Because now is the time to harden up. To forget about all the great things that have happened over the last year, to forget about all the amazing people that I met. Back to real life, back to the grind, back the hustle of a miserable blue collar night shift existence.
To forget about my charmingly run down apartment in that charmingly run down section of the city. To forget about Floyd’s, and Yurs, and Santeria, and Rocco’s. To forget about Jack, and Becca, and Patti, and that bum with the bleach blonde hair and tear drop tattoos under his eyes. Now is the time to remember about putting in work, about paying dues, about manning up. About double shifts with no sleep, and union politics, and surly old men waiting to die in that factory because they don’t know any better. Twelve hour days at the computer becoming twelve hour days at the factory; sometimes that’s the way life works.
To forget about the boys, a good group of boys who’ve become my boys. Each of us bouncing around with our own plans and ideas and dreams. United over the struggle and the dive bars, the cheap beer and the pursuit of the opposite sex. The pursuit of happiness; each with our own respective definitions of it. Another of the tribe strikes out on their own, but this time it’s me, and that stings a little bit more without the boys to fall back on.
To forget about that girl. The cute one, with her shy smile and fantastic sense of a good time, the one I didn’t think I was going to miss. Also headed out onto the road, off on her own adventures, her own big things. Funny how these things find us when we aren’t looking for them.
The Empire Builder heading east bound from Portland is the perfect train for reflection, the perfect way to leave town. It starts out cutting through wet green, lush forest before riding along The Gorge, still green, now with great bluffs along the fantastic Columbia River. More forests up to Spokane, and then through the glaciers and mountains and canyons of Idaho and western Montana. This is all very breathtaking and beautiful. A fantastic distraction for leaving a place that you might not be ready to leave. But then you’ll make it to central Montana, and the landscape starts to flatten out, and change from green to brown. Somewhat desert, somewhat farm or pasture land, there isn’t much to look at.
So suddenly you’re forced to deal with yourself. You could read a book or watch a movie or take a nap, but when moving across country under less than ideal conditions, its important to take stock in things, to be honest with yourself. It’s important to have a drink. A friend made me an alternative country compilation, and though not my normal style, it’s rather appropriate for this leg of the trip. A lot of it is about living hard, but living honestly, always struggling to find happiness, albeit in a million different forms. It’s lonely music, and this is a lonely trip.
Was it worth it? Is anything ever? We always say we’d smile more and worry less, and I guess that’s true of the Portland Experience too. I wasted a lot of time. I drank too much. But I lived for myself. I had a dream, and I followed it. I have 98,000 words in a giant word file on my computer, more or less a book. Which is a pretty spectacular feeling. I made a lot of new friends, a lot of them will stick around for years, and that’s what life is really about. Making those connections and holding on. Taking risks and holding your own. Smiling at cute girls on the off chance that they’re just waiting to smile back. Because usually they are.
We’re all waiting to be smiled at. As always, Thanks For Reading.