot of the last Keino’s store to stay open in the Portland area. I spent hours here, with my parents, my grand parents, my aunts and cousins. And I didn’t recognize it. Just yesterday, I was trying to explain to my daughter about the ice cream sandwich Money bars that Gramma used to get for us here.  I find something comforting in the idea that I’ve just purchased my coffee in their parking lot. My last purchase from Kieno’s.  I miss Kieno’s. It’s one of those things that isn’t there any more -isn’t just a given, fact of life, for everyone any more. Things like that always make me sad.
Behind me, is the empty laundry mat where we used to go with my mom or aunt or Gramma to wash our clothes. Gramma had an old wringer washer, I kid you not, but in the winter she would wash her clothes at home and then take them here to use the dryers, because it was too rainy to dry them out on the Iines. This empty laundry mat holds a much less delicious terror for me than the fake gorilla. Once, my aunt Shirley put me and my cousin into one of the big wall dryers there. She thought it would be fun for us -like a carnival ride on the cheap. My cousin went trustingly, but fortunately,  I was hit by a sudden way of preschooler claustrophobia.  I screamed and kicked at the glass so much that my aunt got worried I would break it, and stopped the dryer to chastise me. This delayed things long enough for my mom to arrive from shopping next door, and persevere over aunt Shirley’s drug-addled mind. A few years later my aunt Marilyn ODed.  It was back in the day when people were still polite about that kind of thing so every one said she died of a heart attack.
Already, irrationally, I don’t want to leave the neighborhood. I want to find my small family a little house here. Rent is certainly cheaper here. I want to transfer to the office I’m visiting today, make a difference in the first place I ever belonged.
But I’ve only ever found a reason to come back here once before today, since my family packed up and left when I was a kid. One day, about 5 years ago, I woke up standing there on the street corner by that brick and yellow building. As in, I’d had a huge dissociative episode. I had hours missing. I didn’t know where I’d been or how I’d gotten here. Heck, I was in a whole other state than where I started. It took me a while longer to wander around and figure out where I was. I don’t know how many times I actually walked back and forth in front of my old house before I recognized it. It was almost two hours later when I finally located my car, parked blocks away by the park we used to go to. I’d figured out where I was, but that was in my pre-GPS days, so I finally gave in and called the one person who would be able to tell me how to get home from there: mom. And that’s when mom told me what day it was. It was the only time I forgot the anniversary of my dad’s death.

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Alabama, Arkansas, I do love my Ma & Pa
Not the way that I do love you

Holy Moley, Me-oh-My, you’re the apple of my eye
Girl, I’ve never loved one like you

Man, oh man, you’re my best friend,
I scream it to the nothingness
There ain’t nothin’ that I need

Well, hot & heavy, pumpkin pie,
chocolate candy, Jesus Christ
There ain’t nothin’ please me more than you

Ahh, Home
Let me come Home
Home is wherever I’m with you

La la la la, take me Home
Mama, I’m coming Home

I’ll follow you into the park,
through the jungle, through the dark
Girl, I’ve never loved one like you

Moats & boats & waterfalls,
alley ways & pay phone calls
I’ve been everywhere with you

That’s true

We laugh until we think we’ll die,
barefoot on a summer night
Never could be sweeter than with you.

And in the streets we’re running free,
like i’s only you and me
Geez, you’re somethin’ to see.

Ahh, Home
Let me come Home
Home is wherever I’m with you

La la la la, take me Home
Mama, I’m coming Home

Jade?

Alexander?

Do you remember that day you fell out of my window?

I sure do, you came jumping out after me.

Well, you fell on the concrete
and nearly broke your ass
and you were bleeding all over the place
and I rushed you off to the hospital.
Do you remember that?

Yes, I do.

Well, there’s something
I never told you about that night.

What didn’t you tell me?

While you were sitting in the backseat
smoking a cigarette you thought
was going to be your last,
I was falling deep, deeply in love with you
and I never told you ’til just now.

Ahh, Home
Let me come Home
Home is whenever I’m with you
Ahh, Home
Let me come Home
Home is when I’m alone with you

Home
Let me come Home
Home is wherever I’m with you

Ahh, Home
Yes, I am Home
Home is when I’m alone with you.

Alabama, Arkansas, 
I do love my Ma & Pa
Moats & Boats & Waterfalls, 
Alleyways & Pay phone Calls. 

Home is when I’m alone with you.
Home is when I’m alone with you.
-Home by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

This is the song we were going to play at our wedding, while I walked down the aisle. You can love someone real hard in the hospital. So many times in different hospitals.