Notes AWP Close: The 8th Day

Wandering post AWP19 Portland town yesterday with entrepreneurial intrepid impresario Berfrois editor at large Russell Bennetts and his Midwestern sidekick Simon Calder, I had occasion to consider Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises” in a contemporary context, where all the characters have cell phones, except one, who has lost theirs. But I can’t decide which Hemingway character would be cellphoneless: Jake? Lady Brett Ashley? Certainly not Count Mippipopolous, whose Twitter feed at AWP19 would be going nonstop. Maybe we would have Jake’s friend Georgette find the lost cell phone, but she would keep it hidden for a time, posting miscreant tweets and pics with her bad teeth.

The idea behind Thornton Wilder’s “The Eighth Day” is that God, having created the world in 7 days, proceeds to take the 8th day off, during which what we now consider time takes place, such that we are all, since the beginning of time, living in the 8th day of creation.

After their holiday in Pamplona at the festival of the bulls and all the bullfighting, “The Sun Also Rises” characters go their separate ways, Robert Cohn disabused of his romanticism, Jake cemented in his existential crisis, Brett off with the once untouchable but now touched and wrecked bullfighter Romero. It’s going to be a long 8th day.

Now living in the 8th day of AWP19, at least one Berfrois character has decided to remain on in Portland town. Here they are, comfortably taking over the TV remote:

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This is the eighth and last in a series with notes on AWP19 and the concurrent publication of the Berfrois and QM’sT books.

Sitting Out: Painting in Progress

Portlanders love to sit out. At sidewalk cafes, outside pubs, in their yards or drives. On porches, decks, balconies. In parks. On special occasions, neighbors will close their street to cars so they can sit out in the middle of the block at improvised tables in whatever chairs seem to turn up. The atmosphere of a street closed to cars turns surreal in these times. Maybe because it rains six months out of the year, Portlanders don’t take the perfect evening for a sit out for granted, but they’ll even sit out in the rain, huddled beneath coats and blankets around a fire pit or under overhead standing outdoor electric heaters.

The current painting in progress is tentatively titled, “Sitting Out.” It’s 3 feet by 5 feet, stretched canvas. I’ve used acrylics, oils, and oil pastels, applied with brush, palette knife, or directly out of the tube. The grandgirls have been involved in this painting as well. Chloe is responsible for the bottom left, raspberries at the top of a green hill, ZZ for the sky and bottom right umbrella and blue chair seated with a red figure. Layer upon layer. Things get covered up. Sometimes it’s a mistake to cover something over, but you keep working. A canvas of this size is not inexpensive, but we got this one used at a garage sale for $5. We painted over the old painting, but ZZ wanted to keep some existing red roses in the bottom right hand corner, so we tried to preserve those.

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Our studio, such as it is, is located in the basement:

The grandgirls are back in school now, and I’m working on the sit out painting in the basement alone. Last night I added the black umbrella outline with the broken stretchers pointing upward in the middle left. Had the girls been there, they would have booed this change. I need to figure out a way to cover it up without ruining the horizon line below it, which tops Chloe’s field.

Below are two pics of Portlanders sitting out on the sidewalk and in the street corral of a corner restaurant:

And we’ll close with this pic of a sit out zone in an unused portion of a driveway, Ollie waiting patiently to be taken for a ride:

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Optotype

Line 15 currently detours across the Hawthorne Bridge due to a temporary weight restriction on the Morrison Bridge, which is under repair. I hopped off the bus at the west end of the Hawthorne Bridge, passed the Salmon Street Springs Fountain, and walked south along the Willamette to the eye clinic, just over a mile upriver. I saw some strange markings on the sidewalk, as if math really is fun. A gaggle of signs befouled the views, whispering orders, dangers, and cautions. I noticed there were no warning signs near the mooring bollards, and wondered how many people walking along ogling the view have tripped over them. Rarely do I have to yield to slower traffic.

Just south of the Hawthorne Bridge, I noticed an interesting, kind of improvised, lean-to-dock moored just off the west bank between the bridge and the park beach, downriver from the yacht harbor. The boat and dock set-up reminded me of Anais Nin’s “Houseboat,” and of Penelope Fitzgerald’s “Offshore.” And the usual gaggle of geese casually befouled the park beach area. I don’t mind the geese, though the city has been taking precautions to minimize the goose poop problem. But I was wearing the new Fila walking shoes Susan recently scored for me, and I wasn’t sure the goose path was how I wanted to break them in. Portland is called the City of Roses. You would think the roses wouldn’t mind the geese.

Modern accommodations for travel, appurtenances for getting around – what a mess! Just north of the Ross Island Bridge, workers were just about finished dismantling the Project Pabst Festival. It was a little early to be thinking of a cold PBR Tall Boy. I walked along “River Place,” above the small harbor, and passed by the “River Walk Cafe,” enjoying the cliches, and at the corner of Meade and Moody thought, how about “Mead Place,” or the “Moody Walk Cafe”?

A rowing crew rounded the pilings of the Marquam Bridge (a concrete brouhaha that spans and expands the definition of bridge), the submarine moored behind them on the east bank, below OMSI and the Portland Opera. The Pabst Horse trotted off on a trailer. The Portland Aerial Tram (constructed at a cost of $57 million), juxtaposed with the old Ross Island Bridge, reminded me of the 20th Century: “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season)”.

November Day Along the River

How are you? You are how
this is too easy
a still gift of photographs
almost like a real letter.

You like flowers, flowers like you, like
Peonies, purple green red yellow mopped hair
Marigolds, red orange bites
Red geraniums in a real clay pot
and those little white hanging threading flowers,
I don’t know their name, whispery white.

I am 1,000 characters
all so small you can’t see them
like tiny little squiggly bugs.
You are 1 bodacious character
like a lobster on the ocean floor under
blue waves under an orange sky,
or a swell cat, an orange tabby
with blue eyes,
who never scratches but purrs
and curls in your lap for a nice nap
on a hot sunny summer day,
a sleepy breeze cooling powdery sky.
Evening comes and a glass of white or red wine
and dinner and the sun goes down
and the moon comes up
up and up and up and up
so the path is lit.

But now is not summer
now is the beginning
of a long winter
without you.

This is Portland for Christmas

I asked Eric if for Christmas he might like a couple of books. It was a busy week, with the Christmas baby on her way, and so Susan and I found ourselves in Powell’s on Hawthorne two days before Christmas looking around for things we thought Eric might find interesting, not an easy chore, since we have trouble usually identifying things that even we might find interesting. It’s not easy finding the right book at the right time for someone. Choosing a book is like picking a campsite. But Susan’s a genius at this sort of thing, and found Nick Hornby’s 31 Songs, perfect, and Nickel and Dimed: Undercover in Low-wage USA, by Barbara Ehrenreich (the perspicacious reader will pick up on the perfect pairing these two books make).

Then, waiting in a long Powell’s last minute Christmas line with a hundred other Portlanders on Hawthorne, I spotted what appeared to be a little, homemade paperback, This is Portland: 13 Essays About the City You’ve Heard You Should Like, by Alexander Barrett. Three of the essays are only one sentence long (illustrated, to give them a bit more heft), and I liked that he still called them essays, and that you could read an entire essay standing in line at Powell’s on Hawthorne and that by the time you got to the counter, you could finish the book, and if you didn’t like it, you could just put it back. But I did like it, and I thought Eric would dig it, and the essay that cinched the deal (two pages long, still standing in line), was “Hawthorne V. Belmont,” about the supposed value clash between the two alt-commercial Portland East-side strips.

The author of This is Portland had only moved to Portland eight months before the writing of his book, but the book’s undated, which we find a bit weird, but Portlanders are supposed to value weird, so there you go, but a bit of Toads sleuthing and we came up with an on-line version of the book ($5 at Powell’s, but we’re more than ok with that, see below), and not only that, but we discovered (ok, this was actually pretty easy, the sleuthing part, since Alex the brief essayist included his website address at the end of his book) an amazing website devoted to himself, the Portland essayist, apparently hosted by his parents.

About being ok spending $5 for something available on-line for free: obviously, emailing somebody a link doesn’t make for much of a gift, but beyond that, we continue to support hard copy whenever we can, and Alex’s little hard copy book has already been shared and read by at least six others, folks dropping in on Christmas day to visit and share-alike. It’s a wonderful Portland.

Related: “Portlandia“; “Portlandia Portraits