Hello! It really has been an inexplicably long hiatus. I have no excuses, and I will own my own part in the recent gap. There. I just had to get that off of my chest. And now I feel better.
5 THINGS for November 5, 2011 – A Saturday of Epic Proportions
- My radio alarm clock is so much nicer to wake up to than a cell phone alarm, so I prefer to use it. However, since I have moved to Portland, I haven’t really been into finding a local radio station that I like, (meaning I just haven’t taken the time to spin the dials to find the stations, and my clock is old so often it feels sensitive in finding a clear station, like breaking into a safe, and I just can’t be bothered). The only clear station I have found has literally been a right-wing conservative Christian talk-radio station, and I am open-minded. The last couple of mornings I have been setting it in the hopes of breaking my new bad habit of sleeping too late, and so I wake to stories about finding Jesus. This morning I woke to stories of loss, which is something I am not unfamiliar with, though I have my own methods for dealing with such things that call for a different kind of spirituality and presence. I crossed from dreaming into waking, listening to a story of a woman talking about how she deals with her own loss of her child. “When someone asks me many kids I have, I am faced with a choice…I decide whether I should tell half the story, or a quarter of the story, or tell the story at all and say that I have three children” (I am assuming she at one point had four). I sleepily ponder the truth in this, and think about the many situations where I’ve had to decide just what and how much I should or feel comfortable with sharing. I hit snooze. In nine minutes, the radio comes on again, and it’s a different woman. “I want to ask ‘why have you taken this child from me?’ I have many questions to ask God when it’s my time to meet him, but in the meantime I have learned that He’s telling me ‘You have a choice. You have a choice to either be angry, or to serve Me.'” I decided this morning that I need to find a new radio station to wake up to. I also thought it was apropos of the day ahead.
- I had a scheduled coffee date with Elizabeth, and had started driving down Fremont to meet her at her house when I realized that there was a plume, a tendril if you will, of white smoke inside of my car. I switched the heat/defrost/off and pushed the dial to cold air all in the same motion, simultaneously pulling over as fast as safely possible, called Elizabeth. When she picked up, I frantically and matter-of-factly stated: “I have to do coffee another time, there is smoke inside of my car.” I practically hung up on her, turned the car around and drove the four blocks home, all the while trying to feel the dash with my hand, trying to feel where there would be heat, or smoke. I have a suspicion that the problem is linked to the heat/defrost, as in the past week it sometimes smells like exhaust when I am running those things, but never has there been an actual plume of smoke. This is problematic for obvious reasons.
- I call Alan, who is the owner of an exceptional shop in Salt Lake City called Clark’s Auto Service. He is an old friend, and I try my hardest not to call him for mechanical advice unless I am at a true loss. This particular incident falls into that category in my opinion, as I have Harriet’s* funeral to go to later this afternoon. He calls me back while driving from Las Vegas. I give him my rundown of the cars behaviors and he tells me, “Don’t drive the car. It sounds like it’s starting to have an electrical short,” and proceeds to tell me that I could potentially start the car on fire and fry up the whole thing. I do not want to deal with this problem on that level. After the hypothetical prognosis, we catch up a little and he asks me how I am doing. I tell him about my hard week, but then change the subject and ask about his happenings. He tells me that the shop is doing great and that his family is doing well. He tells me to keep my chin up, and that things will be okay on my end. I know he’s right, but I have to admit I am pretty tired of telling myself that all of the time. It is nice to hear such a warm and comforting voice though, from someone who knows me so well for the last fifteen or so years. Hours later he sends me this text, which literally brings tears to my eyes: Ryder, your lessons learned are carrying you well. Hold your course. You learn nothing from sailing smooth seas. For all of you Salt Lakers with cars, go see this guy. He’s amazing, and honest, and does good work and he gives solid, strong, and loving advice (though sometimes it will be about your carburator).
- I get a ride to and from the memorial in McMinnville, OR from an old friend of Thea’s named Bethe, and her husband James. Bethe and I have known each other peripherally for a long time. We both have the resident eldest dogs: Mine is Lucifer, a 14 year old husky, and hers is Evilla, a 13 year old chihuahua with a temper. Evilla doesn’t really have any more teeth, so it’s nice that she can’t bite anyone any longer, though she can still angrily gum them.
On the way to McMinnville, we chat about Harriet and the farm and the family and the Christian Scientist traditions of death. James admits that for a long time he thought that everyone meant Scientologist, which is the crazy religion that all of the movie stars belong to. For the record, Harriet and Ted were NOT Scientologists. I tell them about waking up to the christian talk-radio this morning. On the way back, we talk about dog ailments and old-dog problematic behaviors. Everything feels nice, albiet weighted, yet comfortable.
- The memorial itself was full of moments that cannot really be broken down into number 5. Anyone who has witnessed a loss has contemplated everything that was summarized, observed, witnessed. The sincere and the superficial, the recognition and the necessity of what it means to just be a support. Navigation. The frailty and complexity of relationships, of the human experience, of the human body. Specific things about the memorial of Harriet Gahr: Sitting close between Alex and Eden. We are shoulder-to-shoulder, my right hand holding Alex’s hand and my left arm linked through Eden’s. The physical heat of our presence together is comforting and electric. Bearing witness to the many people Harriet housed and ultimately adopted, many of them refugees unable to speak English, and also the local teens, troubled and addicted, she housed them all, she adopted them all, she loved them all. Out of 14 kids who went their own ways, and/or learned English, and/or fucked up their own lives and families, nearly all came back to pay respects to this wonderful woman. Bearing witness to the amount of people Harriet brought joy and love to: one woman who spoke said she had met Harriet in the 70’s, a man who spoke had only known her for 6 months, “but it was like we knew each other all our lives,” he said, holding his hands over his heart. My own brief window with Harriet was only since the year 2000 and it felt like a blink, but it felt like forever. She loved us all. She absolutely loved us all.
- After Bethe and James dropped me off I rode my bike to Mike P’s house and we drank beer and played Atari until two in the morning.
* Harriet Gahr was the mother of my dear and great friend Thea Gahr. Thea introduced me to this family, and I’ve hung around ever since. I’ve maintained a close relationship with Harriet and Ted (her husband) often staying out at their property usually for a few days at a time, but sometimes weeks and months at a time. I have gotten to know many members of the large Gahr clan as well as other long-time friends of the family who’ve gotten sucked into their generous and magnetic pull. That was just the kind of people they were. Harriet passed away on Tuesday Nov. 1, 2011 (also Día de Muertos), after a year-long and heroic battle with cancer. It is an honor and a gift to be included in this family, and to have been able to spend such good time with Harriet in the past decade. www.gahrfarm.com