Today is my last day in Portland, Oregon. I’m at the Fridge, in a glass room that smells like cigarettes (you’re welcome!), with a kitchen painted yellow and tagged at various times by various residents who have by now mostly abandoned the region. The living room is littered with beer bottles and utensils. I am feeling nostalgic for times that never existed, and pining for times that did.
But tomorrow morning I am leaving.
The Fridge, as an institution–as an academy and a brothel and a magnet for malcontents and transients, as a refuge of last resort and as a home, the best home I’ve ever had–I cannot give the last word. I cede the last word to the last occupants, to those who watch in horror as Brian Barisch finally demolishes the whole damned building, who gape as the beech trees sway under the weight of tumbling old-growth lumber. It is a sight whose inevitability I cannot deny, no matter how much I dread it. And so it is to those unfortunate souls that I grant the privilege of writing an obituary. I’m only here to document a last gasp or two.
And so, what can I tell you? What can I pretend are lessons and learning experiences? How can I describe what it feels like to sample one thousand miles of coastline? How can I draw a conclusion for you, while intentionally omitting conclusions I’ve reached for publications that may actually pay me to conclude?
How can I tie this up with a bow?
Three months ago I got into San Francisco and walked to Kate’s bookstore in the Mission wearing my blazer, cheap Indian knockoff sunglasses, and hauling a fifty pound backpack. Kate said, “You look ridiculous,” and I replied, “No, I look good.” Because I did. Because I was ready and willing, and raring to go, and eager beaver-esque, and so on and so forth. I was a man on a mission. I had my heart in the right place. I was a cat on a hot tin roof. I was born to do this.
Three months later I am sitting cross-legged on a couch without any socks on, desperately trying to think of what my “Statement of Purpose” for graduate school might be. I’m cold, I’m dirty, I’m half drunk, and I’ve got two songs stuck in my head. The first song goes like this:
“There’s nothing out here, nothing out here, nothing out here.”
The second goes like this:
“I’ve got you. Until you’re gone.”
I’m gone. I’ll miss you, but there’s nothing out here for me anymore.