(The following is a edited thread posted on a friend’s Facebook page. I’ve been trying for an hour to convert a web page into a JPEG, into a word document, into a….well, I kind of forgot what I was doing at that point…so…here it is in the unfancy form.)
“[I have] 15 more days at Hotel Pine St [before I move]. It has been 16 years and 1 month at the Hotel. Goodbye, Pine St.”
Soon, friends old and new chime in. Some of us breathing a sigh of relief at the pathos of the situation, the rest of us delighting in some sort of latent schadenfreude, and I’m willing to wager that none of us were truly prepared for the realization of how wide the gulf had become between then and now….
“That reminds me, when do you want me to swing by with the kerosene?”
“The end of an era! And yeah, the only proper way to leave is to light it up on your way out the door.”
“How’s the packing going? Still thinking about renting an industrial debris chute before torching the place?”
“Listen, if there’s arson involved, at least turn it into a party. Give the old girl a proper send off.”
“Our Pine St. reign of terror is over, it was a good run.”
“It’s funny…I think of how long we’ve had a history with it, but in the life of the building, we are but a blink. I would totally love to send it out Viking Funeral Style.”
“Yeah. So how ’bout it? Big Party?”
I strain to remember the first day of moving in. I barely remember the other roommates at the beginning. The finer details of who, what and why have been worn down to generalities. I catch up with people who have long since gone, people who blazed their own trail out of Portland years before I did. I ask them if they can remember, the subject inevitably changes to the here and now. They left as I did; under cover of darkness looking for something, anything that would feed their soul. For some of us, we needed to grow as artists, as craftspeople, as individuals. We needed to see the world and we couldn’t do it standing still. For others, it wasn’t the painting in the gallery, but the writing on the wall that drove us away; the sudden, sobering moment when you realize that you used up all of your karmic credit, and you didn’t have enough to pay the bill. For me, it was a bit of both.
When the priest walks by she says, “Hey, look who I found!”
Priest smiles and says, “We’re so glad you came back around
To the Western Promenade.”
Then he scratched his name into the facade
of brick and wet concrete.
And then turned his heel on the ways of Hotel Pine St.
I know why I left. The road, whether it’s high, low or less traveled is nothing more than a concept unless you put your feet to it. It’s a wanderlust; something that needed addressing before I got to old to care or do anything about it. Beyond a career that may or may not exist, the bigger item on the agenda that needed attention was the itch that needed scratching by getting up, getting out and doing something.
But that doesn’t mean that my mind drifts back homeward. It doesn’t mean that I’ll never give in to nostalgic fits.
I know why I left, but I’m not sure if I gave a proper farewell. Does anybody?
Memories filter in like sunrise through an afghan. I remember waking up in interesting positions on the floor in the living room, unlit cigarette in one hand, full Big-Gulp sized container of coffee in the other, notes and crude model making supplies strewn all about me, glue in my hair, permanent ink on my fingers, because I waited until the last minute to finish my final project. Again.
I remember a night when we were hungrier than usual, no money in our pockets and a kitchen that was running on empty. We had to dig deep, and so we did…to the back of the pantry where we unearthed (wait for it) C-Rations. Specifically, dehydrated scrambled eggs. Specifically, dehydrated scrambled eggs that look like they’ve been stowed away in the pantry since the Vietnam War. Literally, it was either this, or condiment sandwiches without the bread. I remember putting down my powdered egg stained fork and thinking….this ain’t so bad.
I remember an occasion at one of our hosted parties. For some reason, a gathering of around 15 people found themselves sitting on the floor in the back hallway. A friend of mine was sitting across from me. This guy would go on at length about Vishnu and all her crazy cousins; he had an extensive knowledge of Eastern Religion and he’d always be more than happy to let you know it too. He and I gave each other the “hi sign” and started to hum a low, guttural, tantric chant. We weren’t loud, but it was loud enough to carry itself over a cacophony of conversation and a white noise snow squall of music from another room. It was mostly sibilance, I’m sure it meant something in Sanskrit or whatever, but it was fun to get the walls to vibrate. It was even more fun to get everybody else to join in and get the entire apartment to vibrate.
I remember love found and love lost. I remember the faces changing and the landscape staying the same. I remember walking through a room at another party at another address and noticing the blank, unimpressed faces and listening to the absence of conversation. It felt like we all had the same expression on our face, and we were all thinking the same thing: “What the fuck are we doing here?”. From that moment on, I could not help but think that this attitude has transcended into my every day life. “What the fuck am I doing here?” became a mantra; a wake up call. It was the first inkling of growing up; it was the grease in the hamster wheel. I felt it was time to move on.
On November 28th of this year, the last in a long line of us finally felt the same urge as well, over 20 years later. My gentle giant of a friend felt it was time to move on. After some gentle urging, those of us that remained in Portland decided to get together for one last hurrah, one last night of celebration, one last night within the walls of Hotel Pine St. Those of us that moved on, could only be there in spirit, leaving us to send our goodbyes through other means.
Goodbye to the rickety staircase and ugly hallway that we beautified with the help of friends, alcohol, a few paint brushes and a love for Dr. Seuss.
Farewell to the windowed hallway that looked out over an abandoned courtyard.
So long to every upstairs neighbor that tried their damnedest to redecorate the apartment above us. Maybe now it could finally become a reality.
Adios to the summer time ritual of a decent pub crawl with dear friends and ending up at that baseball themed diner in the old port that was always bursting to capacity with other drunken heathens. Au revoir to the brilliant sunrises that were often delighted from on the roof after a long night of commiserating and laughter. Tonight is the final night of 2009. In a manner of days, I’ll be officially a grown up, not that I needed any help with that with the gray hairs, pot belly and rugrat scurrying everywhere. Tonight, I shall raise a bottle to all of us; To all of you and your beautiful families, here’s to you. Here’s to us, by God. Here’s to the privileges of youth, and to us, and to what has been, and what will be…
And had to hitch a ride on a December Freeze.
I had better words to make this reprise,
But that was so many years ago.
Now I’m old enough to know
For a while, I laughed with the elite.
But now I’m just another stray of Hotel Pine St.
This is a montage constructed out of various resources, mainly photographs from my friends taken from the early ’90s to the final night of revelry this passed November. The soundtrack I chose is R.E.M.’s Time After Time from Reckoning. Somewhat because they were in some fashion or another always on our stereo (before they got old and corporate sponsorship). But, mostly because it’s about good friends getting together, getting a little too drunk and doing something foolish.
I thought it most appropriate.