C'mon, I'm gonna show you were I spent most of my childhood, she said as we walked out of Powell's.
She took me past blocks of food trucks. All the food you have ever craved can be found in Portland, on a truck and better than in most restaurants.
She told me the story about moving to Portland when she was a little girl. Homeless and dealing with a strung out parental unit. It was a tragic story she told with the pride of a survivor. It was her half of our scar sharing session.
Her scars are the deep and beautiful marks of a fighter; a woman not to be trifled with and impossible to ignore. She wore them not as a victim but as badass.
I'll show you the shelter that saved us after the library.
|Vivacious Bad Ass|
We crawled up a bazillion flights of stairs and she told me about her brother. Dear reader, that is a story I will leave for her to tell you. Suffice to say, the library couldn't quite save him the way it did Chantel.
We came to the room she wanted to show me.
This used to be records and record players. I would come here and get lost in the music.
She loves jazz and classical.
The turntables were replaced by computers and headphones, the vinyl by CDs and playaways.
I walked around and touched everything. It helps me feel connected to a place and I wanted to let this place that meant so much to my friend find its way into my own heart. I could imagine a tiny, frizzy haired redhead taking the Kind of Blue LP to a turntable causing double takes from the other patrons and just losing herself... forgetting that life is fucked up mess... for just a bit.
We left the library.
There's an arcade with old games we played growing up down by the shelter I used to call home.
We stopped a block from the arcade, within sight of the shelter and a few punk clubs. She lit a smoke and I bummed one from her. I knew there was another story coming and I wanted to get lost in it.
She told me about the drug addicted parental unit, the move to Portland because the city was a good place for the homeless, the shelter, the vagabond life. Never once did she fall into the role of victim.
To paraphrase, this is shit that happened, it sucked, it hurt me, it could have ruined me but, fuck that, I survived and I love who I am now because of it.
I love who you are, too, Chantel.
We noticed the punk club across the street from where we were standing was having Ministry that night. I gave serious thought to skipping my band's show and going to Ministry. Then the guys from the band went walking by and we were giddy. The timing was perfect. We decided that was enough and we could go to Brasstracks instead. Besides, if you were paying attention you'd know she likes jazz.
We walked past the shelter that saved her and into the arcade.
Five dollars, please.
Do we need tokens or quarters?
No, five bucks gets you in and you can play any game free.
Our eyes got HUGE!
By the end of our arcade stop we were both covered in sweat. She kicked my ass - like, made me her bitch - at pinball. I saved her ass time and again at Terminator. And I only got my ass kicked a half dozen times at Mortal Kombat.
We needed air and she needed a smoke so we headed back out onto the street.
Portland used to lead the country in strip clubs per capita and Thai places.
That's an odd combination.
They're unrelated just... funny to me. C'mon, you need a jacket from the oldest strip club in Portland.
Before I could react she was on the march.
Mary's Club was a tiny little dive in downtown. One small stage and a smaller bar. We sat and I watched the beauty on stage while Chantel ordered - no shit - a child size IPA. It was a cute little goblet. She struck up a conversation with the gorgeous bartender and you would have thought they were besties from childhood.
What size do you want?
Large for me and whatever size you want.
It's the least I can do for you.
The bartender went to the back and got us our jackets. I paid and Chantel and the bartender promised they'd see each other again.
We walked out of the dark strip club into the sunny afternoon. It sucked.
Fuck Voodoo donuts, I am going to take you to get a real donut.
So she did. It was a donut place next to her favorite tiki lounge - her real motivation.
C'mon, if we time it right we can catch a storm inside!
I ordered a virgin somethingorother. She ordered a drink on fire. Literally.
My friend Brandon texted that he was on his way to pick me up. It was bitter sweet. Just then I heard thunder.
YES! You're gonna get to experience the storm!
There is a little bar that has drinks that are literally on fire and indoor thunder storms. I recommend a particular tour guide when you visit the place. Her joy is infectious and you'll find yourself wanting to live in her world a little longer than you planned.
Postscript, I had dinner with Brandon and Phillip then slept til showtime. Chantel came to the show with a friend and I left them to enjoy it. I hung out near the merch table with Gabe. About halfway through the show a sweaty Chantel made her way to the bench I occupied and we enjoyed the rest of the show from afar. Really, we enjoyed watching this little white girl in yoga pants and sneakers dance her ass off while the two dudes she was with realized that they were never gonna get some of that. After the show we had a bite at a local institution whose name now escapes me. We talked about things that matter; heartbreak, love, putting yourself back together and her crush on my wife. When it was time to say goodbye I was genuinely sad. It was that good sadness, you know? The kind you fucking earn because you lose a little piece of yourself.
That day was a thing I needed. It was so very one-sided I actually felt bad for not being better. I woke to a text from Chantel thanking me.
Yesterday was a salve.
Maybe the lesson is to simply be present. Let yourself leave the world behind for a time and get lost in the experience of the moment.
Anyway, Chantel, thank you. For so much. And if you ever find yourself forgetting to enjoy the journey in between the beginning and end of a thing play the above song. It's been in my head every time I think about you the last week or so.
The journey's brought joy that outweighs the pain.