Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Cracker Jungle

Last Saturday was library visit number 387. Every Saturday afternoon since before she could read, my daughter and I have gone to the Hollywood library. As she's now 13, it may have been 500 weeks since this weekly ritual got started. We've missed weeks, usually because she was busy, but not many. So call it, conservatively, 387 visits.

Some aspects of the ritual remain unchanged. It's the day I make breakfast for her – tea, bacon, toast, a lettuce leaf or two. I pack a lunch. We check online to find out which library books are due and which can be renewed. We often get mad as we're leaving the house because we're trying to catch a bus and one of us remembers something at the last second that causes an anxiety-provoking delay.

Some things have changed a lot. My girl now reads anything and everything. She tore through all of Harry Potter years ago. She dresses stylishly, more like New York City than Portland. Recently she' s been leaving before me and taking the bus on her own, and I catch up to her at the library.

Today I caught up to her before the 75 bus came and we boarded together. At the next stop, a couple got on. The woman I hardly noticed, because the guy was so riveting. He was not wearing a shirt. Warm day, right? But he was not only naked from the waist up, he was fat, hairy and wore a couple of large Band-aids on his back. Grimy baseball cap over a curtain of greasy hair? Check. Three-day beard? Check. Blurry blue tattoos? Yep. Missing teeth, torn jeans falling off his butt, and working his way through a bag of Twizzlers? Indeed so.

Six decades into my own sometimes unsightly life, seeing this character was not a shock. The streets of Portland are littered with such bedraggled unfortunates. No, the sight was touching. I really thought: That could be me. In fact, he's more like me than most of the world. That guy is white, American, and can buy candy any time he wants to. And it appears that there's a woman in his life. Our politics might be the same. For all I know, we're related.

And then my daughter said, “Dad, you've got something on your face.”


She showed me. It took a couple of tries to brush off the bit of chocolate bacon or whatever the hell it was, largely because of my three-day beard.

Her look said, “What a slob.”

Thanks for not calling me a slob.”

She just shook her head.

I am so exactly like that guy.