It's been a long day.
We had breakfast this morning with my daughter from a previous gig. She grew up with her mother and her aunts in Portland and still resides within the City of Roses. Stump Town. PDX.
I always feel strange in this role of "biological father." It's a distinction that exists nowhere else with my kids. So I don't need Portland to remain weird (a local favorite bumper sticker saying), it is already foreign to me. Part of this is the "dad" role to a daughter I barely know. And part is the town itself. It is almost as if the moment I moved back to North Dakota from 3.6 years of living there (another chapter for another time), Portland immediately and forever changed into a foreign country that I visit with regularity, but will remain forever alien. And it is not helped by the moment of acquiescence, wherein custody of my daughter reverted to her mother. That moment sealed a silent but irrevocable script that I can neither read or understand.
None-the-less, Portland is a beautiful place. And Bartowsky enjoyed meeting his sister again. She's quick witted, smart, and in his words, "a nice person." He nailed it. The breakfast itself was almost like a prop for the conversation. I tasted nothing. Except for the coffee. It was dark and thick and bad. I gulped it down. I was in such a hurry. Tense. Ill-at-ease. Willing to stomach bad coffee. I noticed that after we dropped my daughter off, my shoulders sank and I relaxed a little. I think part of this tension was the introduction and the hope that my kids will like, and not just love, one another. And part was a disquiet that is hard to explain, but it orbits around the heat of not knowing my daughter as well as I should. Guilt?
I took a picture of her and Bartowsky. She in turn took a picture of us. Always at odds with being in front of a camera, I goofed off in an attempt to make the two kids laugh and avoid looking at the camera. There was a polite chuckle from the millennial contingency, but the jury vote was borderline "awkward." The picture reflects it. It also shows one tired guy. I wanted to sleep this morning. I wanted to avoid guilt. Avoidance made manifest.
At the end of the meal, we had to hustle. A long ways to go and four days behind schedule. But I did promise Bartowsky that I would take him to Powell's -City of Books before leaving the PDX area. He, like his parents, is an avid reader. I promised that there would be enough at Powell's to put some new items in heavy rotation. He was dubious, but masked it well with his ubiquitous, "Oh yeah?"
However, I wanted to show him Lake Oswego first. It was once home to my first girlfriend from first grade, and it was the first place I stopped at when I moved to Portland all those years ago. I drove almost nonstop from Fargo, ND in my little Datsun 280 Z, and pulled into the first hotel in Lake Oswego I came across: the Lakeshore Inn. I have been infatuated with Lake Oswego ever since. Bartowsky found it quaint, but clearly didn't understand my passion for this overpriced gem of a suburb. Oh well. Sometimes memories of rest suffice.
He did get Powell's, though. Man did he get it. We now have a multitude of books sloshing around our trunk for the remainder of the road trip. My only hope is that they don't reproduce back there. Alone. In the dark.
I am guilty, too. I purchased a book on Marcel Breuer -a favorite architect with almost brutal tendencies. This wildman from Hungary was almost more famous for one of his chairs than he was for his architecture. I dig both the chair and the architecture. I also purchased a book on finance. And another on typography and design within this most graphic and widespread art. But this wasn't my favorite moment at Powell's. The books just made me feel guilty for self enabling an already serious addiction.
"Hi, everyone. I'm Dan and I am addicted to books."
""Um... well... I've been addicted to books since I was five and... um... well... look... I guess I stole a Golden Book from Mrs. Birdy -my kindergarten teacher. And I feel really bad about it to this day. I do. But, um... I love books."
(Quiet murmurs of disapproval mixed with understanding and acceptance. One jackass in the back of the room nodding his head vigorously. What does that even mean? A nod.)
No, my favorite moment was the sign across the street from the store as I walked out. That sign across the street seemed very apropos. SIZZLE PIE. Like a hodgepodge mix of ingredients over an open flame. The heat being turned up. You know, like failed relationships. Life. Books. Simple pleasures. Sleep. Driving at breakneck speeds across Oregon and Idaho in pursuit of the Gulf of Mexico. Travel in general. Standing on a beach. Work. Moving on. Loss. A good song. A great building. A kiss. Losing a friend. Emotional tension. Time passing. Children being born. Children growing up. Growing old and turning gray. Guilt. Awkwardness. And gain.
Like reintroducing siblings after 14 years apart.