I’m beginning to feel like a writer again. For 24-hours, I have had music, two books, and now several pages of extemporaneous thoughts and staccato-like creativity.
I have been reminded of what silence provides. Silence provides Time. It is easy to forget this living in the center of a city.
Without my having realized it, I have been an expatriate these last seven years, a refugee among refugees. My Year in Paris has become a near decade in the Northwest. All experiences of being foreign and yet not, of being transplanted and earnestly attempting to shed the attire of one location for that of another, transforming from a relatively sheltered girl of the southern plains to an urbanite, would have been the same in Paris, minus the language difference. I would have become less American-seeming in France, but no less American.
The only real benefit of living in Europe is one of historical convenience — and not the sort of historical convenience so often employed by the Swiss — but convenience by way of proximity.
I am no less Texan for all my years in Oregon, despite my taking on very strange habits particular to the Northwest (more on that later). In fact, I’m a good deal more French than I am Oregonian, having had at least one relative of the tricolor variety.
As I return to Portland, I realize it is only a station. I will return to my apartment, worship the cat I left behind, and prepare to return to my country.
It is not a conceit. Texas is a nation, with at least five geographical states, multitudes of opinions, several dialects (even Dallas has at least two — one that pronounces Dallas as Dah-lus and another that says Dah-liss, depending on which side of RL Thornton you dwell).
(Side story: I worked with a granddaughter of RL Thornton’s. We did not like one another much.)
I did not realize, of course, that this would be the point of my story when I moved to Oregon. I simply wanted to get away from the sun (it worked). And I don’t consider the possibility of returning to the surface of the sun something to look forward to. I did not realize, and could not have realized, that this would become a great experiment in expatriation. Had I realized it, I would have taken better notes. I would have written stories for Texas Highways — a “Texan Abroad: Life West of the Pecos” or some similarly titled series of travel essays. I could have started this great colony of expatriates. I could have been the Henry Miller of exes from Texas.
Casual observations about Oregon, the West Coast, and the City of Portland
- It is terribly pretty. It sounds trite, it is trite. It’s also true.
- It is gentle here, for all of the rocky coasts and the vulcanism that surrounds the city.
- It is remote. While you are in the US, you are just barely. We are out here on the fringes of the frontier. The rest of the world is a world and a half away.
- As a people, Oregonians seem a lot like the coastline. Interesting, formidable, but also aloof. Sometimes I get the feeling that even though you may laugh with them, and you may even cry with them, you may never truly know them. I have become close with a several Oregonians, however, so this is in no way a criticism. Perhaps it’s really a matter of them being far less touchy-feely than those of us from the south or southwest.
- They have a Don’t Tread On Me sensibility and independence that, as a Texan, I can identify with and appreciate. On the flip-side, though, it has colluded with a West Coast brand of liberalism that is hard for me to buy into, no matter how liberal I am.
- Dogs are dogs. They are not an inalienable right of man.
- Every major or minor city with a vision — or ones in desperate search for a vision — should visit Portland and take notes. This is how you do transit. This is how you preserve green-space and design parks. But don’t go overboard. Everything in moderation. No sense having a city no one can afford to live in…. My journey has paused. A mudslide has covered one of two tracks. With two long freight trains and another passenger train waiting, it could be a while. And now it is raining. The grey, the famous grey is seeping from the Puget skies to the Puget Sound.I’ve fantasized about two things since moving here: one, that the occupation of the tugboat captain has to be one of the most romantic jobs ever devised; and, two, living on the Oregon coast has to be The Life. I would have tested the latter myself had I been able to afford it. I have since come to understand that only those born there, or those from California, really know for sure if that’s true. The coastal natives will be mum. The Californians sweetly oblivious.I understand that weathering the squalls is not much fun. But it is the stuff of Romance…
…There are birds on the posts in the middle of this small bay and a duck bobbing in the water. Two optimistic fir trees cling to the last edge of land. The rain has begun in earnest again. I wonder what impact that will have on the mudslide…
The Texan in me is fascinated by the weather. In the Northwest, no one looks for shelves or dips or funnels but rather overall cloud density. In Texas, one develops a visceral understanding of the dangers in clouds. You learn to predict the mood of Zeus and his thunderbolts like the best of chamberlains.
…The rain has slackened. Now Car No. 6 is eavesdropping on the banal and yet entertaining conversation of a teenage girl with her cell phone. She’s in the space between the cars and even though the door is closed we can hear her quite clearly. Tacoma can hear her.
The old couple behind me is laughing. She talks about sex and boys with the same naive authority that all teenagers have about everything. She says Shut up!, but she never means it.