Monday, November 10, 2014


The autumn is deep upon us and, with it, the Rains.

Once the return to Standard Time spells the end of evening light the clouds that lour upon our house seem all the lower and more lour-y, the rain more incessant, and the season chillier and more inhospitable. This isn't really as awful as it sounds; its just what happens in the Northwest in the waning of the year, and, by and large, we're both used to it and accepting of it.

But...that doesn't mean we enjoy it, and our delight in the rare sunny autumn day is the proof. This past Saturday was a lovely, sunny and mild autumn day and it seemed like all of Portland got out to bask in it.

Perhaps except for me; I had to work that morning, so I spent the first half the day in a muddy field outside the permanent traffic-tie-up that is "Tualatin" keeping an eye on people making the field less muddy.

The heavy fog lifted by mid-morning and the lowering sun strengthened from watery to warm. The dank earth steamed, the dark coffee in my hands steamed as well, and I stood in pleasant lassitude watching the work. The contractor knew perfectly well what his crew needed to do; my presence was purely decorative, a sort of large finial or an ambulatory bit of trimming designed to make the work prettier for the owner. So like any good eye-candy I promenaded about looking attractive, made an occasional note or three, and generally bided the time until I'd put in enough of an appearance to justify my paycheck.

The only upside to working a weekend is the relative emptiness of the freeways. Portland, sadly, is becoming more like our neighbors to the north and south; where once serious freeway traffic was restricted to circumscribed morning and evening "rush hours" random congestion is now both more common and vastly more random. I have encountered parking-lot-grade jams at midday and at midnight, on weekend mornings and weeknights in the early single-digit darkness.

Saturday the pavement was delightfully untenanted; I rattled north into the downtown enjoying the velocity while fretting slightly over the odd noise the old pickup truck was making. The drawback of an owned-free-and-clear-ten-year-old vehicle is that you have reached the age where anything may fail catastrophically and often will. What once was a small but annoying squeak now may be a wheel bearing announcing its imminent death or a leaf-spring suggesting that iron oxide has overcome the elastic properties of the metal.
(And I should notes that it is just this sort of fretful irruption from which wealth provides such insulation. Mister Micawber would have recognized it; the natural consequence of having to worry about whether you can manage to make ends meet on that twenty pounds. You listen to that squeak with the cold understanding that it may mean penury somewhere else, a new bearing rather than a new toaster, or a new leaf-spring rather than a coveted book. This is the reason that freedom is and always will be dependent on wealth; being forced into decision by straitened finances is not practically different than being forced into decision by a fist or a law. Being a wage-slave is, in many practical ways, less unpleasant but no different than being a chattal-slave.)
So it was with a small feeling of relief that I pulled into the sunny street outside the big bakery on 12th Avenue.

A soft white cloud of yeast followed me across the street and down the sidewalk paved with gold. The Boy's team was playing on the field beside the Edwardian pile of Portland's technical high school, and so I turned right and up the stone steps towards the noise.

The Boy's team had won that morning. The task at hand was to defeat some outfit with the terrific name of "Psychic Pineapples", which had already become my favorite kid-soccer-team name. But, honestly...the sun was warm and the turf was soft, and the crowd was happy and busy so the business of winning and losing seemed less than pressing. The Boy's team scored. The Pineapples scored. The play was, as it usually is in these upper-grade-school games, an ungainly collision of deft and clumsy.

The Boy himself is not a skilled player; certainly not the worst on his team at the fundamentals of what is, really, a very simple game but not really anywhere near as good as even the average player on his outfit. I try to retain the fond eye of a parent rather than the critical one of a long-time player and observer of the game, but there is little denying that my child will never be essential to the fortunes of his team. He plays with a lanky enthusiasm, however, and makes several good tackles and with that I am content.

The final is 3-all; the Boy's side went up 3-1 near the half but conceded twice - actually, three times but had a lucky break in that one of the Pineapples went over the touchline on the way to scoring - late in the match to settle for the draw. Scoreline forgotten almost instantly the group briefly convenes for a photo then disperses to homes and entertainments in the sunny afternoon.

In the line at Voodoo Donuts I am pleased to see that at least one Portlander has her sandals on, her bare toes defying the passing of the year. She reminds me that we here in the Rose City do not give in to the rains easily; we sieze upon the slightest hint of sunshine to shed the layers and glower of winter.

The sagging truck smells of fresh bread, and the Boy and I enjoy the sight of the honey-brown loaves emerging from the oven.

We agree that although neither of us particularly craves plain white bread that the leavened aroma has us hungering for that simple taste. The day slows to a stop as I tell my son about my fifth-grade field trip to the old Sunbeam Bread bakery in Philadelphia. He tells me about his fourth-grade field trip to the zoo. In the long light of late afternoon as golden as the loaves of bread we sit companionably together, unhurried, waiting for Missy and Mojo, listening for footfalls loud in the quiet street that announce the slow arrival of his sister and my wife.

No comments: