Friday, May 01, 2009

Last Week

Last week we drove down to Portland to visit my Aunt Mary and listen to Uncle Lee spin out tales of computer geeks and old Kalona cronies. Denying any hint of privation, they showed us the luscious Columbia River Gorge: waterfalls over chiseled layers of basalt and fluorescent moss like an Islamic palace in Granada that I saw in an art history book only better and more wild. We ate at a cottage at the bottom of Multnomah Falls, watching the green rain, and telling stories of Mennonite roots (pronounced “ruts”).

Last week I remembered my Aunt Mary is quiet and thoughtful. She works at an alcohol and drug rehab clinic for lost souls and she cries every time she watches Susan Boyle sing her song for cynical Britons. Lee and Mary are trying to stay young with a basement full of exercise equipment. They study at learning German, watch honest movies starring crazy old Jack Nicholson (“he follows the beat of a different drum” according to Uncle Lee) and talking about the country legends they have seen and outlived. We ate perfectly made wild blackberry pie twice and there was still enough left for a paper plate ride home with us. I’m glad we gave Lee a chance to eat desert and get generous with the A&W root beer.

Last week I heard a Russian Literature professor from Louisiana State talk about Dadaism on Seattle public radio: how it outlasted Stalin and thrives in times of woe. He said Dadaists always have a party “at least in their minds.” They are less concerned with politics and final outcomes then with jiving and dancing around things and problems and making new poems and new places. As Gary Snyder the poet has said regarding his Beats: “it’s about character, it’s about style.” I thought about this and how my Uncle Lee drives a city bus while jiving with strangers and eating sandwiches of jam and peanut butter ground in a self-serve grinder; how his bohemian friend follows the creed “Keep Portland Weird” by barking like a dog in public to people he knows; as we drove home on Interstate 5 listening to Dan Reeder make a mess of it and trying to sing along.


Anonymous Olivia said...

It is nice to see a picture of what you guys will look like in 35 years.

7:12 PM  

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