Every summer I try to fit in a vacation before having to return to my school job in the fall. So in August, the boys (Jake age 20 and Asa age 28) and I went to Portland, Oregon for a few days. I chose Portland because I lived there in my youth and I wanted to share some places and adventures that I enjoyed when I was a kid.
We stayed at a fancy hotel in an area that I was not familiar with, but was in a “great location” in terms of getting on and off freeways, and being able to walk to restaurants. The hotel had valet service which I had never had before. It was expensive, but I was glad to have my car safe and not parked on the street. Our hotel was right next to a park. I called it “The Sketchy Park”. It was not a park with green lawns, picnic tables and children playing. It was a park where the homeless people would hang out – where men would gather to pick up a game of basketball – where people would quickly walk their dogs through to do their business.
I don’t have anything against homeless people – I am just not used to seeing them around and it made me a little anxious – but also curious as to how life must be for someone that has to sit on a park bench with their belongings, eating whatever dinner they were able to get – and then move on to who knows where.
I had made plans for us to have dinner with one of my dearest friends – and while I had looked at google maps earlier, I had a hard time navigating. I knew it was a couple of blocks away from us – but did I need to go right or left? We wandered around and I finally asked a guy in a wheelchair on a street corner. He pointed us down the road, and after awhile we finally found the restaurant – and my friend finishing her beer. We ate outside, on the sidewalk – at a table with a big umbrella. There were a number of interesting people walking by – and my friend who is quite outgoing, yelled out “Your dog is so cute!” to a passerby. As a quiet aside, she mumbled to me, “My cat is cuter.” But she smiled and was her effervescent self, showing off her shoes to a stranger who wore the same brand. We talked and laughed, while my boys sat looking around at the people, the cars, the buildings – they had never eaten outside in the city, so it was new and interesting. The food was good, the company better – and too soon we were saying our goodbyes.
After getting back to the hotel, the boys decided they needed to go out and smoke weed. My boys love to smoke marijuana, which I am not thrilled with, but it is legal in our state (and in Portland). I had told them though it was NOT legal to smoke in public and I didn’t want them to go into a dark alley somewhere. They looked out the window at Sketchy Park, studying it, and determined that they could probably smoke there, since they saw other people doing similar activities. I told them to go out and smoke and then come right back.
An hour later, they had not returned and I was worried. It was dark out. They were in an unfamiliar city. I called it “Sketchy Park” for a reason. I texted Asa. No response. I called Asa. No response. I kept looking out the window to see if I could see them in the park. I messaged my daughter Caitlin (hundreds of miles away from me) to tell her how I was worried about the boys and what was going on. She and I both know that Jake and Asa can get themselves into unsafe predicaments, and that they are not always the most responsible people. After a pause in our messaging, I got a text from Asa, that they were on their way back. I told Caitlin and she said, “Yeah, I called Asa and told him you were worried sick and he needed to call you.” Hmmm…..answering a call from sister, but not from mom…..
After they got back, I asked them what happened and why they were gone so long. Apparently they went out and smoked, but then started talking to some guy, who also wanted to smoke, and then they ended up playing basketball with the guy and his buddies, who also smoked. A day or so later, I also found out that they asked their new friends where the closest pot shop was and went there to buy more weed. To them it was just going out and making friends and having fun. They didn’t think about the time, or how their poor mother was imagining their limp bloodied bodies lying in an alley somewhere, with their wallets stolen so they had no ID and police would have no idea who they were or how to contact me.
We had other adventures during our vacation, which I will write about another time. I believe though, that their fondest memory of the whole thing was smoking in Sketchy Park with their friends. Jake had such a good time that he wants to move there and make money rapping on the streets of Portland. Yeah. Life goals.